Posts filed under Author

Susanna Lancaster: English Professor

Name: Susanna Lancaster

Age: 27

College and Majors/Minors: College: The University of Memphis / English major with a concentration in creative writing (2011); Grad School: Lesley University / Creative Writing for Young People (2014)

Current Location: Memphis, TN

Current Form of Employment: English Instructor at Southwest Tennessee Community College, magazine writer, editor, and children’s author

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I’m an English Professor at Southwest Tennessee Community College, and I love it! I teach English Composition 1 and 2 courses, as well as Academic Success Seminars. I’m currently planning material to teach a creative writing course. In addition to teaching, I also write as much as possible. I’ve written for both The Perpetual You magazine and Memphis Health + Fitness Magazine. My first book, The Growing Rock—a YA historical fiction novel—debuts on December 12, 2017.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

I started my very first job when I was 16. I didn’t have a car yet and wanted to save for one so that I could have enough money to buy one before I finished high school. My dad is the librarian at a Memphis school. Since I came by all the time to do my homework, I would often alphabetize books and do little jobs around the library. When I said I needed to buy a car, he agreed to let me work there part-time. It was the perfect job in high school and college because of the quiet atmosphere. It also helped me maintain my love for reading. 

I’m truly blessed to be in the job that I’m in now. However, getting to this point wasn’t easy. For several years after earning my MFA degree, I worked a variety of jobs that didn’t necessarily “use” my degree. I realized while I was in graduate school that I wanted to teach, so in addition to a full-time office job, I taught classes as an adjunct professor at two different colleges. 

“All of my writing success has also come with many challenges, and persistence always seems to be more than half the battle.”

All of my writing success has also come with many challenges, and persistence always seems to be more than half the battle. I have gotten magazine opportunities simply by reaching out and asking editors to see my work. If that wasn’t an option, I would just submit my writing and hope for the best. When it comes to getting work published, there are usually more rejections than there are acceptances, but I’ve learned you simply have to keep trying. The Growing Rock manuscript was sent to nearly forty different agents and publishing houses before I got my “yes.” 

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career? 

Editing! Over the years, I’ve done plenty of editing jobs for various people—from college level students, to Ph.D. dissertations, to people’s manuscripts, to resumes. This started in high school when my father didn’t have time to edit an essay for someone and suggested the person let me take a look at it. I was young, but I enjoyed grammar and writing, and I was fast at proofreading. Ever since, I’ve edited as a side job and been able to gain both more experience and extra cash. This job was very important to me when I was a graduate student working several part-time jobs and having a hard time living on my own. It seemed like whenever I was low on funds, an editing job would come my way. I think that this job played a significant role when I started teaching as an adjunct a couple of years later. It led me recognize how every student has different strongpoints, helped me with developing how I wanted to grade my students’ essays, and allowed me to see the benefits of pointing out positive and negative aspects in writing. 

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life? 

This is a tough one to answer, but it’s something I share with my students sometimes to help them not make the same mistakes. I wish that I had done more in college to prepare myself for after I graduated. I didn’t focus enough on graduating and focused much more on getting to graduation. My senior year was pretty hectic because I had a 4.0 GPA, and I was obsessed with graduating with this level of perfection. I worried and studied all the time, and anxiety got the best of me. I actually battled an eating disorder for many years, and that became consuming. I finished college a year early and with the 4.0, but I remember being exhausted, very sick, and thinking “Now what?”

“This gap year turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise. It helped me gain more responsibility and maturity. It also helped me understand what I wanted to do, which was to be a writer—specifically a children’s author.”

I didn’t get into graduate school immediately, and I was extremely hard on myself. I ended up taking the next year off from school and working some part-time jobs, moved out of my parents’ home, and focused on taking care of me. This gap year turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise. It helped me gain more responsibility and maturity. It also helped me understand what I wanted to do, which was to be a writer—specifically a children’s author. I hadn’t been out of college for a full year when I was accepted to several of the graduate programs that focus on writing children’s literature. Because I wasn’t in school at the moment, I had less pressure deciding which one was the best for me.  

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree? 

There’s a Winston Churchill quotation I’ve always admired. When asked to cut the funding of the arts for the war effort, he had answered, “then what are we fighting for?” This saying sums up so much in my own life. Writing and doing what I enjoy has been crucial for my health and happiness. Without this passion, I would definitely have to ask myself what I would be living for, and I don’t think I would be where I am in my eating disorder recovery. Therefore, my first piece of advice is do what you enjoy. An English major may not bring you the wealthiest lifestyle, but no major is guaranteed to do this. English degrees are also incredibly important. Most people don’t realize how necessary English majors are for many different areas outside of teaching and editing—film, television shows, and technical writing are all divisions where we need English majors. 

