Episode 75 – Unstoppable Theater Writer and What? with Jennifer Lieberman
Jennifer Lieberman comes by her writing and creativity honestly. She has been writing, organizing, and working toward a career in theater writing ever since she was a student in school. She has written her own one-person play as well as a book entitled “Year of the What” based on the play.
As Jennifer tells us about her life, she discusses living in New York City during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. She will discuss how her life changed after that day.
Jennifer clearly is a person who set goals for herself and then worked to achieve them. She is absolutely unstoppable. I think you will enjoy this interview and the creative personality of this wonderful person.
About the Guest:
After years of pounding the pavement and knocking on doors with no success of breaking into the entertainment industry, Jennifer decided to take matters into her own hands and created the solo-show Year of the Slut. This show proved to be her break and the play went on to win the Audience Choice Award in New York City and is now the #1 Amazon Best Selling novel Year of the What? and was awarded the Gold Medal at the Global Book Awards 2022 for Coming of Age Books.
Since deciding to make her own break Lieberman has appeared in over 30 international stage productions, has produced over 40 independent film and theatre productions and has helped over 100 creatives make their own break through her coaching and consulting work. She has penned a number of stage and screen plays and her short films have screened at the Festival de Cannes Court Métrage among other international festivals. She is currently gearing up to direct her first feature film.
Social Media Links:
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:21
Hi, again, it’s Michael Hingson, and you are listening to unstoppable mindset, the podcast where inclusion diversity in the unexpected me. And today, Jennifer Lieberman, our guest I think certainly has lots of unexpected things that she’s going to tell us about. If you don’t know, Jennifer, and you may or may not know who she is, I will just tell you that you want to talk about unexpected. She wrote her own one person play called The year of the slug, and we’re gonna get into that I am sure, along with a lot of other things. So Jennifer, welcome to unstoppable mindset. How are you?
Jennifer Lieberman 02:00
I’m fabulous. Michael, thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to chat with you today.
Michael Hingson 02:07
Well, we’re really excited that you’re here. And I know you do have lots of stories and you faced a lot of challenges. And it will be good to go through some of those. Why don’t we start new sort of telling me a little bit about your early life and how you kind of progressed a little bit?
Jennifer Lieberman 02:21
Sure. So I started off as the competitive gymnast. And I was in competition. By the time I was five, and was training almost every day after school. By the time I was eight years old. I kind of had a natural aptitude for the sport. And that was my main focus for a really long time. And then I ended up coaching, I founded a high school team. And I think it’s relevant because from a very early age, I had to have like a certain amount of discipline. And that discipline has really helped me with longevity in the creative world where it’s It’s a thankless business a lot of the time.
Michael Hingson 03:11
So where are you from originally?
Jennifer Lieberman 03:13
Oh, yes, I’m from. I was born in Toronto raised in Maple, Canada, just outside of Toronto. I went to York University in Toronto, I studied philosophy and English Lit. And when I graduated, I moved to New York City to pursue a career in theatre. I started writing at a young age, I was about eight years old when I started writing scripts. Originally, it started off as fan fiction for shows that I wanted to be on as a child. And then by the time I was 12, I my imagination evolved enough to create my own plots and characters and storylines that weren’t borrowing from worlds that were previously created by other writers. So it was always something in me. But like I said, gymnastics was the main focus, you know, until halfway through high school when I had a career ending knee injury. But like, I still love the sport and love being in the gym. So coaching kind of allowed me to stay in the world that I was used to. And then in university is when I started taking acting classes, and I just kind of never looked back like I am in love with the creative process, whether it’s writing performance, filmmaking, and I’ve developed a lot of skills over the years in order to stay working and stay in the game. Because especially as an actor, you don’t have a lot of agency or control over when you get picked And what you get picked for.
Michael Hingson 05:02
So for you, philosophy ended up sort of being a means to an end, as opposed to being a career that you are going to go into in some way. Well,
Jennifer Lieberman 05:11
actually, I studied philosophy, it’s interesting that you bring it up, but the Greeks are who invented theatre. That’s where a theater was born in these Greek Dionysian festivals, and, you know, East Escalus. Like all of these writers wrote, theatrically, and that’s kind of, you know, philosophy played on these stories, or at least in the earlier days, so it always felt connected to me. Philosophy, Greek philosophy, mythology, it was all kind of wrapped up in some sort of performance.
Michael Hingson 05:53
But you went through and got a degree in philosophy, and then you move to New York, is that because you wanted to go into Broadway? Oh, yeah. And
Jennifer Lieberman 06:01
also, like, my parents didn’t consider a degree in theater a degree, you know. And I knew, I also knew that I was a writer. And then I wanted to tackle, you know, topics that were, you know, that would challenge people. And that would make people think and different points of view. So I thought, for the writing side of it, because it was never just to be an actor, it was always an actor who wrote projects. So the philosophy and the English Lit just seemed like a great jumping off point in order to develop my skills, grappling different difficult subject matters and structure and theatrical writing and all of that stuff.
Michael Hingson 06:49
Well, so you move to New York. And I guess something that none of us would know. Listening to you and talking with you here is your half African did that have a an impact on you and being able to break into this industry? Or?
Jennifer Lieberman 07:07
No, not at all, because I look, I look like a white girl, I’m my dad’s side is Polish. My mother is tunisienne from Tunis. 10 is yeah, she immigrated to Canada with her parents and siblings, and she was the young girl. So so nobody has any inkling of my African roots, unless I actually mentioned it. So, um, so yeah, that’s kind of something that’s very unexpected, and people don’t really place me in that category. Even though I really identify with my 10 ASEAN, heritage and culture, especially traditions, you know, family traditions, things like that my was very close to both of my 10 ASEAN grandparents, I they grew up five houses away from where I grew up, so I saw them almost every day. And that is just ingrained in who I am.
