Name: Spencer Cushing
College & Majors/Minors: English (Creative Writing), History Minor
Current Location: Portland, OR
Current Form of Employment: Assistant Editor at Dark Horse Comics
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I am an Assistant Editor at Dark Horse Comics. I work with writers and artists to help shape their stories into cohesive comics that entertain. Much of my job is project management at this time as I assist an Associate Editor and an Editor in their projects that they bring into the company. This involves a lot of scheduling, making sure creators meet deadlines, writing creative copy for marketing the books, and building the books with our design and production departments (Cover copy, Copyright materials, Back Cover summary and Hype text, etc).
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
My first job was actually as an Executive Assistant at a Property Management company far from what I wanted to do, but it helped shape my attention to detail and my work ethic. When I moved to Portland I applied to Denver Publishing Institute, participated in the month long crash course in the publishing industry then applied at Dark Horse Comics as an Executive Assistant. I started there for two years to get my foot in the door as I had the right experience. I maneuvered my way within the company to Marketing for two years to get experience there and then made my way into Editing to achieve my ultimate goal within the company.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
I volunteered with the local Book Festival in Portland called Wordstock. I performed marketing duties with them to build a network of literary relationships within the community.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I was lucky enough to run Crosscurrents Literary Magazine as Editor-in-Chief at University of Puget Sound. This gave me the taste of building books, of the whole process of publishing the artifacts of books—printed art—to share with a wider audience. I had to make up a great deal of how the process worked or research it to complete the process. I learned more doing that than any class could have ever taught me. Trial by fire.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
Get involved. If there are Book Festivals in your area, volunteer to help. If there are literary events or communities, find them and get to know the people running them. Express your interest in what they are doing and see if you can buy them a cup of coffee (the informational interview). Take 15 minutes of their time, have a few questions prepared to help get to know the local scene and the players involved. Send them a thank you card when you're done. If you want to write, or make books, or setup events, just do it. You don't need anyone's permission. Find like-minded individuals via those same literary groups or online communities and build something together. Reach out to authors, poets, journalists, singers and songwriters, editors, agents you like, etc., and find the best possible email for them and introduce yourself. Tell them how much you appreciate what they are doing. You'd be surprised how responsive people will be if you just present your enthusiasm and professionalism.