How I Wrote That is a podcast presented by The Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting, and hosted by Khanisha Foster. In each episode, we sit down with the top women in writing. They invite us into their homes and studios so we may ask how they got there. We discuss how they write, what they write, and the advice they would give to those listening. Stephens is dedicated to increasing the number of women working in television and film. How I Wrote That cultivates the relationship between those who have already made it and those who are dreaming up.
Screenwriter Jennifer Maisel from The March Sisters at Christmas, and Tempting Fate
Jennifer Maisel most recently developed an original pilot called “The 626” with Super Deluxe and adapted two Jane Green novels—Tempting Fate and To Have and to Hold, which aired in June. She currently is working on a two-hour about campus rape and institutional betrayal with Just Singer Entertainment. Her screenplay “Lost Boy” was filmed starring Virginia Madsen. She wrote The Assault and The March Sisters for Mar Vista Entertainment and Double Wedding for Jaffe Braunstein. She has written movies for NBC, ABC, MTV and Lifetime, was a staff writer on the television series Related, wrote a pilot for ABC Family and an animated feature for Disney. Maisel has developed original pilots with Bunim-Murray, Ineffable, Stun Media and MomentumTV and co-created the critically acclaimed web series Faux Baby with Laura Brennan and Rachel Leventhal. The screenplay adaptation of her play The Last Seder won Showtime’s Tony Cox Screenwriting Award, meriting her a month’s stay in a haunted farmhouse at the Nantucket Screenwriter’s Colony. A graduate of Cornell University and NYU’s Dramatic Writing program, Maisel is also an award-winning playwright whose Eight Nights will premiere at Antaeus Theatre in October 2019; the play is currently part of a nationwide event called 8 Nights of Eight Nights, raising funds and awareness for HIAS. She has taught playwriting at University of Southern California and guest-lectured around the country.
On adapting novels “I like the puzzle of taking something that’s epic, novels are epic, even not great novels are epic, and you have to figure out how to find the essential spine to it and give shape to it as a writer.”
Screenwriter Laura Brennan from Most Likely to Die, and Faux Baby.
Laura Brennan’s eclectic writing career includes television, film, theater, web series, fiction and news. Behind the scenes, she has helped production companies develop movies, TV pilots and limited series. She has taught pitching workshops to executives at Netflix and Film Victoria, as well as MFA programs and undergraduate classes at universities including Stephens College, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Southern California, Boston University and National University.A graduate of Yale University, Brennan has won awards for journalism, television writing and fiction. Her children’s book, Nana Speaks Nanese, tackles the confusing changes brought on by dementia in a reassuring and straightforward way. She hopes it will help families facing a diagnosis of dementia open up a conversation with their young children. Her web series Faux Baby is also for parents, but it is definitely not for children—or even safe for work.
“You are not everything to everyone. And you shouldn’t try to be. You should figure out what you do best and double down on it. Learn the stuff that you’re not great at so that you are comfortable and confident but narrow down what it is you really bring to the table ”
Screenwriter Dawn Comer Jefferson from Our Friend, Martin and South of Nowhere.
Dawn Comer Jefferson is an Emmy-nominated, award-winning writer. On television, Comer Jefferson wrote on the CBS family drama Judging Amy, served as writer/consulting producer on MTV's teen drama, South of Nowhere, freelanced on the CBS hit NCIS, and developed a drama pilot at NBC Universal Studios. She was nominated for an Emmy for writing the Fox-animated family film, Our Friend, Martin, and for the last nine years has written Emmy-winning arts programming for PBS, performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
As a non-fiction writer, Comer Jefferson has written about children, families and public policy issues for national print and online media including Garnet News, Working Mother, Fit Pregnancy Magazine and MomsRising, and her essays have been featured in the anthologies A Woman Alone (Seal Press) and Go Girl (Eighth Mountain Press). She adapted, produced and directed the eight-part NPR radio series adaptation of the biography Maggie's American Dream, co-wrote the nonfiction book Three Ring Circus: How Real Couples Balance Marriage, Work, and Family, and the African American historical children’s fiction, The Promise. Visit her website.
"My first piece of advice is to recognize that you are a writer and a storyteller. A lot of people are hesitant to own that yet you really need to be in that mindspace. And then remember that your first draft is not your only draft. There are probably 15 or 16 more and you’re not really done until your done… and even then, you’re not done."
-Dawn Comer Jefferson
Screenwriter & producer Rachel Shukert from GLOW and The Baby-Sitters Club
Rachel Shukert is a producer and writer, known for GLOW (2017), Supergirl (2015) and The Baby-Sitters Club (2020). Her plays include Bloody Mary (NYIT nominee), Everything's Coming Up Moses and The Three Gabor Sisters and her books include the memoirs Everything Is Going To Be Great and Have You No Shame?
When you know these characters so well you can get into a rut. You get caught up in what you thought their arc was. Characters become their own people and you have to keep yourself open to letting them do things that maybe you didn’t imagine for them earlier on… For me everything interesting exists in the space between who we are and who we think we should be and all internal conflict, all the stories, all these bad decisions people make – or good decisions people make – happen in that space.
Screenwriter Deborah Starr Seibel from Sisters and 21 Jump Street
Deborah Starr Seibel is a multiple award-winning journalist and screenwriter. For the past eight years, she has been an instructor at USC's School of Cinematic Arts in the John Wells Division of Writing for Film & Television. In addition, she serves as a mentor for Stephens College's MFA in Screenwriting program.
In prime time television, Deborah recently sold two pilots to CBS and is credited with four years on staff. During those years, she wrote six episodes for the final season of NBC's Sisters and spent three additional years on the staff of Promised Land, the spin-off to CBS's Touched By An Angel. She has also written episodes for Mysterious Ways and 21 Jump Street.
As a television reporter, Deborah won a George Foster Peabody award for investigative journalism, two Emmy Awards and First Place from the Associated Press for one of her documentaries. As a print journalist, she has written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Parade and USA Today. In addition, she is a long-time national correspondent for TV Guide.
In 2010, Deborah was awarded a USC Annenberg Fellowship to receive her Master's Degree in Specialized Journalism/The Arts.
"If there isn't a kernel of truth you shouldn't be writing. You get to know the people in a writers' room better than your family, because you have to bring yourself, your stories, your history, your family experience into that room or you have nothing to contribute because nobody on this planet has lived the life you've lived and if you don't bring that into the writers' room, what good are you? What we are as artists are people who are trying to allow other people to feel that they are not alone."
-Deborah Starr Seibel
All the inspo
I can’t tell you how great this podcast is. It’s hard to find information on how being a writer actually is, so this show is so refreshing. It’s inspiring to hear perspectives of ladies in the industry!
Valuable info from professional writers that helps shape your writer’s voice; encouraging and addictive!