Posts tagged #Writing

Jean Baur: Self-Employed Writer & Speaker

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Name: Jean Baur    

Age: 71

College & Majors/Minors: Lake Forest College, English Major with Honors

Current Location: Connecticut

Current Form of Employment: Self-employed: writer and speaker

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work from home and write books, and I also create and give presentations to a wide range of industry groups, from librarians to insurance executives.

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

My first really good job was working in NYC as a corporate trainer. I researched the company, found connections, and went after them until they hired me. I was hired to teach business writing, but soon also taught presentation skills. And then they asked me and one of the account executives to revise the writing program, which we did.

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

I worked as a freelance writer for many years and learned that I could write just about anything if I understood what was needed. I wrote for the food industry, Time Life Books, a small publisher, ETS, and so on. This gave me confidence and diverse opportunities.

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

Not much. It was a tricky time as the war in Vietnam was raging and many of us were focused on social issues—stopping the war, race relations, poverty—without any real career path. I took the GREs, but knew I didn't want to go to grad school. It took me a long time to realize that my degree in English had prepared me for many types of work.

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

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Take advantage of internships, and your career counseling office at your school. Don't worry about not knowing what you want as you'll discover that as you try out different jobs. For some, the job will simply be a way to make money so that they have time to write, while for others, the job itself matters more. Remember, every organization needs people who have what you have: great analytical skills, deep knowledge of human behavior and strong writing and editing skills. It won't be easy and your career path, like mine, may zig and zag a bit. But you'll never be bored and as long as you keep reinventing yourself, you'll be fine. I've been a corporate trainer, a creative writing teacher, a freelance writer, an author, a career coach, a florist, a mother, a therapy dog handler and a speaker. So much fun!

If you want to learn more about Jean, you can visit her site at JeanBaur.com. You can also check out a few of her books here: 

By Jean Baur
By Jean Baur
By Jean Baur

Posted on April 21, 2018 and filed under Self-Employed, Writing, Writer.

Michelle Swanson: Self-Employed Resume Writer

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Name: Michelle Swanson

Age: 39

College & Majors/Minors: Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Current Location: Edwardsville, IL

Current Form of Employment: Self-employed Resume Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I own and operate MichelleSwanson.com, a resume writing and job search consultancy serving senior business executives worldwide. I offer a range of services designed to help my clients document and communicate their professional value. My focus is on developing resumes/CVs, executive bios, LinkedIn profiles, and letters, but my clients also rely on me to edit business plans, presentations, emails, press releases, and other business and career-related communications.

“I was a nontraditional student and returned to college to finish my degree after 6 years in the Air Force.”

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

I was a nontraditional student and returned to college to finish my degree after 6 years in the Air Force. I found my first post-college job through a staffing agency and, after about 2 years, left to start my own company.

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

My military service included serving as an Intelligence Analyst. In that role, I wrote reports for intelligence agencies and decision-makers at the highest levels of government. This early experience serves me well in my current career because I learned how to gather and process large amounts of information, cut through the clutter, distill the information into its crucial pieces, and communicate a message in a way that supports decision-making.

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

Unfortunately, I did very little to prepare for my career during college. I regret not pursuing internships or professional training such as certifications.

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

My advice to students and graduates would be to stay open to all the career opportunities that are out there! In college, I was aware of only about a dozen possible career paths for someone with an English degree. I wasn’t even aware that professional resume writers existed! I’ve been in business for more than 10 years, and I’m still amazed by the sheer variety of paths you can take. If you think you’ve thought about all your options… you haven’t. My clients with bachelor’s degrees in English include an IT Project Manager, Vice President of Crisis Communications, Health Insurance Product Manager, Business Analyst, Senior Director of Digital Video, Television Production Assistant, Advertising Sales Manager, Director of Marketing and Investor Relations, Award-winning Independent Film Producer, Television Director, and more. Your degree is just the beginning and does not limit your opportunities!

To learn more about Michelle, you can visit her site at michelleswanson.com. You can also connect with Michelle on LinkedIn.


Posted on April 21, 2018 and filed under Self-Employed, Writer.

