UMD alumna sells TV Show

By Katie Takacs

Alumna Stefanie Williams understands that writing can be hard, but she also knows that giving up is never an option.

This mindset led the 2008 graduate to what she said was her biggest accomplishment: signing with United Talent Agency to transform her blog into a TV show.

“Every time a door was shut, I’d knock on another one. I never stopped believing that my writing would find a home,” Williams said.

Williams got the idea for her show after she hit a “lucky rock bottom moment.” She stopped dating her former boyfriend, became stuck in her writing and wasn’t sure how to take it to the next level, she said.

After watching an episode of “Shameless,” she decided her TV show would use the “real life” concept from popular shows and threaded together the three biggest relationships she had with athletes. She took stories from her blog, changed the dates around, and made a story that flowed.

The script for her show represents the experiences of three young friends struggling in the restaurant business in New York City.

Williams found 50 agencies through Facebook and emailed them all a “long, rambling, but pretty funny and brutally honest message” with her hour-long pilot script attached.

Inspiring what is now the script for her TV show,her anonymous blog titled “Chasing the Jersey” formed in 2008 made Williams nervous about her unconventional topics, mostly of sex and sports.

“I was scared to openly write about sex and sordid stuff because I didn’t quite know if I’d ever want to be a lawyer or doctor,” Williams said. “I was nervous because my family would be dragged into it.”

Although initially reluctant, she eventually stopped writing her blog as an unknown author. Williams said she didn’t want people to think she was ashamed of who or what she was writing about.

One of the five agents who responded to Williams was Peter Benedek, a partner at United Talent Agency and agent for Lena Dunham, the creator of “Girls.”

He paired Williams with TV lit agent Allan Haldeman, who helps represent her written work to publishers. She is also working with show-runner Kenny Neibart, who has worked for several seasons on “Entourage” and shows on FX and NBC.

Having someone as influential in Hollywood as Benedek vouching for Williams was one of the best things that could have happened to her, she said.

Williams originally came to the University of Maryland wanting to be a journalism major, but after loading up a semester with classes she wasn’t good at, she decided to declare an English major instead.

Being an English major felt more natural, she said, and she liked that she was able to take classes about different writing styles. She found inspiration for her style of writing from university English professor Michael Olmert.

Williams said Olmert taught her that just because a piece of writing isn’t conventional, doesn’t mean it isn’t good enough to be something special.

“You can’t write literature about good people,” Olmert said. “Good people are boring.”

After writing for television for 30 years, Olmert said that he understands the difficulties of Williams’ career path – Williams is the first student he has seen follow it.

Both Olmert and Williams said that they know her success came slightly from good luck, but Olmert said it was also a result of her hard work and confidence.

“If you want to be a writer, if you love writing, you have to refuse to let anyone tell you you aren’t good enough,” Williams said. “You can’t be afraid to shake up the writing world.”

Williams has also written for the Huffington Post, Salon, SportsGrid and BroBible, which she said helped launch her blog and give her an audience for the crude humor she uses. She also published an e-book in 2011, which was sold on Amazon.

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