Michael Prosser: A Teacher’s Odyssey

Michael H. Prosser received his BA in English with minors in Latin and speech in 1958, and his MA in English with a minor in Latin at BSU in 1959. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois in Communications with a minor in English in 1964. He has taught at Ball State, the University of Virginia, and the University of Swaziland, and other schools across the world. Prosser is also a founder of the academic field of intercultural communication, and has written or edited books on topics ranging from classical and medieval rhetoric to international public discourse.

You are among Ball State’s most esteemed alumni. What are a few memories that stand out to you from your time here?

I was an undergraduate debater at BSU and president of the campus Newman Club. In 1978, BSU gave me an Outstanding Alumnus award. Several of my books are in the BSU library, as well as my MA thesis ‘’Solitude in the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne,” (under the leadership of Alfred Harding Marks), and my Ph.D. thesis “A Rhetorical Analysis of the Speeches of Adlai Stevenson in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Sessions of the United Nations General Assembly.”

When I was a teaching assistant at Ball State in 1958-59, I taught one quarter of American Literature and two quarters of public speaking (which included lots of vets who had fought in Korea). My supervisor was Lucille Clifton, and I had classes on Milton with Jon Loury as well as courses with Paul Royalty, Alfred Harding Marks, Joseph Sattler, and Edward Strother. The most interesting three quarter course that I took in the English Department was Shakespeare: in fall, histories; winter, the comedies; spring, the tragedies. Continue reading

Mandy Stamper : Presenter, Representative, and Educator

BSU English grad Mandy Stamper is an independent manufacturers’ representative for 10 companies in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio.  She works from home on commission with architects, designers, business owners, and general contractors, among others. Although she travels for work, she has a flexible schedule and a lot of autonomy. Previously she worked for a commercial furniture dealership, selling to corporate, healthcare, higher education, and k-12 customers.

After a few years, she decided she wanted the flexibility of working for herself. She gained her first contract by working the floors of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago at Neocon, an annual industry trade show, walking from booth to booth, asking if anyone needed a representative in Indiana.

She gives educational presentations about products and consults on specifications and designs, among other tasks.  She is married and has two children, a son at IU and a daughter in third grade.

How did your English major lead to your current position? What skills did you learn as an English major that helped you transition into that job?

I honestly just fell into this position.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I knew I didn’t want to teach. I got into the commercial furniture industry and never looked back!  My English degree helped in so many ways. Here are just a few:
  • Sharpened my critical thinking skills.
  • Enhanced my creative thinking.
  • Built a foundation for presentation skills through class discussion and presentations.
  • Broadened my vocabulary to add interest and intelligence to conversations.

 What’s a typical day like for you?

There is no typical day but I can give a list of a few things that I do:
  • Present to architects, designers, owners, contractors, and any others that may be decision makers or involved in installation or fabrication.
  • Show samples and educate about the best solutions for the problems and needs presented.
  • Travel between locations making sure design libraries are up to date.
  • Get creative and brand myself with unique presentations or leave-behinds for architects and designers.  Reminding people you are there is key.
  • Network with representatives of non-competing products.
  • Find and chase leads for projects.
  • Work with teams at the manufacturers’ offices to come up with pricing and strategize the best way to win a project.

Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out what comes next in their lives?

The foundation a major in English gives is invaluable.  Employers today want to know that you have drive and the ability to think critically and convey ideas in an intelligent manner.  Many positions are learned on the job and if you have the ability and desire, there are limitless possibilities.  No one will give you what you want and no one else can determine your path.  You have to decide what you want and go after it.
To learn more about Stamper and her work, visit her website www.mandystamper.com.

January Good News: Prof. Lyn Jones Receives a Provost Immersive Learning Grant (and More!)

We’ve got a lot of good news to share this month!

Faculty News

Prof. Sean Lovelace published four “Letters to Jim Harrison” in Willow Springs Magazine Winter 2018 issue.

Prof. Carolyn J. MacKay and Prof. Frank R Trechsel published “An Alternative Reconstruction of Proto-Totonac-Tepehua” in the International Journal of American Linguistics.

Prof. Michael Begnal published a review of recent books by Irish poets Trevor Joyce, Nerys Williams, and Susan Connolly in the latest issue of Trumpet, a journal of criticism and opinion published by Poetry Ireland.

