This blog post was written by Christina Drill, Girls Write Now Senior Program Coordinator.
On the first summer Friday in July, Hannah, our Communications Manager, and I met Girls Write Now mentee superstars Zaw Gordon, Leilah Fagan, and Kirby-Estar Laguerre in front of ABC Studios on West 66th.
The girls were about to partake in a real live television writing session in the writer’s room for Come Here and Say That with Alicia Menendez on the Fusion floor. “Are you nervous?” Hannah asked them.
“Meh,” Zaw shrugged. “I’m pretty excited.” Kirby and Leilah both agreed.
Inside we were greeted by a production assistant who escorted us up to the Fusion floor. The writing started immediately.
I thought a writers room was exactly what it sounded like: a room full of writers, with maybe one producer and one production assistant, churning out a script under the pressure of a looming deadline. In the writer’s room for Come Here and Say That, a lot more was going on. There were production assistants, assistant writers, a few producers — even Alicia Menendez herself was in the cut. The room was packed and all (smiling) eyes were on Zaw, Kirby, and Leilah as they introduced themselves and explained what kind of writing they enjoy most.
It didn’t occur to me until we showed up just how much pressure is felt in the writer’s room. It isn’t just the pressure of the deadline but you’re put in a position where you must be as creative and as witty as possible on the spot, in front of not just other writers, but people who are essentially judging your ideas the second they come out of your mouth. If a writer muses something aloud about, say, Donald Trump running for president, and nobody laughs or jumps off the idea, it ends there. It seemed wildly stressful but wildly exciting at the same time.
During the group brainstorm, Leilah, Zaw, and Kirby suggested punchlines and “a-ha points” for the current events segment of Alicia’s show — which that week covered Ariana Grande licking that donut, Donald Trump being a crazy, and the confederate flag finally coming down in Charleston — and then broke out for one-on-one writing sessions with show writers.
When they returned, after having co-written clips (!!!), Alicia read out everyone’s pieces and, as we listened, the staff made small tonal or sentence edits. We all sat together as the episode came together.
In all respects, it was an organic and incredible thing to watch. The fact that Kirby, Leilah and Zaw were able to jump in so effortlessly and help write a hilarious segment on a cable TV show was beyond words.