Issue 46 | November 2008

  • Message from Membership Directors Kibi & Angela
  • Message from Mia
  • Harvardwood Writers' Program - Fiction
  • Harvardwood Writers' Program - Screenwriting
  • Member Profile: Dorothea Gillim GSE '91
  • Industry Successes
  • Pencil Me In - Harvardwood Holiday Parties, NYC and LA
  • Featured Member Posting: Google Video Production Positions - Mountain View, CA

Message from the Membership Directors

Dear members,

Hope this email finds you doing well after an exhausting and exciting election season! As you gear up for the holidays, please continue to send your updates our way. This month, enjoy our member profile on Dorothea Gillim GSE '91. Thanks to all of you who have shared your stories below, please continue sending ideas for events, profiles, and anything else our way! And don't forget to check our website regularly for our latest Harvardwood happenings. Till next time...

Angela and Kibi

Message from Mia

Our first-ever Harvardwood Magazine and Publishing panel (in New York on Nov. 8th) was a massive success! Many thanks to moderator/organizer Arianne Cohen '03, as well as our other panelists: Alix Browne '91 (New York Times Magazine), Christopher Cox '02 (The Paris Review), Jared Hohlt '94 (New York Magazine), and Valerie Steiker '90 (Vogue). A video of the panel will soon be up on the Harvardwood Channel, courtesy of intrepid Harvardwood NYC correspondent David Kowarsky '05 (

Read on for more info on the launch of two new Harvardwood Writers Program modules -- with gratitude to Kaitlin Solimine '02 (fiction) and Lane Shadgett '00 (screenwriting) for facilitating the new groups.

And finally, please join us for one of our upcoming Harvardwood holiday parties in New York (on Dec. 5th) or Los Angeles (on Dec. 11th)...we look forward to celebrating with you!


Harvardwood Writers' Program - Fiction

Attention Harvard writers! We will soon be launching a Harvardwood Writers' Program module for fiction writers (novels, short stories, poetry, and the like) in Los Angeles. The group will meet on a regular basis to workshop manuscripts as well as to host guest speakers. If you are an interested writer (literary only, please), please email the following information to: [email protected] 1) Personal contact info (name, email, phone number); 2) Level of experience and training (e.g. are you just starting, have you completed a book, taken classes, worked in the literary industry?); 3) Preferred level of commitment (ideal number of meetings per month); 4) Possible access to venue for meeting--apartment or corporate space. We look forward to hearing from you... To view full posting, please visit:

Harvardwood Writers' Program - Screenwriting

We are happy to announce that a new module for the HARVARDWOOD WRITERS’ PROGRAM will begin in the New Year, focused on feature screenwriting. The group will meet on Thursday evenings, approximately every 1-2 weeks for 4 months, and the idea will be for each member to set their own goals – turning a treatment into a draft, turning a draft into a polished script, etc. Writers who meet all program requirements will have the option to post their work to the Harvardwood script menu, where it will be distributed to affiliated agents, producers and executives who can request samples of materials that interest them... To view full posting, please visit:

Member Profile: Dorothea Gillim GSE '91

by Sean O’Rourke MAT ’68

“We never outgrow our need for vocabulary,” my high school biology teacher used to say. Dorothea Gillim, GSE '91, would agree. Growing up in the suburbs of Rochester, New York, she once asked her parents for an unabridged dictionary for Christmas. At Swarthmore she majored in English and learned how stories of all sorts influence how we see ourselves and the world.

After college she worked at a chamber music society and did a stint as a ski bum. She mollified her parents by telling them she planned to apply to law school, but when none of the family’s lawyer friends encouraged her, she took a job teaching at the Springside School in Philadelphia. She enjoyed creating curriculum and stimulating her students’ interest in books and language but eventually decided that she wanted a larger audience.

So she enrolled in a master’s degree program at the Harvard School of Education (earning it in 1991), where a course in media education introduced her to the theories of Alfred North Whitehead. “If the three stages of learning are romance, mastery and generalization,” she says, “then I think TV is best used to romance kids to learn a subject.” This principle has guided her work ever since. Kids come seeking amusement and go away having learned something of value.

After graduation, Gillim worked in the field of educational media and as a freelance writer until she went to Tom Snyder Productions, an educational software company in Watertown, Massachusetts. She soon realized that she did not like software development, but she had learned to edit audio. The company’s first animated series, "Dr. Katz", on Comedy Central, needed an audio editor, so she joined the team. Gillim produced the company’s second animated show, Science Court, for ABC Saturday Morning. Then she developed "Hey Monie", a show about a single black woman in Chicago who has an annoying boss, a best friend in the same building and a neighbor with a crush on her. The show aired on Oxygen and the Black Entertainment Network (BET).

