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In honor of Halloween – and in service to my teaching philosophy —
“Words Matter. Writers Matter. Women Writers Matter.”
I presented this holiday lecture “When Women Write Horror” on Tuesday, October 29th, 2019. Researching the many, many women who have written horror stories – in novels, films and television – brought new names to my attention who I am excited to start reading. I hope you will be, too!
Now this woman really fascinated me. Amelia Edwards. She is known again for travel writing. She traveled the world and that was very fascinating. It’s what she published and got more fame for but in fact, she published ghost stories and there’s a whole collection of her supernatural and weird stories that was just put out again in 2009. So we’re having a Renaissance of looking at women as writers and thinking about the material they put out so many years ago. So I think that’s fascinating. What’s double fascinating. Women have been hidden in history as we know. Women have been hidden in the history of literature. Also, LGBTQ people have been hidden in the history of our actual public life and our literature. Turns out Emilia traveled the world with a widowed friend who never bothered to get married a second time and the two women were companions and did not ask for a male escort which was proper in the day for women to travel with a man to protect them and when they died they were buried side by side in this graveyard.
A surgeon for the Union during the American Civil War and the only woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, Mary Edwards Walker was born on November 26, 1832, in Oswego Town, New York. Her parents, Vesta Whitcomb and Alvah Walker, held 25 acres of land on which they grew fruits and vegetables for market. The family also kept a library for all five of their daughters to use. As a youth, Walker was interested in Spiritualism and supported abolition, temperance, and women’s rights, including suffrage.
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My college is actually in the state of Missouri but we are what is called low residency. So students come to Los Angeles and the picture on the bottom is the Jim Henson Studio in Los Angeles and this is where the students come for workshops twice a year. You’ll see Kermit standing on top. Before Kermit this was the Charlie Chaplin studio founded in 1917 and was never torn down. So it is the original buildings that Charlie Chaplin did all his work in and now we do it with our students. So I you can see the difference in Missouri is quite far away from California.
A Note About This Presentation
A clip from my keynote speech at the 10th Screenwriters´(hi)Stories Seminar for the interdisciplinary Graduation Program in “Education, Art, and History of Culture”, in Mackenzie Presbyterian University, at São Paulo, SP, Brazil, focused on the topic “Why Researching Screenwriters (has Always) Mattered.” I was especially pleased with the passion these young scholars have toward screenwriting and it’s importance in transmitting culture across the man-made borders of our world.
To understand the world we have to understand its stories and to understand the world’s stories we must understand the world’s storytellers. A century ago and longer those people would have been the novelists of any particular country but since the invention of film, the storytellers who reach the most people with their ideas and their lessons have been the screenwriters. My teaching philosophy is that: Words matter, Writers matter, and Women writers matte, r so women writers are my focus because they have been the far less researched and yet they are over half the population. We cannot tell the stories of the people until we know what stories the mothers have passed down to their children. Those are the stories that last. Now is the time to research screenwriters of all cultures and the stories they tell because people are finally recognizing the work of writers and appreciating how their favorite stories took shape on the page long before they were cast, or filmed, or edited. But also because streaming services make the stories of many cultures now available to a much wider world than ever before.
Many thanks to Glaucia Davino for the invitation.
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Ellen Craft was a fugitive slave made famous by the daring escape she and her husband William Craft (1824–1900) made in December 1848. Ellen, disguised as an infirm and sickly slaveholding gentleman, and her husband William, posing as a slave servant, traveled from the slaveholding state of Georgia to freedom in Philadelphia. So widely publicized was their escape that the Crafts became world- renowned spokespersons for abolitionism.
Margaretta Forten was instrumental in founding the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, an influential local chapter of abolitionist and journalist William Lloyd Garrison’s American Anti-Slavery Society, and served as an active member and frequent officer of the society during its entire 37-year history.
Forten was the daughter of free blacks James and Charlotte Vandine Forten. The Fortens were staunch abolitionists, and their children spent much of their time attending abolitionist meetings while they were growing up. The family also entertained prominent abolitionists and moral reformers in their home. After one such visit, poet John Greenleaf Whittier was so taken with the family that he wrote a poem titled “To the Daughters of James Forten.”
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
Singer, songwriter, and the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Aretha Louise Franklin was born on March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee. The fourth of five children, Aretha Franklin was raised in Detroit, Michigan, where her father was the head of the congregation of the New Bethel Baptist Church. Often in the presence of popular singers, both gospel and secular, she was influenced by performers such as Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and Dinah Washington. Gospel great Mahalia Jackson was also a visitor to the Franklin household. Franklin was first recorded as a gospel artist at age 14.
Sahar, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today. I am first generation Iranian-American and come from a Muslim family, so it took me a while to realize that this career was even a possibility. If you can’t see it, it’s hard to believe you can also do it. By that, I mean that I didn’t know any other Muslims or Iranians who worked in Hollywood even though I grew up twenty minutes from all the studios. I remember driving by the Disney Animation building on the 134 freeway on my way to school every day and just think it was the coolest place in the world. But for me, it felt unattainable.
Ten years later, I’m having meetings there all the time. I was always interested in storytelling from a young age. My sister and I would put on plays for my family and I developed an interest in photography in high school, but I never considered film as a career until I was in college. I had planned to become a journalist because that was the closest thing to film that I could consider a tangible career. But when I started school at UC Irvine and began interning at different newspapers, I realized how much journalism was changing in an era of digital media.
Months of research went into the creation of the essays in “When Women Wrote Hollywood.” Here are some of the resources used to enlighten today’s film lovers to the female pioneers who helped create it.
This site is an extension of the research for The Algonquin Round Table New York: A Historical Guide by Kevin C. Fitzpatrick, foreword by Anthony Melchiorri. Published by Lyons Press, Hardcover, Dec. 2014, ISBN: 978-1-4930-0757-8.
“That is the thing about New York,” wrote Dorothy Parker in 1928. “It is always a little more than you had hoped for. Each day, there, is so definitely a new day.”
Now you can journey back there, in time, to a grand city teeming with hidden bars, luxurious theaters, and dazzling skyscrapers.
Writer Julia Ward Howe’s poem, set to music, became “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the anthem for the Union cause in the American Civil War. While that piece cemented Howe’s place in American history, her writing career extended well beyond the single work, and with her efforts as an antislavery and women’s rights activist, she became a woman of great historical significance.