Prof. Rani Deighe Crowe’s poem, My First Love, was published in The American Journal of Poetry Volume 4.  Rani’s short film Texting: A Love Story is an official selection of the Harrogate Film Festival, to be held in March in Harrogate, UK. Texting will also be screening at the inaugural Bull City International Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina and the Women’s Worldwide Film Festival in Scottsdale, Arizona this month.

Prof. Emily Rutter published “Going Back to Kansas City: An Interview with Ira McKnight” in NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture.

Prof. Pamela Hartman, with current graduate student Hannah Fulton and former BSU graduates Jessica Berg and Brandon Schuler will be presenting “Memes to Mirrors: Integrating the Visual Arts into Secondary English Language Arts” at the International Federation of Teachers of English conference in Birmingham, UK in June.

Prof. Ben Bascom published a book review in Common-Place: The Journal of Early American Life and was invited to write a response to an essay about Henri Michaux.

Prof. Adam R. Beach presented on “Olaudah Equine and the Temptations of Ottoman Migration” at the annual convention of the Modern Language Association (MLA), the premier conference in literary studies, in New York on January 7. The paper was part of a session on “Migrancy and Empire in the Eighteenth Century.”

Prof. Sreyoshi Sarkar also presented at MLA. She organized the January 7 roundtable on “Visualizing Violence in Contemporary States of Insecurity” and presented her paper, “Michael Winterbottom’s In This World and the Disjuncture/s of Globalization” at the roundtable.

Professor Cathy Day was invited to be a special guest at “Uncle Dan’s Book Nerds,” a periodic book chat hosted by renowned Hoosier author Dan Wakefield. The event will take place from 6-8 p.m. Sunday, February 11 at the Aristocrat Pub’s Oxford Room. For tickets and more information, go here.

Prof. Jennifer Grouling published “The Path to Competency-Based Certification: A Look at the LEAP Challenge and the VALUE Rubric for Written Communication” in the Journal of Writing Assessment.

Prof. Lyn Jones received a Provost Immersive Learning Grant for Fall 2018. Her project is “Rethinking the Stories We Publish, Shelve, and Read: Rethinking Disability in Children’s and Young Adult Literature.”

Prof. Jill Christman has two new essays coming out in prestigious literary journals this spring: “Naked Underneath Our Clothes” in Creative Nonfiction and “Life’s Not a Paragraph” in River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative.  Professor Christman’s contribution to Essay Daily’s advent calendar in December celebrated former English Department students: “Jill Christman on Essays to Pry Open Doors: Ashley C. Ford, Alysia Sawchyn, & Brittany Means.”

Speaking of Ashley C. Ford, this incredible news: Flat Iron Books will be publishing her memoir, Somebody’s Daughter, under the imprint An Oprah Book.

Prof. Kathryn Ludwig gave a talk entitled “Offred and Gilead” and led a discussion on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale at a Muncie Public Library book club meeting at Maring-Hunt Library on Wednesday, January 24.

Prof. Guilherme D. Garcia will present “Regulating the interaction between lexical statistics and the grammar: a naturalness bias in learning weight” at the 41st Generative Linguistics in the Old World (GLOW) conference, held at the Hungarian Academy of Science in Budapest in April.

Prof. Rai Peterson is teaching at Book Arts Collaborative, a community letterpress and hand-sewn book bindery located in the Madjax Building in downtown Muncie.  You can learn more by visiting the collaborative’s website or listening to this Ball State Daily News podcast on which Dr. Peterson muses aloud about the materiality of books. Book Arts Collaborative holds an open house on First Thursday from 5-8 p.m., offers community workshops, and is available for tours and demonstrations by appointment.

Student News

Mary Carter’s essay “Returning in the Snow” was published online by Atticus Review.

Alumni News

Morgan “Mo” Smith Heldman, who graduated with a BA in Creative Writing in 2013, recently got a job writing content for Samsung mobile apps. She lives in Greenville, SC. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

Rachel Tindall, who graduated with a MA in English Studies in 2017, recently accepted a position as Project Intake Coordinator at Orchard Software in Indianapolis, which delivers diagnostic information systems to healthcare organizations. You can find her on LinkedIn.

Nikole Darnell, who graduated with a BA in Creative Writing in 2017, is working for the Lebanon Reporter in Lebanon, IN and recently became a columnist. You can find her on LinkedIn.

