JAIME MARTINEZ-TOLENTINO - 10 Questions
10 Questions from the August 2014 SHORT STORY Winner.
1. What is your SHORT STORY about?
In 19th century Puerto Rico, a runaway slave winds up in the rundown shack of a
woman who is one of the few remaining Taino Indians. She shelters him for three days during the Christmas season, and during that time, each one tells the other of the history of enslavement of their respective peoples. From being total strangers, they go on to being workers in her small vegetable garden, and then become lovers. In the end, the slave hunters find the slave and drag him off for certain punishment and possibly death. But the Indian woman is pregnant, thus promising the continuation of the Taino, Spaniard and Black racial mix that will constitute the then-future Puerto Rican population.
2. Why should your script be made into a TV SERIES?
Like so many other recent stories and films, this one shines a light on the inhumanity of African slavery. However, it shines that light on a Caribbean Island, at the time, a possession of Spain. Therefore, people will hopefully realize that African slavery was not just an American social ill, but a world-wide trade in human suffering.
3. How long have you been writing screenplays?
I've been writing stories for the past 50 years! That is, since 1964, when I was a junior undergraduate student at NYU. In fact, the first story which I began, but never finished, was about a slave ship transporting its human cargo to the Caribbean! So, "Love in the Time of Slavery" seems to close a cycle in my writing career.
4. What movie have you seen the most in your life?
It's a toss-up among three films: Black Orpheus, Cinema Paradiso and Apocalypto.
5. What artists would you love to work with?
I would love to work with Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Lymari Nadal (Eva, in Ridley Scott's movie American Gangster).
6. How many stories/screenplays have you written?
I have authored 13 published books, and edited another 6. As far as stories, I have published 3 collections of them; and as for stage plays, I have published 3 plays. I have also published 1 1/2 books about the theater, and 2 1/2 books about the short story. Moreover, I have published 2 novels, and I have edited 1 collection of short stories, one play and one novel. At least one of my stories has been adapted to the stage and performed.
7. Ideally, where would you like to be in 5 years?
The showrunner of my own show.
8. Describe your process; do you have a set routine, method for writing?
It took me 10 years to obtain a literary agent, but I did get one this year (2014). In five
years' time, I would like to have published several best-selling novels with large
publishing companies and I would like to see some of my prose writings turned into
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Yes, I do have a set routine method for writing. I always wait until I have thought
through a general plan for my novel/script. When I'm ready, I sit in a spacious room,
usually the living room, and preferably on a sofa so that I can spread out near me
paper, pens, dictionaries, etc. Then I always write the first draft by hand, so that I can
substitute words quickly, without the hindrance of typing. Only when I have a full
handwritten manuscript do I sit down at my computer to transcribe it. I transcribe it at
double space for later editing. Of course, when I do that I make obvious changes.
Then, each time that I finish typing a chapter, scene, etc. I print it out and I go read it
away from my computer and my home office. I make more changes then. I repeat that
process for each part of the manuscript, and when it's totally finished, I give it yet
another reading for proofing and to make sure that I've achieved what I set out to do.
I am passionate about listening to classical music because, as a young man I played the
cello, and I considered becoming a professional cellist for a time.
10. What influenced you to enter the WILDsound Script Contest?
I received an invitation from Matthew Toffolo, CEO of Wildsound Festival, of
Toronto, Canada, and it sounded so genuine, so honest and like such a cool idea, that
I took him up, first on the byline offer, and then on the full story offer. I believe that
this is an idea whose time has come. It provides an excellent platform for authors to
actually see the result of their work, and for scriptwriters and movie producers/
directors to purchase movie rights from authors or their representatives. I VERY
STRONGLY RECOMMEND this festival to authors at all stages of their writing
11. Any advice or tips you'd like to pass on to other writers?
I have learned that reading groups tend not to be a good idea, and neither is letting
just anybody read your unpublished work. Only allow published writers whose
integrity you trust to read and comment on your unpublished work. Hone your craft
by reading a lot, and conscientiously proofing what you write. ABOVE ALL, if
you know you're a good writer, continue writing and trying to get published, no
matter how many rejection letters you receive! Anyone who tells you that rejection
doesn't hurt is lying! It does hurt. But, what you must do is, in the solace of
whatever room you write in, allow yourself to curse out all publishers for five
minutes, and then use that anger to send the story out again, to someone else. Build
up your resume by publishing in journals and, whenever possible, entire books. If
you can afford it, participate in writing contests, but don't spend a fortune on them
or believe they are a cure all. Once you feel you have a decent resume, prepare a
very good query letter and set your second goal: that of getting a literary agent.
There will be rejection, again, but you know how to handle that. Stick to it! Think
of how it took me 10 years to land an agent! And also think of the thousands of
great writers who no one will ever know because they quit before achieving
success! Think of the whole process as betting on the horses: you'll lose almost all
the time, but ALL IT TAKES IS ONE WIN! When that agent accepts you, you will
have been vindicated and validated. Then, write some more!