Interview with a Multipotentialite

A few weeks ago, I signed up for an online book marketing seminar with Book Baby, the publisher I used for “Lucky, the Left Pawed Puppy.” As in most online courses, students can chat on in the sidebar while the course is going on.  The idea of writers interviewing other writers on each other’s website came up in one of those sidebar discussions.  There were two people that day who liked the idea, Tucker Lieberman, a Renaissance/ Multipotential kind of guy and me!  Since that time, Tucker followed through with this concept and generously gave space on his website for a very nice interview with me.  I am pleased to be able to offer my interview with Tucker here. Tucker lives with his spouse in Bogotá, Colombia and is involved in several projects including his short stories and non-fiction projects.  

picture tucker leibermanTucker as a person with varied interests, you are involved in several projects. Tell us which projects you are working on at the moment and your hopes for them.
Fictional villains! I am preparing a small nonfiction book on this subject. This is something I’ve worked on privately for a couple decades, and I’m finally giving myself the chance to publish it. It aims to give fiction readers and writers a better understanding of why some characters, especially given certain representations of gender and race, have been villainized.

In poetry, I’m considering the image similarity between human bodies wrapped as mummies for burial and caterpillars that wrap themselves in cocoons to become butterflies. My hope is to find out why this image keeps speaking to me.

How does your degree in Philosophy inform and influence your writing?

I pay attention to the precise definitions of words. It’s important to use the same word in a consistent manner and to explicitly define it if it isn’t obvious. If I write about “happiness,” that word can’t be used at the beginning of the essay to refer to having close friends, in the middle of the essay to achieving a career goal, and at the end of the essay to the satisfaction of being an ethical person. Nor can the title imply that the essay will be about eating ice cream! These are different kinds of happiness. If I find myself doing this, I need to make more effort to explain what I mean and even to be willing to split my descriptions into separate essays.

I noticed you have experience in UI, User Interface. What tips do you have for writers in building their online presence and/or webpage?

On a practical level, the elements are simple. You need a website with just a few pages: a big photo and bio, an inventory of what’s for sale, maybe a free excerpt, a calendar of events if you make appearances, and a way to contact you, follow you on social media, and sign up for your mailing list. Your reader needs to know immediately what you have to offer them. Don’t force them to scroll or click too much.  You need to set up Amazon and Goodreads author pages, and, if you have a blog somewhere, you can feed it automatically into these pages. Special promotions help, and the moment when you offer a discount can be a good time to remind people that you’d like an online review of your book.

If you have a complex array of creative material, remember that the way you privately classify your work is not necessarily the way your audience wants to access it.

You’re from the East Coast and now live in Bogotá, Colombia. I think readers would love to hear about your decision to relocate and a little about the process of doing so.

I had an online dating profile and someone who didn’t restrict his search geographically found me. I received a notification that he had looked at my profile. He lived in another country, but we started communicating anyway. When a match is very right and clear, it doesn’t matter. You can pick up and go. It took time to do it gracefully, but it did not require overthinking. I gave up my career and my condo, and now I live with my spouse and we spend our days writing.

How do your diverse interests play into your writing goals?

Career coach Emilie Wapnick, in a TED Talk in recent years, calls people like me “multipotentialites” or “multipods.” We have multiple interests. We are generalists or jack-of-all-trades. These words are sometimes pejoratives. And, yes, a common weakness is that we tend to spread ourselves thin and may draw energy from one big goal to another. Sometimes my engine of fascination works against my ability to set and achieve goals. I may become hyper-focused on an extremely narrow topic that interests no one else and isn’t marketable, or I may develop three different interests before breakfast. I know I am going to do this. Another range of creative distractions will surely befall me tomorrow morning before breakfast, and, anticipating this, I temper my willingness to set large goals for myself today. Fascination with multiple things may seem to slow me down. However, when I finally finish a project, I feel I’ve hit it out of the park because my message draws from deeply integrated understandings.

Right now, for example, I have a small freelance job to help an agency make an audio recording; I set up a giveaway for my new short story Pokerface; and this week I had ideas for a dozen new stories, essays, and poetry collections! Within the past couple of years, I have worked in life coaching and technology design. I’m preparing for a half-marathon and fire walking, I’m planning a visit to the States, and I’m also trying to make myself sit still so I can teach myself acoustic guitar and practice Spanish.

Because of your varied interests, what would you like to be known for the most? Do you see yourself as a writer, a philosopher, a cataloger, or a combination of all of your interests?
The labels don’t worry me. Last year, while working with a life coach, I decided that, for the near-term, I’d like to focus on “identifying the good, amplifying the useful.” This tagline is on my website ( “Good” and “useful” imply value judgments. I want to find and share valuable information.

What is the most important message you’d like to leave as your legacy?

I’m reminding everyone that “the way in which we talk about issues reveals our character and our agenda” and therefore it’s important to treat each other with humanity.

I’d like to thank Tucker Lieberman for this interview.  It has been a pleasure to meet such a fascinating and kindly soul on this journey of online blog interviewing.  

