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QUEEN OF GRIT interview

https://www.queenofgrit.com/mentor-cody-underwood/

It’s always refreshing to chat with people who ‘get’ you. And that’s how I feel about Dylan who created and manages the motivational blog QUEEN OF GRIT. Not only am I lucky enough to have known here for over 10 years, we’ve also worked together on some amazing plays.

visit her blog http://www.queenofgrit.com and look around. I know you’ll be motivated to let those creative juices flow into something substantial.

( the following text and images are from http://www.queenofgrit.com )

Mentor Mondays

Author & Playwright: Cody Underwood 

Queen of Grit

When Cody and I first met I was auditioning to be cast in a play he had written about a local ghost story. Joined by an incredibly creative team, Cody, the cast, and crew would bring his vision of the tale we had all heard since early childhood to life. Since then, he has continued to work on plays, short stories, and novels- constantly creating and sharing his art with the world. 

Dylan: Hey Cody! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today! Just to give Cody a little bit of an introduction, he is a playwright living in Houston, Texas. I actually met Cody after I was cast in his debut play- Familiar Spirits– which is way up there in my list of favorite plays I’ve ever done. It was great to be a part of. So, Cody, why don’t you just tell us a little bit about your journey to where you’re at today?

Cody: Well, I am currently enjoying the unemployed life. For this summer. It’s been rough, but it’s been productive. I made the decision to kind of retire of education at the end of this past school year. Because I have a lot of projects on my brain and on my to-do list, and working an uber-full-time job that is full of creativity but no creativity for myself [isn’t helping get the projects done]. So since then, I have completely revised all of my one act plays, had those published for paperback, then I also wrote an entire novel. 

Dylan: You’ve been so busy!

“There’s no break in creativity.”

Cody: I know! I learned a lot about personal discipline. Cause I promised myself if I was gonna do this then I had to be productive. So I got up every morning- I live with my cousins and in Houston if you don’t get up early you’re going to be late work, so I get up early with them every day. Or I try to at least. And then I start writing or I start working on social media updates. 

I basically do everything myself: I do all of my graphic designing, all of my promotions, all of my writing, all of my pre-editing proofreading. So if I’m not doing anything it’s only because I just need to give my brain a break. Because it has been nonstop. There’s no break in creativity, even if you’re doing this for fun. Because eventually someone’s eyes other than my own is going to read this, and maybe they’re gonna pay for it, they have high expectations. I don’t want to say I’m a perfectionist, but I definitely try to be, which takes a lot more work, a lot more revisions, a lot more deeper thinking, a lot more looking at projects from different angles. 

Back to the original question, my first story I ever wrote was in kindergarten. It was “What I Want To Be When I Grow Up” and… it was a clown. I don’t know why I wanted to be a clown, but I drew it and I wrote a lot of poems about being a clown. Then that never stopped- I took creative writing in school, I never stopped cultivating that storyteller mentality in my life. It’s been 35 years now, and I’m proud with my breadth of things that I’ve completed. It’s taken me being an adult to actually complete things. You have to catch up with technology- because back in the 80’s we did not have MacBooks and Microsoft Word, everything was written in notebooks. Which is neat to see, but unfortunately there’s also hurricanes which destroy some of those things from the past. But it’s all right here. I can’t forget. 

 “It drives me crazy when I can’t write things out.”

Dylan: So I know it’s got to have been pretty hard to make that decision to take a step back from “real” jobs. I did that myself back in February, and I totally get what you’re saying, where all of your creativity has room finally? How do you find the courage to take a big step like that and really push to get your work out there?

Cody: I think the biggest thing is my support group that I surround myself with. My brother is a creative as well- he’s writing scripts and making movies. The cousins that are really closer to me, they may not be the type that necessarily makes stories or things like that, but they are supportive of it, and they want me to succeed. Their level of success is action. They’re very left brain, while I’m more right brained, so they measure things by achievements or having something to show for it. They’re always asking “How’s this going?” or “What’s the update on this?” or “When can we read this?” kind of thing. 

Also you know, I have to. It drives me crazy when I can’t write things out. Even though stories develop in my brain, like at the job I would be finding myself in the quiet staffroom, listening to the copier go on and on, and I’m like “OKAY! Let me think about this plot point!” or “Oh, there’s a new story that just popped in my brain!” So it’s necessity, I have to. I think I might go crazy if I don’t. And also just knowing, people want to. People want to read it.  

