Chase Campbell, a 2014 graduate of Gilman School, will receive University of Virginia’s prestigious T. Rodney Crowley Jr. Scholarship.
Columbia native Jason Odell Williams is making it big these days.
His promising and oh-so-relevant first novel, Personal Statement, published by In This Together Media, hits the book stores today. Called “mordantly hilarious” by a Vanity Fair editor, the young adult novel satirizes the absurdity of the college admissions process—particularly for those striving to get into an Ivy League school.
It’s told through the lens of three rising high school seniors and a young female political staffer. The plot thickens when a hurricane threatening the Connecticut coast presents the seemingly perfect ‘volunteer opportunity’ for padding the requisite personal statements that are part of the college admissions packet. Even though the book is just coming out today, it’s already been optioned for a movie.
But that’s not all. The budding novelist is also a television writer and producer who recently got word that The National Geographic television show Brain Games for which he’s a writer-producer has been nominated for an Emmy in the category Outstanding Informational Series. Lastly—well, probably not, actually—several of the plays he’s written have made a splash on stages across the U.S. and Canada.
Williams has a pretty impressive bio for someone not yet 40. He’s 38. Sure, the guy’s got natural talent and a killer work ethic. But the secret to his success is something ridiculously simple and counter-intuitive. It will leave parents weary of kids’ overexposure to media scratching their heads. His muse? Television watching as a kid. Lots of it. “Our family’s big thing was watching TV,” Williams acknowledged.
He even credits all that TV he absorbed with the work ethic he maintains to this day. “I’d do my homework really fast so I could watch 8:00pm TV,” he said. From The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Taxi to The Simpsons, Williams soaked up the humor inherent in the conversational banter at the forefront of popular sitcoms of the seventies and eighties. That may explain why, today, his favorite aspect of the creative process—whether he’s writing a play, a novel, or a TV script—centers around creating dialogue between characters.
Recently I spoke to Williams about where he finds creative inspiration, what his dream project would be, and more.
In addition to sitcom humor, where do you find creative inspiration?
My inspiration comes from all over. I could be reading a book, a play, or the newspaper. Sometimes it’s from my own experience.
Can you give me an example of a when you turned a personal experience into a creative endeavor?
Where I grew up in Columbia was really diverse. Ever other household was a difference race and ethnicity. My neighbor used to joke that a Mormon, a Catholic, and a Jewish guy were going down in his basement to play. It was the same at McDonogh, where I went to school from the fourth grade on. We called it the UN. You had to learn about different kind of people. I have friends from all sorts of different places. I grew up and wrote a play about race and racial issues, Baltimore in Black and White.
Sharon and Lexie Love, the mother and sister of former UVA lacrosse player and NDP alum Yeardley Love whose was murdered in May of 2010, appeared on “Katie” yesterday to discuss dating violence.
Among other details, Sharon Love tells Katie Couric, “I don’t think she was aware that it was as serious as it was.”
After emerging victorious from a nail-biter of a game against the University of Virginia on Saturday, the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays are the number one men’s lacrosse team in the nation.
Both the USILA Coaches Poll and the Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll named the so-far undefeated Hopkins team as the best in the nation. This is exciting, sure, but it’s also nothing new for the Blue Jays. There have been 390 weekly polls issued by the USILA since 1973, and Hopkins has ranked in the top 10 in 367 of those polls. The team has won all eight of its games this season, its top streak since 2005.
Currently, the team Hopkins has the most to fear is the University of Massachusetts, whose undefeated 7-0 record earned it second place in the USILA poll and third in the Nike/Media Poll. Also in the top five of both polls was fellow Baltimore lacrosse powerhouse Loyola, which is also undefeated at 8-0.
Last week, the murder trial of George Huguely, the UVA lacrosse player accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, fellow UVA student (and Baltimore native) Yeardley Love, began with jury selection. (Huguely is pleading not-guilty, and his lawyers blame Love’s death on her [prescribed] Adderall use.) While the trial is sure to bring up all sorts of disturbing evidence, there is some room for hope as well. One of Love’s legacies will be increased rights for victims of domestic violence in Virginia courts, as well as policy changes at UVA and other schools.
In the wake of Love’s death in 2010, the Virginia legislature passed a new law that changed how the state handles restraining orders. Before, the state had no provision allowing people to get protective orders against people they were dating. Instead, the law was limited to family or household members — in other words, Love would’ve had a tough time getting a restraining order against Huguely if she’d tried. That’s one reason advocates for victims of domestic violence deemed the old law one of the least progressive in the nation.
Love’s death put the media spotlight on Virginia’s approach to dealing with domestic violence. Which is perhaps why when the state’s lawmakers re-wrote the law, they took the opposite tack, going from one of the nation’s least progressive provisions to one of its most lenient. Now, instead of focusing on the relationship between the parties in question, the focus is on abusive or threatening behavior — no matter the relationship. “It’s sort of opened the floodgates,” General District Court Clerk Nancy Lake told the Washington Post. The court in Fairfax got so many requests for restraining orders — three times as many in 2011 than in 2010 — that it had to dedicate a clerk to processing all the paperwork.
In allowing dating violence as a motivation for getting a restraining order, the new law has also enabled people in different kinds of relationships — landlord/tenant, roommates, co-workers — to take advantage of the law as well. There is some worry that the newly lenient law will encourage abuse of the system — as in the Richmond case where someone tried to file a protective order against a neighbor who’d put a dead fish in front of her door. But dealing with a small minority of frivolous cases seems like a small price to pay for a law that does justice to Love — and to all those who’ve struggled with abusive relationships.