Welcome to the Forty Over 40 blog. We frequently spotlight one of our honorees and their thoughts on reinvention, mentorship and momentum…plus a peek into what makes them tick.
This Q & A is with Caitlin McCarthy. Caitlin is an award-winning screenwriter; a DES (diethylstilbestrol) activist; and an English Language Arts Instructor at Worcester Technical High School in Worcester, Massachusetts (the second largest city in New England). After Caitlin discovered in 2005 that she had been exposed to DES in utero, she decided to use her screenwriting to help educate the world about the drug’s dangers. Caitlin’s most notable scripts include: WONDER DRUG; PASS/FAIL; FREE SKATE; and RESISTANCE.
1) What was a pivotal moment of reinvention for you?
I’ve reinvented myself several times – from public relations executive, to inner-city public high school ELA teacher, to screenwriter, to DES activist. Every change has been pivotal for me, because they all involved me stepping outside of my comfort zone and moving in a new direction. And you know what’s amazing? As I get older, I get braver. I can’t wait to discover my next opportunity for growth.
2) Who has been a valuable mentor?
I have two standouts:
- Andrea Goldstein, the DES Daughter and activist long viewed as the “historian” and Paul Revere of DES issues. Andrea is the first woman to win a DES-related infertility lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company (Eli Lilly) in the United States. She’s educated the world about DES for decades; she helped educate and support me when I learned of my DES exposure in 2005. I’m blessed to have her in my life.
- Writer/director/producer/actor Tom Gilroy, who mentored me on WONDER DRUG at the Hampton’s Screenwriters Lab – and didn’t stop after that weekend. Tom is a feminist who champions women filmmakers and writers. Hollywood needs more men like Tom Gilroy. I’d say someone should clone him, but Tom is one of a kind.
3) What is your biggest goal right now?
I would love to help organize a “DES: where we are, where we have been, and what in the world have we learned” meeting in Washington, DC with political folks, influence makers, scientists, advocates, and the interested public in attendance. I’m already exploring this idea with others in the DES community (including Andrea Goldstein, of course!). We’ll figure out a way to make this happen.
4) What’s the best networking contact you’ve made? How did you make it?
While going through a teacher training program at Brockton High School in Massachusetts, I mentioned to Diane Ayoche, a veteran teacher, that I had just finished writing a novel. Diane said, “Oh! I should introduce you to my cousin.” Little did I know that her cousin is Oscar-nominated director Matia Karrell!
Matia read my unpublished novel and asked if I could turn it into a screenplay. I said yes, even though I had never written a screenplay before. I bought Final Draft Software and “The Screenwriter’s Bible” by David Trottier, and promptly switched from writing books to scripts. I have Diane and Matia to thank for that incredible life change.
5) What was the last business book you read?
“Writing the TV Drama Series: How to Succeed as a Professional Writer in TV” by Pamela Douglas. It’s a terrific resource that’s practical and encouraging.
6)What song can’t you get out of your head?
AC/DC’s “Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll).” The guitars. The bagpipes. Perfection. Whenever that song comes on the radio, I turn it up and sing along – badly! But who cares. The song rocks.
7) What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Former Hollywood manager/producer Beth Colt of the Woods Hole Inn on Cape Cod emailed the following to me: “Just keep doing it. Write another spec, submit again. Rinse, repeat. Each one gets better, the cumulative matters. Don’t give up! All the struggle will pay off in the end. Good writing is fueled by life experience.” Those words were a shot in the arm for me. A hard copy of Beth’s email hangs by my writing desk.
8) What is your “keep me going” quote?
“Work Conquers All.”
9) What is your secret indulgence?
Okay, I’m not going to lie. It’s cuddling on the couch with Oscar, my adopted Westie, while watching HGTV’s Property Brothers.
10) Who on the list of prior Honorees would you like to meet?
Betsy Beers, one of this year’s Honorees. I’ve followed her on Twitter for some time now. I love her work. She’s an inspiration to me.
Check out Caitlin McCarthy’s full 40 Over 40 profile here!