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!

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