Interview with Actor/Comic Bethany Therese

This post originally appeared on OCWriters Network, a network of published and aspiring authors.  Writer Billie Kelpin interviews her daughter, Bethany Therese on how to add comedy to characters in our novels and short stories.  Bethany appears around the LA area, most recently at Flappers in Burbank. Watch for her comedy web series coming online soon.

No matter what genre we prefer as writers, humor in a character is a great draw for our readers. When OC Writers’ blog topic one month was “Jolly,” my mind immediately leapt to my daughter, Bethany Therese. Because Bethany is an actor, singer, comedy improv performer, stand-up comic, and screenwriter, I knew she might have some insight into comedic writing. The following is a very short excerpt from that interview.

Thought Process

Billie: I’ve often wondered, Beth, what exactly is your mental process in comedic writing?

Beth: For me, because I come from writing through acting and improvising, my writing process changes depending on what kind of comedic thing I’m writing. For a funny script, I see the characters in my head, and they start talking to each other. When I’m writing jokes for stand-up, I start with an idea or an observation about myself in the world that is either good, bad, frustrating, weird or whatever. I take that idea and try to structure it in a way that will create a laugh. Then, I try out that something that I guessed was funny on an audience, and find out if I’m right.

A Workout for Your Funny Bone

Billie: Comedy, to me, requires flexibility of thinking. Do you have exercises that help improve flexibility?

Beth: I honestly think the best comedic exercise is observing conversations with people. I think that some very funny people walk around looking very serious, but that’s not what’s going on in their head. When I’m teaching an acting class, one of the first questions I ask is, “When you’re in conversation, do you often feel like there’s a ball in the air, and you just hit it, and then people laugh?” People who really do have that funny bone always answer “Yes” to that question.

Imagining a ball going back and forth in a conversation is a great way to gain a comedic sense. You don’t have to try to hit the ball yourself and say the funny thing; that takes courage. But if you practice seeing that moving ball and can say, “That’s where the moment is,” your comedic instincts will be heightened.

How to Make a Dramatic Scene become Comic

Billie: I know you’ve written several romantic comedies (rom-coms) as screenplays. How do you see the relationship between a dramatic scene and a comic scene?

Beth: I look at that question this way. Drama exists on a single horizontal line. To do comedy, you put another line on top of it. Comedy is two things at once. If you’re not drawn to comedy organically, that’s ok. It’s a matter of knowing that drama is one line and to make that scene comedic, you put another line on top of it. For example: Let’s take a college-age girl and college-age guy studying in the library. Let’s just talk about one aspect of that scene, “catching each other’s eye”.

The dramatic version of that scene is this:

She looks up from her book and he feels her looking at him, and he looks up. They lock eyes, and it’s a moment of being connected and knowing that “we like each other.” Then maybe both go back to reading, and then it happens one more time, and the scene continues.

The comedic version of that scene is this:

She looks up. He looks up, but right before their eyes meet, she looks back down. So he looks back down, then she looks up because she felt him looking up, but by that time, he’s looking down. Now they both look up and they both look down, and finally, they lock eyes.

In the first scene, we have a girl and a guy in a library, and they have a connection.

The second is the exact same idea, but then we added on to that. Some other element happens, and that dramatic moment is turned on end, misinterpreted, or so on. You’re never abandoning what that moment is. It’s just flipped on its head.

How to Make a Character Funny

sometimes you have to stand on a bench to get a laugh – Improv on the Disney Magic Ship

Billie: Writers often like to build comedy into a character to make a character more likable. How do we help our characters do or say clever things?

Beth: I think that writers, when forming characters, ironically, often forget that their characters are people! They forget to explore the level of funny their characters possess. It’s the whole “art reflects life” thing.

In this world, when you walk around and interact with people on a daily basis, you notice that there are a lot of stressed people, angry people, overly happy people, laid back people, and also a lot of funny people. There can be people who are funny all the time or people who are funny only sometimes. There are people who never say a funny thing and then one time they say something funny. Why can’t my character be funny all the time or only some of the time? Maybe he tries desperately to be funny, and then one time says something funny. Or he or she always tries to be funny and never is. You can factor all of that into an aspect of who that person is.

In general, I look at my character this way: My character can be in funny situations that are happening to her; the character is not necessarily funny herself, the situation is. Or my character can cause something funny to happen and knows that she’s causing it. My character can just say funny things. Maybe my character might even say something funny that they don’t know is funny, but it’s funny to another character or to the audience. There is a myriad of choices for a writer, no matter what the genre.

Billie: I may not have this humor thing locked down yet, but one thing I can say with certainty: if you interview your adult child about his or her profession, you’ll end up being very impressed, you’ll have a great deal of fun, and best of all, you’ll actually get to talk together on the phone for a whole hour!


Bethany Therese is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her career has included Comedy Improv with “The Chainsaw Boys” in New York, the Disney Magic Cruise Ship, Flappers in Burbank, a two-year US Tour with the Broadway Production of “Mamma Mia,” Stand-up Comedy at the Ice House, Comedy Store, and various comedy clubs up and down the coast of California.

Billie Kelpin is a former teacher of the deaf, and sign language interpreter. She has written various short stories and essays some of which appear in publications including Lost Coast Review, Arizona Literary Magazine.