The Queen of Reinvention: An Interview with Sarah Maizes

By Randi Zuckerberg

July 18, 2017 5 min read

I work with Sarah on my show "Dot." She's fun and always chockfull of ideas. That's why I support this woman's work.

Sarah Maizes is the self-proclaimed "Queen of Reinvention." A former literary agent with the William Morris Agency, turned-mother-of-three, turned-stand-up-comedian, turned-writer/producer, Sarah is author of several award-winning children's books, including "On My Way to the Bath" and "On My Way to Bed."

1) What is the most inspiring part of your job?

There is nothing more inspiring than being surrounded by talented and creative people. In kids' television and kids' publishing there is so much room for experimentation and imagination. I am convinced that people who create material for kids just naturally think outside the box and are drawn to a good giggle. As a producer and writer, I work side by side with incredibly smart people who challenge me, show me new perspectives and make me laugh. What's more inspiring than that?

2) You were a literary agent. What was your personal tipping point to move from content gatherer to content creator?

I can't point to a moment where I said "To BLEEP with this, I'm going to make stuff!!" It was a slow evolution. I remember wanting to be a stand-up comedian when I was young. Unfortunately, there weren't a lot of clear paths to becoming a comedian for a nice suburban Jewish girl. There were, however, lots of well-lit paths down the business route. So that's where I went. I believed that being a lit agent was the closest I would get to being creative. I loved working with the writers on manuscripts and coming up with ideas, but there is a "Sell it, don't smell it" mentality at agencies and there's not a lot of room for creativity. So when I was offered the opportunity to get into animation as a development executive I jumped at it. It was a dream come true to dive into the creative process.

3) What type of writing do you enjoy most — writing for kids, nonfiction or blogging?

I like writing for kids the most. Writing nonfiction humor is fun, and I love making people laugh, but there is something so cathartic about taking an idea, a simple concept or issue, and trying to figure out how get the message across in less than 1,000 words with humor and depth. It's my own personal version of doing the New York Times crossword.

4) How do you get creative?

The ideas I fall in love with the most usually come to me when I'm spending time with my kids and my husband. We laugh a lot in our house and I keep my eyes and ears open for a funny line, joke, stumble — even a fight (which there's a lot of in a house with three teenagers) is fodder for a story or show idea. At the very least, it's a Facebook post! My house is mayhem and I love it. You'd be amazed at how many things I've written that were inspired by my cat.

5) As a former stand-up comedian, what advice do you have to aspiring comics?

The best advice I could give anyone who wants to write humor is the same for all genres: Keep it short, keep it simple. There's a great quote in comedy that's used to describe overly long set-ups: "That's a long way to go for a roast beef sandwich." Which means don't take your audience on a long, tiring journey before delivering a punchline. The punchline is what matters. Too many writers/aspiring comedians spend too much time with giving every (often unnecessary) detail of a set up to get to what they believe is a clever "punch." They don't take into consideration that the storytelling/setup is as important as the punch and needs to be just as short and clever. It takes time to learn, but it makes your writing funnier. Trust me.

Randi Zuckerberg is the founder of Zuckerberg Media, a best-selling author and the host of a weekly business show on SiriusXM, "Dot Complicated." To find out more about Randi Zuckerberg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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