Kate Carnahan, who graduated with a BA in Creative Writing in December, recently got an internship as a Communications Intern at Habitat for Humanity of Evansville. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

Emily Barsic, who graduated with a BA in Literature in 2017, recently got a job working as a Camp Coordinator and doing Marketing at Share Foundation with the Handicapped in Rolling Prairie, IN. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

Gretchen Stelter : Making Books Happen

Gretchen Stelter got her BA in English from Ball State in 2003. She studied in Australia before receiving an MA in professional writing from Portland State. Since then, she has worked with writers as an agent and editor for more than a decade. More than 500 books she has worked on have been published by traditional publishing houses. She’s worked on writing at every stage, from development to copyediting and proofreading. She also writes for Books for Better LivingHealthline.com, and Elephant Journal. See some of her work here.

Gretchen lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.

How did your English major lead to your current position? What skills did you learn as an English major that helped you transition into that job?

Gretchen Stelter. Image from her website: www.gretchenstelter.com.

After I finished my English degree at Ball State, I went to graduate school for a degree in professional writing with a focus in book publishing at Portland State. From there, I actually helped start a literary agency with a classmate, which I co-ran with her for five years before I started editing and writing freelance full-time. The writing skills I gained while at BSU, as well as literary analysis, have helped me in both roles as the editorial director of the agency, and as a writer and editor.

Truly, the ability to read a manuscript and discuss what makes it strong, what makes it appeal to a specific demographic or not, and what sorts of themes it contains has served me very well in my career.

What’s a typical day like for you?

A typical day for me is one when I work from home, which I do about 99% of the time if I don’t have in-person meetings with clients or colleagues. I respond to emails in the morning, because I live on the West Coast and most publishing house clients are on the East Coast. By the time I’m up and at the computer, I’ll have a few queries or check-ins I need to respond to.

After I’m done with emails in the morning, I get started on whatever my most pressing deadline is, which I devote the bulk of my day to. That could mean proofreading, copyediting, developmental editing, or writing. I like to have a variety of projects at any given time, so if I hit a wall with my concentration, I’ll start work on one of my other projects to give myself a mental refresh. For pretty much all of my work, I’m on the computer with a number of files and internet windows open to do research, update style sheets, and double-check dictionaries and style guides. I work into the evening, but how late depends on just how pressing my deadlines are. I’ve been known to work until midnight when I’ve got something due soon. On a regular day, depending on how long my lunch break was and how quickly I got to work after my emails that morning, I work until somewhere between six and eight.

Throughout most days, I post on social media any book or writing news I have, like my articles being published or books I’ve worked on having their pub days, getting good reviews, or winning awards. I set aside one day a month to put those updates on my website. Most of the time, that’s the only publicity I worry about, as I get most of my work through referrals these days. On any given day, I may have a call or online video conference with a client, but most days, I’m in front of my laptop for the vast majority of the time.

Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out what comes next in their lives?

Don’t be afraid to explore careers that you’ve never heard of or know nothing about.

When I was approached by a classmate to see if I wanted to start a literary agency with her I enthusiastically said yes…and only then asked what a literary agent did.

Also: network, network, network. When I transitioned from agent to editorial director, and then to full-time editor and writer, I had many, many colleagues who were also agents, editors at publishing houses, production editors, publicists, etc., who were ready to recommend me to authors, both agented and published, and those looking for representation/publishing contracts. When I was starting out, it was the contacts I’d made, the way I’d treated those people, and my work that got me clients. Don’t just avoid burning bridges, but actively try to build them.

Faculty Reading Series: Rani Crowe and Kathryn Gardiner

At the beginning of February, the Ball State Creative Writing program will host a reading focused on two of our talented faculty members: Rani Deighe Crowe and Kathryn S. Gardiner. Aside from featuring their poetry and screenplays, the event will also screen several of Professor Crowe’s short films.

The reading will be at 8 p.m. Wednesday, February 7, in Room 225 Arts and Journalism Building (AJ). It is free and open to the public—so bring your friends and family and come support your amazing creative writing faculty!