My other piece of advice is to be patient with yourself. Sometimes the dream career doesn’t come around immediately upon graduation, but that’s okay. There’s no harm in working a job outside of the English major and doing smaller jobs, such as teaching, or editing, to help you gain the experience needed for the job you’re working toward. When it comes to writing, I encourage people not to quit. When trying to get my book published, I did face a bit of rejection, and it was easy to feel discouraged. There were times I wanted to quit, but now I can see that my book wouldn’t exist if I had. Publishing is one of those things that may take a long time to work toward, but it only takes one “yes” to make the dream happen. Having friends to critique my work was incredibly important, and putting myself out there and looking for opportunities was crucial. Ultimately, focusing on what made me happy and not losing faith in my goals helped some of my dreams turn into reality. 


The Growing Rock debuts December 12th from Harvard Square Editions! 

When the summer of 1937 leads to one hardship after another that changes the life she knows forever, fourteen-year-old Caroline struggles not to give into hopelessness as she keeps a promise to her Papa about looking after the women in the family. 


You can visit Susanna's website at susannalancaster.com, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram @Susanna_Lancaster_Author. 


Posted on November 2, 2017 and filed under Author, Teaching.

David Baker: Media Producer

Name: David Baker

Age: 45

College & Majors/Minors: University of Illinois Chicago – BS, Literature; Columbia College Chicago – MFA Creative Writing

Current Location: Corvallis, Oregon

Current Form of Employment: Media producer at Oregon State University

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I’m the lead for a group of video, film and digital media producers at a large land-grant university. We produce everything from marketing materials, broadcast commercials to web videos and documentary films. All of it either advances the reputation of the university, or informs the public about the major issues of our time.

In addition to doing all of the administrative work, budgeting, some video production and editing, I write many of the video scripts. Writing is often overlooked in planning, and having cranked out papers, stories and articles over the years, usually at around midnight the night before deadline, I’m pretty comfortable in that role.

“Storytelling has led me to some interesting places. It’s definitely a real skill. Any team needs a storyteller, someone who can rough an idea into a beginning, middle and end. Technicians and administrators don’t quite get it. They think it’s easy or some kind of magic. But if you can tell a story, reliably, you’ll eventually become the person they all depend on.”
Vintage: A Novel
By David Baker

Storytelling has led me to some interesting places. It’s definitely a real skill. Any team needs a storyteller, someone who can rough an idea into a beginning, middle and end. Technicians and administrators don’t quite get it. They think it’s easy or some kind of magic. But if you can tell a story, reliably, you’ll eventually become the person they all depend on.

I also do my own thing. I produce independent documentaries and I’ve published stories and a novel with Simon & Schuster called Vintage. I’ve also done some screenwriting. That side work sometimes pays off. I’ve earned some trips to Europe and a camping trailer in that way, though I’ve found I still need a straight gig to pay any kind of mortgage.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

I worked at Kinko’s, which is now FedEx Office. It was in downtown Chicago. I thought it would be temporary, but it lasted four years and pretty much started my career. I worked the night shift because I wanted to write on the job like Faulkner when he was a security guard. It kind of worked. I got through much of grad school that way.

We had a desktop publishing center where people designed flyers and brochures and typed up resumes. I always eyed that desk because sitting down seemed a lot easier than standing at a photocopier or binding machine. So when there was an opening, I made my move.

The web was just coming out at that time, and we got this program called Adobe Pagemill. So when web requests started to come in, I took the lead. If you can write a paper dissembling Chaucer at 11:00 p.m. the night before it’s due and still get a ‘C’ or a ‘B,’ you can figure out HTML and Pagemill. So that’s what I did. That led to a job in consulting and eventually into Flash and motion design and finally back to video and film production because I was the guy who could write scripts and storyboards on the fly.

“...English majors are especially adept at these changing circumstances because of our education, because we learn to be analytical and apply our own voice, ideas and talents to a problem. We learn the mechanics of stories, which are the real currency of human existence. We’re flexible. We have to be. And the dawn of the web as a profession was a perfect era for the English major. A lot of us are in digital communications because of that.”

