Guest post: "From Playwright to Published Author," by Jonisha Rios

Hi all!  I’m a Puerto Rican Latina from the Bronx, not to be confused with the fabulous Jlo although we do share the same size ass.  Very proud of that, can I get “woot woot”!

Okay okay, I’m not actually from the Bronx originally but I did live there for over ten years before I moved to Cali and my name is Jonisha Rios.

 I’m thrilled to be sharing some words of wisdom on my journey from the stage to becoming a published author.   Some would say I did this process backwards. In other words, many writers first have their material in book form before they proceed to have it staged or even filmed. However, for me there was no other way. You see my goal was to have the experience of living these stories and producing them for the stage first.  And in some cases even directing them, and then once I did that, I believed the book would naturally follow.   I took to the stage worked out my material and then, chiseled it into what became “Curse of the Blue Vagina” A collection of two solo-shows transformed into narratives, followed by an ensemble piece I produced and directed. I never set out to “get published” or even “find an agent”, in fact- they found me after I decided to just do it on my own.

When I began this journey almost ten plus years go, I was traveling back and forth from the east coast to the west coast doing show after show and just working to make each one better.  It was my art, my expression. I did it for me and it was a bonus that people came to watch and many enjoyed my pieces. 

If I were to give any advice it would be “If you build it, they will come.” True, you may have heard this old saying time again- only in my case it was exactly what I did.  I was never one to wait for anyone to “open my doors.” So many people out there are waiting for their “Big Break”. But its bullshit, you can’t wait.  If you really want to act, learn how to write and write yourself something. Or hire me to help you.   

I remember I was shooting a movie in Italy and one of the actresses scoffed at me when she read the beginnings of my works that eventually became the material I used for my book. She said “Oh you do stand up? And solo-shows? You aren’t a talent.” Mind you I was starring in the movie she helped me get a role in. It was so odd.  I will never forget how rude she was. But I didn’t let her get me down, because I was clear.  So rule number: Be Clear about your gift and don’t allow anyone to bring you down, what they think of you and is not your concern, its their problem.  Stay focused. Thank God I felt sorry for her and kept on going. A few years later not only did my shows become successful, but I landed two TV series, sold a screenplay, directed countless commercials and was paid big bucks to help others create their own solo-shows.  And that same girl eventually reached out to me for advice later on.  No hard feelings, glad I inspired her. My point is, I knew where I was headed and didn’t let anything or anyone stop me.

To be clear, I didn’t do it to prove the haters wrong – and that’s a very important message from me to you. Do it because you love it and what you create is your passion. Period. No one can stop you from doing what you are meant to do, because if you are destined to do it. 

They say it’s always important to do that which makes you afraid. And for me that thing was stand up comedy.  In fact before I took the stage as a stand up comedian I actually did solo shows first to be able to conquer that fear. It was difficult to go from elaborate monologues to short set up punches –but I did it.  Was it easy? —Hell to the no! But I did it.  So do what scares you. Create your bucket list.

Now that I’m a mom and a little older wiser, I have really taken to writing.  No need to be on stage anymore.  I conquered that fear and moved on.  Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t necessarily turn down a role on Broadway; however, I am at peace with writing and creating new stories with characters that make me laugh. 

Ok enough with the inspirational pep talk, here are some hardcore rules.  Hire a book formatter ASAP.  For me formatting was an absolute nightmare that took way longer than it needed to.  Mainly because I wrote my book in "Word" which apparently is a pain to format.  The thing is, once I got the book formatted properly, errors jumped out at me that I never noticed after having the book copy edited several times.  I was shocked and annoyed and it was a very expensive process to fix.  So when your manuscript is complete have it checked several times by many different people  for 1) grammar, 2) spelling, 3) spacing, 4) indents—the works- get it proofed for everything again and again before you get into formatting so that when you convert the file you don’t need to fix a thing.  I tell you this because the formatters will make errors – so long as its theirs and not yours those are easy to find and free to fix.

Get professional photos taken, I had nothing because after I had given birth my focus was my son and at almost 200 pounds going from a sassy size 2 to a 10 plus… meat I didn’t want to take photos and frankly I didn’t care – being a mom was a dream just like being an artist was so I was fine with my weight.  The thing is I had no pro shots. So the photo I used in the back of my book, although I love it, it was a photo shoot from when my baby was teeny.  Hey it worked but now I need to do a photo shoot to get some new press photos - be prepared.

Have different readers read your stories.  Meaning don’t just go to readers that are your typical audience branch out, the notes I received from so many different people early on was invaluable because they were all from completely different walks of life and had different perspectives. 

Finally, once your have proofed and had others read your stories and once you feel the project is done-- move on.  Tell people who have more things to say or more notes to give “Thanks but this book is officially done, but I so appreciate your advice and will consider it for my next book.” This is so important, why? Because you are an artist and because as a writer especially a self-pub writer, you can write and re-write to death.  Believe me this book took 8 years to complete.  Yup, you heard that, 8 years! And it’s a collection of stories.  Don’t do that to yourself.  You want to put your best foot forward, and you also want to appreciate the fact that you have more stories in you – new ones that need to be told.  So when its time to let that go- let it go.  I for one will not be reading my own book again.  I did it, I read it I will produce plays from it but I have moved on.

Anyway, that’s all I got.  My son is finally asleep so that means, I get to have a glass of wine and just chill.  Goodnight! Read my book! Thanks for your support.


Jonisha Rios is an accomplished screenwriter, author, director and actress that currently resides in California. She teaches Solo-show workshops to adults and kids. 

Check her book on 

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