Michael Hingson 08:12
So does that make you essentially a bi racial person?
Jennifer Lieberman 08:16
Um, you know, it’s funny, cuz my sense, it’s, my family is North African. And like I said, like, my grandfather had dark skin, but my grandmother had light skin. I don’t even know if I would be considered biracial. Because once again, like, by looking at me, you couldn’t really tell I don’t appear to be bipoc. So it’s not something that really comes up. Actually. I don’t even know what people would consider me to be honest.
Michael Hingson 08:49
A writer and an actress. Yes, so so it really didn’t have much of an impact, which is, which is cool. Well, it shouldn’t anyway, but it seemed relevant to ask the question. You know, so you, you move to New York. Tell us about that. Where did you go? What did you do in New York? And and what’s your favorite bagel place? You know, all the important things?
Jennifer Lieberman 09:17
Yes. Um, so I basically after my last exam, I didn’t even wait around for graduation. I wasn’t there. On the day, they gave out diplomas because I really didn’t care about a diploma. I felt like that was more an obligation I had to fulfill for my parents sake, and then I could start my life. So I showed up in New York and like I say, with a duffel bag and a dream and I was just like, I’m here and stumbled my way. I had rented an apartment sight unseen, which was not a great apartment and last in there very long. And I’m Just basically there was a newspaper back then called Backstage, it used to be a physical newspaper, now you can get an online subscription. And I just started looking in the newspaper that was specifically for the acting world and started circling different auditions I could show up at or submit to. And that’s how it all began. And I was fortunate enough to get in with a couple of different theatre companies. And I was able to work with the same people. consistently over time, there were three different companies that I was working with consistently. So that helped me grow and develop as an artist. And one of the companies I ended up becoming a producer at 22. So I learned every aspect, from carpentry using power tools to help get the sets made to running the lighting and sound stage management, costuming, anything that was needed. You just kind of when you’re an off off Broadway company without any real funding. You just scraped together whatever you can to make it happen. But also, pardon? Go ahead. Oh, but also those lessons have been invaluable for where I am now. Because, you know, not having the perfect sort of circumstances, or the amount of money we wish we had has never deterred me from making something happen.
Michael Hingson 11:37
So you wore many hats. And you obviously learned a lot as you went along. What was kind of the biggest challenge that you had back in those early days?
Jennifer Lieberman 11:47
Oh, well, I grew up in a really small town. My neighbors were trees. So getting used to the fast paced kind of hustle and bustle of New York City. It was a huge culture shock for me, I grew up in the middle of nowhere, and then move to the center of the world, with everything happening. And just as I was starting to get my footing in New York, 911 happened. And
Michael Hingson 12:18
where were you at the time,
Jennifer Lieberman 12:21
I was on my way to work. I was walking towards the subway at Astor Place, I was living in Alphabet City, and witnessed the first plane, fly into the World Trade Center and thought it was a fluke accident and got on the subway and continued with my day.
Michael Hingson 12:49
So for people who don’t know where is Alphabet City, and what is
Jennifer Lieberman 12:52
Oh, yes, so Alphabet City is like the East most part of the East Village. So I was at Avenue D and 10th street. That’s where I was living. I didn’t last very long in that apartment. I moved in there. And on September 1, and I think by the 15th of September, I had packed everything up and went back to Canada for a while because I couldn’t handle the reality of what happened. And I needed to go home. As
Michael Hingson 13:31
I went, he didn’t last long either. You just
Jennifer Lieberman 13:35
got damnit, I’m going back to New York.
Michael Hingson 13:38
So you, you said you argued with people, as you were going on the subway and so on. Tell us about that if you want.
Jennifer Lieberman 13:46
I argued with people who were saying it was a terrorist attack. Because at that age, you know, the level of innocence being raised very sheltered in a small town in Canada. I was just like, This doesn’t happen, like we’re living in, you know, 2001 like, What do you mean? No, this is impossible that somebody hijacked a plane and flew it into a building in the United States. Like it’s impossible. I just thought it was a freak accident and continued to work. And you know, there were arguments on the subway because some people saw it as we were all getting on the subway together. But then there were other people who had been on the subway for a while and are hearing it for the first time. So there was a panic. And then I got to two I was working at 34th and Park at a real estate company. That was my side hustle at the time. And I told my boss what happened. And he got really angry with me. And he said that it’s not funny, like we don’t joke about these things. And I was like, I’m not joke like, who wouldn’t joke about these things? Like, turn on the radio. And he did. And that’s when we heard about the second plane. And I just remember, like my soul leaving my body at the realization that it couldn’t be an accident if there were two that happened in that short amount of time. Like, it was just literally, I felt my innocence Leave me. And yeah, I became a different person that day.
Michael Hingson 15:32
I think a lot of us did. One of my employees was on the PATH train paths stands for Port Authority, trans Hudson, it goes under the river. But he was on the PATH train coming in from Hoboken. They just pulled into the path station under tower Well, under the central part of the World Trade Center. Yep. At the fourth sub level when the second plane hit. And he told me later, the train just started shaking and so on in the pilot, the pilot, the conductor, and the engineer just said, don’t leave the train. And they just literally turned around and went back. Right, in Hoboken, because I think they may have known that something was going on. But they didn’t know, of course, about the second plane, because it was happening in real time. But nevertheless, they just turned around, went back to New Jersey. Yeah. Yeah, it was just Well, and, of course, who would have thought, right? Exactly. It’s one of those things that it’s really hard to imagine. And I can understand your reaction. And it did change all of us who were there. And as I’ve said to many people, and my wife has really pointed this out the problem for most people, certainly the people outside of the immediate area where this occurred that is outside New York City and so on, or further away, who just couldn’t see what was happening. Your view, not yours, because you were there. But the view of people was only as large as your TV screen or your newspaper. And you couldn’t have the same impact in your mind as all of us who were there at the time did. So you went back to Canada for a couple of months. And that’s sort of understandable. You had a place to escape to as it were.
