Trailblazing Yvette Lee Bowser Talks Writing, Motherhood and Mentoring Next Generation of TV Writers

The legendary TV writer is turning her attention to promoting young writers of color

Since you’ve been in the industry, so much programming has been moved online and away from the actual television set; how has that changed the way you do business or has it changes at all?

It hasn’t really changed how I work because I still try to tell honest and engaging stories. I will say that the TV opportunities are fewer which means that when you get one, it’s more precious. So we must be thankful when we do get a break. The creation of web programming and reality shows, both open and close opportunities for writers because they offers portals for more involvement and more experience, however, it causes the true TV opportunities to be very slim.

Because I believe that there’s something for everyone, I don’t look at those avenues as negative. The demand is what the demand is so I don’t spend a lot of time analyzing it or being bitter about it, because it takes me from the time that I need to spend on making the best projects complete. I think that when you start to focus on what you don’t have or what you haven’t been able to do, it keeps you from doing what you need to do to get things done for yourself.

And this might not be popular with many of my peers of writers but I, personally, am a reality show junkie. The storylines and the characters just pull me in. There’s a huge market for that kind of programming. So much of it is a sociology or psychology of the human condition. It’s as real as it gets. I know some of it is fake because of the cameras but even that is an example of the honest human condition. Even though it makes it more challenging for TV writers like me, I’m open to that challenge.

When you took a bit of time off and we didn’t see your name in the credits, we assumed that you are not working or that reality shows or web programming is keeping great writers like you from working; that’s really not true?

Really, I didn’t have a break until the last 3 years. And during that time, I was developing a cable channel with Dr. Bill Cosby and his wife. I didn’t really have that much time off. I went from running my own shows for twenty years to selling pilots. Every year that you don’t see my name in the credits, doesn’t mean that I wasn’t working in the industry. I’ve actually sold 25 pilots in the last 15 years which is a sizable amount. I was fortunate enough to shoot 8 of those pilots and put five on the air; four of them went the distance so that’s not a bad track record.

And also I have a family. I’m a wife and a mother. I have two children, two young boys who need me. I was able to take that time off three years ago so that I could really re-connect with them. I really wanted to spend more time with them. Only a crazy person would really stop a career that was in full swing during a recession, but that’s how crazy I am about my kids. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. That’s what I do. I’m a mom in my free time. I’m a wife in my free time and I’m a writer at all times.

What challenges are you facing right now and how are you dealing with them?

There are challenges when you’re asked to go in and consult on a show versus running the show. But I understand what the job requires. Right now, I have less responsibility. I have a full tool belt but I’m only using about two tools and some days that’s a big challenge for me. But it’s all good because I’m happy to be working and do what’s required. I’m there to do what the show-runners need me to do. That’s the job. I’m able to change my position and not diminish my role in the overall outcome of the show.

One of the reasons that I love 30-minute television was because I appreciate the immediacy of what I’m doing. Being able to put my thoughts and opinions of the characters on the page and immediately see the results on the following week’s episode is very gratifying. And I’m doing that. I don’t have to be in charge. That goes back to why I really love to mentor because I’ve ran five shows in my career, I’m not as hungry as a new writer. I’m not as desperate to put my stamp on something. It’s the people that are constantly chasing happiness that never find it. I’m pretty happy right now in my life.

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