Dylan: It’s great that you have those people in your life who believe in you. Even having those people who aren’t really creatives themselves being able to push you to actually show something instead of just talking about it.  

Cody: Yeah. I like to look at them as Executive Producers on the projects.  

Dylan: That’s good! You need producers. So, where do you find the inspirations for your writings?  

Cody: I would say individual stories might be inspired by particular events, or just ideas that pop up in my head. A lot of plot points- for instance, this long novel I just finished, it’s a two-part book. As soon as you finish reading the first book, there’s a cliffhanger, which people hate, but they can go and get the next book, and I promise that’s where the story ends. But a lot of the smaller [plot] points might have actually happened in life- in some way or another. I mean life is not as dramatic as literature makes it out to be. It can be, thank God I don’t live that kind of life. Because it’s stressful and I don’t like to deal with too much stress.  

The news stories might trigger a play. Like for instance, there’s this one play that I’ve been working on. I keep calling it my Nobel Prize Play. It’s dealing with stuff I’ve never dealt with, so its a little bit slower to write because I want it to be authentic. It started out from a news story- this grandmother was writing letters to a parole board about her granddaughter’s murderer. And that’s all I know about that story- I’m taking it on my own direction. I’ve never dealt with that, but I feel that it is something that weighs heavy on a lot of people’s hearts. I know people who write letters to parole boards for various reasons. Things like that inspire me- like real life. Even though we want to escape in literature and in art, you can never escape life. Horror movie, science fiction- it’s all seated in reality.  

“That’s my end-game. To create a catalog of things that will outlast me.”  

Dylan: Most of the time. The good ones are. [laughing] So where do you see yourself at in three years?  

Cody: In three years?  

Dylan: Yeah, three years. I’m not gonna make you do that big ten year plan or anything- just a few years away.  

Cody: Good. Good. Well, thankfully in three years I’ll still be younger than 40. So a lot of my goals have already been achieved. I’ve already had a play written and produced- it’s a shorter one, but still it’s something. I’ll have at least 2 full length novels written, which for me my personal motto used to be concise writing is the best writing- that’s why all of my plays are one-act plays.  

I definitely wanna be self-sustainable. I would like to have income to pay professional editors that I don’t know who are very unbiased. Which is one of the biggest hurdles I have, is the people I use as editors, they know me. I think some of them might be a little apprehensive to tell me the truth. But you can’t do that with me, you know? If there’s a bee in your bonnet, let’s deal with it. Ultimately, it comes down to the legacy that I’ll leave when we’re all dead. Because in college all we read was novels and plays from people who are long dead. But their work is still here. And I guess that’s my end-game. To create a catalog of things that will outlast me. As much as I want everyone to know who I am, and I want fame and fortune- at the end of this life, I just want my stuff to still be there.  

“Even if it’s on a small scale, you’re still making something.”  

Dylan: I love that big vision. What 3 pieces of advice would you give to writers who want to get their works out there, and get seen?  

Cody: So there are a lot of people offering advice. There’s YouTube and Facebook communities where people are making videos and posts about what they think people ought to know. So there’s a lot more than 3 things to consider, but I think the most important ones are: Patience. You have to have patience. Because for example, an editor- you’re not the only person they’re working with. It might take them a month or it might take them longer than that.  

You have to multitask. Whenever your brain is at that stopping point- move on to something else. Go work on your social media posts, or go finish up learning about graphic design- cause Photoshop is a beast. Every freelancer needs a copy of Photoshop and [needs to know] how to use it. So, patience, multitasking, and just keep working. Even if it’s on a small scale, you’re still making something. You’re still writing those words. It’s better than just sleeping all day or watching TV all day- which I can do very well. But you have to honor yourself, know your worth. If you’re just wasting your time, then go get a job.  

Dylan: Thanks so much for talking to me again. One last quirky question before you go- What’s your spirit animal?  

Cody: Oh God! Well, my patronus is a hare. But I’ve always been told I was a llama? Because they are very docile, but every now and then they’ll spit in your face.  

Dylan: [laughing] That’s excellent. So, you guys can find more information about Cody and his work at codyuncoded.com or on Facebook at codyunderwoodtx. That’s T-X. Because Texas is the best state.

Cody: Heck Yeah!


Next week, I’ll be back with Allison Pierce, whose winding journey led her to a passionate career helping clients and educating others through the power of hair.  

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Yes! That’s me playing the role of Sarah Jane in Cody’s play ‘Familiar Spirits’! 

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*This post has been edited for length and clarity.

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