Rani Deigh Crowe

Rani Deighe Crowe is a filmmaker, theater artist, and collaborative inter­disciplinary artist, and has been making and performing her work for more than twenty years. Her short film Beautiful Eyes was named “Best of ” at the Final Girls Women in Horror Film Festival and has screened in Berlin and Nuremberg, Ger­many, Tel Aviv, Israel, and Innsbruck, Austria. Her short film, Texting: A Love Story, has screened at more than 80 international film festivals in­cluding the Athens International Film and Video Festival, Tall Grass Film Festival, RapidLion South Africa International Film Festival, and the Valley Film Festival Los Angeles.

As a starving artist, Rani has lived in New York, Chicago, London, and Washington, DC. She has managed a bookstore, managed a restaurant, built theater sets, worked the spotlight at a nightclub, taught preschool, been a substitute teacher, been a live-in nanny, acted as a simulated patient training doctors, and much more. In her spare time she enjoys making jewelry and kayaking, and she is currently teaching herself to sew.

Kathryn S. Gardiner

Kathryn S. Gardiner received her bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications from Ball State University and her master’s degree in Screenwriting from Hollins University in Roanoke, Va. As editor of special products for the Hoosier Times in Bloomington, In. from 2007 to 2015, Kathryn spearheaded The South-Central Indiana Wedding Guide, H&L, INstride, BizNet, and Adventure Indiana. The latter publication let her try out roller derby, spelunking, gymnastics, contemporary dance, and a GORUCK Challenge.

She spent more than three years as an amateur mixed martial arts fighter, “retiring” in 2011 with a record of 2-2 (or 3-2, if you count her Muay Thai bout in Las Vegas, which she likes to). She has a deep love of The Lord of the Rings, Captain AmericaStar Wars, and Star Trek, as well as Abraham Lincoln, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen. She currently teaches screenwriting at Ball State and lives with a marvelous tabby cat named Cairo.

 

Meet Prof. Alex Kaufman

Although originally from Philadelphia, Alex Kaufman comes to us from Auburn University at Montgomery, in Alabama, where he was department chair and Professor of English. This summer, Dr. Kaufman was named the Reed D. Voran Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Ball State. He teaches courses on Robin Hood, outlaws and banditry, historical literature, medieval literature, and medievalism. He is the co-editor of the book series Outlaws in Literature, History, and Culture from Routledge Publishing and is  the co-founder and co-editor of the scholarly journal  The Bulletin of the International Association for Robin Hood Studies. Click here to see his Academia page.

Dr. Kaufman will give a talk at 4pm Monday, February 5, in AJ 175 on “Robin Hood and the Outlawed Literary Canon.”

After Dr. Kaufman got settled in to Muncie, we sat down to get to know him a bit.

What led you to Ball State?

I was drawn to Ball State’s commitment to the liberal arts and the humanities, especially in the undergraduate curriculum. Both the Honors College and the Department of English underscore the intellectual and professional value of an education focused on immersive learning, critical thinking, diversity, and an engagement with social concerns.

How did you become interested in Robin Hood? 

I was very fortunate to study with Thomas H. Ohlgren at Purdue University during my graduate studies. Tom was, and remains, one of the leading scholars of the early Robin Hood poems, and his enthusiasm for the subject was contagious. With Robin Hood – and other outlaws in literature and history, from the medieval period to the present day – I am drawn to those individuals and groups who are marginalized by the society in which they live, and I seek to understand why and how society creates these outsiders, and how these marginals attempt to survive within their literary or real worlds. The outlaw will always be relevant and a presence in most contemporary contexts.

What are you reading?

I am reading Sean M. Conrey’s recent book of poetry, The Book of Trees. It is an extension of the medieval paradox of the beauty one finds in the external world and the challenge to fully describe and comprehend it. It is elegiac, contemplative, and timely.

What are some of your hobbies or interests?  

I love exploring nature, especially with others, and Indiana has so much to offer. I also love listening to music, especially King Crimson, Warren Zevon, and John Cale, and I never stopped buying vinyl. We lost count of how many boxes of books, albums, and CDs we moved to Muncie!

What advice would you offer students? 

Take full advantage of everything that Ball State has to offer now, don’t wait. And talk to your professors and advisors to create those professional connections – these can only help you when it comes to job placement, applying to graduate programs, and making sense of your studies.

 

Elysia Smith on poetry, marketing, and snuggling with your dog during the workday

Elysia Lucinda Smith is a California transplant who went to high school in Indiana before attending Ball State. She works for Metonymy Media in Indianapolis, where she lives and writes. She declares that she’s  unlearning the habits of  “Midwestern apology and avoidance one day at a time.” Find her writing online at ElysiaLucinda.com.