Jennifer Lieberman 17:33
Yeah. First I went to the Poconos. So I had a good friend Heather. She was initially my roommate. And then we, you know, we both ended up living in Alphabet City, actually. But she moved in with a boyfriend. And you know, no cell phones were working. As you know, all the cell towers were down because they were in the Trade Center. So we couldn’t get I couldn’t call my parents. I couldn’t call anyone in Canada. But Heather and I somehow found each other on the street. And I guess it took two or three days for her dad to be able to drive to the city and get us because the city was closed. They weren’t letting any vehicles in or out of the city. And I ended up going her dad picked us up. It was her boyfriend at the time. She and myself. And we went to their house in the Poconos for a few days. And then I got back to the city. And I don’t know if planes were back up in the air yet, but I took the train home to Toronto, it was like a 12 hour train ride. And I just like packed up everything I had and just hopped on the train. Because I also felt like my dreams were so trite and insignificant compared to the weight of what happened. And I felt silly. I felt you know that everything that was so important to me the day before, was completely superfluous after that incident.
Michael Hingson 19:12
Yeah, what could you do? And it it makes perfect sense that you just left. You’re fortunate to be able to do that. Some cell phones were working that day because I was able to call my wife in New Jersey. She couldn’t call me. But I could call her interesting. And we were able to, to communicate learned later that day that the trains had started running from Penn Station in New York to Penn Station in Newark. So I was able to get a train later that evening, back to Newark, and then catch the train going from Newark out to Westfield, where we lived. So we got home at about seven that night. It was interesting being on the train, going from New York to New Jersey, people came up to me and said, You’re really dirty. Were you downtown? And I said, Yeah, I was in Tower One. And it was interesting while we were going to the train station, from the apartment of a friend of my colleague, David’s who I was with, although it wasn’t the same as typical, still cars were moving, there was traffic. And it seemed like even only being a few miles away, it was already so significantly different than what we were experiencing downtown.
Jennifer Lieberman 20:40
Oh, yeah, the whole world stopped. If you were on the island of Manhattan, the whole world stopped, you know, and I ended up in New Jersey as well, actually. Because I was beneath 14th street and they didn’t really want anybody coming back home if you were below 14th street because they didn’t know. Like we talked about before we started recording, you know, gas leaks, fires under the city, things like that the fires could travel through the subway lines, you know, through the tunnels and stuff. So I ended up in New Jersey at a colleague’s place for I guess, the first couple of nights. And yeah, it was it’s It’s surreal. It was just, that’s the only word. You know, I can think
Michael Hingson 21:30
of was just how did you get to New Jersey?
Jennifer Lieberman 21:32
I believe I took a train from Penn Station.
Michael Hingson 21:35
Okay, so you were able to catch a train too, which was cool.
Jennifer Lieberman 21:39
Yeah, I was able to catch a train. Yeah, it was. I can’t even
Michael Hingson 21:45
Well, let’s, let’s go back to you. So you moved back to Canada for a little while. Yeah.
Jennifer Lieberman 21:50
Canada. And you know, that didn’t last? No, it didn’t last because, you know, after I got over the initial shock of what actually happened. I was like, Yeah, you know, my dreams are important to me. And art is just as important as ever, especially during a crisis, having writers and having theater and having stories and people who are able to tell stories in compelling ways. And I basically did a, I did a one ad. And when all I went right back to what I was doing before, with an even stronger conviction than I had previously.
Michael Hingson 22:37
So what happened?
Jennifer Lieberman 22:40
So I continued with the theatre company that I was with, and I got into, like I said, couple other theatre companies I was performing off off Broadway pretty regularly. I was with a mime company called the American mime theatre, and trained and performed as a mime for a few years. And this company was quite special. It was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. And it was its own medium. It wasn’t a copy of French pantomime. It was its own discipline. And that was actually coming. You know what, when we got to the one woman shows, but doing the mind training was the best foundation I could have asked for moving forward and doing one person shows where I was playing multiple characters and had to snap in and out of them very quickly. And being able to just snap into a physicality that made it very clear to the audience that I was somebody new, or somebody different as to the character who was previous. So yeah, I ended up producing a bunch of shows off Broadway got into film production. I was in New York for about six years and, and just try to learn as much as I could and craft as much as I could. I started working with a director named Jim craft offered rest in peace he passed a couple years ago during the pandemic, not from COVID. But he was a phenomenal writer and director he studied under Ilya Khazanah at the actor studio, and his play to patch it was a real tipping point in my artistic career. I had to play a mentally challenged girl who was raped and murdered. And once I was able to get through that, I realized like yeah, I really prove to myself like okay, this is where I belong. You know, I have the I have the chops. I have the stamina, I have the drive and you You know, that was like a big milestone, also, in terms of it was the most challenging role that I had ever come across. And I really had to rise to the occasion. And a lot of times in creative work, like until you were given the opportunity to rise to the occasion, you don’t know what you’re made of. So that was a huge milestone for me. And then, while I was working after I was working on capatch it, my grandma got sick, and I ended up back in Toronto for about a year and a half to help my mom, and my grandma got better and which was great. And then I decided to give la a try. One of the films that I had produced in New York was in a festival in LA and I went to the festival, the film won a couple of awards. And I was like, Okay, I’m gonna give Hollywood a shot now. And that’s, that’s what happened next.
Michael Hingson 26:01
Well, typically, people always want to get noticed and seen and so on. So what kind of was really your big break? And in terms of whether it be Broadway or wherever? And why do you consider it a big break?
