Nonetheless, Juntunen plans to write a creative thesis next year with the support of the English and theatre departments. He is already deeply involved in the process: "The characters have already started talking to me," he says.
"Reed has affected the critical aspects of my writing, more than anything else," Juntunen explains. "I have a much better perspective on how writing works, how it technically affects the audience. I'm much more aware of the craft involved in writing. It's not a conscious process, exactly, but when I read what I've written I have a better idea of what I was doing."
Juntunen's first play, Where Hebrus Wanders, is about two college students trying to come to terms with past loss and grief. He insists it isn't completely autobiographical, but adds that "everyone writes about themselves, at least to some extent. What could possibly be more interesting?" Screwscotch, which graced the Houston stage, is a metaphysical comedic melodrama involving damnation, temptation, and computer engineers. It centers on a man condemned to what may or may not be hell, torn between sympathy for and envy of a mortal he is required to tempt. Careerism is shown to be as damnable as adultery or any of the more conventional deadly sins.
It isn't clear that either play was what he intended to write. "Writing is a very mysterious process; it's a craft. You have to learn to be open to it, to not be afraid of sitting down with no idea of what you're going to say. It involves a great deal of trust, in yourself and in your characters. You have to be able to accept it when a character all of a sudden says something completely unexpected and you realize you're not writing about what you planned to but something else entirely. A lot of it's luck, a lot is intuition, but allowing the process to take place is a skill. The rewrites are less intuitive, and that's where classes come in."
Juntunen cultivates a supreme degree of confidence and certainty in his eventual success. "It's true that there are probably only about 10 playwrights in the U.S. who are actually making money," he admits, "but I see no reason why I shouldn't be the eleventh. If everyone else thinks something is impossible, they won't do it, which can only improve my odds." As to the results of his writing, he speculates, "I suppose I could just write a play for my thesis and it could win the Nobel prize; that would be fine. Actually, though, I'd rather just have the Pulitzer--that'll do nicely."