SD/PEN Member Profile: John Madormo

SD/PEN regularly selects members at random and profiles their background and experience in an interview-style blog post. These are valuable opportunities for members to introduce themselves to other members and prospective clients through this newsletter and on SD/PEN’s website and social media outlets. This profile features John Madormo, owner of Professor Wordsmith.

Although John Madormo was never diagnosed, he admits he’s probably a little OCD. “I can thank the nuns at the Catholic grammar school I attended for that curse, or was it a blessing?” he says. “They drilled in us that we needed to master punctuation, grammar, and spelling in all of our writing. That mandate has followed me through life.”

He became managing editor of his college yearbook/literary magazine. After graduating with majors in Broadcast Communications and Advertising, he was hired as a writer/producer/director at WGN-Radio in Chicago. He then spent 38 years teaching at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, including screenwriting classes.

“When not in the classroom, I wrote . . . and wrote . . . and wrote.” 

He eventually sold a family comedy screenplay to a producer in Los Angeles, and a dozen more were optioned. Unable to sell more scripts, his career path took a detour when he decided to keep the main character of one screenplay alive by adapting it into a middle-grade novel. “Within months I signed a multi-book deal with Penguin Books for Young Readers for a mystery series titled Charlie Collier, Snoop for Hire.”

From that point on, he spent his free time writing books. Eventually he was drawn back to his first love—screenplays. While reading and grading student screenplays, his editing skills were reawakened.  He decided it was time to assist aspiring screenwriters, and, in 2010, Professor Wordsmith was born. 

Here’s more about John in this slightly edited Q&A.

How do you describe what you do to someone whom you’ve just met at a networking function?

At Professor Wordsmith, I proofread, edit, and properly format scripts for aspiring screenwriters.  I make a promise to my clients that I alone will be the one performing the editing work. My clients don’t just get a script back with mistakes crossed out or filled with meaningless editing symbols. They receive a final draft of their screenplay—ready to be submitted to contest judges, agents, managers, script readers, and producers.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a youngster, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I have always loved being a pet owner.  I have always admired the talents of those physicians who dedicate their lives to animals. My dreams of becoming a vet were soon dashed when I became a high school junior. Chemistry did me in. I knew then I’d never be able to cut it in vet school.

What kinds of projects do you particularly enjoy working on? Why?

My favorite projects are thrillers. Although I am searching for errors in each screenplay, I am still interested in the story line. I appreciate writing that is captivating and unpredictable. 

What is the best lesson you’ve learned as an editor?  Is there anything you would change in your editing journey?

Interestingly, I have found that some of the best storytellers are those with the poorest grammar skills. Right brain—left brain, I guess. When I first began editing, I would get annoyed with all the punctuation, grammar, and spelling errors. Then I realized I shouldn’t be blaming the writer for these deficiencies. It could have been a failure of the school system, not the individual. Now I treat all projects the same—those that require significant editing and those that do not.

What do you like to do to get away from editing and refill the well?

My escape from editing is writing children’s novels.  I’m currently working on the sequel to a book titled Rutherford, Canine Comic. This is the story of a basset hound who always dreams of becoming a faithful and fearless family watchdog but who must settle for the life of a stand-up comedian. Book #1 in the series hit bookstore shelves in September of 2020.  I’m currently about halfway through book #2.

Tell us about a book you recently read that you would recommend.

Growing up I have always been a huge fan of the television and movie Western.  I’ve seen every episode of Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Rawhide, Wagon Train, The Virginian, The High Chaparral, and others. But not until recently had I sat down with a bona fide Western novel.  I chose Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey. Although it took me a few chapters to appreciate Grey’s writing style, it was everything I had expected. Reading it made me love the Western genre even more.

What is the number one item on your bucket list and why?

Seeing the pyramids in Egypt. I have always been fascinated by the history associated with ancient pharaohs. I think it would be breathtaking to walk through various chambers in the pyramids now open to visitors. Once international borders reopen following COVID, I will give serious thought to realizing this dream.

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