August 25, 2017

Rebekah Roberts is a tabloid reporter who has covered Brooklyn’s Hasidic community, murder and wrongful conviction. She’s also a fictional character.

The person who created her, however, is a real journalist. Julia Dahl has written three novels in the Rebekah Roberts series and works part-time at And she may soon get to see her character on the screen.

Vocab Films and RadicalMedia have optioned “Invisible City” for a series. (For non-Hollywood industry people, that means they’ve given Dahl some money and have a set amount of time to try to get the book made into a series.) Actress Toni Collette, who started the production company Vocab Films, has written the pilot already.

“It’s so good,” Dahl said.

Some of the best art is happening on TV now, Dahl said, and she’d love to learn how to write for that medium.

She has spent the last several years fictionalizing the life of a journalist instead of living it. That’s given her the chance to think through ethical choices and situations journalists have to face and to look at the big picture in a way she didn’t have time to as a daily reporter. That will continue with her fourth Rebekah Roberts book, which she’s working on now. It should be out in 2019.

Dahl isn’t involved in the ongoing studio negotiations that might bring the world she’s created onto the screen. But if it happens, she’s hopeful that she’ll get to write for it. Dahl started writing novels at 21 and had her first published at 35. Learning how to adapt her work for a different medium feels like an exciting new challenge.

“That seems like a really cool puzzle to me,” she said. “I would love to work on it.”

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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