We at Cambridge Common Writers love to celebrate the diversity of our community, which is why we’re thrilled to be continuing our Spotlight series for Pride Month! Come and get to know some of our LGBTIQA+ alums as we ask them about their writing lives and the many wonderful projects they’re working on.
TYLER DEAN KEMPF – WSS, June ’17
Tyler Dean Kempf is a collaborative queer storyteller and comedy writer for stage & screen. He was a finalist for the Playwright’s Center Jerome Fellowship and the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. His screenplay Mother of the Bride (Co-Written with Lauren McCarthy) was a 2019 Screencraft Comedy Screenplay Contest finalist. He’s currently focused on creating comedic television that showcases his unique and underrepresented point of view. He’s worked for The Second City since 2011, as both a director (one of the few gay men to have directed for the comedic institution), and as a corporate facilitator, traveling around the world to teach stuffy business folk how to utilize storytelling and improvisation to, essentially, be more empathetic humans.
What is the driving factor that gets you out of bed to write? What do you enjoy most about your writing?
For some time I’ve been focusing on writing scripts that could sell, but what I found is that my passion for the stories I was telling was dwindling. While the business side of writing is important, we can’t lose sight of our passion. So, I’ve actually begun working on my first YA novel, which is also a fantasy, which is a unique genre for me to explore. These new challenges excite me and scare me, which are the jolts I need to get out of bed (or log off of social media) to write.
Do you have any bad writing habits you’ve picked up over the years?
Procrastination has ALWAYS been a bad habit. I fight it daily. But once I’m in the groove, I can’t focus on anything but my writing.
What or who were some of your earliest inspirations in writing?
Paul Rudnick is an LGBTQIA+ writer who has done it all: plays, screenplays, television, novels. Throughout all of his works, his voice is consistent: biting, funny, sassy. I long to create such a clear voice as a writer that my readers would be able to tell what they’re reading is mine even without seeing a byline.
What is something that tends to get in the way of your writing and how do you overcome it?
Again, procrastination. But also LIFE. The older you get and the more responsibility you take on, it’s harder to find the time to write if you’re not being paid to do so. But doing any art is like going to the gym: it can be hard to make time, but you never regret it after you do so.
For you, what was the most valuable part of the Lesley MFA program that helped shape your writing career?
Confidence. My teachers and fellow students constantly made me feel good about the work I was doing, which propelled me into pursuing a professional career.
What is a piece of writing or publishing advice you’ve learned since graduation that you think others should know?
LA is HARD! For real, it’s common for artists to make the move to LA to work in the TV and Film industry, but breaking in can be a CHALLENGE. It doesn’t just require luck and talent. It requires tenacity. It requires money (and lots of it, cuz LA is CRAZY expensive). And it requires you to network like you’ve never networked before. If you make the move to LA, get ready to accept EVERY invitation out for drinks or coffee. And also, get good at asking people for their time. It’s so difficult to do, but unless you show everybody you’re there and ready to work, they’ll never know.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that doesn’t have to do with writing.
I moved to Las Vegas at the beginning of the pandemic to be near family and help to raise my brother’s children. It was not a planned move, but this last year and half has given me the time and space I needed to reevaluate my past and my future.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently in research mode, studying lots of fun history and locales for the YA novel I’m working on.