Arts & Entertainment, Features

Writer, producer Stacy Traub ‘has stories to tell’ as COM’s second writer in residence

Most college students share one looming anxiety: their future jobs. But Stacy Traub, a screenwriter and executive producer, wants to diminish that fear and replace it with inspiration.

Traub, the College of Communication’s second ever writer in residence, visited 15 different COM writing classes from March 25 to 29 to speak about writing in Hollywood. She also hosted a “Writers’ Room” workshop and delivered an open lecture at Tsai Performance Center Tuesday evening.

The College of Communication 2024 Writer in Residence Stacy Traub speaks to students during an open lecture on Tuesday. Traub is an Emmy-nominated writer known for her work on popular TV shows such as “Glee” and “black-ish.” COURTESY OF MICHAEL DOWDING

“I am a very hopeful person, and I want to give students hope and encourage them to go after what they want to go after,” Traub said. “There’s no penalty for trying.”

The COM Writer in Residence program is in its second year, with a plan to continue years into the future, said Professor Michael Dowding, director of the program and a master lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, Advertising and Public Relations.

Last year, the inaugural writer in residence was Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Archibald. Now, Traub represents the Film and Television Department, offering insight from her “very long and storied career,” Dowding said.

Traub has worked as a writer and producer on a number of television series since the early 2000s. She was nominated for Emmy awards for her work on “Daisy Jones & The Six” and “black-ish” and has executive producer credits for other notable series including “The Real O’Neals” and “Glee.”

Despite her many accolades and long list of credits, Traub explained in her lecture Tuesday that her success was not instant — and by no means was it easy.

Traub attended film school at York University in Toronto, then studied cinematography at the American Film Institute.

“I discovered pretty quickly I did not want to be a cinematographer at all,” Traub said during the lecture. “I wanted to be a director.”

Traub said her takeaway from this realization was to “be ready to pivot.” This advice was just the beginning of her hour-long talk, during which she explained lessons learned and experiences gained throughout her time in the television industry.

“I didn’t want to see what was around the corner. I wanted my life to be a surprise and mystery, a challenge,” Traub said. “I’m so grateful now that I took the chances I took and made sure that my path was not straight.”

The Writer in Residence program demonstrates the success students can find by pursuing a writing career, Dowding said.

Mariette DiChristina, the dean of COM and a professor of the practice in journalism, said that when she speaks with COM alumni, they say their most valuable takeaway from the college is strong writing skills.

“The ability to write clearly, concisely, inspiringly, expressively, authentically,” DiChristina said. “All of that is really valuable in any career and not just a COM career.”

DiChristina said that hearing from a writer in residence can inspire and reassure students while teaching them foundational skills for the professional world.

Tuesday afternoon, Traub visited students in COM 101, the introductory lecture course required for all COM students, where students were finishing up the class’s film and television unit.

Robbie Blumenthal, a freshman in the College of General Studies, said Traub’s talk inspired him to feel more confident about screenwriting in the future.

“She went to grad school and then she moved to LA, and still all of that time she didn’t know she wanted to be a TV writer,” Blumenthal said. “It wasn’t until a couple years in that she got there, and that made me realize it’s okay to take my time to get to that point.”

Traub drew rooms full of students to hear about her success in the television industry, but she said she wanted to equally emphasize a subject less dazzling: failure.

There were some scripts Traub wrote that never saw the light of day, higher-up producers who told her to keep quiet and jobs she didn’t get simply because she was pregnant. But, to her, these setbacks and failures turned out to be steps in the right direction.

“Everybody has an incredible story in them that’s theirs and theirs alone,” Traub said.

Loryn Charbonnier, a sophomore in COM, said that she appreciated Traub’s honesty, especially about how the television industry is not always glamorous and “not going to be everything you dream of at first.”

“You almost forget that the names you see on the screen are people, and they do have lives, and they have ups and downs in their career and personal life,” Charbonnier said. “It was cool to hear her owning that.”

At the heart of both her career and her life, Traub said she embraces uncertainties and finds excitement in the unknown.

“Have stories to tell,” Traub advised the audience at the lecture. “Experience as many different things that you can, and remember it or write it all down.”

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