Megan Kizer: SEO Content Writer

Name: Megan Kizer

Age: 22

College & Majors/Minors: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Arts in English, Certificate in Writing for Publishing and Editing

Current Location: Scottsdale, Arizona

Current Form of Employment: SEO Content Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work at a global integrated marketing agency called PMX Agency, formerly known as PM Digital. I am their first in-house SEO Content Writer. For those of you who don't know what SEO means (which, to be quite honest, I didn't completely understand it until I accepted the job), it stands for Search Engine Optimization. This essentially means that I have the opportunity to write page optimization copy, net-new copy, and blog posts for leading clients across several industries, in order to ensure that they rank among the highest search results in Google. I'm also beginning to actively contribute to our own company's blog.

“Overall, my job is to tell the client’s story in a way their customers will understand and appreciate, while using the strongest keywords possible to enhance their online presence. It can be challenging, and there’s quite a bit of research involved, but it’s my kind of puzzle.”

Overall, my job is to tell the client's story in a way their customers will understand and appreciate, while using the strongest keywords possible to enhance their online presence. It can be challenging, and there's quite a bit of research involved, but it's my kind of puzzle. At the end of the day, it's a great feeling to go onto a major client's website and think, "Hey, I wrote that!" It's an even better feeling to be able to write and use my voice creatively—every single day—and get paid for it. Whaaaat?

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

While I do dabble in freelance work, my position at PMX is actually my first career straight out of college. I found my job through listings on Glassdoor.com. This website gives you information on the company, as well as reviews from past and present employees who can list pros and cons of working there. It gives you an idea of what to expect from a job before you even start working there. So, if you're searching for a new job, I recommend using this service to hear what other employees are saying about it!

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

The most important writing job I had prior to working at PMX was my internship at Green Living magazine in Scottsdale, Arizona. There, I learned how to write professional blog posts and articles, as well as how to maintain an online presence through several social media networks.

Crafting the blog posts actually taught me the necessary SEO skills that transferred over to my current career, including the importance of keywords, title tags, and meta descriptions to search engine result pages (SERPs). Without acquiring this skill, I might not have gotten such an amazing career.

Some simple (but still important) advice: learn as much as you can in the time you have. You'll never know which skills will help you later on.

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

I worked, a lot. I pushed myself to work full-time while I was in school so that I didn't have to pay off loans later on. As an English major, I assumed that it would be challenging to break into a writing career straight out of college, so I did everything I could to prepare myself to be in a debt-free position when I entered the workforce.

I also took on a lot of internships! I was the lead non-fiction editorial intern for ASU's Canyon Voices literary magazine, and an editor for The PEN Project. There, I edited short stories and poems from inmates. The internships I was a part of gave me real-world experience in professional communication with other writers that allowed me to really bulk up my resume and aid me in my career search.

Through my internships, I learned one important lesson: put as much effort into networking as you do with your writing. Setting yourself up with strong contacts that are already working in the industry can push you through doors you never thought possible. Build your LinkedIn site, create a portfolio, and get your name out there.

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

Find your niche! I originally thought I wanted to work as an editor or be affiliated with a publishing company, but that was before I learned about SEO. I love what I do at PMX, and I'm grateful for the opportunities that led me to this career. Please know that there are plenty of jobs across many industries that are waiting for you—some that you may not have even heard of. Go out and find it!

Understand that having an English degree prepares you for a career where every day is different. Whether you're writing for a new client, critically analyzing data, or communicating with coworkers or clients, you're putting the skills you've learned in college to work that day. So, find what you love to do, and don't let anybody else sway you.

Stay positive. There are plenty of reports out there explaining how many fields English majors can enter into. I share a philosophy with most others: you can teach an English major business skills, but you can't always teach a Business major communication skills. Us English majors? We're special.

Don't forget to work hard. Try your hand at different internships so that you can find what you like before being stuck in a job you're unhappy with. Please don't think that you won't be able to ever use an English degree, or that being an English teacher is your only route to success. People will tell you this countless times. In reality, there is an ever-growing online presence where ads and copy are everywhere you look! In fact, agencies are just beginning to realize the impact that strong content has for a website, and are more likely to hire their own writers rather than outsource the work these days. Writinggood, solid writingis more important than ever.

You can connect with Megan Kizer on LinkedIn and follow her on Instagram.


Posted on December 7, 2016 and filed under Interview, Interviews, Writer, SEO.

Ashley Hennefer Warren: Full-Time Researcher & Writer

Name: Ashley Hennefer Warren

Age: 27

College & Majors/Minors: University of Nevada, Reno B.A in English Literature with a minor in French, M.A in Literacy Studies, emphasis on Research/Information Science

Current Location: Reno, Nevada

Current Form of Employment: Full-time researcher and writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I’m the founder/lead researcher at Ashley Warren Research, where I research in a variety of ways. This includes doing research for novelists, helping beginner genealogists with their family history, writing reports for non-profits, and so on. I also create e-courses to help others learn how to research.

