Recognizing Female Genius by Dr. Rosanne Welch

I was doing editor rewrites on a chapter titled “Dorothy Parker: The Creative Genius Behind Film Franchise A STAR IS BORN.” To the note asking me to consider a “less hagiographic title,” I said “No”.

A quick check showed me that many, many, many male writers are called geniuses – but few women.

For instance, this article, Genius – still a country for white, middle class, heterosexual men*, notes:

“Try a quick google search of the terms “literary genius”. The same names keep appearing: William Shakespeare, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Henry James, William Chaucer, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger, and so on.” 

But I would object to J.D. Salinger. Catcher in the Rye did not move me at all – but S. E. The Outsiders(Susan Elizabeth) Hinton’s The Outsiders moved me and all the generations from mine through my son’s Millennial group and into the folks watching the musical on Broadway right now – while teaching us all to love the poetry of another male genius – Robert Frost. See, I’m willing to use the adjective on men when they deserve it.

So the lesson of the day is that if any writer deserves to be called genius, it’s Dorothy Parker.

Own your genius. And use it to describe other female creatives. And maybe refrain from using it on less men for once. 

* Genius – still a country for white, middle class, heterosexual men, Natalie Kon-yu, The Conversation

Great New Autobiography to add to your list – Necessary Trouble: Growing Up at Midcentury by Drew Gilpin Faust [Books]

I was introduced to historian Drew Gilpin Faust’s books in my PhD program and learned so much (about writing, women’s involvement in the Civil War, and cultural shifts) from her This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War…

…that I was excited to read her new autobiography, Necessary Trouble: Growing Up at Midcentury

As expected, I learned so much – she was born in Virginia to (sadly) racist parents but chose Northern schools to teach herself the opposite of their ways – ended up at the march in Selma and became friends with John Lewis — the book title comes from his famous phrase which she asked his permission to use.

My Mom always said you learn more from autobiographies than from fictional books. Though I still read copious amounts of both kinds, she was right in that the real-life details I’ve collected from autobiographies have stayed in my mind longer than much of my other reading.

And if you don’t know the story of how Gilpin Faust became the first female president of Harvard University – check it out:

 Drew Gilpin Faust, the First Female Harvard President, Was Nicknamed ‘Chainsaw Drew’

Essentially, previous president Lawrence H. Summers was forced out for saying that “intrinsic” gender differences accounted for the lack of women in science (in other words there weren’t a lot of women in science and math departments because ‘girls aren’t good at math’) so they appointed Faust the immediate interim pres while they looked for a new one – and after 18 months of looking it suddenly occurred to them that she’d been doing the job for… 18 months so why not make her the permanent new pres? She held the gig for 11 years and “generated what might be considered the opposite kind of controversy: She was too PC, her critics griped — during her time, the number of tenured female faculty rose by 47 percent.”

Applications Now Open – Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting for Fall 2024

We’re excited to have opened the window for applications to our Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting’s Fall 2024 cohort.

While we have rolling admissions until all seats in the new cohort are filled. If potential MFA candidates submit materials by March 30th and suit the criteria they will be in contention for our Jan Marino Scholarship (for a woman writer 45 or older). 

Check out our new video with interviews with our most recent grads:

Inquire for more information on the program
Apply Now

Being a low residency program means you travel to Hollywood for 10 days at the beginning of each semester (once in August/once in January) for a workshop experience worth 3 units. We hold workshops at the historic Jim Henson Studios (originally the Charlie Chaplin Studios) in Hollywood, California.

Panel w group

Each semester students will take 3 courses after the workshop. They have one mentor for a television script and one mentor for a screenplay. The television mentors change each semester because in Fall semester you write a spec script/in Spring a pilot; the screenplay mentor is onboard for the whole year, as the Fall semester is all about developing an outline and writing Act One of the screenplay, and in the spring semester you complete and revise the script. Our instructors are all chosen because they are working writers and members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

In year two, there’s a second screenplay written (with a different mentor) and a thesis project, which can be anything from a web series to a limited series pilot and bible to a group of short films to an actual written thesis.

Our History of Screenwriting Courses are taught with a female gaze. Taught by our Executive Director so she can stay in touch with MFA candidates across their 2 years in the program. In the course, students read texts and view films each week that feature female-focused stories, and then post responses to the material. At the end of each semester, students turn in a profile of a screenwriter.

In 2017, 22 of these profiles written by MFA students were compiled into the book WHEN WOMEN WROTE HOLLYWOOD, published by McFarland Press.

If you are a writer looking to move your material to the next level so it will secure you a spot in the industry – or a college educator who wants a graduate degree to move up in the academic world – then our program is perfect for you. 

