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Jillian Abbott, LISP 2022 Feature Screenplay Official Selection, 'The Fullness of Time'

LISP 2022 Feature Screenplay Official Selection, 'The Fullness of Time' by Jillian Abbott

- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?

I am very privileged to be able to devote my life to writing and teaching writing. I teach creative writing and multimedia storytelling at the City University of New York. Of course, I would love to be able to spend more time writing.


I have three children spread out from the west coast to the east coast and Canada and time spent with my family is precious. I’m also passionate about baking and cooking. I volunteer at Two Coves Community Garden in Queens, NYC, and love getting my fresh vegetables. I have a weekly food column at MSN.com and over 20,000 followers on my Instagram, The Mindful Mouth, so there is also cooking, and researching, for that.

- When and how did you get into writing?

I have been writing all my life, however I got serious about writing when I was pregnant with my eldest child. I wrote three novels and many short stories. My short stories won awards and have been published in Australia, India, and the US, including a story in Queens Noir. My formal training was at RMIT in Australia, and I earned an MFA in Creative Writing when I got to America.


I am also an oped columnist, or I was in Australia. As a female op-ed writer in a white male dominated industry, the early years in the US were difficult especially as a single working parent to three kids. Despite these setbacks, I always found way to make time for writing, and my opeds are now published here too.


A thriller I wrote set in Sri Lanka came within a hair’s breadth of being published. My agent at the time thought it was a sure thing, but publishing is so competitive.


After that I wrote a historical mystery set in my hometown in rural Australia. In that case my agent retired before it sold. My marriage had ended, and I gave up every evening and weekend to write that mystery. There is no safety net in NYC, and being a single mother, I had no option but to stop writing and work three jobs to keep food on the table. I kind of lost heart at that point.


My kids are grown up now and doing well, so I have more freedom to return to writing. I decided to write screenplays and a TV pilot because I love film and TV so much. I was so happy when my TV pilot got a grant from the NYC Mayor’s Office to hold a table reading. It was a great success and I am working on getting it financed. I know the odds for a woman such as myself to make it in this business, but writing makes me feel alive. It’s who I am, so I’m just doing it to please me now.


I wrote The Fullness of Time, the screenplay you selected, during the lock down as a way to get out of my apartment, if only in my imagination.


Being selected in a competition such as the London Independent Story Prize is so wonderful. It’s one thing to write for oneself, it’s quite another to have others see value in what I’m doing. I’m very grateful to the London Independent Story Prize for this award.

- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?

I write most days, but don’t have a routine. For so many years I wrote in any moment I could snatch from my crazy, busy life. That practice has continued, but in the last couple of years the moments have gotten longer, and more frequent.


Everything inspires me. People I encounter, places I go, films and TV shows I watch, books I read, the news. I’m a sponge for information. Someone once asked me what I do, and I answered that I consume media. I think that’s still true. From the time I could first talk I was accused of having a vivid imagination and I was in my 20s before I discovered that that is not always a fault.

- How does it feel to have your work recognised?

It is wonderful. It feels like validation. I said earlier I was writing for myself nowadays, but I’m not hiding my work in a drawer, I’m putting it out there and hoping someone else will like it too. I want to find a new agent and get my work out to a wider audience than just me. This award inspires me to keep writing.

- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about writing a Screenplay?

Writing screenplays after writing novels is a revelation. In prose you need to provide all the details, everything that is seen, heard, felt, etc. and you have access to the characters’ thoughts. I love both forms, but there is a certain joy in knowing that there will be other artists involved and their vison will also serve the storytelling. I’m excited about the possibility of collaboration, because I love working as part of a team and know from experience that an effective team produces better work than an individual working alone. There is a sort of magic in working with people you admire and respect. The sum is greater than the parts, and all that.


I love writing prose, however there is a certain rhythm to screenwriting that I find very appealing. And screenplay structure, I find the constraints of the medium thrilling and freeing. I love working within that structure.


The most challenging part of the process is finding people willing to give me a chance. I am not a kid fresh out of college, and while I love working with my students, I wouldn’t want to swap places with them. I’m grateful for the rich experiences my life has brought, and I think that my work is so much better for it.


- How did you develop the idea for your LISP-selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?

The Fullness of Time is set in Sri Lanka. This troubled island nation has fascinated me ever since a Sri Lankan family moved into my overwhelmingly white, rural, Australian hometown when I was a teenager (for example, here is a New York Daily News oped I wrote about Sri Lanka in 2019).

I couldn’t wait to visit and when I got there, I instantly fell in love with it. This island has such a rich history. There is ancient technology there, such as a system of water supply, that was more advanced than Europe at the same time. However, there is a tragic element to this country, and it is impossible to be there and not think about the impact of western colonialism on the island. How did the current state of collapse come about? Why has it been engulfed by ethical violence for so long? There are broader questions too, are we instruments of destiny, or do we have free will?

All those questions can be summarized into one question: How does the past shape the present, and can the mistakes of the past be turned around?

Writing The Fullness of Time was a way for me to grapple with these issues while telling an entertaining and compelling story.


- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Screenplay?

First, get started.

Second, keep going.

Third, finish it.

Fifth, have another writer read it.

Fourth, revise it.

- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?

Being selected is wonderful. Winning awards, or being a finalist is great too. Also, the chance to see what others are doing.

Knowing the right competitions to enter.


- Lastly, do you recommend the writers submit their stories/screenplays to LISP?

Yes! One hundred percent. This experience was amazing.



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