Career Review: Freelance Writing

What does a dream career look like for tech-savvy millennials? I assert that it includes the ability to travel, to be your own boss, to wear your pajamas to work, to work according to your own schedule, and to, in general, avoid the restrictive feeling of the dreaded office job.  Not surprisingly, the first career to which millennial English majors are often tempted to turn is freelance writing.  The job appears glorious, much like the idea of homeschooling looks to public middle-schoolers and to people who have never been home schooled. What English majors, like disgruntled public-schooled students, do not see in the career is the discipline involved in finding work and in producing writing even when the pay is slight and the jobs are few.  The freelancer is constantly on the hunt, looking for articles to write through online sources (such as Freelance Writing Jobs, Freelance Writing, or Be a Frelance Blogger), endless submissions to the same newspaper that has turned them down about ten times already, and finally finding gigs that may not relate to how they thought they would be writing.  Very few authors suddenly rise to fame as the result of one or even a few articles.  More often, in fact, the pay is so unpredictable that it is nearly impossible to make a living without a secondary source of income.  Timothy Lemire seeks to demystify freelance writing in chapter seven of his book titled appropriately I’m an English Major – Now What?: How English Majors Can Find Happiness, Success, and a Real Job.   The following presentation seeks to further explain and demystify this career...

Career Review Presentation

My career review presentation can be viewed on Prezi. A copy of the interview transcript is found below:     What is the typical length of study as a graduate student? It varies depending on the program, how quickly a student is able to finish their coursework, how long it takes them to finish their thesis, etc. I’m wrapping up my fourth year, with one left to go, but I have friends who entered the MFA program at the same time I did—or even later!—who are graduating this spring. So it’s possible to finish the MFA program in three years, but it takes a certain degree of monomaniacal focus that I don’t really have, I think. (For one thing, it means taking the comp exam and turning in your thesis the same semester, almost immediately after finishing your coursework, which…yeesh. Good for them if they can pull it off, though.) This program can offer no more than four years of funding for MFA students, and five years for PhD students—but I didn’t start receiving funding until halfway through my second year, so I’m still covered through next spring. How many hours per week do you dedicate to your graduate classes? (This may include actual credit hours and/or time spent doing work outside of class.) It depends on the class, really. For most lit studies classes, we end up reading about a book a week (maybe two weeks for longer books), along with supplementary materials, our own written work, etc. It’s been a couple of years since I was last taking a full load of classes, but I remember it taking…most...

Career Interview and Observation Summary

For my career review, I interviewed and observed Jamey McDermott. Jamey is a Creative Writing graduate student as well as a professor at Georgia State University. He also is a contributing editor at Five Points, a literary journal hosted at the university. During the observation, Jamey talked about his experiences as both a graduate student and a professor of English Composition (he has also taught Introduction to Creative Writing). His day-to-day tasks vary each day. As far as his biggest challenge as a graduate student? Money (at one point) and time management. For the interview, I emailed Jamey some questions mostly referring to writing and its process. Below is a (brief) manuscript of the interview: What do you think is the most rewarding part about teaching? The most challenging? Jamey McDermott: This is a pretty broad answer, but I really like the process of actually working with students, interacting with them in the classroom (when they’re engaged in the discussion, at least). It’s a great feeling when I’m able to help students reach certain understandings/conclusions about writing—whether it’s composition or fiction. It doesn’t work quite as well when I’m just lecturing about whatever subject matter, but I think I’m pretty good at leading discussions (if/when my students are willing to participate, which isn’t always the case). The most challenging parts are grading and trying to get students engaged on “off” days. Grading is very time-consuming, but that part’s fine: what I find most challenging about it is trying to give quantitative assessments for written work. It always comes down to my own subjective judgment, ultimately, which it took me a...

An Interview and Observation of a Freelance Artist

It was 6:20 pm on a Sunday when I walked into a trendy coffee shop on the west side of Atlanta.  The crowd was buzzing with fashionably-clad hipsters and preps alike, most of whom were engaged more with their laptops than with the person directly opposing them.  The music was thumping loudly as I made my way over to a high table in the bar corner of the room where Christen Weimer sat waiting for me with a tea.  She greeted me warmly. Christen and I have been distant friends or close acquaintances for over a decade.  We unofficially met at the Atlanta Ballet when I was in my mid teens, you know, the time when age gaps are felt more acutely than they are in adulthood, and have continued to share mutual friends ever since.  Christen is a freelance writer, but also a professor of dance at Spellman College and Clayton State University.  She also teaches yoga and dance classes around the greater Atlanta area, is working on a novel, and is about to host and create works for a collaborative art gallery just off the Atlanta Beltline.  Though she mainly writes dance reviews without receiving pay, not necessarily what people intend to do when they set out to be freelance writers, what I find interesting and so extremely applicable to my own life is how Christen balances her creativity between movement and language.  Christen is situated right between the two worlds.  It is a place that seems to be full of life, collaboration, and change. Even the way that we met was infused with this ever-changing energy....

Book Review: The Art of Making Magazines

The Art of Making Magazines: On Being an Editor and Other Views from the Industry is edited by Victor S. Navasky and Evan Cornog and is an excellent book that gives first-hand accounts from experienced editors of all types of magazines. Rather than a “how-to” book, The Art of Making Magazines is a far richer collection of recorded talks given by various editors to students of the Columbia University School of Journalism. The book opens with “Talking About Writing for Magazines (Which One Shouldn’t Do)” written by the prolific John Gregory Dunne. He begins with “In general, it is bad business for a writer to talk about writing” (Dunne 1), which is a starling accusation. Dunne does shares his writing experiences, however, and provides the reader with examples of stories he worked on in his past, including articles about the O.J. Simpson and Teena Brandon cases. Overall, the article seems a little disoriented from the rest of the selections in the book because it lacks focus. The second selection in The Art of Making Magazines makes more sense than the Dunne article. It is written by Ruth Reichl, the former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine and food critic for the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. Reichl provides her humble beginnings as a food critic in the 1970s and provides useful advice to the budding editor: “I learned that the only way to a magazine….is not to underestimate your audience, ever,….and to follow your heart” (Reichl 33). Further on in the article, she gives the audience a glimpse of her typical day in the office as the editor-in-chief...
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