By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, January 19, 2018
Becca Mann has already accomplished more in her 20 years than most people do in a lifetime.
Published author. World-class swimmer.
And Coming Soon: Television scriptwriter.
A sophomore in the prestigious University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts as well as a top distance swimmer for the Trojans, Mann is exploring her writing options by currently taking a class in scriptwriting for half-hour comedies and hour-long dramas.
She’s leaning toward focusing on writing for TV dramas – believing she isn’t quick-witted enough to write comedies – but definitely sees a future in this creative realm.
“I’ve always loved writing, but scriptwriting is unlike anything I’ve done before – but I love it, and I love school,” said Mann, one of a select group accepted into the school annually. “I’m learning directly from professionals active in the business, and I feel like I learn something new every class.”
Mann’s current project involves writing more than 120 pages of a script that should take most of the semester.
She’s been pounding out the pages – nearly 20 per week – and near the end of this term, she’ll share them with classmates for Feedback and final edits.
“I generally like science fiction reading and writing – that’s the genre my book is – but this script is a drama that focuses on open water swimming,” she said. “I’m still working out the details, but it centers on the murder of an open water swimmer by her biggest competitor. I’m excited to see where it ends up.”
As far as her swimming career in concerned – a career that started in the pool but has largely changed focus to open water competitions. As a USC competitor, she is swimming and training for distance events at the upcoming Pac-12 and NCAA Championships.
But as soon as her collegiate season ends in March, she will quickly change her training to focus on long course distance and open water competitions.
Unlike the pool events, this May Mann will compete at Open Water Nationals Championships to earn a spot on this summer’s Pan Pacific Championship team. Her quest for a spot on the 2019 World Championship team won’t be contested until next summer, and the 2020 U.S. Olympic Open Water Team will be decided at 2019 Worlds.
Because she’s concentrating so heavily on open water, Mann said she is undecided if she will compete at the Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships in June.
That’s a decision she said she’ll make after Open Water Nationals and how well she swims at that competition.
“I actually haven’t competed in a long course pool meet since 2016 Olympic Trials, but if I decide to swim at Nationals, that will be an easy transition for me after NCAAs,” said Mann, who won the 5K and 10K events at 2015 Open Water Nationals.
“I’m a much better long course swimmer especially in my longer events. That translates pretty easily to open water as well.”
Last summer before the start of the Open Water competition at World University Games in Taiwan, Mann was one of the U.S. swimmers already in country who helped determine the water was too warm for safe competition.
She had just come from World Championships in Budapest (after stops in Rome and Thailand) where she finished 7th in the 25K Open Water competition, and as the only member of the U.S. Open Water delegation present, she tested the water temperature before recommending that her teammates not take a chance with their lives and compete.
“Lindsay (Mintenko) and I went down to the course a few days before the open water competition started, and after getting in the water for about 20 minutes, I knew pretty quickly it was just too hot (90 degrees) for safe open water swimming,” said Mann, who has participated in the past three World Championships (2013, 2015, 2017). She also finished 10th in the 800 freestyle (pool) at 2015 World Championships.
“We agreed as a team not to compete to maintain our safety but also to make a statement about holding unsafe competitions. We weren’t the only country to not compete. After what happened to Fran (Crippen) in 2010, we are very cautious about competing when the temperature is too high. It’s just not worth it.”
A longtime member of the U.S. National team despite being just 20, Mann said she felt the early expectations placed upon her when she qualified for her first team as a 13-year-old.
And while those 7 years have gone very fast for her, she said she has never felt like she hasn’t delivered or allowed outside pressures to succeed affect her swimming or swimming mindset.
If anything, she said she has reveled in the opportunities being a National Team swimmer has given her.
“Swimming has done so much for me,” she said. “I’ve seen parts of the world I probably wouldn’t have otherwise visited, I’m swimming in college and taking classes that I absolutely love, and I’ve made so many great friends through the sport.
“I know there were early expectations about me becoming the next great American distance star – and maybe I still am – but I didn’t allow that to stop me. If anything, it drove me and continues to drive me to want to do more. I’ve worked really hard my whole career, and it has totally paid off.”
As far as her writing is concerned, Mann, who published The Stolen Dragon of Quanx: The Eyes Trilogy in 2014, said she is focusing on scriptwriting for now and has put any future manuscripts (books) on hold.
That’s where she sees her greatest passion and opportunity moving forward – that and swimming, of course.
“It’s just too difficult to write them both at the same time because the style is so different,” she said. “I tend to be a wordy writer – lots of details and thoughts – so making the transition to shorter, more directional writing required for scripts has been challenging but fun.
“I’ve always had stories in my head and been an avid reader, so I know I have a future book or books in me. But right now, I’m focusing on scriptwriting, and I want to make my future career there instead of books. I’m getting great real-life instruction from people in the industry, and just like when I swim an open water race, I’m ready for my next adventure.”