Happy Monday Stage 32!
I am beyond thrilled today to share the Stage 32 Success story of long-time Stage 32 member, blogger, author, and screenwriter, Shannon K. Valenzuela. Shannon has written several amazing blogs for the Stage 32 community, and a few weeks ago she told me live on Instagram that she just landed a MAJOR literary manager through Stage 32 education!
Shannon is an incredibly talented and altruistic writer, and her story is a testament to the power of networking, setting goals, and hard work. We are so excited to see what amazing things your career has in store for you Shannon!
Without further ado, I give you Shannon K. Valenzuela! Take it away Shannon!
I’ve been writing since I learned to read, and I’ve always dreamed of being a professional writer. I spent my childhood writing novels: Tolkien-esque fantasy knock-offs, historical fiction, and even a quirky murder mystery. In high school, I discovered my dad’s stash of classic sci-fi novels, and I fell in love with the genre. But I still stayed in my comfort zone, studying literature in college and then graduate school--starting a family--pursuing a career in academia. But through it all, I kept writing.
If there’s one skill that I developed during all those years in school, it’s how to be a student--and that has ended up making the difference in my career.
In 2015, I decided I was going to take a chance on my dream of writing for film. I’d spent years honing my craft as a novelist, but I’d never written a screenplay before. So I did three things: I joined Stage 32, I joined the Dallas chapter of Women in Film, and I entered a screenplay contest.
I chose that particular contest because the semi-finalists received one-on-one mentorship as they finished their scripts--and I knew that was the fastest way for me to learn the basics of the craft. When my script made it to the semi-final round, I was thrilled. And then it won--and I couldn’t believe it. Next thing I knew, I was on a plane to Los Angeles, and within a week, I had signed with my first manager.
But then reality hit me hard. My first script had been enough to get my foot in the door, but it was just that. My first script. I discovered very quickly just how much I still needed to learn--and like Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Hamilton, there was no way I was throwing away my shot.
I went back to my roots as an academic and started studying. I took webinars on Stage 32. I hired a writing coach. I read screenwriting books, and I took every free class (and many paid ones) that came my way. I read scripts. And I wrote. A lot. I made it my mission to be the best student of the craft that I could be--which meant accepting feedback with tremendous humility and a passion to grow.
Fast-forward to January 2019. I saw a pitch session with Spencer Robinson from Art/Work open up on Stage 32, and I just knew. At that moment, I made myself a promise: “Someday I’m going to be repped by Art/Work.” So I took a chance and pitched the sci-fi thriller script that would ultimately become Crash Protocol—and it went down in flames.
The pitch was a mess, the script was a mess, and I realized that I still had a lot more to learn. I took the script to a new coach and we did a page one rewrite. She gave me enough confidence in my work that I started pitching Crash Protocol on Stage 32 in the spring of 2020. Shortly after that, I parted ways with my first manager.
Dallas-based Stage 32 Member Shannon Valenzuela landed a Management at Art/Work Entertainment Through Stage 32 Education
The script was getting some attention, but I knew the next right step for my career was to sign with new representation. So I changed my strategy and started looking for opportunities on Stage 32 to pitch managers. Then I saw an email from Amanda Toney from Stage 32’s Education Services: Spencer Robinson was going to teach a TV pilot class. My dream of being repped by Spencer and Art/Work surged back in full force. This was the chance I’d been waiting for.
I went into that class determined to learn everything I could and to put my absolute best work forward. What I learned in his class transformed my writing, and I discovered my passion for TV writing along the way. Spencer was incredibly supportive of my project, a sci-fi thriller called Janus. I was so encouraged that when he offered a follow-up class on pitching, I signed up. Spencer gave me incredible feedback on the Janus pitch deck—and he invited me to submit a second piece of material for consideration.
My journey had come full circle. I sent him Crash Protocol, and this time, all the years of work I’d invested in that project paid off. Last month, almost five years to the day that I found out I won the contest that launched my career, I officially signed with Spencer and Art/Work.
It’s fitting, I suppose, that my Stage 32 success story came through the education services. And even though my dream of becoming a professional writer is so close, I’m still focused on what I can learn and how I can improve.
I’m so grateful to Stage 32 for their commitment to helping writers reach their full potential through their education and pitch services. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m so excited about this next chapter of my creative career.
Fellow writers, if you learn anything from my success story, I hope it’s this: don’t be afraid to take the time you need to learn and grow as a creative. It’s not an easy journey, but count it all joy and take every setback as an opportunity to learn. Stay focused on your dream and be consistent and persistent. It’s so worth it!
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