How did your English major lead to your current position? What skills did you learn as an English major that helped you transition into that job?

Honestly, I never expected to be where I am now. When I finished college, I immediately pursued a Masters of Fine Arts in poetry because that’s what I’d seen my friends do, not because I had much interest in teaching college. Despite this, my MFA was an excellent decision and I was blessed to be able to eat, sleep, and breathe poetry in Boston, one of the most literary cities in the US. Poetry has always been my thing, so if you’d said to me even a year ago that I’d be working in marketing, I’d probably have laughed at you. Although it’s difficult to make a career out of poetry, I’ve been doing community development work for the last five years including running the Writers’ Community at Ball State along with a pop up art show and collective called Glue & Scissors Society. Now, at my current job, not only am I getting to write every day, I’m still running community programs and workshops. I’m in charge of a space in our Fountain Square office called The Green Room and there I run a gallery, host a monthly writing workshop called Indy Word Lab, and am working to create a community flex space to support all types of groups. Most recently, I’ve entered into a partnership with a local group called Face Á Face, and I’m very excited to see what we can accomplish together.

Of all the valuable skills I learned in my English major—communication, writing, etc—the most important to me is the art of revision. Many of my students have been this way—I was certainly the same in college—but I suppose I just didn’t “believe” in revision. I thought of it as fate whenever I wrote something and the value of revision never occurred to me. What it’s shown me is that attention to detail is something you can hone and that extra words or confusing language are unnecessary.

What’s a typical day like for you?

The great benefit of working at Metonymy is that my days never look the same. I’m a pretty movement- and change-oriented person and I need a lot of control of my schedule because I’m typically involved in two external projects at any given time on top of work, on top of my own creative stuff and self-care. Some days I go into the office at 9:30 and work until about 2 pm and then I’ll go to the gym or hang out with my dog, and finish up the rest of my writing at my leisure. Some days I work from a local coffee shop. Some days I don’t work at all and wake up at 3 am and finish my writing then. As long as I can do good work and meet all my deadlines, my schedule gets to stay nice and loose.

Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out what comes next in their lives?

The first thing I’ll say is seriously seriously seriously don’t ever pay for a Masters degree. Find a program that pays you to get an MFA via a stipend, etc. That’s one thing I truly regret is taking out loans to help finance my MFA despite having a stipend. Boston was an incredibly expensive place to live. Other than that, the biggest thing is to get involved. Writers need community because they need connectivity. You want readers, you want peers who spark you, and you want the mobility to meet other writers, publishers, and organizers. Even if you just take time to go to a few readings here and there what you’ll begin to realize is that the writing community is strangely small. It’s homey. Come hang.

Also, publish your stuff! Submit as often as you can. I have a rule that whenever I write a new poem I just submit it immediately to help keep things circulating. If you don’t know where to start looking for homes for your work, check out Entropy Mag’s lists. They’re awesome. Also follow writers on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Some of my favorite follows have been Joanna C. Valente, Ariel Francisco, and August Smith!

Women in the Post-Apocalypse: An Interview with Kristen Simmons

This year’s Digital Literature Review focuses on the post-apocalyptic, including the ways gender is depicted in post-apocalyptic stories. Time and time again, women in post-apocalyptic narratives are forced back into patriarchal roles after catastrophic events. Young adult fiction writer Kristen Simmons deliberately writes stories that place young women in active, empowered roles. An award-winning author who lives in Cincinnati, Simmons has written six books and has a seventh coming out this fall. 

Simmons will read from her novel The Glass Arrow tonight at 7:30 in the Student Center Ballroom. The Glass Arrow tells the story of Aya, a girl on the run from men who hunt women and sell them at auction. 

In the interview below, Simmons talks about The Glass Arrow, about reproductive rights, about young adult fiction, and about why post-apocalyptic fictions feel timely right now. 

What inspired you to write this book? What sources did you draw inspiration from? 

I had many inspirations for this book, including Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and my own experiences as a woman. Writing has always been a way of processing events in my life, and so the beginnings of Glass Arrow are rooted in my childhood, and my transformation to teenage life, when I quickly realized the beliefs that I could do anything would be stunted by a glass ceiling, and a societal shift of values. Girls are often given the message that worth is defined by physical beauty, and how others perceive them. I wanted to write about that world, and about a girl trying to break out of it.

