By Hope Bolinger | Echo
You're a writing major?
Do you have a backup plan? Does typing words actually pay these days? What are you going to do with that? Do you plan to go into editing? Will you work for a newspaper? When will you finish your first novel? Don't you know print is dead?
Authors such as junior creative writing major Samantha Hurst have identified occupational questions like these that plague wordsmiths. It seems writing and having a career go together like stress and finals week. Impossibly.
Despite these questions, a number of alumni and current students from each of the writing degrees have found success in their fields. From publications editors to library circulation clerks, Taylor graduates share stories of how they found the "write" occupation.
Alumni Veronica Toth ('16) and Robbie Maakestad ('12) incorporate two vastly different facets of creative writing into their jobs.
Maakestad, once a writing consultant at Taylor's Writing Center, works as the editor-in-chief at Phoebe: Journal of Literature and Art. Before he landed a position at Phoebe, Maakestad taught a handful of creative writing classes at Ball State University while simultaneously earning an M.A. in creative writing there.
While Maakestad's occupation tackles the editorial side of writing, Toth handles the academic. "(My work) is less driven by creativity and more by pragmatics," Toth said. Toth has a teaching-assistant job at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She recalls the passion she felt for her major in classes such as Introduction to Creative Writing with Aaron Housholder, professor of English. Hurst affirms she encountered several gems of wisdom in the same class. She appreciated how Housholder alleviates the pressure to create perfect pieces of prose.
Toth relishes teaching the satisfying and helpful aspects of writing to her students she learned from professors such as Housholder:
"Enjoy it, and know that even if you never touch an English-related field again after graduation, your time (at Taylor) is building your character in vital and sustaining ways."
Chandler Birch ('14) worked hard to transformed goals of freelancing and editing into reality.
Birch immerses himself in his job as publications editor at the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). For this school-support organization, Birch edits the Christian School Education magazine. Birch also polishes legal legislative updates written by teachers, administrators and lawyers from ACSI.
Along with editing, Birch writes. Simon & Schuster published his book "The Facefaker's Game" this past Tuesday. Birch's thrilling novel follows Ashes, a pickpocket in the Victorian era, who ends up as an apprentice to a group of pilfering magicians.
Before he graduated, Birch had a number of accomplishments at Taylor. Among those accomplishments, Birch considers being published in Parnassus his freshman year his greatest achievement. He remembers several of his publications came after persevering through rough drafts:
"There are two stages of my development as a writer: before I started writing a lot and after I started writing a lot. The good stuff happens after."
In a single summer, Birch balanced graduating, getting married and meeting a 60,000 word deadline. According to Birch, if he had not created so much content in a short amount of time, "The Facefaker's Game" may not have been a reality.
Ellie Hershberger, a junior journalism major, aspires to do well in her field before graduating. She served as a graphic design intern at The Christian Missionary Alliance, creating graphics and penning magazine articles. Hershberger also edits the Ilium Yearbook. The student writer attributes such achievements to Taylor's journalism program and professors. Donna Downs, department co-chair, and Mike Saunier, assistant professor of communication, have made a particular impact on Hershberger:
"(The professors) care about our personal lives and if we're developing more than just our
Hershberger and alumna Hillarie Finley ('13) shared an admiration for Downs' class on magazine and feature writing. In this tough course, students must create an entire magazine, showcasing feature stories and graphic design.
Now a circulation clerk at Kirklin Public Library, Finley uses skills she learned at Taylor, ranging from creating fliers to updating the library's website. Finley implements reporting skills in her everyday tasks.
"I need to know how to ask patrons the right questions so they can leave feeling like they had the best possible experience, whether they stopped in for a book, a movie or free Internet," Finley said.
Finley encourages journalism majors to start a blog and stay active on social media. The alumna also urges writers to read voraciously:
"I don't want to hear any excuses about people not having enough time to read. You have to make time."
The right profession
"You're a writing major? What do you do?"
You can tell stories through editing and teaching; designing graphics and freelancing. Graduates have proven job description does not erase your ability to shape words.
No need for further questions.