I'm also the researcher/technical writer for ShortStack.com, where I write white papers, conduct studies, facilitate usability tests, and create documentation. I’m kind of a researcher/writer-of-all-trades.

And when I have time, I’m a contributing writer to publications including the Reno News & Review, GOOD, and The Mary Sue. I absolutely love all of the work I do and feel lucky every day to be where I am.

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

My first job was writing a column for a newspaper at 13 years old. I lived in a small town after growing up in the Bay Area, and I asked the local newspaper if I could write a teen column, and they said yes! Soon after that, they hired me on as a paid intern and staff writer, and I worked there until college (along with other odd jobs). My mom had always encouraged me to participate in writing and reading contests growing up, so I think by the time I was a teen, I was ready to start writing for the public. Being in a small town certainly helped get my foot in the door.

I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life so far; I think I always felt that if I were going to pursue something English-related long term, that I needed to be scrappy and get as much job experience as I could. Luckily, that has paid off.

I got my current job at ShortStack through a friend who knew I loved to write about and research social media-related topics (my Master’s thesis was about social media and activism). At the time, I was the director of curriculum for the Reno Collective, a coworking space.

Funny enough, the same day I got offered my job at ShortStack, I also got offered a job teaching English 101 at a local community college. So I did both for a while; I don’t think I’ve ever just had one job at a time in my whole life! But I love ShortStack and I’ve been here for more than two years. I also love teaching and try to do it whenever it fits into my schedule.

My research company, Ashley Warren Research, arose out of my desire to balance my technology-based research with literary-focused research. I feel like I now have the perfect balance of science and literature in my life.

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

It’s so hard to pick just one! I’ve been fortunate that all of my major career jobs have been relevant to my degree. Aside from my current roles, which I love, I was the Special Projects Editor at the Reno News & Review and I was awarded Journalist of Merit in 2012. That was a great opportunity to be active in the Northern Nevada community.

Truthfully, though, research is my main passion (but writing is closely linked with that, so both are very important to me). Working at the campus libraries at my university was life-changing for me. I set my sights on becoming a librarian, which was my graduate school emphasis. I started the Northern Nevada Tool Library in graduate school to get experience running my own library.

While in graduate school, I was a graduate writing consultant for the University Writing Center, and that was an amazing experience. I got to work with scholars from around the world, and I got to do my own research about literacy. My boss, Maureen McBride, was amazing, and gave me opportunities to lead and teach. Having a mentor is priceless (my graduate advisor, Dr. Dianna Townsend, also deserves a heartfelt shoutout!). That really helped me hone my own research, teaching, and writing skills. At the same time, I was a fellow for the Northern Nevada Writing Project and did research on local literacy (my project was about using video games in classrooms).

And while this isn’t paid work, I do a lot of community service, most recently assisting with refugee resettlement in Northern Nevada. I provide literacy and ESL tutoring to refugees from the Congo and from Syria. Volunteer work is some of the most fulfilling work I do. It also proves how fundamental writing, research and language are to the world.

“Before graduating, I started my own literary and arts magazine for women, called Wildflower. That is what got me my job at the RN&R, actually; they interviewed me about my magazine, and then offered me a job a few weeks after that. After that, I started another web magazine called The New Artemis, about travel and recreation, which helped me get some more writing and editing work.”

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

Writing while on a train from Prague to Budapest.

Writing while on a train from Prague to Budapest.

I studied English Literature in college with the goal of being a researcher in the future. But I volunteered and took any job I could that was related to English, writing and research. I was the editor of the University of Nevada-Reno literary journal, The Brushfire. I worked at the main campus libraries as a circulation and research assistant. I interned for the Nevada Historical Society. I was also a Resident Assistance in the dormitories. Before graduating, I started my own literary and arts magazine for women, called Wildflower. That is what got me my job at the RN&R, actually; they interviewed me about my magazine, and then offered me a job a few weeks after that. After that, I started another web magazine called The New Artemis, about travel and recreation, which helped me get some more writing and editing work.

I also traveled whenever I could. Travel is incredibly important to me. I went on an English department trip to London, England and a sociology department trip to Istanbul, Turkey, and a couple of smaller trips in between. I am a full supporter of studying abroad but many students, like me, can’t afford to go for a whole semester, so shorter trips can still be just as informative and life-changing!

