Interviewed by Keith Justice
Rosanne Welch is a television writer with credits from Touched
By An Angel and Beverly Hills, 90210.
She is also the writer of the Encyclopedia of Women in Aviation and Space.
How did you get started as a writer in Hollywood?
I was a high school English and Drama teacher from Cleveland, Ohio who had always wanted to be a
television writer. So the day after my husband and I got married, we drove to L.A. with no connections at all. I
had found a teaching job in L.A. for the first year and took classes at AFI (American
Film Institute) at night. The advice I was given was that if you wanted to "be in
the business" you had to "be in the business" which meant quitting teaching after that first year and taking a
job as a receptionist for Stephen J. Cannell Productions.
I did that for a little over a year, got promoted to writer's secretary and then executive
producer's secretary and then did that job for a variety of different producers, asking each new
executive to read my work until one or two of them did! It took ten years from the time we moved out to my first, full time
staff writing job on a television show. Within those ten years I'd had pitches and meetings,
but for all the right factors to fall into place, it took ten years. You have to be prepared for that kind of
commitment when you start. I had friends who were secretaries with me in the early years
and they all wanted to be writers -- ten years down the line only two of us have writing jobs.
The others all eventually dropped by the wayside because it wasn't
Is writing a learned craft or is it something that comes
naturally? Or maybe a combination of the two?
I believe it's a combination. It is natural but continues to need to be worked on for it to be good enough to
make a living doing.
You've written for both 'Touched by an Angel' and
'90210'-- two decidedly different audiences. What similarities and differences did you find in the
writing of these two programs?
"Touched" is an anthology so we start with a clean slate of new characters
and settings and issues each week and we begin and end the stories in one episode.
"90210" was a night time soap so the storylines continued week to week and you always tried to end with a
cliffhanger forcing the audience to come back. That's the most basic, formulaic difference. Each show does
try to tackle social issues which is what I like about them individually. Though they of course attack those issues from and for completely different
POVs as far as audience is concerned.
Any secrets for writing in collaboration? Certainly, it's
easy for two or more people to brainstorm ideas. But when it actually comes down to
putting dialogue on the computer, how does that work?
Collaboration works differently for each team I know. My former partner and I used to write the outlines
together, then split the scripts up. I would work on the first two acts and she on the last two. Then we'd give
each other notes on our sections and do the rewrites and the rereading and the potential rewrites until we
were both satisfied. I've known teams to write over each other and some teams actually sit at the computer
together and talk out each line before anything gets typed in.
Okay, Rosanne, let's say I'm a writer from Louisville, Kentucky. I know
I'm good. Everyone tells me that. And I want to break into television. Can I do that from Louisville, or do I need to
move to California?
See the answer to question #1!
Assuming I do move to the Los Angeles area, what's my first step? Any
ideas for a new writer to try to get his or her name known?
Do any kind of writing you can. Some people do columns in freebie neighborhood
mags, some write poetry and perform it at local coffee houses, some do comedy. As for television writing, all you can do is get
some kind of job in the business and write speculative material and ask anyone you
meet to read it and give you notes.
How do you work when you write? Are you regimented - for instance, wake
up every morning, throw on a pot of coffee, and write for two hours?
I am the epitome of the morning person. I can roll out of bed at 7AM and write solidly to lunch time, then break and write again until about 3:30/4PM
when I'm on a project. That's when I start reaching for phrases and forgetting words and realize that I'm tapped out for
the day. Then I shut down the computer and reach for a book -- or watch movies I've been meaning to see.
I'm very goal oriented, and when I'm writing one project I usually have another I'm also mulling that I
want to get to, so I tend to "race" myself from one project to the next.
As for atmosphere, music is nice, but it has to be instrumental. If I hear lyrics, those
words and stories tie me up and take away my focus. Mostly I work in silence.
What do you still hope to accomplish as a writer?
I'd like to run my own television show, create my own world and populate it with interesting, eccentric
characters that America would grow and love and learn from. And I'd like to do another book. My first, "The
Encyclopedia of Women in Aviation and Space" is a reference book and was fun but now I'd
like to try my hand at fiction. There are so many stories to tell and so many wonderful words to play with every day I want to
keep writing so people can learn the things I've learned. It's like being a teacher on
Any words of encouragement or (as much as we hate to hear them, but we
need to), words of warning for the countless writers waiting for their breaks?
Keep writing. It helps to form a writer's group with like minded people in your area and critique each other's
work and support each other. It also helps to read as much as you can so that you keep learning new things
yourself and don't get stale.
Visit Rosanne's website at http://www.welchwrite.com/.