Join us in Fall 2024 in Hollywood!

Together in Chapel


PRESS: Screenwriters and academics converge on Stephens College for international conference, Columbia Tribune, Columbia, Missouri

While it was a pleasure to host the Screenwriting Research Network’s 2023 conference last week. I love reconnecting with all the folks we see annually in such wonderful places in the world (from Leeds to London to Dunedin to Milan). But the other great thing about this event was the chance to share the Stephens College campus in Columbia, Missouri with everyone. This article in the Columbia Tribune covered the conference’s opening night reception and interviewed some of our international guests so it gives you a lovely feel of who was there and why we gather annually:

PRESS: Screenwriters and academics converge on Stephens College for international conference, Columbia Tribune, Columbia, Missouri

Srn 2023 poster female gazeScreenwriters and academics converge on Stephens College for international conference

Screenwriters and screenwriting academics are gathering at Stephens College through Saturday for the Screenwriting Research Network Conference with the theme Gender and the Female Gaze.

A reception for conference participants was Wednesday night in the penthouse of the college library.

Participants are from at least 15 countries, said Roseanne Welch, executive director the Stephens’ Master of Fine Arts in TV and Screenwriting. Stephens College is a private women’s college in Columbia.

The female gaze refers to seeing life through women’s eyes, Welch said.

“We’re seeing that happen in all kinds of recent films, not just ‘Barbie'” Welch said.

Women’s stories were more complicated in the films of the 1930s and 1940s, she said.

“There were these complete stories with women anti-heroes,” Welch said.

Read the entire article – Screenwriters and academics converge on Stephens College for international conference

PRESS: International Screenwriting Conference coming to COMO, COMO Magazine, Columbia, Missouri

Srn 2023 poster female gaze

International Screenwriting Conference coming to COMO

September 20-23 event will highlight female influence on film, television industries 

Some of the biggest behind-the-scenes stars of television and motion pictures — the screenwriters — will converge on the Stephens College campus in Columbia from September 20-23 for the 15th Annual Screenwriting Research Network Conference. 

Focused on the theme “Gender and the Female Gaze,” the three-day conference will bring an international collection of film professors and practitioners from Finland, France, New Zealand, Brazil, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, and other countries to Columbia. Attendees will get the chance to learn from experienced screenwriters, attend exhibitions, and network with other screenwriters. 

Keynote speakers include Columbia native Phil Lazebnik, who has written screenplays for films including Pocahontas and Mulan, and Meg LeFauve, who was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar for the Pixar blockbuster Inside Out. Along with the keynote speech, LaFauve will appear for a Q&A after a public screening of Inside Out at Ragtag Theatre on Saturday, September 23. 

Read the entire article – International Screenwriting Conference coming to COMO

Dr. Rosanne Welch Interview – She Served Too, KOPN FM, Columbia, Missouri [Audio]

Dr. Rosanne Welch Interview - She Served Too, KPON FM, Columbia, MIssouri [Audio]While I was on the Stephens College campus a couple of weeks ago for the Screenwriting Research Network conference I had the pleasure of appearing on the She Served, Too radio show hosted by Elizabeth Herrera.

A military veteran, Herrera also runs the Stephens College Mission Promise Kept program. Together we spoke about the many military women whose stories have yet to be told on the big (or small) screen including the Mercury 13. Herrera was kind enough to let me talk about the Screenwriting Research Network conference we were holding on the Stephens campus that week and, of course, about the many military women who have dome through our Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting and how telling our stories helps us heal – whether we turn them into scripts or not it’s the act of talking and being heard that heals.

She Served Too
Every 3rd Tue at 5:00 PM With Elizabeth Herrera

Host Elizabeth Herrera has served in the United States Air Force, non-profits, and managing crisis care centers for women. On her show She Served Too, she discusses current issues from her unique perspective.

Married Immigrants Mock Shakespeare for Movie Fame – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, August 2023

I was quite honored when Script Magazine editor Sadie Dean asked me to write a monthly column giving short biographies of female screenwriters across the decades – those who came before us as I like to say – so imagine how shocked I was to find out this is my 30th one to date. Meet Bella Cohen Spewack, born in Romania, a journalist who grew up to write movies that satirized her new career as a screenwriter.

Married Immigrants Mock Shakespeare for Movie Fame – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, August 2023

1899 saw the birth of two future American screenwriters: Bella Cohen in Romania and her future husband and co-writer, Sam Spewack in Ukraine. They each experienced the childhood of an immigrant brought to New York City and each worked as a newspaper reporter in their early careers, Bella for The Call and Sam for New York World. Eventually, they moved to Hollywood to adapt their own play to the screen and much of their later work involved adapting Broadway plays into films.

