Interview: Natalie Miller, performer and writer

Once upon a time, a long time ago (let’s not dwell on how long), I went to school with a wonderful girl named Natalie. We shared the same interest in writing and drama—except where I went on to be a public service editor, she went on to be Australia’s top kids ministry performer. That is to say she is a ventriloquist who writes comedy scripts for a Christian and secular audience, for adults and children.

I know, right?! Words cannot express how awesome that is!

Natalie very kindly agreed to do this interview, where we focus on her writing process. I hope you enjoy it.

Natalie (on the right).

Natalie (on the right).

Which books have influenced your writing? Other than the Bible, I mean—that’s a given.

I read a lot of joke books—being a performer, the jokes are important, I also read comedy biographies—Tina Fey, Jeff Dunham, Steve Martin—which inspire me. One of my favourite “go to” books for creative inspiration is Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. It’s awesome for
anyone creative working on a project: dance, music, writing, etc.

What is more fun to write: scripts for adults or for children?

They’re both so different. It’s very satisfying to have a joke that “gets” the grownups—being clever enough to make them laugh. But then seeing a kid laugh with their whole body over something ridiculous is also awesome. My favourite scripts are the ones that get both at once!

What’s your preferred way to write, your ideal process?

It really changes every time. Sometimes I’ll have an idea in the back of my head or scribbled in a notebook that could sit there for months and suddenly I’ll get inspired and sit down and get it all out in less than an hour. Other times if I’m “trying” to write I can sit for hours and write and it ends up being rubbish with just a few good lines. My most successful writing venture was when I disappeared off the grid for two days and went to a cottage in the bush with no internet to just write—I wrote non-stop and got ten GREAT scripts written. Obviously the clear space and serenity helped!

How do you deal with writer’s block?

Coffee. Chocolate. Repeat. If I’m really stuck, I’ll go do something else for a little while, go get a coffee or do something else; have a run. Sometimes I just have to leave what I’m writing for a few days and come back to it. It depends how “stuck” I am. The best cure is always to leave it and come back, though; otherwise I get frustrated and stressed and end up hating whatever it is I’ve written.

What is your favourite theme to write about?

I love writing about value – encouraging people that they are loved and important and have something worthwhile to offer the world, no matter where they’ve come from, what their history is. I love encouraging kids that they’re awesome just the way they are. There is so much negative media about image and self-worth; I feel privileged to be able to stand in front of people, make them laugh themselves silly and then through the way I’ve written a story or script end with something really positive that makes people not only feel like they’ve had fun but also been encouraged.

What are your current projects? Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I’m currently trying to work on a biography—or life story—of how I got to where I am. It’s 25 years since I started as a ventriloquist and it’s been a pretty big journey—not always pretty either, so I’m sort of trying to get my head around writing that. Not sure if anyone will want to read it, but maybe my kids can read it one day!

If you want to learn more about Natalie or her work, check out her website here.

Natalie Miller

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