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

Doing field research for an article about falconry. 

Doing field research for an article about falconry. 

In graduate school, I learned how important it was to collaborate across disciplines. Although I had a background in humanities, my graduate work was largely STEM-related. Now, I have a passion for all of it: science and math and writing and art, because they are all related. And I don’t believe that there are “art people” and “science people.” It’s OK to have a preference, but I think the majority of people enjoy both. I know many highly analytic writers, and many creative engineers, and they all benefit from not being stuck into perceived notions of the STEM vs. humanities debate. Being an English major is an amazing foundation for so many careers. I know English majors who went on to medical school. My point is, academic silos are damaging to all students. My husband is a very talented engineer, but he had similar hardship finding employment after college, whereas my skills made me qualified for a variety of jobs. (We are both happily employed now, and very grateful!)

My most ardent advice is this: Be a self-starter and be open to doing anything related to your field, even if it’s not exactly what you want to do. Be interdisciplinary. Be active in your community. Understand the value of your skills. Pick a niche and carve a space out for yourself. Think outside of your goals; sometimes, goals and dreams can cause tunnel vision when there are a ton of opportunities out there. You may find that you have new goals!

If you want to be a novelist, write novels and self-publish them. If you want to write for a magazine or newspaper, start your own. Create an English student club if there isn’t one already, and partner with students from another department. Join literary groups and be open to feedback. Be a citizen journalist or scientist. I truly believe every English major should have a blog that they regularly update, even if writing isn’t their career goal. There are so many great ways to offer your skills to the world, and you may find career opportunities because of it.

It’s important not to wait for opportunities or for your dream job. It’s easy for us English majors to get discouraged when we feel like we have to sacrifice our values or passions for money. All of my best jobs and opportunities have come from me putting myself out there; I don’t think I’ve ever actually gotten a job by applying for it. (By that I mean: I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs in my life, but the ones I’ve gotten came from networking and collaborating!) You have to fight for your career and for a good life.

To learn more about the services Ashley offers, visit AshleyWarrenResearch.com. You can also follow her business through Facebook.  


Posted on October 17, 2016 and filed under Writing, Communications.

14 Professional Writing Tips For English Majors

One of the most significant, versatile, and marketable skills in any English major's repertoire is the ability to write clearly and effectively. However, even the best and brightest of us can come face-to-face with the dreaded "writer's block" or feel unsure of how our skills translate into a real-world setting.

If you are in need of some writing inspiration and guidance, then take a look at these 14 tips shared by English majors who have made their writing skills work for them in their professional careers.


1. "Write, write, write. Don't stop writing."

Click here to read the complete interview with Eric Garcia, Novelist & Screenwriter.


 2. "Experiment with different styles of writing"

Click here to read the complete interview with Sabrina Son, Content Marketer.


3. "One of my strengths as a writer is my voicespecifically, my ability to craft the right voice for the project."

Click here to read the complete interview with Judi Ketteler, Freelance Writer.


4. "Copywriting really is an art. Not all 'good' writers can do it." 


5. "To me, good writing is the result of clear thinking."

Click here to read the complete interview with Rick Wiedeman, Instructional Designer.


6. "There are more fulfilling, and less expensive, ways to expand your mind and use your talents. For me, that's writing."


7. "The best advice I have is to write every day and push yourself to read something new each month." 

Click here to read the complete interview with Heather Greiner, Technical Writer.


8. "I took several creative writing classes that helped me overcome my fear of critique while teaching me different writing techniques and styles." 

Click here to read the complete interview with Erin Windheim, Clerical Support Specialist.


9. "The all-important question is, 'Can you write, or can you not write?' That's the only thing that matters." 

Click here to read the complete interview with Dan Jolley, Self-Employed Freelance Writer.


10. "Write words that mean nothing. Write words that mean something. Write nonsense. Write a novel. Just write. Don't stop.'"

Click here to read the complete interview with Meg Goforth-Ward, Adjunct Writing Instructor & Communications Specialist.


11. "No matter what job I'm doing at any given time, I always attempt to publish something."

Click here to read the complete interview with Chris Stephenson, Information Architect.


12. "...As someone building a career in writing, it was good to have experience in different areas."

Click here to read the complete interview with Marianne M. Chrisos, Content Developer.


13. "...Creativity has to be cultivated constantly." 