Jennifer Lieberman 26:16
Okay, um, so I, when I was in LA, I had been there for about a year and this is where Europe the sled came into play. A friend suggested that I create a vehicle for myself that, you know, everybody comes from all over the world, to have their, you know, hat in the ring and give it a try to be a star in Hollywood. And very, very, very few people make it. And you have to kind of come up with a way to get noticed. So a friend of mine suggested, do a one woman show, showcase your writing, showcase your acting ability, and you can invite agents, you can invite directors, you can invite people that can hire you people that can represent you, and that will be a good vehicle. So I did what she said. And nobody from the industry really showed up, I kind of compare it to the movie lala land with Emma Stone where she does this one woman show and there’s like one person in the audience, I had more than one person, because I had supportive friends from acting class and my mom came from Canada. But in terms of industry, nobody, nobody who could represent me or hired me show up showed up. However, I had so much fun creating the characters working on the show, and taking so this was like the next plateau in my career to patch it, where I played the mentally challenged girl was like the first kind of plateau of being like, okay, you know, you really have to rise to the occasion, doing an hour and a half on stage by yourself playing 10 characters was a whole different level of rising to the occasion. And I did it successfully expecting to fail. And not only that, so much of my time in LA up until that point, had been trying to get in the door, trying to get the job trying to get the audition. And none of that was actually doing what I went there to do, which was being creative, and performing. So I realized, like, okay, of course, I’m still going to submit to auditions. And I’m still going to try and get an agent and all of that. But in the meantime, I have the agency and the ability to create this piece and develop it and keep going with it. And I did and I did a few different workshops in LA and then I got invited to be in a festival in New York, I won the Audience Choice Award at the festival and then Doom like that was the next kind of plateau because now not only could I did I prove to myself, I could do a one woman show, but I proved that it could be recognized and successful. And that led to another one woman show in Australia. And then when I got back from Australia, because at this point in time, I had been a producer for hire for many, many years I had been producing since I was 22. And I had produced well over a dozen film and theatre projects at this point. And I was like huh, I I can help other actors who are frustrated spinning their wheels achieve what I achieved. And that’s when I founded my company make your own break. So you know, nobody ever gave me a big break. I’d like them to if anyone has a big break waiting, I’ll take it. But, um, but also realizing that I could do this for myself and I can do this for other actors and writers on a small scale was really exciting to me, because I love the creative process. And I love working with actors, and I love working with writers and storytelling, and I love helping I call it I love helping people dig for the gold that’s inside of them, because everybody has a treasure buried inside. But a lot of times we’re we’re not put in situations that push ourselves to actually dig for it. Especially when we’re in situations where other people are giving us opportunities, as opposed to us having to really dig down inside and figure out how do I create this opportunity for myself?
Michael Hingson 30:53
Well, and it’s also true that oftentimes, we don’t necessarily recognize the opportunities are right there for the taking.
Jennifer Lieberman 31:02
Exactly, exactly. And then so creating the one woman show set me on this whole trajectory of I’m just going to keep creating my own stuff. And I created a web series with a friend of mine from acting class, we wrote it together, we produced it together, we both starred in it. You know, it wasn’t like commercially successful, like, there’s dismal. You know, we did this almost 10 years ago, and there’s like dismal YouTube views. It’s very embarrassing, but it’s also one of the things I’m the most proud of, I had the most fun working on it, I loved everything about it. And it’s one of those projects where all the problems with it could have been solved if we had more money. And, to me, that’s a success. Because, you know, we couldn’t help the fact that we didn’t have more money to make it. And the fact that you know, okay, fine, you know, the, the camera work wasn’t fantastic, or the stats weren’t fantastic, you know, but all the actors were fantastic. The directing was fantastic, the writing was fantastic, you know, so so I’m so super proud of that. And then Rebecca, my partner on that we made a short film together. And then I finally finally after decades of being a writer, because I started writing when I was eight, had the confidence to produce something that I had written on my own. And that was my short film leash. And that ended up screening at the short film corner at the Cannes Film Festival, which was like another huge milestone, I still couldn’t get any agents or managers or anybody to take me on or represent me. But at this point, it’s like, I got my film that I made that I wrote that, you know, that I produced that I was in to the biggest, most important film festival in the world. And I’m like, okay, that like, you know, even though the industry quote unquote, you know, hasn’t recognized me yet. In terms of like, the agents and the managers and staff that’s like, there must be something valid to my creativity. And then I made another short film, and it also got screened in the short film corner at the Cannes Film Festival on screen at the Cambridge Film Festival in the UK, and it just kind of, you know, so all these little bits of validation, they haven’t turned into, you know, the career that I’m aspiring towards, but it’s all encouragement. That helps me keep going.
Michael Hingson 33:57
You certainly are unstoppably optimistic.
Jennifer Lieberman 34:01
Well, the thing is, I don’t even think it’s that. I think it’s just I don’t have a choice. This is just who I am. It’s what I do. I just keep creating, I can’t help it. There was this movie years ago with Jeffrey rush called quills about the marquis decide, and how he was imprisoned because of his writing and how he was persecuted. And, you know, he kept writing no matter what he kept writing, he would write in blood on his bedsheets. And eventually he was just nude in a in a cell with nothing, because they needed to stop him from writing the depraved material that he was writing. And, you know, it was just I wouldn’t say my my compulsion is that extreme. But yeah, I don’t feel like this is something I chose. I feel like it chose me It’s something inside of me. And I get very depressed when I’m not able to have a creative outlet. You know, it’s almost survival, which I know sounds completely absurd, but any other creative who has the same conviction? I do, it makes complete sense to them.
Michael Hingson 35:23
Well, you wrote starred in and did everything regarding, of course, your, your one woman show your of the slot what happened to it? Because it did oh yeah appear and you had some awards with it and so on. So what happened?
