The Write Stuff cover

The Write Stuff

From the classroom to the big screen, Caitlin McCarthy ’92 is making her mark

By Patricia Murray DiBona ’84 / photos by Kathleen dooher

Regis Today Fall 2017

During the academic year, it can be a challenge for Caitlin McCarthy ’92 to find the time for her second career as a screenwriter. So the high school English teacher sets her alarm for 3:00 a.m. and wakes up to the birds, a cup of coffee, and her laptop. “And I’m really not a morning person!” she laughs.

It’s during these early morning hours—while her students at Worcester Technical High School are still asleep—as well as during school vacations that McCarthy escapes into the world of her latest script: refining story ideas, developing characters, writing scenes, and editing, editing, editing.

Strong Female Protagonists

McCarthy has written numerous award-winning screenplays including the scientific feature film Wonder Drug, inspired by her personal experience with DES (diethylstilbestrol), a drug now known to cause health issues for children exposed in utero. Before McCarthy was born in 1970, her mother was prescribed prenatal vitamins that contained DES. Today, McCarthy advocates on behalf of DES daughters. She has been nominated twice for the Presidential Citizens Medal for her activism. At this year’s Regis Alumni Luncheon at Reunion, McCarthy was presented with the Service to Community Alumni Award for her DES awareness outreach.

Her other dramatic screenplay, Resistance, is based on the early life of the late Regis professor Vera Laska, PhD, a World War II resistance fighter.

“All of my writing has a strong female protagonist,” says McCarthy, who was enraptured by Laska’s tale while a student in her Women in the Resistance course. “She was a true inspiration and a hero.”

Setting the Stage

Reflecting on her days at Regis, McCarthy recognizes the value of both her undergraduate education and the strong female support system. “I can see how the past has influenced me today. Regis was
my foundation.”

McCarthy says she felt at home at Regis, a place she knew well from her older sister Erin (McCarthy) Shields ’88. “When I drove up that tree-lined entrance, it felt like a great fit, a true community. I fell in with a group of professors who shaped and impacted me.”

Sister Marie Cicchese, CSJ, was the English major’s adviser for Hemetera, the literary magazine McCarthy coedited for four years. “She was a task master in the best possible sense. She pushed you to be the best version of yourself. When I missed one class due to the flu, she called my College Hall dorm room and asked where I was,” recalls McCarthy. She likens Sister Cicchese to Mr. Hand in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. “She was a dedicated teacher who kept tabs on her students. I’m Mr. Hand now with my own students!”

It was Marguerite Guzman Bouvard, PhD, a professor of political science and director of poetry seminars at Regis, who strengthened McCarthy’s love of poetry. “She took me seriously as a writer
and made me believe that a writer’s life was possible. I’m still in touch with her to this day.”

The first winner of the Mary C. Bryan Women’s Studies Award for her collection of short stories, McCarthy graduated from Regis cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English and departmental honors.

Quote: I dive into a scene and won’t leave my chair until I finish a word or a page count.

Time to Teach

Soon after her graduation, McCarthy moved to Boston and obtained a master of fine arts in creative writing from Emerson College. And she continued to write: poetry, short stories, and a novel—Cape Cod Lite—about a young woman living on Cape Cod during the off-season. Following a stint as a public relations professional in the high-tech industry, McCarthy made the switch to teaching, a profession more conducive to her part-time writing life.

In the midst of her teacher training at Brockton High School, she met a teacher who was the cousin of Oscar-nominated director Matia Karrell (Cadillac Dreams). When the teacher learned that McCarthy was a writer, she offered to connect the two. “Matia read Cape Cod Lite and said it would make a good film. Could I rewrite it as a screenplay?” McCarthy says her answer to any challenge is always a resounding “Yes!”

“I went to the bookstore and bought The Screen-writer’s Bible and How Not to Write a Screenplay,” she says, acknowledging an “atrocious” first draft. Screenplays are “a whole different beast compared to novels,” she explains. In 2004, she accepted a job as an English Language Arts instructor at Worcester Technical High School. And she kept on writing.

Experience Matters

McCarthy considers every aspect of her life as fuel for her writing—whether it’s bantering with her tight-knit Irish and Acadian Métis family, collaborating with entertainment professionals, or trading insights with her students about the latest episode of the TV series The Walking Dead.

Named a Red Sox Most Valuable Educator last year, McCarthy has been instrumental in fostering student writers at Worcester Technical High School. She has helped many budding artists publish their artwork and poetry in KidSpirit, an online magazine for teens. During her tenure at the inner-city school, the percentage of students scoring at or above proficient on the state English Language Arts exam increased from 13 percent to 97 percent.

While encouraging her students to take risks, McCarthy also teaches them that rejection is part of life. When seniors are distraught about not being accepted into their dream college, McCarthy empathizes. Then she advises them to shake it off and keep moving forward.

Patient but Persistent

As every author knows, the hardest work often begins once a writing project is completed and it is ready to be shared. While McCarthy continues to hone her craft at screenwriting workshops and labs, she also networks with industry directors, producers, and actors and submits her scripts to competitions worldwide. Her scripts have won or received nominations at over 60 international competitions including the Austin Film Festival, Final Draft’s Big Break, The Tracking Board’s Launch Pad, and Stage 32.

She is the author of two television series scripts. Free Skate, a sports comedy-drama about the demanding world of figure skating, was named one of the “Top 100 Pilots of 2016” by The Tracking Board and “One to Watch” by the 2016 WriteHer List. Pass/Fail, a one-hour serial drama giving an inside look into the behind-the-scenes machinations of the teacher’s lounge, was a finalist in Universal Cable Productions Pitch Fest and the New York Television Festival “Voice and Vision: The NBC Drama Challenge.”

McCarthy knows that projects can take years to get off the ground and be “greenlighted,” so she has learned to be patient but persistent—and steadfastly optimistic. “The script for Dallas Buyers Club made the rounds of Hollywood circles for 20 years before it was developed,” she says of the Academy Award- winning movie.

While she waits, she works. McCarthy’s home office includes a comfortable desk chair flanked by a large whiteboard covered with emerging story arcs and ideas.

“I always have four or five ideas gelling,” she says. “I dive into a scene and won’t leave my chair until I finish a word or a page count. Then I get up, walk my dog Oscar, come back, and do it again.”

For the latest updates on Caitlin McCarthy’s screenwriting journey, visit

Read more articles

Read the entire magazine online

Read the entire magazine in PDF format