Name: Travis Klempan
College & Majors/Minors: Bachelors of Science, English, United States Naval Academy (with a focus on philosophy); Master of Fine Arts, Creative Writing and Poetics, Naropa University
Current Location: Boulder, Colorado
Current Form of Employment: Adjunct instructor, Naropa University
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I was recently hired as adjunct instructor for one of the undergrad core writing classes at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Students take Writing Seminar I (expository essays) and II (research papers); I'll be teaching a section of WS II.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
When I was stationed onboard the USS Princeton, one of my collateral duties was Public Affairs Officer. This position usually defaults to young officers who majored in or studied English (or communications or something similar). Most midshipmen (naval officers-in-training, usually ROTC or at the Naval Academy) major in technical majors and have a self-imposed perception that they either aren't good communicators (and many aren't) or that things like public affairs are left to the "soft" majors. (I will say that I have a BS in English, and took 13 semesters of math, science, and engineering.)
Inevitably, though, my fellow junior officers would come to me with requests for help writing evaluations of their sailors, or awards, or help with other "soft" communications problems. I like to think that I had the best of both worlds—I could understand (to some degree) the technical aspects of working aboard a complex modern Navy ship, but I could also speak with laypeople and outsiders. I continue to balance these facets of writing —the technical and the personal, now the creative—as I prepare to teach up-and-coming writers and English majors.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I tried to work with extracurricular activities that focused on writing. I was a member of Labyrinth, our student-run literary magazine, as well as a writing center tutor. As a grad student I was again part of a literary journal (Bombay Gin, the Jack Kerouac School's 42-year old publication) and the writing center. Both of these jobs have helped me with the professional side of creative writing. I got to see "behind the curtain" of Submittable, which more and more journals are using for submissions, and see the editorial process from the other side. I also had to learn how to communicate my knowledge of writing in different ways when working with different writers.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
This advice hopefully applies to English majors, non-English majors, grads, students, whatever: Be involved. I could have been far more active in some of the other extracurricular activities, and every missed opportunity is a chance to be a better writer, student, and citizen that I won't get again. If there isn't a club that fits what you're looking for, start one. If there is one, join it and learn everything you can about it. Read, write, and communicate - don't meet people just to put contacts in your little black book (or iPhone or what-have-you), but meet them to see what they can teach you or how you can help them. There is basically no job anywhere that doesn't involve working with others in some way, so learn how to be a part of a team, and have fun while you're doing it.