Name: Brande McCleese
College & Majors/Minors: Southern New Hampshire University - Bachelors English Language and Literature, National University - MFA Creative Writing, Southern New Hampshire University - Masters English
Current Location: North Carolina
Current Form of Employment: Adjunct Instructor, Editor, & Poet
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I’m currently an adjunct instructor at several colleges and universities. I teach Creative Writing, Literature and Composition courses. As a sideline, I edit books, business documents and papers. I also blog at southpawscribe.wordpress.com and have been featured on soar.forharriet.com in addition to having poetry published in two anthologies.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
I stumbled into my first teaching positions. I was on one campus with a couple of my friends who are alumni and I was speaking to someone from the English, Language and Communication department about a poetry event that I was planning. I mentioned that I had a MFA and then the chair of the department joined our conversation and asked if I was interested in teaching. I said yes and had an interview the next day. I’ve tutored and run the writing center at a local community college and the dean of the campus mentioned that she needed someone to teach a Composition course on campus and remembered that I was qualified. Since then, I’ve been teaching at one or both schools every semester in addition to writing and editing. I’d never considered teaching as a profession before completing my MFA. In fact, it was only while discussing MFA vs. MA with a professor that I realized that the MFA is a terminal degree and what type of doors it could possibly open for me.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
It would definitely be editing. I was an editor for a long time before I knew it. I’ve been “fixing” my peers' papers since high school and once I found out that people were willing to pay for it I was shocked. I earned money in high school and college by editing papers and it seemed natural for me to continue to do it after college. I have taken a few courses on editing and have discovered that I love editing the work of others but not my own writing.
I also have written poems for people/occasions and that was a job that I created for myself by always having a notebook and writing poems or sharing the poems that I began writing for my mom for Mother’s Day and her birthday. Both jobs ensured not only a confidence in creating but also that I was constantly working on something that I enjoyed.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
Everything. I think that my education, both undergraduate and graduate, prepared me for what I’m doing now. I will caution everyone who plans to teach at any level to be willing to continue learning. I am currently taking a course on teaching writing classes because I wanted to enhance my skills and pick up some new ideas. One of the most important things that I did while in graduate school was to tutor students. I feel like my lectures and my expectations were formed during those sessions. I also learned how I wanted to structure my writing assignments and a bit about what constituted a successful essay in my eyes.
I also loved that I was required to write every day. If you are planning to write, then that’s essential. I recently developed my first writing routine outside of NaNoWriMo and since grad school. In my opinion it is so hard without the structure of school. In college, I wrote every day especially when working on my thesis. After college, it becomes harder to balance everything and to have a dedicated writing schedule, but I manage to blog every week for the most part and to continue working on other projects.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
To not get discouraged by what you read about job prospects and to write consistently (if you love writing). I was an English major because I loved reading, I loved writing, and those were the skills that I wanted to build my career upon. I remember a discussion with a friend who said that being an English major was senseless because there’s nothing you can do with it. No one in my family ever asked what I planned to do with my degree, none of them were even surprised by my major. I’ve had plenty of support from friends who are educators and those who know of my love of writing but I’ve also received comments from naysayers asking why English? Those same people tried to discourage me from pursuing my graduate degrees in the same field. As an English major, I feel prepared for everything, except math classes.