Brian Engles (’13), a graduate of the film and television program, has written his first novel, Wildball, published in April by Black Rose Writing.

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How long have you known that you’ve wanted to be an author? Are you still interested in a career in film and television?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. I would fill up notebooks with stories and song lyrics, which made my mom worry that I was spending too much time in my imagination and not enough time playing with other children. She asked a child psychologist about the dilemma and he advised, “Buy him more notebooks.”

I’m still interested in having a career in film and television through writing. I took as many screenwriting courses as I could during my time in Boston and those classes were instrumental in keeping my novel’s structure tight. I would love for the book to be adapted to film and I want to be involved in that process.

How did you come up with the idea for your book? What was the process of writing it like?

I came up with the idea for Wildball when I was volunteering to film a playoff game for the Cape Cod Baseball League back in August of 2014. The Cape League invites the top college players in the country to compete for a summer and it has really become a pipeline to the Majors. The games have this timeless atmosphere to them and the league offers players a last chance at keeping the sport innocent. I knew if I could capture some of that magic it would make for the perfect backdrop for a YA sports novel.

The writing process was overwhelming at times but luckily I had developed planning skills at BU. I used index cards to map out scenes of the book. Then I taped those cards onto big foam boards that I hung on my walls. If I ever felt like I got lost in the middle of a chapter, I could look up and see where the story was headed. It was also important to know when to go for a walk and just leave the book alone for a bit. As many current COM students probably know first-hand, burnout isn’t productive to any creative process.

Tell us about your journey to getting published.

It was a long road to get the contract for the book. I was trying to gain representation for the book since 2015. By the end of 2016, I finally made progress with a literary agent in Boston. We went back and forth for about six months over a few drafts of the book, but in the end she declined representation. That was a huge blow to my confidence and was probably the low point of this whole journey.

I thought about giving up but I had put in too many years of work to let this thing go unpublished. I decided I wasn’t going to wait for an agent anymore. Several writers I talked to said that they put out their first book through a small press and then got an agent afterwards. So I went that route and made a campaign for my book on a site called Publishizer, which is like Kickstarter for authors. The platform shops your book to some small houses, and luckily Black Rose Writing was a good fit since they had released several other baseball-themed books.

Why did you choose to attend COM?

I chose COM because of an open house the school had when I was a senior in high school. I remember this very palpable energy that the professors had as they spoke to us. They were engaged and lively. They saw the potential in their students and wanted to help kids find ways to develop their different crafts. I knew I needed to go to a film school where the instructors were going to both challenge and encourage me. I’m very fortunate that was the case at COM.

What advice would you give to current students?

I would encourage students to spend more time planning their pieces, whether it’s mapping out a script, drawing storyboards for a short film, or externalizing their ideas through conversations with other students. I think structure is crucial to success. It also somehow lends itself to happy accidents that are never part of the plan. It’s a hard balancing act, but if you can have a clear roadmap of where you’re headed, it makes it easier to have those surprise left turns that will enhance your story.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Volunteering in the public schools as a writing tutor in my hometown of Falmouth, Massachusetts has been a big part of my life the last few years since graduation. The values of service and community came from my time at BU and I want to thank the college for instilling those in me.

To learn more about Brian’s experience as an emerging author, check out his recent interview with Cape & Island’s NPR, and his COM Instagram Stories takeover (highlights can only be viewed on mobile). You can purchase his book here.

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Interview by Emma Guillen

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