So my point is that careers are actually accidental and not planned. I see it all the time with young interns who go on into the workforce. And English majors are especially adept at these changing circumstances because of our education, because we learn to be analytical and apply our own voice, ideas and talents to a problem. We learn the mechanics of stories, which are the real currency of human existence. We’re flexible. We have to be. And the dawn of the web as a profession was a perfect era for the English major. A lot of us are in digital communications because of that.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

I wrote a screenplay that fared well in a contest a number of years ago. Someone bought the option and I ended up working with producers, rewriting it for a budget. That collaborative writing process was very helpful in allowing me to learn to work with others, to try to help the person investing all of the money and time into a film realize his vision. It really stripped out my own ego.

The film never was made, but I still have some friendships and it gave me confidence since someone was willing to pay me a couple months’ wages to do something creative. They also bought me a plane ticket to LA and a cheap hotel room in Santa Monica. We had dinner and talked about casting Leonardo DiCaprio for the lead in a script that I had written (and we did so with straight faces, but then everyone in LA does that). Still, it was a wonderful experience. I remember lying in that bed that night unable to sleep thinking for the first time, “Hey, I guess I’m kind of a writer.”

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

I didn’t do enough. I read books and wrote stories. That’s never a bad thing. I also probably smoked way too many cigarettes. I also played in a bad hair metal band, which wasn’t helpful at all.

What I wish I would have done, which is what the interns I work with now do, is jump on any internship I could find that did something related to my interests. Even if I volunteered for free. Write articles. Write scripts. Work on the school paper. Get clips. Edit a literary magazine. Edit videos. Write marketing copy. Take photos. Write for blogs. Whatever, as long as it’s not working in the cafeteria (which I also did) or sitting around rehearsing Queensrÿche cover songs.

“What I wish I would have done, which is what the interns I work with now do, is jump on any internship I could find that did something related to my interests. Even if I volunteered for free. Write articles. Write scripts. Work on the school paper. Get clips. Edit a literary magazine. Edit videos. Write marketing copy. Take photos. Write for blogs.”

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

The internship thing is key. It often leads to real work. When you’re in college or when you’ve just graduated, that’s your only real leverage: work for free. Once you have a relationship, maybe kids, mortgage or car payments… you no longer have that leverage. If you can swing it, that’s time to work somewhere for little or no money. I know some students are in a tough spot and need to work retail or something to eat and pay rent… that’s what I did. But still, if you can somehow manage to do it, even for six months… volunteer. Work for free somewhere cool. Do your research, knock on ten different doors and say, “hey, I like what you’re doing and I’m willing to do it for free for six months.” If you kick some ass, and if they have any kind of soul, they may start paying you. They may even keep you. At the very least, you’ll get a cool bullet on your resume.

Our department has hired four of our interns into full-time roles over the years. Those are creative gigs with benefits where we send people all over the world to film and write stories about research and all kinds of cool things.

Some of our interns at OSU have gone on to great jobs working in commercial and film production, and I’m always pleased when the top item on their first resume is working for our department, or when I see their names on television show or feature film credits.

I also always advise our students to work on a demo reel and portfolio before they get into the market. Back in my day, it was your clips and your little black portfolio binder that you had to tidy up to get a creative or writing gig. Today it’s a website. You’d be surprised how many professionals don’t have a decent website with good samples. It’s not even that hard if you have a couple nice photos. Wordpress is still free.

To learn more about David, visit his website at DavidAlexanderBaker.com.


Posted on January 12, 2017 and filed under Interviews, Interview, Communications, Author, Filmmaking.

Kim Askew: Director of Content at FIDM & Author

Name: Kim Askew

Age: 46

College & Majors/Minors: Mount St. Mary’s University, M.A. in Humanities with an English Lit Emphasis, California State University Fresno, B.A. in English Lit

Current Location: Los Angeles, CA

Current Form of Employment: Director of Content at FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles). Co-author of the Twisted Lit novels from Merit Press.

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I manage all the content for the college’s marketing efforts, such as websites, email campaigns, social media, ads, brochures, blogs, press releases, and the college catalog. I developed and oversee FIDM’s brand strategy and voice/style guide which ensures that all designers, writers, and marketing coordinators stick to our brand attributes and competitive positioning. I directly manage a team of writers, and approve all copy generated by the Marketing department. I also launched an Employee Engagement team to encourage an optimistic and collaborative company culture. We do everything from hosting coffee and Ted Talk viewings to raising funds for charitable organizations. My office is at the college’s main campus in Downtown Los Angeles.