Jennifer Lieberman 35:39
So, um, in the interim, so once we won the award in New York, some people, like lots of people, actually friends, colleagues, people that I didn’t know, suggested that it would be a great Chiclet book, and that I should write the novel. So I did, I wrote, I wrote the novel and shopped it around for a couple years. But once again, I was so green, it didn’t even occur to me, like, oh, you should hire an editor, and you should hire a proofreader. And you should get a whole team of people together before you start sending it to agents and, and, you know, publishing companies. So I gave up on it. Over a decade, I probably gave up on it about three times. You know, the first time, I was completely unprepared. The second time, I did hire an editor, and she just was the wrong fit. And it didn’t resonate with her. So she was just very cruel in her feedback. And I couldn’t look at it for another two years. And, and then finally, a friend of mine encouraged me to finish it and self publish it not to be successful, but just to get to the finish line, and not have one more project hanging over me that’s unfinished. So with that state of mind, it was actually kind of a relief, because it’s like, Oh, I’m not even trying to make this book successful. I’m just trying to get to the finish line. And then I did, and I, I self published Europe, the sled and it was censored. And for a good year, I tried my damnedest to get around the censorship issues with Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, in terms of advertising. It was allowed to be on Amazon, I was allowed to have a Facebook page, I was allowed to have an Instagram account, but it couldn’t do any advertising, which means I couldn’t break through my audience of peers. So if you weren’t already my friend, I couldn’t get the information to you. Which kind of made it dead in the water. A colleague of mine after a year suggested to change the title since that was the only barrier. And I was like, No, the title is what’s you know, is why it was a success in the first place. That’s what packed houses. Village Voice had no problem. Printing ads with the title timeout in New York had no problem none of the, you know, none of the entities that came to review the play had problems publishing the title. But I guess since it was published after the ME TOO movement, the climate had changed a little bit. And we weren’t able to. Yeah, well, I just wasn’t able to get it out there. So after a few months of hemming and hawing over the whole situation, because I had the title before I had the story. I’m just I was just pretty good at coming up with catchy titles. So I was really married to it and then finally revamped it, retitled it, rebranded it, relaunched it. And it’s now a number one bestseller on Amazon. It recently won the gold medal at the Global Book Awards for Best Coming of Age book, it won a bronze medal at the independent publishing Awards for Best romance slash erotica ebook. And, yeah, it’s won a couple more, but those are the most notable and it served me well to to retitle the book so,
Michael Hingson 39:30
and the title of the book is
Jennifer Lieberman 39:32
near of the what, so it rhymes with slut. But it’s not as controversial. And it actually serves me because in the process of, of publishing this first one, I realized that it’s a trilogy and Book Two is going to be year of the bitch and I’ll have the same problems. So I’m just going to keep it under the year of the white umbrella. a lot.
Michael Hingson 40:01
I would I would submit, maybe not. I know there is, well, I suppose anything’s possible. But my wife and I love to read a variety of books. And we’ve written or we’ve read a number of books by an author Barbara Nino. So she wrote the Stasi justice series. Have you ever read any of her books? I haven’t been on familiar with her. So she’s also written the bitches Ever After series published with that name, so maybe it won’t be quite the same? Well,
Jennifer Lieberman 40:34
there’s a big book out called the ethical slut, that? Well, you know, and they had no problems with censorship, either. But I think sometimes it can, it depends on who your publisher is and who you’re connected to. But um, but anyway, I think the year of the web series serves me because as soon as someone opens the first page of the book, The subtitle is right there, right. Yeah,
Michael Hingson 41:00
so people should go look for year of the what? Yes. Well, I’m glad it has been really successful. And you have worn a lot of hats on, off off Broadway and Hollywood and so on. And now you’re back in Canada, and so on. What do you like best of all those hats and all those jobs or opportunities.
Jennifer Lieberman 41:27
That’s number one. That’s always been my number one passion. That’s why I started writing fan fiction when I was eight, is because I just wanted to be in these movies and shows that I watched, and I really enjoy writing, I actually really enjoy producing and helping bring projects to life, whether they’re mine or somebody else’s. But the there’s something magical about performing and living and breathing in somebody else’s skin and a different world that a writer created. And it’s just incomparable. So
Michael Hingson 42:14
year of the well, we’ll, we’ll do the slot. What? Is it funny?
Jennifer Lieberman 42:21
It is yes. So what are the words that one was best rom com of 2021. So when I submitted it to book life through Publishers Weekly, one of the reviews was that it doesn’t fit neatly into the romance genre. And it doesn’t fit neatly into the erotica genre. And it doesn’t fit into this genre and doesn’t fit into that genre. They didn’t even review the book, like didn’t even give like a positive or negative review. All they did was list all the genres it didn’t fit into. And, but it is quite humorous. Because it’s about these dating misadventures, and coming of age and coming to terms with sexuality, being a young woman in New York City, and kind of having to reevaluate a lot of the stories or, you know, kind of expectations that were ingrained in the character. So it’s not even about her being a slut. It’s about her reevaluating what that word means to her, because she only planned to be with my one man. So anything more than that would put her in the slot category. But yeah, so it was her kind of, you know, reevaluating her perception of what is the slot? And, you know, how many partners is too many and all of that stuff? Because, also, in today’s world, how realistic is it? For someone to be with just one partner for their whole life? I don’t know. Especially like in Western society? I don’t know.
Michael Hingson 44:14
Well, since you have been involved in writing something that’s humorous and so on, have you at all been involved in comedy stand up comedy or any of those kinds of things?
