Caitlin Mullan is a writer and performing arts educator based in San Francisco. A graduate of Seattle University’s creative writing program, she also studied literature and history at the National University of Ireland, Galway, thus giving her a unique and immersive education in rain that continues to inform her work.
Caitlin currently works as a playwright and drama instructor for the non-profit children's theatre company Kid Stock, Inc., for whom she has scripted five original shows and two holiday showcases. She is also the writer and co-creator of That’s Not A Thing, a web series about three women navigating the oft ridiculous trials of early adulthood, which will be produced and released by La Doña Films this winter.
Note from Niki : Caitlin has been one of my best friends in the world since high school. We would cross campus, be theatrical and take the 38/31 together. We even went to the same university! She JUST launched an amazingly thoughtful and timely chronicle of SF treasures called Snapshots: San Francisco. Head over there and read her first entry. Start thinking about snapshot you may have to offer! Also, hope you like the logo because I designed that shit.
Take it away, Caitlin! >>>
1) What led you to discovering your passion?
I’ve always loved stories – whether I was reading them, watching them, or inventing them on my own. I was very fortunate to have a 5th grade teacher who really encouraged me to write, and I had many teachers after that who pushed me to develop my own voice. The more I put pen to paper, the more I fell in love with it and realized it was all I wanted to do.
Plus, I was told it was impossible to grow up to be a dog, so I needed some kind of fallback.
2) What is the craziest hurdle you've had to jump and what advice would you have given to past you?
I spent about eight years hiding my bisexuality. My strategy was to only indulge the feelings I had for men, which was a bad plan for two reasons – 1) denying a part of what makes you a person never works out, and 2) wherever I fall on the spectrum, I tend to be attracted to women more often. Repressing that was pretty miserable, and I’m so glad to be done with it for a lot of reasons, but I had no idea just how much it was holding me back artistically until recently.
I was going through some of my old stuff, and it’s so painfully obvious how afraid I was of being honest on the page. My characters were as silent and secretive as I felt.
If I could go back to that time and talk to poor, overwhelmed Past Me, I’d tell her what Kelly Sue DeConnick, one of my writing heroes, recently told me when I shared how much better my work has gotten since I came out: when we’re authentic in life, with ourselves, then we can be truly authentic in our art. I don’t know if looking through that lens would’ve helped me back then, but I certainly appreciate the truth of it now.
3) When you aren't focusing on your main hustle, what are you up to?
Reading – I fall out of the habit sometimes, especially if I’m working on my own stuff, but the upside is I feel like I constantly get to rediscover my love of books. Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor just blew me away, Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk is one of the most fascinating and moving memoirs I’ve ever read, and the aforementioned Kelly Sue DeConnick is killing it right now with some of the best titles in comics – Bitch Planet, Captain Marvel, Pretty Deadly. Read them all.
I just learned how to ride a bike about a year ago, and that’s quickly become one of my favorite things in the world to do – everything looks and feels so, so different from a bike in the best way possible.
I also cook. A lot. My Instagram feed attests to that (I know, I’m one of those.)
4) What is your favorite place in your city (home town, current residence, or both)?
Lands End, no question. There’s one place in particular, if you hit the trail on the 48th Avenue side, right by the second lookout, I think. There’s this little spot to the side where you can just tuck over off the path. On a clear day, you’ve got a gorgeous view of the bridge, the Marin Headlands, and the water. On a foggy day, it could be a wall of white, but that’s almost better – knowing what’s there, even though you can’t see it. Either way, it feels infinite – sometimes it’s hard to remember you’re in a major city.
5) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Wandering. The world in general used to scare me a lot. It doesn’t anymore. There are so many places I want to go and people I want to meet and stories I want to tell. I’m excited to just start moving.
6) Why do you think your viewpoint is important?
Our world has become a place where it’s very easy to talk. You can sign online and broadcast your thoughts and opinions, and rarely do you need permission to do so. It’s wonderfully liberating, and it’s connected us in so many ways. I’ve made and sustained some incredible friendships through the internet.
One of the unfortunate side effects, though, is that in the rush to broadcast our opinions, we as a society are quickly forgetting how to listen – both to ourselves and to one another. Storytelling is an exchange – as a writer, I’m bringing my experiences to my readers, but I’m also constantly working to step outside my own limited sphere of existence and consider where other people are coming from. Good storytelling exercises our empathy muscles, and that’s what’s really going to keep us connected.
BONUS : What's your favorite song right at this moment?
Oof. That’s a hard one. I’m going to cheat and give you two (hundred)(no, just two).
“Fake Empire” by The National is my Forever Favorite Song – no matter where I am or what I’m doing, it just gets in my bones and feels like a blanket wrapped around me when it comes on.
At the moment, I’m digging, “Lost,” by Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra. The lyrics to that one kind of snuck up on me right when I needed them most – there’s a great line, “Nothing’s ever lost forever, it’s just caught inside the cushions of your couch and when you find it, you’ll have such a nice surprise.” I repeat that to myself a lot. It’s got the right balance of hope and comfort.