Writer Collective

Lindsay Funkhouser
Brian Lundin
Anna Sargeant

writers of fiction podcasts, YA stories, and contemporary fiction.

Three writers who believe a story can change the world.

Out of My Comfort Zone

by Anna Sargeant

I’ve spent most of my professional life writing for kids. And by kids, I don’t mean father-wounded adolescent girls with psychopathic tendencies. But when it became clear that this was the story the Writer Collective was going to write for the Austin Film Festival podcast competition, I had to tell myself this was the kind of story I could write. I had to get out of my writing comfort zone.

My husband - who is not a writer, but who is an artist and a regular consumer of Story in various forms - had been pressing me for years to try to write something different. Something other than the whimsically sweet children’s stories about large lapdogs and frog friends. . . stories that had yet to be published. He innately understood that artists have to push themselves if they are ever going to get better at their craft. I suppose this is true for any human endeavor, but it is particularly hard to do within the realm of art, which is so tied to identity and fear.

So when the Writer Collective chose this story, my chance was staring me in the face. The door swung wide open and two hands motioned from the other side saying, “We need you to do this with us.” Those two hands were all I needed to move from fear into daring. From “Why would I do that?” to “Why wouldn’t I do that?”

It’s true. I would have never attempted to tackle the themes of The Charlatan on my own. But that’s okay; I’ve done it now, and it turns out, it wasn’t as terrible as I thought. Yet not for the reasons you might think.

I discovered something surprising in the realm outside of my comfort zone. I discovered that the father-wounded adolescent girl with psychopathic tendencies was no more lost and afraid than the two frog friends who went on adventures in the woods. After all, if those frog friends hadn’t been lost and afraid, there would have been no story to tell. So I discovered that all stories are whispering something similar, whether they involve murder and deception, or ribbits and roses. All stories have something real to say, some kindness to unearth, some fear to still.

Knowing that helps me see there are a lot more stories I could tell, and I lot more stories I’d be willing to try. It also shows me my sweet children’s stories are still important, and still worthwhile.

And that is a comforting thought.

The Collaborative Writing Process

by Anna Sargeant

I had never had writing partners before this endeavor. In truth, I was a bit nervous. How could three brains tackle one story in five weeks time and manage to produce a script with coherency and substance? I’m not sure how it happened. But I can recount what I lived through.

First of all, we came to the table with no expectations for what the story would be. No one saw the project as their baby. We made every decision together, from world building to characterization, to plot, to structure. And we talked and talked about the story before we ever wrote a word. Before the first line of dialogue was written, we all had to be on the same page. We all had to love it, and we all had to believe in it. After the plot, characters, and themes themselves were agreed upon, if a decision didn’t serve the story, we simply didn’t go with it. Or we had to all agree on alterations. In the end, story was king. Having two other people at the table reminding me of that was essential. When I write alone, I am happy to dethrone Story and sink into its rightful place. This never works out well.

Secondly, we came to the table with small egos. First-person pronouns were left at the door. Everything was about team and inviting everyone to use their particular gifts. There was no need for me to be the big picture person. There were already two of those at the table. There was no need for the other two to be the voice of the editor. I had that covered. Brian and I didn’t have to think way outside the box, as Lindsay was already deep in that realm. When I drafted a text that was too lean, Lindsay built it out. When Brian included something that felt redundant, we removed it. There was no time or reason to take things personally. We had a script to finish and characters to reveal to the world. We had a story to tell.

My biggest take-away from this collaborative writing experience was the joy that comes from relying on other people’s strengths, and bringing your own to the table. I have never been great at “ratcheting up tension,” yet it seemed to be all Brian was thinking about. Whenever I assumed that a scene was in the bag, Lindsay would propose something brilliant that I would never have thought of, and of course we would go with that. I suppose this is the third thing that happened: we all came to the table ready to draw on the experience and expertise of others. We all came to the table knowing we wouldn’t want to do this project on our own, but more than willing to try it together. I have a friend who says, “Everything is better together.” While I’d argue there are times when a single author is preferred, this was not one of those times.

About the Writer Collective

Writer - one who writes

Collective - a cooperative enterprise

Writer Collective is a writing team out of Austin, Texas, a city known for its creativity, culture, and what every writer needs: coffee. While we each had individually been cultivating our craft for years, we did not discover our shared passion until 2016. The Austin Film Festival fiction podcast competition first brought us to the table, and our love for Story and the collaborative process is keeping us there.

We write as a team because we believe that together, we can tell a better story. As we hone an idea collectively, we arrive at a clearer vision, fuller scope, and bigger heart. We end up with something more true and more real than if we had left the idea in our own brains to unfold.

As a team, our goal is to write stories that matter. Stories that elicit hope. Stories that hint at truth. Stories that make you pause and reconsider. We’ve found that writing is one of the best ways to unravel the complications, to make order of the mess, and to bestow dignity upon humanity again. As a collective, our chief aim is to tell stories that will impact the world.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead