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Write On

Crossing Town on the M86

I took the M86 bus west early this morning. A trip made seven days a week for months while writing Guiding Light. We started our work day at the Starbucks on 86th and Columbus, armed with the shiny, pink flowered schoolgirl notebooks we’d buy from Jay at the deli across the street. I still have that stack of notebooks under my couch, covered with dust and dog hair. I haven’t bought a notebook since.

Riding through the park I thought about two things as I watched the first dog run of the day. Two worries. The task of writing this blog and the fact that I was heading to meet a young person at the above-mentioned Starbucks who wanted my advice about television writing. I’ve never written a blog before. I HAVE spoken to young people about daytime television, many times over the years. They generally find my story amusing – the fact that my waitress job led me to my 17 year gig at Guiding Light. They’re impressed by the jobs I held there (lots) my Emmy (one) and the fact that I loved my work so much. But they wanted solid tips… advice. The truth is, some wonderful people gave me a chance. I showed up, accepted assignments, made my deadlines and was so damn happy they let me stay. When it ended, I staggered out of the studio, back into my “real” life, did my best to keep walking and talking, and finally got an office job just as the money ran out! What am I going to say to Nicole? Why didn’t she get in touch with one of the writers still writing TV? They could talk to her about sustaining and surviving in this business. I don’t even know Nicole very well. I’m not a television writer anymore. The flowered notebooks are under the couch. What do I say? Okay, I’ll buy the coffee. It’s the least I can do after wasting her time this morning.

Nicole arrives. I buy the coffee. She’s looking for answers. I ask her questions. What is she writing? What does she watch on TV? What did she study in school? Premed, then Columbia film school. Wow. I’m surprised by the stuff she’s working on and interested in her take on daytime. A friend calls while we’re there. When I explain our meeting she says “talk her out of it! Tell her to run back to med school.” I can’t. I am more practical than I used to be – keep your day job, money stress is paralyzing. But if you want to write, do it. Say you’re a writer. Don’t be shy. Take a class, work on a web series….I can’t talk her up to my EP and try to get her a sample deal. But I won’t tell her not to go for it. This could be a great time for young writers. Shows are tumbling left and right but still, exciting things are happening. Out of the ashes… I am dazzled by the people who are pouring their hearts into making web series. We still want to tell stories. The audience still craves them. We’ll have to tell them differently, we won’t make that 80’s and 90’s money… but stories will be told. And something tells me that Nicole – or Danielle or Brett or the Rebeccas or Nidhi or Michelle or David or Kimberly – one or two or all of them – could be the Irna, Agnes, Bill or Claire of the future. Why not?

Nicole and I finish our talk and go our separate ways. I hope I encouraged her without giving her false hope. I hope she has a story to tell. I’m feeling lighthearted and hopeful myself, with a couple of stories rattling around in my head. I buy myself a pink flowered notebook from the deli before I get on the 86 going east.
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Jill Lorie Hurst was raised in Detroit in the 60’s and 70’s, the daughter of a mother who watched CBS soaps and a father who loved New York. She studied theater and English at Wayne State University. She moved to New York in 1982 and started a ten year gig as a waitress in the garment district before finding a home at Guiding Light. Jill spent 17 years with the CBS soap as a receptionist, a writer’s assistant, a script writer, script editor, breakdown writer, story producer and finally, part of the co-head writing team until the show went off the air in September 2009. When CBS deactivated her ID, Jill spent 15 months or so wandering the city streets before settling into an assistant job in Manhattan. She has recently joined the writing team of Venice the series and is working on her first play. Jill lives in New York City with her husband Tony, dog Jocko and cat Molly.

21 Responses to “Crossing Town on the M86”

  • Gay Kleven-Lundstrom:

    KEEP THE BLOGS COMING XO

  • LauraShush:

    Jill,

    What a wonderful blog!
    I am so glad you are still writing.
    I have a feeling Nicole got a lot out of your meeting.

    Laura

  • Beautiful, inspiring post by a beautiful, inspiring person.

  • Kerry Baitinger:

    Well done my true and trusted friend. Well done.

  • Alice Franckowiak:

    You are beautiful…I adore your sister, Janice, her heart is a rare gift to anyone who knows her. She is SO proud of you and talks about you a lot. Congrats on your new job!

  • giftofamber:

    First of all, love to see Jill writing again. :) Second, encouraging talented writers is incredibly important, and I’m glad you didn’t try to talk her out of it. Talented writers help us regular people escape from the mundane nature of daily life and take us to far away worlds and help us remember what it’s like to dream of a better reality.

    When I was in high school, my best friend was a writer; she was just born that way, but her parents desperately wanted her to go into chemistry. They did everything they possibly could do to discourage her and lower her self esteem, even throwing away the books she read. Every day it was my job to tell her how wonderful a writer she was and how much talent she had. I still have some of the stories she wrote back then and pull them out from time to time to remind myself of what true talent is. She went on to be an English major in college against her parents’ wishes before being forced to dropout due to financial issues, and the writing fell a bit by the wayside for a very long time. I can’t help thinking if she’d just had more support, she’d be a published author by now.

  • Jennifer:

    wonderfully written…reads like the pilot of a new show starring jill!

  • Teja:

    Wonderful! Keeping going!

  • Jennifer Burke:

    Words of wisdom from an exceptionally talented woman!!

  • Kim:

    Jill as always you are funny and interesting. I can’t wait to read your next blog. Congrats on the Venice and I’m looking forward to seeing your play.

    Love ya,
    Kim

  • Lisa:

    Hi Jill

    My husband and I were huge fans of Guiding Light, especially during it’s last year on the air.

    I loved your blog post today about writing. You never know who will be the next Agnes Nixon, Doug Marland, or Irna Phillips.

    While media continues to evolve, one thing always stays the same – we all are captivated by stories.

    Look forward to reading more of your blogs

    Lisa (@DrLisaThompson)

  • Hey, Jill. Great to see you in the blogosphere :)

    I really enjoyed this story, the uncertainty of what to say to the young writer but with the knowledge of not wanting to tell someone lose their dream to pursue daytime writing. It may take a different format but don’t give up on a dream.

    As a non-professional writer, I write fiction (the Otalia Virtual Season, amongst other things) one for the pleasure that it provides me – a true love and interest in the characters. If I wasn’t invested in the characters I’m writing about, why write? If other people enjoy what I write, that’s a pleasant bonus. Two for the challenge of the task – challenging my abilities to tell a story and sometimes working outside my comfort zone. Three was getting used to working with a team of other writers, editors and deadlines…But I digress :)

  • Christi:

    Loved this! Good for you buying that notebook, and much luck to you with your play and on Venice.

  • alice mccracken hurst:

    Dear Jill,

    I love the format of this blog and the user friendliness it offers. I agree that so many beautiful ideas, stories and beauty are abundant and need to be shared. Your honesty, humor and intimacy are wonderful and make me want to read on. Go Jill…

    Love and miss you, Alice

  • This reminds me of our conversation on that bench by Rockefeller Center. Thank you for capturing this moment and using it to encourage us all! I look forward to reading your next blog and the one after that and the one after that….

  • Barbara Broumberg:

    So proud of your new endeavor. Many years ago I lived on West 88th street and Broadway. You survived waiting on tables in the garment district…brave girl! Don’t stop writing, you are amazing.

  • Sarah:

    Love to you Jill. I’m so glad you bought that notebook. It made me cry to read that. You are an inspiration to me. Keep writing! Keep blogging. We all have stories to tell, with lots of ways and means to tell them. Bless you sweet lady! xo

    Sarah

  • Jill Lorie Hurst:

    It was so amazing to read all the kind, generous words that people took the time to write after reading the blog. I was very nervous about doing it (esp since it was being published on the WGA website!) but it was time to do something that scared me. Several of you who wrote in are the people who inspired me to take it on. Donna, I had to “sit on the bench” while I wrote this!! Alice F. – how cool of you to comment, and I’m so glad we agree about my sister. Dr. Lisa, tell your husband I thank him for watching GL. It was always interesting to hear what male viewers thought about the show, I’d love to hear if he had a favorite character, etc… Barbara – I always tell people that the folks in TV are cupcakes compared to my customers in the garment district. The waitressing job was truly good training in so many ways. I can’t believe you lived at 88 and B’way – so close to the 86th st Starbucks! And my dear friend Ellen Wheeler lives on 88 so I spent lots of time in that neighborhood during the last years of the show. Alice Mc H – thanks for commenting on how easy this site is to access, the WGA is always trying to make stuff more user friendly and heaven knows if I can access it anyone can.
    Gift of Amber – when I was in high school drama, I had some very talented friends whose parents told them there was no way they would allow them to study theatre in college…I always hope those people found some way to share their talent with the world, even if they didn’t do it for a living or get to study it in college. Is your friend writing now? I hope so.

    Thanks, everyone. Jill

  • Dale Hopson:

    I know nothing of soap operas ( last one I watched was “Dark Shadows” ) but had a temp gig twice at “The Guiding Light” working in Jill Lorie Hurst’s office. This is back when she had her dogs Scout & Annie ( when the studio was close to Grand Central ). She is such a nice lady PERIOD. I was so sorry when I heard “Guiding Light” was cancelled… beside Jill being out of a job, so many folks at that show would be as well!

  • Renville68:

    That’s a lovely piece Wordcharmer :-) So glad to know that you are now part of the writing team for Venice the Series. I know that you’ll be a huge asset to them. Best of Luck. Rita :-)

  • giftofamber:

    Jill: Not really. She recently starting writing some fanfiction and writing a blog, but nothing like she used to. She could have been one of the best sci-fi/fantasy writers of our time if life hadn’t gotten in the way.

    When I was in high school, I wanted to do drama also, but I settled for doing community musicals. My grandmother actually came to one of my performances (I was totally shocked), and looked at me, and was like, “oh my god, I didn’t know you could actually sing.” I think there was a compliment in there somewhere. lol My college advisor told me that I was too smart for those courses and that I would be totally bored (her daughter and my sister went to preschool together, so she knew me pretty well.)

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