Why do you think there is trend in our media towards post-apocalyptic/dystopian themes and worlds? 

I think there are many writers, like me, who see dystopia as a way of examining current events. I never feel like I’m writing about the future–I feel like I’m writing an altered view of the present. Misogyny is not a concept defined by time; the media is reporting on this kind of oppression every day.

Did Aya (or other characters) ever point you to a different direction in the story than you had planned?

Oh yes! Without giving away too many spoilers, there was definitely one scene in the book I did not expect at all. I bawled when I wrote it.

Why did you focus this story on women and reproductive rights? 

Because I believe this is a current issue we’re still facing. If we don’t keep talking about it and challenging the existing constraints of our society, we’re going to find ourselves stuck, or reverting. We all need to make our voices heard. The Glass Arrow is how I’m sharing my story, and my feelings on the issue.

Why did you decide to write in the young adult genre? 

Writing to a young adult audience has never been a deliberate decision of mine. I always write the story in my head, and it often ends up that those characters are in their teen years, a time when people first experience true independence. My stories always seem to gravitate toward characters forced to make decisions they’ve never had to contemplate before–they’re young on the page, but hopefully feel relatable to any age reader.

Why did you pick a post-apocalyptic world as the setting of this novel?

I see a post-apocalyptic setting not as a future possibility, but my own processing of the present. Dystopia is the lens through which I view the world now, as is. We all process experiences in different ways, but when I think of many of the things we are facing today, I see a world in disarray, and fierce, tenacious survivors carving their way through it.

Can you tell us a little bit about your new book? 

I’m so thrilled to say that Pacifica, my next book, will be out on March 6th. It’s about a pirate girl and the son of the president, thrown together to search for their missing friend in a trash-filled world after the last of the polar ice caps have melted. Due to the environmental impact, there is tremendous strain among the people in this story–a dynamic inspired by my grandmother’s stories from her internment in a Japanese internment camp during WWII. Because of that, this book is very personal. I hope people enjoy reading it!

Original interview done by Bailey Shrewsbury.

Robbie Maakestad : Editor, Author, Award Winner

Robbie Maakestad is an Assistant Features Editor for The Rumpus and is writing a biography of place about the City of David archaeological park in Jerusalem. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Ball State and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from  George Mason University. He has been published or has forthcoming work in Essay Daily, Bad Pony, The MacGuffin, Free State Review, and Bethesda Magazine, among others. In 2017, Robbie was shortlisted for the Penguin/Travelex Next Great Travel Writer Award. Follow him at @RobbieMaakestad.

How did your English major lead to your current position? What skills did you learn as an English major that helped you transition into that job?

Without a degree in English, I certainly would not be prepared to teach or edit as I do now. After getting my BA in English from Taylor University and my MA in Creative Writing at Ball State, I attended George Mason University in Fairfax, VA (where I still live) to get an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. After graduating in May ’17, I started editing for The Rumpus and teaching nonfiction as adjunct faculty at George Washington University (GWU)–both positions that would have been unattainable without the experience afforded by my degrees. Studying English in undergrad forced me to practice critical thought in regard to my own writing and to the writing of others, which has proven essential in both my teaching and editing. Workshop in creative writing courses laid a foundation for leading discussion in my own classroom and for knowing what to look for as I select essays to publish.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Mondays and Wednesdays I teach at GWU in Washington D.C., so I commute an hour into the city by metro, teach two sections of Historical Creative Nonfiction, hold office hours, and put in several hours of my own work before heading home. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays I head to the library for 8-10 hours and grade, lesson prep/read class materials, and read and edit essay submissions. I’m currently about two-thirds of the way through writing a history of the City of David–an archaeological site in Jerusalem–so I also spend a lot of my library time working on the book, and reading archaeological reports, biographies of archaeologists, and texts about ancient Jerusalem in order to mine the history for a narrative.

Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out what comes next in their lives?