In 2001, Scholastic bought the company and renamed it Soup2Nuts. Gillim is now the creator and executive producer of "WordGirl", a show aimed at four to nine-year-olds that airs daily on PBS. Born on the planet Lexicon, the heroine arrived on earth when her spaceship crashed, stranding her and her monkey sidekick, Captain Huggy Face. WordGirl can fly at the speed of light, is incredibly strong and has an immense vocabulary. She sometimes forgets that her sidekick, who is a monkey, cannot fly, and he has to take the bus.

WordGirl’s adoptive parents Tim and Sally Botsford have no idea of who she really is. They think she is Becky Botsford, a quiet and studious fifth grader. Her best friend Violet, artistic and absent-minded, does not suspect either, but Todd “Scoops” Ming, a reporter for the school newspaper, is determined to find out the true identity of WordGirl.

WordGirl fights a motley collection of villains: Dr. Two Brain, whose own brain is fused with the brain of a lab mouse; the Butcher, who constantly mangles the English language; Granny May, who tricks people by her sweet grandmotherly persona; Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy, who wants to take over the world with sandwiches; and Tobey, a boy genius who unleashes his robots on the city.

Gillim believes that vocabulary development is the key to literacy and that children learn words better by seeing and hearing them in meaningful contexts than by looking them up in a dictionary. Every episode consists of two 11-minute segments that introduce two vocabulary words such as "enormous", "diversion", "coincidence", "squint" or "idolize". The targeted words are repeated regularly before they are defined.
A lot of education television is unnecessarily earnest. Gillim hires comedy writers who do not usually work in children’s television. The actors who provide voices for "WordGirl"’s characters come from shows like "Arrested Development", "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Saturday Night Live". Many have backgrounds in stand-up comedy. They are encouraged to improvise and some of their ad libs find their way into the show. Children “tune in for the laughs but hopefully happen to learn a few things along the way,” Gillim says.

Gillim and writer Jack Ferraiolo originally developed "WordGirl" in 2001, but it sat on the shelf for three years until PBS took an interest in it. The show began as a series of shorts within the bilingual cartoon show Maya & Miguel and was so well received that PBS ordered twenty-six full length episodes. The show is now in its second season and has already won an Emmy and a Television Critics Award. “The fact that the show got made at all was a stunning achievement,” Gillim says. “The fact that we have so much fun working on it continues to be rich and rewarding. To get such accolades on top of that is just icing on the cake.”

Industry Successes...

A group of Harvard roommates who produce online videos about campus life have recently gained a national reputation. Featured on popular websites such as CollegeHumor, FunnyOrDie, and, the Harvard Hooligans attract an audience of over 100,000 viewers each semester. They enjoyed an exclusive interview with comedian Will Ferrell (who became an honorary member last Spring) as well as press credentials to the Democratic National Convention (where they met Obama backstage). To learn more about the Harvard Hooligans, please visit their website at

Opening this past Friday (November 14th) at the Laemmle's Sunset 5 theater is a new feature film version of Dalton Trumbo's classic anti-war novel, Johnny Got His Gun, starring Ben McKenzie (The O.C.). Andrew K. Sachs '97 was the Director of Photography of the film, shot in less than five days in a blackbox theater. Variety says, "Though billed as live onstage, on film, pic was staged for the camera rather than for a live audience. It's never static, despite the stark design, thanks largely to ace contributions from lenser Andrew K. Sachs, editor Jay Cassidy and lighting designer Leigh Allen."

Writer/Performer Julio Vincent Gambuto '00 invites the Harvard alumni community to a special industry presentation of his one-man show, "Julie from Staten Island," a comic stage memoir that follows Gambuto from New York's fifth and oft-forgotten borough of Staten Island to the ivy-covered gates of Harvard Yard to the streets of South Brooklyn. In LA: Thursday, December 4 at ACME Comedy Theatre at 8pm ( For comp tickets, email [email protected] For show information, visit

Pencil Me In...

Please join us for our year-end celebrations on both coasts!

Harvardwood NYC Holiday Party, Fri. Dec. 5th:

Harvardwood LA Holiday Party, Thurs. Dec. 11th (in conjunction with Stanford in Entertainment):

Featured Member Posting: Google Video Production Positions - Mountain View, CA

Studio G, Google's internal video production department, is in the process of adding staff to the department in Mountain View, CA. We are interested in people who are able to play multiple roles in the production environment. The Studio G team consists of video production and operations professionals who harness their creativity to produce a variety of engaging, on-message, "Googley" video communications. These videos are mainly created for the YouTube audience, and examples include product launches, product demos, branding videos and executive speeches... To view full posting, please visit:



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