Read Married Immigrants Mock Shakespeare for Movie Fame

Read about more women from early Hollywood


BEA Panels Prove Fun For Everyone

BEA 2023 Program e1679065597143

Thanks to my friend and colleague, Ed Fink I was invited to join a couple of panels at this year’s BEA (Broadcast Education Association) conference in Las Vegas last weekend.

BEA Panels Prove Fun For Everyone

One panel involved giving feedback on student pitches for TV shows or films and the other was more of a Q&A about careers in screenwriting. On both I was joined by other friends and colleagues from the writing world and the world of academia – David Morgasen (CSUF) and Jon Vandergriff (who teaches at a couple of colleges and happily one of them is the Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting).

BEA Panels Prove Fun For Everyone

The stories we heard in the pitches were lively and several were quite unique, as were the questions about how to gain – and then maintain – a career in writing.

Afterward, the panels ended we three stood in the hallway so long continuing to answer questions such that we invited a few of the stragglers to dinner with us. Since we landed at Benihana we were joined by a father and son from Trinidad and Tobago who were in town for the father’s 30th NAB conference. During our conversation when they heard us mention Ted Lasso they had to ask how a country that doesn’t understand soccer/futbol watches a show set in that world. The film students with us were able to explain that from their generation forward, many, many young American children play on soccer teams – largely because they are co-ed in the younger years whereas baseball and softball segregate the sexes. Amazing the way a conversation ebbs and flows over flame-grilled shrimp and steak.

RMW Rosanne Signature for Web


What a Great Week! — Speaking to Sorbonne Masters Students, a discussion on Writing as Activism, Cinestory Workshop, SeriesFest, and More!

What a Great Week!

I started out last week bright and early Monday morning (6 am LA time/ 1500 Paris time) giving a Zoom lecture to the Masters students of the Professeure au département Cinéma et Audiovisuel at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – yep, the Sorbonne.


Department Directrice Kira Kitsopanidou had a Ph.D. student who was using the book I edited – When Women Wrote Hollywood – so they looked me up online and found all those marvelous lecture clips that Doug posts for me and decided to ask me to deliver a lecture on Early Women Writers and Writers Rooms in the U.S.

They wanted an international focus for their students who already know some of the great French female screenwriters in history so they ask academics from other countries to speak about their industries. It was lovely and will result in having an article I wrote for them translated into French, which will be a new experience for me.

Cinéma et Audiovisuel at the Université Sorbonne Nouvell

Then I capped the week off as an online guest panelist for one of the Kopenhaver Center Conversations along with my friend, colleague, and MFA mentor Rashaan Dozier-Escalante as we discussed Writing as Activism: Creating for Inclusion on the Screen. Moderated by Dr. Bethanie Irons of Stephens College we discussed the lack of representation for writers of different genders, races, ethnicities, and abilities and how writers can make the needed changes because we all recognize that Representation Matters.  

The Sorbonne lecture was a private event but you can find the Kopenhaver Center Conversation here. It will be hard to top a week like that BUT then again this weekend I’ll be at the BEA (Broadcast Education Association) conference in Las Vegas on a panel about Writing as a Career and 2 weeks later I’ll be mentoring new writers at this year’s Cinestory weekend workshop in Idyllwild, California – followed by our MFA commencement at Stephens College and a weekend at the SeriesFest in Denver where I’ll have the honor of introducing this year’s Jan Marino Scholarship recipient at their annual Women Creatives Brunch.

So I guess I can top last week!

Edna Anhalt, Hidden in Her Husband’s Shadow Despite Her Academy Award – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, February 2023

Each month I have the privilege of celebrating the female screenwriters who came before us in an article in Script Magazine. This month’s spotlight is Edna Anhalt — a screenwriter who with her husband Edward won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story. Panic in the Streets (1950) was about a gang of petty criminals carrying the pneumonic plague, Sadly, as with so many women who co-wrote with spouses, there is much more published about his career than hers, though she wrote solo short stories and films as well. 

Edna Anhalt, Hidden in Her Husband’s Shadow Despite Her Academy Award – Dr. Rosanne Welch, Script Magazine, February 2023

To research the writing career of Oscar-winning Edna Anhalt is to be constantly sent to sites detailing her husband’s career with little note about her life outside of that partnership. Edna Thompson was born in New York City in 1914 and married Edward Anhalt in 1935. The dual partnership in marriage and career lasted 20 years. They may have met while enrolled at Columbia University since in 1936 they shared credit on the documentary the Problem Child (1936), produced by the college. 

Read Edna Anhalt, Hidden in Her Husband’s Shadow Despite Her Academy Award

Read about more women from early Hollywood