Click here to read the complete interview with Abigail Fleming, Production Editor. 


14. "Editing the work of others really centers you on your own voice and preferences." 

Click here to read the complete interview with Lauren Pope, Copywriter & Social Media Marketing Manager.


Posted on September 13, 2016 and filed under Articles, Featured Articles.

Mariah Kline: Legal Assistant

Name: Mariah Kline

Age: 23

College & Majors/Minors: University of Louisville, Bachelor of Arts in English

Current Location: Louisville, KY 

Current Form of Employment: Legal Assistant, O’Koon Hintermeister

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently work for a law firm as an assistant to two attorneys. I write letters, draft wills and other estate planning documents, and speak with clients when the attorneys are unavailable. I also handle referrals. Our firm works with a larger company called LegalShield, a service that allows people to pay a small fee each month and receive legal advice whenever they need it. When Kentucky LegalShield members need someone to represent them in their area, I’m in charge of finding an attorney for them. This often involves writing up a summary of the member’s legal issue and sending it to an attorney. I make sure they have the essential facts about the case so they can determine if they want to take it or not. 

“Whenever my boss needs a letter or document proofread, he brings it to me and says, “Use your English degree, that’s why we brought you in here.” I really enjoy what I do, and I know that my English degree helped me prepare for it.”

People often confuse my position with that of a paralegal, but they are somewhat different (paralegals are total superheroes, by the way). Paralegals have a specific degree that teaches them about the law and how to work with attorneys. Though you won’t learn about the law in most English classes, I think this is a great area for English majors to work in because it involves so much writing and communication. Whenever my boss needs a letter or document proofread, he brings it to me and says, “Use your English degree, that’s why we brought you in here.” I really enjoy what I do, and I know that my English degree helped me prepare for it.

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

Actually my first job found me! I posted my resume on Career Builder and the office manager at the firm called me a few weeks later. I spent months filling out online applications for places that never contacted me (which is still a good idea for someone in need of a job; it is a numbers game after all) but it turned out that letting them find me was the way to go. 

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

I didn’t have any writing-related jobs prior to this one, but the writing I did in college definitely helped me prepare for the job I have now. Composing articulate emails and summarizing cases are part of my day to day work. You may not think the short essay assignments you’re doing right now will help you later, but I’ve found that the writing skills you develop can translate really well in an office.

“Some people believe networking and making friends with every professor will guarantee them a good job after college, but I believe gaining work experience is the way to really impress. Going into an interview and being able to discuss the various roles you’ve already had in the working world can really set you apart from other recent grads.”

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

I tried to have my resume fine-tuned in the months leading up to graduation so that I could start applying for jobs immediately. I also worked many part-time jobs in college, not only to support myself but to show future employers that I had a good work ethic. Some people believe networking and making friends with every professor will guarantee them a good job after college, but I believe gaining work experience is the way to really impress. Going into an interview and being able to discuss the various roles you’ve already had in the working world can really set you apart from other recent grads. 

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

First, don’t be discouraged by the job market. It is very tough out there, but if you have some job experience, a good attitude, and a solid work ethic you will find a good job. Also, don’t be too picky. If you get a call about an interview but the job doesn’t seem appealing, take the interview anyway. You might enjoy the people you meet and the office environment, even if the work doesn’t sound right up your alley. 

Second, it’s OK to take a break from reading once in a while. I felt so guilty about watching more TV and not picking up a book for several weeks after graduation, but your brain needs a rest sometimes. You spend months on end doing nothing but reading, so binge watching old episodes of the West Wing doesn’t make you a bad English major. 

Last but not least, be your genuine self. Don’t be ashamed that you chose to major in English, and don’t let potential employers make you question your choice. Whether it be five weeks or or five years from now, you will find a job someday that will make you glad you studied English. 


Posted on July 26, 2016 and filed under Law, Writing.

Rhonda Crowder: Writer, Editor, Journalist

Name: Rhonda Crowder

Age: 42

College & Majors/Minors: Cleveland State University, Bachelor of Arts in English with specialization in creative writing, editing and publishing/minor in psychology

Current Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Current Form of Employment: I work for a newspaper in addition to owning a business.

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

I work for the Call & Post newspaper, an African American-owned weekly based in Cleveland, Ohio, as a general assignment reporter. Because I often find myself working outside of my job description, through this position, I learn so much about writing as well as the business of writing. It truly broadened my perspective of what a person with an English degree can do. Although low-paying, this position provides me with a lot of opportunity, connections and freedom to working on other projects. I use my salary as a base and my other work brings up the rear.