Jennifer Lieberman 44:26
Yeah, I did do stand up comedy. I do it from time to time. I wouldn’t call myself a stand up comedian. Because I don’t love it enough to be hitting the clubs every single night trying to get on stage, which if you’re trying to make a living as a stand up comedian, you have to be hitting the clubs every night. All of the legit stand up comedians, I know will hit 234 Different clubs at night to get up. And I’m not that committed to it. It’s a nice muscle to flex, it’s nice to know that I have the courage to get up and do it that I can make an audience laugh. But I’m no by no means a professional stand up. I got into it by accident, I responded to a casting notice looking for females who could be funny. And it was a promoter looking for more female comics to be on his shows. And he was willing to train and coach to coach women because he just felt like he wasn’t getting enough women applying to be on his on his lineups. And he wasn’t meeting enough women. This was this was a few years ago, this was like I think 2014 is when I started, it was just before Amy Schumer, like, had her breakout success and became a huge household name. Now, now when you go into the comedy scene, there are so many more women than then there was, you know, about eight years ago. So now, it’s not the same climate. So his name? Matt Taylor, his name’s Matt Taylor. So he kind of convinced me to give it a go and try five minutes. Because I was like, oh, no, like, That’s too scary. I don’t do that. But after doing two one woman shows where I was on stage by myself for over an hour, each one I was like, Okay, what’s five minutes. And I did it. And when I was a hit, it was great. Nobody thought everybody thought I was quite seasoned. All the other comedians on the lineup thought that I had done it dozens of times before. And I, I did it pretty consistently for a couple of years. But once again, like I said, I just didn’t love it enough. Like I’d rather I would run, I would run to a theater every night to do Shakespeare or Tennessee Williams, I wouldn’t run to a theater every night to do stand up. So it’s just not the type of creative that I am. But once again, nice to know that, that I can flex that muscle.
Michael Hingson 47:14
So how many books have you written so far? One novel,
Jennifer Lieberman 47:17
which we discussed, and then under Mike, my consulting business to make your own break business I’ve published to during the pandemic, I always intended to publish books, under the Make Your Own break umbrella, about low budget, film production, low, no budget is more accurate, no budget theatre production, how to develop a solo show. So all of those are still coming. But during the pandemic, I was asked to coach a few executives, to help them with their presentation skills and engaging their team. And I’m kind of like a nerd and I didn’t feel qualified to coach these people. So I was like, Okay, I have to come up with a system before I feel confident enough to like go and actually, you know, do this and charge money. So I came up with these seven steps on how to master your virtual meeting. So that’s one of the books make your own break, how to master your virtual meeting in seven simple steps. And then I also recorded my AUDIO BOOK during the initial lockdown, and I messed up a lot. And I had to I recorded the entire book and had to throw it in the garbage and start again from scratch. And then the same friend colleague who suggested I changed my title suggested that I write a how to book geared towards self published authors and indie authors on how they can record and publish their own audio books. So that’s book number two how to record and publish your audio book in seven simple steps once again under the Make Your Own break umbrella. And yeah, so there are those two books and like I said, I I will be publishing more How To books under the Make Your Own break, but those will probably pertain more to film theater production and creative process.
Michael Hingson 49:23
And then the what? At pardon. And then more year of the what and then more
Jennifer Lieberman 49:28
year of the wet because that I’ve realized as a trilogy. You know, when women are young, if people want to attack us in our teens and 20s Regardless of what our personal lives are, people call us a sloth. Whether it’s male or females, it’s a woman it’s a it’s a word is weaponized against women. And then as we get older, more assertive, more confident, we’re we’re called a bitch. So I’m kind of going through the trajectory of words. are used as weapons against women, and how we can reframe them and own them, instead of being ashamed of them.
Michael Hingson 50:09
Then you can write the fourth book what bitch. But anyway, that’s another story. Exactly. So did you publish an audiobook?
Jennifer Lieberman 50:18
I did, yes. This year of the what is available on Audible? Yes. So I did I, I was I finally recorded a successful version. And it was after that, that I decided that okay, yeah, maybe I can write the how to book on how to do this. And it’s specifically encouraging self published authors. Because if you have enough conviction to write your story, you should be the one telling it.
Michael Hingson 50:47
It’s interesting in the publishing world today, that and people will tell you, this agents and others will tell you this, that it isn’t like it used to be, you have to do a lot of your own marketing, even if you get a publisher to take on your book and take that project. So the fact is doing an indie publishing project certainly uses a lot of the same rules, you still have to market it, you’re gonna have to do it either way, you’re still going to be doing a lot of the work, the publishing industry can help. But you still got to do a lot, if not most of the work.
Jennifer Lieberman 51:29
Yeah, and not just that, I don’t know, if if you follow any celebrities, on on Twitter, or Instagram, but I believe nowadays, like I’m a, I’m a member of the Screen Actors Guild, that union in the US, and a lot of contracts now have social media obligations written into them, that you have to tweet that you have to post a certain amount to help promote the show. And a lot of decisions are based on how big of a following you have, there’s actually, I’m not sure if you were a Game of Thrones fan, I was a big Game of Thrones fan. But one of the characters, it was between her and another actress and she had a bigger social media following. And that was the tipping point of how she got cast. So it you know, self promote, like that’s what social media is, it’s all self promotion. So it’s not just the publishing world, it’s the acting world, I think it’s just become the norm of it doesn’t matter what business you’re in. It used to be that you needed a.com. In order to exist now you need a social media following in order to exist.
Michael Hingson 52:53
I know when we originally did fender Dogg, and Thomas Nelson put, picked it up and decided to publish it. Even then back in 2010, and 2011. One of the main questions was, how much will you be able to contribute to the marketing of the book? How much will you be able to help promote it? Now? We have a contract to do our next book, A Guide Dogs Guide to Being brave, unless the publisher decides once we’re done to change the title. But still, it is all about how big of a following do you have? How much are you going to be able to contribute contribute to the book because you’re probably not going to get some sort of big book tour or anything like that paid for by the publishing company, unless there’s some compelling reason to do it. And it is all about what you can do. So publishing is changing, the landscape is changing. mainstream publishers are great, they do add a lot of value. But you do need to learn to sell and to market and be intelligent about it as an author, no matter how your book gets published.
