Name: Lucas M. Peters
College & Majors/Minors: UW ('03, BA, English Lit), Central Washington University ('07, MA, English Lit), Goddard College ('14, MFA, Creative Writing - Novel)
Current Location: Morocco
Current Form of Employment: Freelance Writer and Lecturer
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I teach World Literature, Moroccan Literature and English Composition at Al Akhawayn University (AUI) in Ifrane, Morocco. It's a small university (college, really, but they call themselves a university) of about 2,000 students. I've also been doing quite a bit of freelancing travel writing and just a couple of months ago signed a contract with Avalon Publishing to write their guidebook for Morocco under their "Moon" brand. The book will be titled "Moon Morocco" and should be out in the fall of 2015. Which means that my mornings, weekends and vacations are spent either writing or traveling around to weird little corners of Morocco. This weekend, I'll be in Larache, a little-visited fishing village where the notorious French writer, Jean Genet, is buried.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
My first job was selling comic books and sport cards at a little kiosk in the middle of Southcenter Mall. I was 13 at the time. It was pretty great. When there weren't any customers, I could read the latest comics. I was really into Image at the time and tore through Spawn, Gen-13, Pitt and a bunch of their other titles.
I guess my first "real" job was in 2007. I just graduated from CWU with my MA and was tired of waiting tables and bar tending (something I had been doing for the better part of a decade to pay the rent). I scoured Craigslist, applying to jobs in Seattle, NYC, SF, Boston and a bunch of other places. I ended up interviewing with Business Wire in San Francisco for a position as an editor. On my application, I lied and said that I already lived in San Francisco. At the time, I had about $200 in my bank account. I used it to fly down for the interview and slept on my cousin's couch and kept my fingers crossed. They called me back, I interviewed again, and they offered me a job.
I loved SF, but I hated the fact that I only had three weeks of vacation a year, only three weeks to really get out of the city and explore. I have an insatiable travel bug and after two years of humdrum cubicle life at Business Wire, I was like, "Man... I gotta get outta here." I started looking around for teaching jobs thinking I might land a job at a Community College somewhere in California but what I got was a series of rejections. The only sort of full-time teaching work I found were in places in the middle of nowhere, like the Aleutian Islands or North Dakota. I figured that if I was going to have to move to teach, I might as well make it interesting. I started casting a wider net, looking at Southeast Asia, Europe, et cetera. I ended up getting a couple of offers and took the teaching job here in Morocco. It seemed like the most interesting place to live, the food was supposed to be really good and, to be frank, it was really close to Europe.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
A couple of years ago, some friends of mine who run a tour company for Morocco (Journey Beyond Travel) were looking for someone to write brief city guides for their clients. They asked me if I was interested. I said yes. It didn't pay much, but it was the first "real" sort of travel writing that I did. This ended up opening up a few more doors. It's largely because of this that I got the job with Avalon to write the guidebook for Morocco.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I started at the UW in 1996 and I was a really bad student as an undergraduate, especially my first year or two. I rarely went to classes. I even skipped a midterm for Italian. I was too busy trying to figure out how to balance working and the social life with school. It wasn't until I figured out how to study, how to show up to class, how to really take advantage of being a student that I started to have some measure of success. In 2001, I signed up for a study abroad trip to London. This was the first time I had been out of the U.S. and it was eye-opening. I remember enjoying the classes. We went to see performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company and had a class that met at a different corner of London every week and we toured some specific part of the city. However, it wasn't the classes so much as what I was learning about myself. Being away from everything you know does that. There was a sense of independence, a sense of solitude, a sense of being lost, and a sense of discovery that was all wrapped up in the seven months or so I spent there. More than anything, this was the thing that probably has prepared me the most for post-grad life, though to be fair, I did have four different majors (Business, Music, Art and finally, English) and the ability to float from major to major aided this discovery process.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
In this economy, you can't be afraid to move. I know too many people that have wrapped their minds around living in one place and they end up struggling. They compromise career goals and take some other types of jobs just so they can continue living in a place that is comfortable, with their family or friends or whatever.
My advice is to get out of the comfort zone and start looking not so much as where you want to live, but what you want to do. In the end, I feel this is the thing that makes people happier. If you can do the thing that you love... that's the secret.