It’s probably cliché, but if you know what it is that you love to do, position yourself in order to make it happen as your career. Post-undergrad I thought that I might want to teach college English, but I wasn’t sure, so I pursued my MA in order to get teaching experience while getting a writing degree. It turned out I loved teaching at the university level (and I’ve always loved writing CNF), so for me an MFA was the next step in pursuing both of those passions. During my MFA I edited Phoebe Journal where I learned that in addition to writing my own work, I love publishing other writers, so after graduating I found an editing position. Things fall into place eventually; it’s just a matter of networking and gaining experiences that will qualify you for the job that you want eventually.

Melissa Glidden : Freelance Writer, Copyeditor, and Mom

Melissa Glidden has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Ball State University. She has translated her college learning into editing, copywriting, and marketing. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her daughter, knitting, and reading.

How did your English major lead to your current position? What skills did you learn as an English major that helped you transition into that job?

I have a B.A. in English, an M.L.S. (Master of Library Science), and an M.A. in Creative Writing. There are so many skills I gained by studying English that I use today as a copywriter, copy editor, and marketer, but to keep this from getting too long, I’ll just highlight one.

Succeeding as an English student—whether you’re studying literature or writing—requires you to look at an object (like a novel, short story, or poem) and see it for more than face value, for more than just the words on the page, or the chronological list of events that unfold in a story.

For example, if you ask the average person what the Harry Potter series is about, they’ll probably tell you it’s about a bunch of wizard kids doing wizard kid things and saving the day. But ask an English student, and they’ll tell you it’s about friendship, bravery,       sacrifice, and so on. An English student won’t just tell you that Harry Potter is a wizard boy who survived an attack by a really bad guy. They’ll tell you something about how Harry is a symbol of mankind’s ability to leverage kindness, bravery, and morality for the betterment of humanity in spite of our innate flaws and imperfections!

Copywriters (and editors, and marketers) need to be able to see A.) the product (a can of Coke) and B.) the audience (the person choosing between Coke and Dr. Pepper) for more than what they really are. Successful English majors are majorly good at this!

What’s a typical day like for you?

In addition to any copywriting work that comes through my agency Burgeon, I have a full-time job as a copywriter for a company based in San Francisco—a company that used to be one of my freelance clients! Both roles allow me to work remotely, so I can literally work from wherever I want.

Usually, I get up at 6 A.M., and drop my daughter off at school by 8 A.M. Until I leave again to pick her up by 3 P.M., anything can happen!

Typically, I have a to-do list of things that need to get done—maybe some copyediting for a client’s website, or an email marketing campaign. Sometimes, I have a phone meeting either with an agency client or someone from work.

Between all of that, I run errands or try to do something a little fun, like eat lunch at a restaurant or knit.

The greatest value of working remotely is that you aren’t forced to be in one location from 8 to 5 each day, so whether you get 30 minutes or 4 hours of downtime, you can use them more productively. You can take off all those annoying “administrative” life tasks, like waiting in line at the B.M.V., or you can give yourself an extra 20 minutes to craft the-most-perfect froyo treat at Berrywinkle. You know…priorities.

Some days, my daughter is with her father, which means I have more hours in the day to finish work. Other days, I may have a lot of interruptions like emails, phone calls, texts, or last-minute work requests. Other days still, I may simply be having difficulty concentrating, or I may be out of town (usually in San Francisco where my partner lives, and my company is based) which can mix things up even more.

The only thing that is truly consistent—I get to spend my days playing with language, meaning, sounds, and finding ways to connect people with products that have the potential to improve their lives.

Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out what comes next in their lives?

For starters, know that it is very hard to make it in whatever industry or career you’re considering. There is a lot of rejection, and not a lot of money.

Some people would call this bad advice, but here’s mine: do whatever you want to do.

Most people know, deep down, what it is they want to do, and who it is they want to be. What do you do when you’re procrastinating? What tasks do you procrastinate, and what tasks do you not procrastinate? What’s something you loved doing as a child, or were always really good at?

It’s things like that that motivated me to work on my website, tweak my portfolio, and spend hours marketing myself when, perhaps, it would have been easier to just keep doing what I had been doing (and I’ve had several less-than-fun jobs.)

Sometimes, I got exhausted and quit for a few days. Sometimes, I cried. Sometimes, I still cry! But I never lose sight of my motivation and the things that got me where I am today.

Be smart. Make a living. Do the right thing by working hard, supporting yourself, and being generous to the people who rely on you. But don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Your professors didn’t—their journeys were long and sometimes arduous, and now they make a living writing and studying things they love.

You can too. 🙂