Jennifer Lieberman 54:03
Yes. And, you know, it’s a double edged sword, because it gives lots of opportunities to indie, indie authors, but it also, it’s sad for me because it becomes a popularity contest. And it’s not necessarily about how good your book is, or how good your work is. It’s just if you, you know, have a buzz factor. And if you have a following or if you had, like some mishap in your life that went viral, then all of a sudden, you have this huge platform for all these opportunities, regardless of how talented or prepared you are for those opportunities. And you know, it like I said, it’s a double edged sword. There are benefits to it. And there are, you know, there are detriments to it but also like I’m the type of artist. I’m gonna I’m willing to go outside of my integrity. So let the chips fall where they may.
Michael Hingson 55:05
Well, you have written both in the literary world, if you will. And in the theater world, which do you prefer? And why? Oh, that’s a toughy. Because you’re doing a lot with each one, aren’t you?
Jennifer Lieberman 55:21
Yeah. And I’m still like, I’m, you know, and that’s the thing, like I write plays, I write scripts for film, and I’m writing a TV pilot right now. And in the literary world, the benefit of writing in the literary world, is once the writing is finished, and when I mean writing, I mean, also the editing and the proofreading. Your job is done, like the project is complete. When you’re writing theatrically, whether it’s film or theatre, that’s just step one, there’s still a very, very, very long road ahead of you, you know, and trying to get into the right hands, trying to raise the money, trying to, you know, get the right team together, and the right actors, the right, you know, then you had, then there’s the feat of filming it, and then the post production process, and then the distribution process. So there is something very satisfying when writing a book that’s finished. But there’s also something very exciting to me, you know, in the whole process of getting a project produced from you know, from step one to step 55.
Michael Hingson 56:45
So, as a writer in the theatrical world, you really can’t just be a writer, and then you turn it over to someone, if you’re going to make it successful, I gather, what you’re saying is, you really have to be the driving force behind the whole project, not just the writing part.
Jennifer Lieberman 57:01
Well, at my level, because like I said, I don’t have an agent, I don’t, I’m trying to get things into other people’s hands. So right now, I’m shopping around here of the what for theatrical opportunity, I went to the Cannes Film Festival to the market there, I’ve met with a certain number of people. And one of the questions was, how involved would you want to be in this project? And my answer is, however involved you would like, you know, because I’m not married to this project. Like I, I’ve been living with this for a decade, between writing it, workshopping it, and then the novel between the play and the novel, like, I’m ready to let this go. If somebody wants to write me a check. Go ahead, do what you will with it. You know, but then there are other pieces that are closer to my heart that I’m like, oh, no, like, this isn’t for sale. We can partner on this and make this together. But this is, you know, staying under my under my wings, so to speak. But I have another I have a short piece, a short film, that a friend of mine is shooting in LA next month, and I’m not really gonna have any creative involvement in it.
Michael Hingson 58:26
Out of curiosity, when somebody asks you that question, is there sort of a general trend as to what do they want the answer to be? Or is it really something that varies? They they’re not necessarily looking for you to be involved typically, or they’d like you to be involved typically, as a really an answer that makes more sense to most people than not,
Jennifer Lieberman 58:47
you know, it’s interesting, because I’ve gotten both, I’ve gotten both opinions. You know, for, I guess the higher up people are on the food chain. They’re very relieved to hear that I don’t need to have any involvement in it at all, because they know how hard it is to get something made in the first place, let alone having all of these, you know, kind of stipulations. It’s like, well, I can only get made, you know, she gets to approve the script and this and this and this and that, you know, so the less I think the less involvement I have, the easier it is for the producer because they have more freedom to negotiate. Right. But that’s an instinct once again, I don’t know, you know,
Michael Hingson 59:32
it probably does very well. How do you keep such a positive attitude and keep yourself to use the terminology of our podcast unstoppable as you get a lot of rejections as you face a lot of challenges. And as you said, you haven’t had that huge break. But how do you keep yourself going?
Jennifer Lieberman 59:51
I love it. This is a love affair. This is a lifelong love affair for me. And I was on a podcast A few days ago, we had to write a creativity statement. And my creativity statement is that being a creative is like being in a one sided relationship, and you have to love it enough for both of you. Because the the industry isn’t necessarily going to love you back. But if you love it enough, if you love the creative process enough, you’re just gonna keep going.
Michael Hingson 1:00:22
I want you to extrapolate that to just anyone even outside the theatrical world. What would you tell somebody if they come up to you and say, How can I just keep myself going,
Jennifer Lieberman 1:00:35
find something that you love and do it as often as possible? It doesn’t have to be your job, you don’t have to make money at it. You just have to have something in your life that you really love and enjoy doing. You know, whether it’s dancing, whether it’s singing, you know, and that’s the thing like, you don’t have to be a superstar. I’m not a superstar. Maybe one day I will be universe. But I, I’m not going to stop what I do, because it just brings me so much joy. And I’m so happy and I do I get in a funk. I get in a funk when I’m not able to create. And, you know, for some people it might be hiking or kayaking or camping or connecting with nature. That’s something that that I love to do. Also, that brings me joy. But yeah, I think a lot of us get so caught up. And also I would say close your screen. Go dark, go dark for a few days. Don’t worry about what’s going on on social media. Don’t worry about the internet, like go outside and actually be in the real world connect with real people connect with nature. Be in your body. I find when I get in my head, too much I can spin out. But when you’re in your body, you can you can feel your you can feel your essence. You
Michael Hingson 1:02:04
know, always good to step back.
