Write and Grow:
Meet Our Screenwriting Group Host, Jack Larkin
Jack Larkin is a writer and educator based in San Diego, who completed UC Riverside’s MFA program with an emphasis in screenwriting. He’s traveled widely, living in Ireland, Colombia, and the United States. In this interview, Larkin shares how he began writing and the experiences he’s gained in his career, which he hopes to bring to his new Screenwriting Read and Critique group.
Lily Damron: You first studied geography at UC Santa Barbara. How did you get into writing, especially screenplays?
Jack Larkin: When I was in college I worked for an airline company as a baggage handler. I was able to fly for free and would take short trips all around the world. I started writing stories set in the places I’d visited. I actually recently found a screenplay I had written by hand while I was traveling in Ireland. So I was learning how to make maps in school but then working for an airline and travelling whenever I could. I didn’t really know what I was doing as far as writing. I had a big imagination and found myself creating stories in my head on the flights home about the places I’d visited and the people I’d met. Then when I got home I’d write something about it whether it was an essay, a short story, or what I thought was a screenplay back then. I’d say I started to focus on screenplays about ten years ago after I took an extension class with Stanford University. I found I really enjoyed that form of writing as I’ve always visualized my stories as a movie.
LD: You just finished an MFA residency program with UC Riverside. How has that impacted your writing?
JL: The UC Riverside MFA program was really great for me as a writer. They are a unique MFA program as you can take courses in fiction, non-fiction, screenwriting, and poetry. I benefited from working with excellent professors who were both great writers and teachers.
LD: What’s your experience with read and critiques groups, and how did they help you develop your writing?
JL: I have been in a few read and critiques groups, some more informal than others. I was once in a read and critique group with SD Writers Ink. We ended up having the same writers in the group for two years. We all became friends during that time and continued to read each other’s work even after the class had ended. I found being part of a community of writers was very helpful for me; I think it’s important to share your writing with others however you can.
LD: Tell us about the new group you’re hosting: Screenwriting Read and Critique. What do you hope members will gain from attending?
JL: I hope the read and critique group will serve as “supportive accountability” for those who join. Participating in a read and critique gives people deadlines to work towards and provides a supportive environment to grow as writers. I hope people gain valuable feedback on their writing while also learning how to give the same to their peers. Reading screenplays and learning what works and what doesn’t can really help one’s own screenwriting.
LD: What projects are you working on right now?
JL: I recently coached a high school “8-Man” football team. I am currently writing a television series set in rural San Diego County that centers around the football team and dives into social justice issues with housing and education.
LD: What’s your go-to advice for writers?
JL: I’m still trying to figure it out myself. But I think for anyone starting to write or hoping to get published for the first time they have to realize it’s a process. Anyone who’s successful in anything puts in the time and effort to get better. The more you write, the better you get, just like anything else. I also think we worry a bit too much about criticism in the beginning. We don’t need to worry if someone else thinks our writing is good or bad. We’re trying to figure out what’s working and how to expand on that. As soon as we write to please someone else we’ve lost something.
Check out Jack Larkin’s Screenwriting Read and Critique every Thursday starting November 2.