“I never thought of my business growing beyond my own freelance work until I took the Partnership for Minority Business Acceleration (PMBA) class at the Akron Urban League. At that point, my eyes opened to how bad the business world needs skilled writers.”

Realizing I am in the writing business while remembering my propensity for entrepreneurship from as far back as selling lemonade in my preteens, this position led me to start my own business, a communications firm that now provides content creation, graphic design, sales, and media relations services. My clients range from small publishing companies and media outlets to independent authors and small business owners. I had been freelancing since I graduated college, but started Rhonda Crowder and Associates, LLC in 2011 as a result of needing to report my 1099 earnings. I never thought of my business growing beyond my own freelance work until I took the Partnership for Minority Business Acceleration (PMBA) class at the Akron Urban League. At that point, my eyes opened to how bad the business world needs skilled writers. I remember sitting there and saying to myself, "I can do business with everyone in this room, but everyone in the room can't say that." 

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

Trust me. I’ve worked plenty of non career-related jobs. Regardless to how bad they sucked, I learned something from each that I use today. My first paid writing gig was Arts and Entertainment Editor for my college newspaper, if that counts. Being a leadership position, it paid a stipend. I was tunnel vision on writing books, movies and plays. I never considered journalism. However, I tried it, got bit by the bug and became more serious about being a writer. After graduating, I didn’t pursue journalism. I maintained my desire to be an author. The only problem with that, I needed a job.

“In casual conversation, I told him I was a writer looking for work and had just been declined by his organization. Long story short, I met with the editor and they made me in offer.”

With my current position, I initially walked in off the street, asked if they were hiring and was told no. I thought no more of it. But by chance, I attended a book club meeting held at the newspaper a few weeks later and met the president. In casual conversation, I told him I was a writer looking for work and had just been declined by his organization. Long story short, I met with the editor and they made me in offer. Knowing I could barely survive off of it and desperately wanting to get paid to write, I took it. That’s one of the best decisions I ever made.  

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

My work at the Call & Post led to me being offered a contracted position to serve as associate publisher of Who’s Who in Black Cleveland. Who’s Who in Black Cleveland is a product of Who’s Who Publishing/Real Times Media. The organization highlights the successes of African American in our 25 different markets. In this role, I am the organization’s liaison to the Cleveland, Akron and Canton markets. I do everything from help shape the thematic direction of an edition and nominate honorees to producing an annual book unveiling event. This position is important because it puts value on that English degree. It shows organizations that I can do more than the perceived “sitting around playing with words all day.”     

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

First and foremost, I focused on the learning the craft. I stayed engaged in projects or with professors. That helps connect you to opportunities or at least obtain a great recommendation letter. I worked on the college newspaper and other literary publications on campus. In hindsight, I should have done more off campus internships early and as often as possible.

“...An English degree alone today is not enough. It is an excellent foundation, but you’ll need to couple it with something technical or be an out-of-the-box thinker to make yourself more marketable. You can no longer think of yourself as just a writer.”

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

You may realize it or not, but your English degree gives you an advantage. You can do more than what you imagine with an English degree once you understand its value and how to use it. As an English major, you are extremely creative and an analytical thinker. You can solve problems most are unable detect. At the same time, an English degree alone today is not enough. It is an excellent foundation, but you'll need to couple it with something technical or be an out-of-the-box thinker to make yourself more marketable. You can no longer think of yourself as just a writer. You'll need to know how to do other things. You also need to understand, whether you like it or not, you are in business and you must think of what you do as such. You sell words, at the least. Learn how to put a value on what you do and don't be afraid to demand it.

To learn more about Rhonda Crowder visit www.rhondacrowderllc.com. She can also be found on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and Instragram.  You can find articles by Rhonda at www.rhondacrowder.contently.com


Posted on July 14, 2016 and filed under Interview, Interviews, Journalism, Writer, Writing, Publishing.

Dan Jolley: Self-Employed Freelance Writer

Name: Dan Jolley

Age: 44

College & Majors/Minors:b University of Georgia, BA in English

Current Location: Ringgold, Georgia

Current Form of Employment: Self-Employed Freelance Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work from home—I'm self-employed—and my current position alternates between "on the treadmill" and "on the couch." I write in both locations, though; I have a walking desk set up, where I plod along at 2 miles per hour and type, and on a good day I do about 5000 words and about 15000 steps. That works best for prose, though. If I'm doing non-prose, such as a comic book script or a screenplay or dialogue for a video game, more often than not I wind up on the couch. Usually with one or more cats on me.