Jennifer Lieberman 1:02:07
So that would be my advice.
Michael Hingson 1:02:10
It’s always good to step back and look at yourself and just relax. And we don’t do that often enough. We get too involved in that social media and everything else as you point out.
Jennifer Lieberman 1:02:22
Yeah, exactly. And it’s proven like there are statistics, social media makes people depressed. People only put their Insta life best moments on social media. I’m sure someone will mention if they’re going through a hard time or whatever. But that’s not the majority of people. People will sift through their life find take a million photos of one of one scenario, find the best photo doctorate with with face tune filters and whatever and make their life look fabulous. And you know, everything’s curated. I’m actually I wrote a poem about this. Would you mind I’ve never shared this publicly. Can I? Really?
Michael Hingson 1:03:09
Sure. Go ahead.
Jennifer Lieberman 1:03:11
Okay. It’s called Black Sabbath. And basically, it’s about going dark. Can we all just go dark for a day? Turn off the devices be still be silent and pray? No posts, no distractions? No waiting impatiently for strangers reactions. Can we all just go dark for a day? No selfie indulgence? No curated inspiration. No unsolicited motivation. Be present. Be awake. Meditate. Can we all just go dark for a day hold our loved ones dear if not in our arms in our consciousness spear. Make amends with our Maker, the true force of nature and submit to the power of our sublime creator. Can we all just go dark for a day, shut our screens, search our souls reclaim our minds that get hijacked every time we scroll. And finally take back our grip of the only thing we can control. That’s it.
Michael Hingson 1:04:24
That’s as powerful as it gets. And it is so true. Yeah. Yeah. It is absolutely so true. So what you’ve already alluded to it, what do you do when you’re not writing and being creative? What do you like to do to relax? You said some of
Jennifer Lieberman 1:04:41
it. Yeah, I’m a yoga Holic. Like I said, I spent the first half of my life as a competitive gymnast. So I’m super active. I love physical activity. I don’t work out in terms of like, I don’t go to the gym and I don’t do a certain amount of reps and I I’m on a treadmill for 20 minutes a day I do physical activities that I enjoy, so I enjoy yoga. I’m quite advanced at it with a gymnastics background so it’s fun and acrobatic for me. I love hiking. I love connecting with nature whether it’s stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, waterskiing, I love all of that stuff. Not much of a snow skier though I don’t really love the cold, even though I’m Canadian.
Michael Hingson 1:05:30
How lucky you were you live in? You don’t like to call it okay.
Jennifer Lieberman 1:05:34
Yeah, I don’t. But basically anything active and outdoors. There’s a treetop trekking course not far from where my parents are. And like, that’s next on the list. I’m really excited to do that. What is that? Basically, they have these like, kind of obstacle courses up in the trees. So you’re on harnesses, and you know, whether it’s like platforms that you walk across, or ropes courses that you have to, you know, I don’t know, I haven’t been but it sounds fun.
Michael Hingson 1:06:12
Well, you have to let us know what it’s like after you, you get to go clearly not wheelchair accessible. So I’m sure my wife’s not gonna want to do it. But nevertheless, you got to let us know how it goes once you do it.
Jennifer Lieberman 1:06:27
Yes, I will. I will. It’s very exciting. Oh, and I love live music. So like rock shows. That’s my jam. I’m a rocker chick.
Michael Hingson 1:06:36
There you go. Well, I want to thank you for being here. And spending the last hour and a little bit more with us. This has been fun. Clearly, you keep yourself going you do move forward, you’re not going to let things stop you, you are going to be unstoppable, as I said, using the parlance of the name of the podcast, but I want to thank you for being here and inspiring all of us and telling us your story. If people want to reach out to you and contact you and learn more about you find your books or anything else. How will they do that?
Jennifer Lieberman 1:07:10
Okay, so year of the what.com is the website for the book, but it’ll link you to almost everything. Or you can go to make your own break.com. Both of those have links to all of the books and all the social media. And they also have contact pages that will come to my inbox directly. So that’s the best way. If you want to find out more about me, and on social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I am Jen Lieberman. So the at sign, and then I am Jen. J e n Lieberman L i E,B E R m a N.
Michael Hingson 1:08:00
Well, I hope people will reach out oh, I should ask you you written in your writing the How To books? Are you going to do anything like create any online courses or anything?
Jennifer Lieberman 1:08:10
You know, it’s funny I was doing in person courses. I haven’t gotten around to doing the online ones yet. But yes, that is also in the works. There’s a laundry list. Bed. And like we talked about, I wear many hats. And I’m always more interested in the creative stuff. As opposed to the as opposed to the business side. So I you know, I always feel like, oh, there’ll be time for the course there’ll be time for that. And as it as it so happens, the more successful my creative career is, the more validity I have to teach these other courses. So it’s all in good time.
Michael Hingson 1:08:49
Great. Well, again, thank you for being here with us people, please go visit your of the what.com or make your own break.com. And reach out to Jen, she would love to hear from you. And I would love to hear from you. I’d love to know what you thought about today, I would really appreciate you giving us a five star rating. Jennifer Lieberman needs a five star rating. So let’s give her one you all. And I want to thank you all for for being here. Reach out to me, feel free to do so by emailing me at Michaelhi at accessibe.com Or go visit WWW dot Michael hingson.com/podcast. Or just go to Michael hingson.com and learn more about the things that I do. But either way, please help us give Jen rave reviews. And Jen one last time. Thank you very much for being here.
Jennifer Lieberman 1:09:48
Thank you so much, Michael. This was such a treat. I really appreciate you having me on.
Michael Hingson 1:09:53
Well, the fun and the honor was mine. So thank you you
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