In my spare time, I write (with my friend Amy Helmes) young adult novels inspired by Shakespeare’s plays. Our fourth novel, Puck, came out in November. I love to work in cafes or on the sofa with my dogs, Macbeth and Dolce.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

I don’t remember how I found out about my first job after college, but I can still remember how excited I was on the first day. I was hired at a computer textbook publishing company in the San Francisco Bay Area, and at the time, it truly felt like a dream job to be working in publishing. I had the Chicago Manual of Style and Strunk & White’s guides on my desk. I was promoted a few times, and when I left, three years later, I was the editor of computer gaming guides.

I found my current job through my writing partner, Amy. She knew someone who was leaving the position of Writer for FIDM. I was hired as her replacement, and thirteen years later, here I am with a window office and a director title.

Kim Askew 3.jpg

Could you share more about the process behind writing and publishing your novels, and how you found other publishing opportunities?

My writing partner and I had finished an entire book and had a rough draft of a second book before we got a publishing deal. A friend of mine knew Jacqueline Mitchard, the author of Oprah’s first book club pick, and she was at the helm of a new young adult imprint. She read our manuscript and offered us a two-book deal on the spot, with a third book deal quickly following. Our fourth book, Puck, is in stores now. In addition to working with Amy, I have my very own noir/detective/sci fi novel that I’m working on and hope to finish by this summer.

Co-writing has been incredibly fun and rewarding. My writing partner and I take turns, writing a chapter each and then editing each other’s chapters. Once we decide on the voice of our narrator, the rest really just flows.

“I try to remember that most authors, including some of the very best, were rejected numerous times. It keeps me going!”

My advice for getting published, whether it’s books or articles, is to submit, submit, submit. If you don’t put your work out there, no one is going to see it and publish it. It’s as simple as that. I have to override my self doubt every time I send something out. Sometimes it’s rejected, and sometimes it’s accepted. I try to remember that most authors, including some of the very best, were rejected numerous times. It keeps me going!

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

As an undergrad, I (unfortunately, perhaps) didn’t spend much time thinking about my career. I was living in the past—and by the past, I mean the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. My mind was happily focused on the literature of those periods and working many part-time jobs to pay the bills. I think all of the part-time work I did, while mostly unrelated to my future writing career, helped me develop a really strong work ethic and also gave me (an extremely shy person, back then) confidence. In grad school, I was already working at FIDM, so I had to juggle school and work throughout.

“Be bold (even if you have to fake it) and apply for writing gigs or jobs even if you don’t think you’re “good enough.” You’re probably better and more qualified than you realize.”

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

If you dream of being a writer, write every day and submit your work often. Be bold (even if you have to fake it) and apply for writing gigs or jobs even if you don’t think you’re “good enough.” You’re probably better and more qualified than you realize. Take every opportunity that comes your way, and be your own best friend. I don’t believe in writer’s block. If you sit down and write, something will come. It might not always be great, but it will be something you can build on. Good luck!

To learn more about Kim, visit her site at KimAskew.com. You can also connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Instagram.


Posted on January 11, 2017 and filed under Author, Content Marketing, Interviews, Interview.

Christine Reilly: Author & Teacher

Name: Christine Reilly

Age: 27

College & Majors/Minors: Bucknell - Psychology and English double-major with a Concentration in Creative Writing. I got my MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College.

Current Location: New York, New York

Current Form of Employment: Author and teacher

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I teach fiction and poetry workshops at Sarah Lawrence College and the Gotham Writers Workshop, and my debut literary novel, Sunday's on the Phone to Monday, will be published in April with Simon & Schuster.

Sunday's on the Phone to Monday: A Novel
$12.50
By Christine Reilly

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different):

My first job was teaching middle and high school English at the Professional Children's School, a private school in New York City for ballet and modern dancers, Broadway actors, Julliard musicians, and professional athletes.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

I had a wonderful internship at Tin House, the literary journal. I got to go through the slush pile and give feedback, which was a dream come true—reading all day!

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

In college, I read and wrote all the time. I also kept a diary, which comes in handy now that I'm writing a novel about college students. I also got to experience writing workshop for the first time, which is my favorite place to be. Now as a teacher I facilitate workshop. I love seeing that side of the creative process. There's always such a wonderful energy in the room.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

It sounds cliche, but I'd say follow your dreams but work tirelessly as you follow them. I'm doing exactly what I wanted to do in college, and I didn't let the naysayers discourage me! I did, however, learn to be unafraid of failure. I didn't have any publishing or teaching connections whatsoever, so I reached out to every literary agent and educator I knew to learn more about a possible career in those fields.

You can visit Christine Reilly's website here



Posted on April 11, 2016 and filed under Writing, Teaching, Publishing, Interviews, Interview, Author.