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

I got my first professional writing contract at age 19, after I met a girl in a video arcade and asked her out. On our first date I told her I wanted to be a writer, and that I'd written a number of short stories, and she asked if I'd ever considered writing comic books. I hadn't, but I'd grown up reading them, and I told her as much. She said, "Well, I know a couple of comic book artists. Want me to introduce you?" I told her yes, yes I would like that very much, and she introduced me to Tony Harris and Craig Hamilton. I ended up working with Tony for about the next ten years on various comics projects, one of which got nominated for an Eisner Award, the comics industry's equivalent of an Oscar.

From there I branched out into licensed-property novels, movie novelizations, original young adult novels, some manga-format novel tie-in comics, some children's books, and video games. 

I've been writing more games than anything else for the last several years, but that's about to change, because on May 13 of this year, my first original novel for adults is coming out from Seventh Star Press. It's called Gray Widow's Walk, the first book in the Gray Widow Trilogy. It's the story of Janey Sinclair, a teleporting vigilante in contemporary Atlanta, Georgia, who must face a grotesque, vicious, possibly extraterrestrial enemy.

Then, on October 18, the first book in my new Middle Grade novel series, Five Elements, debuts from HarperCollins. Set in modern-day San Francisco, it's the story of four twelve-year-old best friends who become bound to the magical elements of Fire, Earth, Air, and Water, and have to try to stop a century-old, hideously evil magic user from dominating the world.

Dying Light - PlayStation 4
Warner Home Video - Games

So I guess I'm a little more novelist than game writer now. Well, this year, anyway.

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

In 2014 I was fortunate enough to land a job coming up with dialogue, scenarios, and characters for the first-person parkour-vs-zombies video game, Dying Light.

While working on the game, I got to live in Wrocław, Poland for three months, since that's where the developer, Techland, is located. It was a fantastic experience. I got lots of exposure to a culture I might never have otherwise known, made some fantastic friends, and ate way more pierogies than I probably should have. Dying Light went on to sell a bit north of five million copies, so now I can realistically say that my words have reached people all over the world. 

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

College is about a lot more than taking classes. It's a chance to test the adulthood waters without committing a hundred percent, and at least in my view, is an excellent time to make mistakes. (One of the best bits of wisdom I ever heard was, "The older you get, the higher the stakes are when you screw up.") I made a lot of mistakes in college, from partying too much, to making terrible relationship decisions, to endangering a few true, solid friendships. The key there is to learn from those mistakes, because living life and gaining experience will help your writing every bit as much as mastering your command of language. Not much good comes of being a brilliant writer if you've got nothing to write about. (It helps, I've found, to have friends with terribly sordid pasts.)

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

Well, this advice is for those who want to be writers, because I got my start as a writer before I left college and haven't ever truly tried to do anything else. But here it goes: absorb as much knowledge as you can, both in class and out. Make as many friends as you can. Listen to as many stories as you can, from many different types of people. Take as many creative writing classes as possible, to be sure, and learn as much as possible from your professors. But be aware, keenly aware, often painfully aware of the world around you, because that's where your stories will come from. Sometimes you'll witness whole sequences of events that you faithfully transcribe; sometimes you'll hear other people's accounts, with which you can then take artistic license; sometimes you'll catch just a scrap of conversation or an image glimpsed from the corner of your eye that will spark an original idea. As Stephen King puts it, when you're a writer, "Everything is grist for the mill."

“Also—and saying this got me in hot water when I spoke to some creative writing students at NC State a few years ago, but it’s one hundred percent true—do not, under any circumstances, expect your degree to get you work by itself.”

Also—and saying this got me in hot water when I spoke to some creative writing students at NC State a few years ago, but it's one hundred percent true—do not, under any circumstances, expect your degree to get you work by itself. Use the knowledge you gain as you earn the degree, certainly, but the degree itself is... I wouldn't say worthless, because you learn so many invaluable things while you're getting it. It's just that the credential itself is inconsequential. I've been a professional writer for twenty-five years now, and no editor or publisher or producer has ever, not once, asked me about my education. They don't care. It doesn't come up. The all-important question is, "Can you write, or can you not write?" That's the only thing that matters.

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