Wordsanctuary Revisited

Musings of a writer-teacher-counselor.

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Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

I am inquisitive and have worked in writing, editing, and teaching. I am a citizen of the USA and also concerned about the world. This is an addendum to my original blog, Wordsanctuary. That's at www.wordsanctuary.blogspot.com Please check out my column at www.insidehighered.com, "A Kinder Campus." Click on Career Advice to find it. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Independence -- for entrepreneurial journalists ...

A night of note: Wed. 2/22/2012. (For those fond of the number "2," a very good spot on the calendar.) That night,  the Cleveland chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists sponsored an event that had me venture out to Independence with a friend, and doesn't that word independence work well as a metaphor, too? The community room of the Independence, Ohio, branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library provided a comfortable space for a spirited panel on the Journalist as Entrepreneur. You'd figure I'd be in the audience, but (drum roll, please...) I was also on the panel, moderated by the venerable John Ettore and with co-panelists Mary Mihaly and Eileen Beal, all writers of note.

My 15-year pin as an SPJ member had arrived in the mail the day before. Synchronicity. We were all in black (unplanned). I guess that either mirrors our dedication to the printed word or our commitment to absorbing all the subtle shades of entrepreneurial and journalistic experience.

About half of the audience consisted of writers; one could perhaps tell that by their body language even before John asked for those who write to raise their hands. Some were taking notes by hand; others tapped on their computers. And one can often tell writers, I think, by their listening skills.

The questions posed by John and the audience were stimulating and motivating. I was in learner mode myself, as I had never been on a panel before although I have given many community talks.

The text of "My life as a journalist and entrepreneur. In five minutes" follows here:

I: Confidence. Most work starts with confidence.

I suspect that many of you already have confidence, as you are in this room.

"Freelance" is a word I first heard around 1986. I was fortunate to have a stable job -- and a creative one -- at Cleveland State University Publications. I worked with graphic designers and printers and typesetters and students and one wonderful boss, also a writer, Stu Kollar—who often gave me first dibs on writing projects. I edited for almost every office in the university. Stu was also a freelancer for publications such as Northern Ohio Live, and the designers were in demand throughout the city. I observed that it was possible to work steadily by day and to have a sideline evenings and/or weekends. One designer, Jo-Ann Dontenville, showed me how to write a proposal, suggested ways to quote and modeled "how to be a freelancer" in her off hours. So I became one, intermittently, with clients acquired largely through word of mouth or answering ads. Was I an entrepreneur as well as a staff writer/editor? Yes: For me at that time, it was the best of both worlds.

II. Creativity. Cultivate it from within – find it in others.

But much -- not all -- of the writing I was doing lacked a byline. Perhaps that was one reason why -- circa 1988 -- when I saw on a library bulletin board that the Lake County-based News-Herald was looking for Cuyahoga County stringers, I followed up. Dave Jones, now retired, paid me a compliment during the interview. "Our only concern in bringing you in was that you might be too high brow [working in universities] but having met you, we can certainly see that is not the case." As well as enjoying that, I learned something else immediately from Dave. He would alternate editing to writing to political reporting roles every few years to “stay fresh.” Creativity! Over a decade I covered speeches … county fairs … school board meetings ... government meetings ... and I had my byline; more importantly, I had support and training shadowing reporters and learning from them. I never had taken a journalism course; I was an English major through the master's degree. I met John Ettorre around that time; I wrote for Carroll Alumni Journal, where he was editor; I also wrote for Eileen Beal at the Cleveland Jewish News, chiefly advertising supplements, and enjoyed that experience, too. They are great people, whose creativity speaks for itself. When I was transferred to CSU News Bureau from Publications in 1990, I had no fear of the news media; we spoke the same language.

III. Crisis. Try to elude it … but crisis will find you. Don't let life circumstances derail your professional life, even if you must reroute it.

After the birth of my son, prematurely, in 1992, I would have easily traded one of my English degrees or any/all of my clips for a nursing degree. It was a terrifying time. In my son’s first rocky year I gave up a full-time staff job at CSU in favor of adjunct teaching positions, tutoring and intermittent freelancing. Teaching gave me control of my schedule, and I taught most often at JCU, CCC, CSU, and NDC. The News-Herald was wonderful about keeping me on; however, in 1998 after my mom required neurosurgery I felt mothering-daughtering-tutoring-teaching was all I could handle for a while. Writing had to wait. I was badly hurt myself in an auto accident in 2001, with several years to recovery. Through these crises, one of the great privileges was leading community memoir-writing workshops, initially with the sponsorship of the May Dept. Store Company-turned Kaufmann’s-then Macy’s and the Cleveland Clinic and OASIS, a national organization. We spun off and became an independent writing group that thrived and met in various locations. I often wrote with my students in my own classes. I learned as I taught and taught as I learned. Writing across the lifespan is a tool for well being, I believe. This was a very fruitful part of my career, interpersonal in focus and dedicated to exploring the power of words to support healing and reflection.

IV. Collaboration. "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." (A basic math error -- but a fact of life...)

With my son growing in independence (pun intended) and my mom moving in with my sister several years ago, I began to write more consistently again. It was like rediscovering one's voice … a little scary ... and like all voice cultivation requiring practice. After marketing and revising one humor piece over and over and over and over -- and tottering on the brink of despair -- I was happy that it was accepted by Doug Lederman, one of three founders of Inside Higher Ed, a strictly online publication covering colleges and universities. The article was called "Sighing in Cyberspace." To make someone laugh from a distance: That is one of my current passions, but I am also a serious writer. From that first publication in IHE evolved an intermittent contributor relationship with IHE and now, a column called "A Kinder Campus," which is dedicated to cultivating positive morale, kindness and collegiality on campuses and -- to the degree possible -- in town/gown relationships as well. Please check it out and share ideas for and about the column!

V. Community.  We need it!

In 2009 I became one of the web editors for Chi Sigma Iota, a counseling honorary, and answered a mysterious ad for a business writer on Craigslist. Coincidentally, the man behind the ad was Todd Nighswonger, one of the editors I had worked with at the News-Herald. He, too, held several other jobs in the interim, went out on a limb and acquired the paper. The focus of Tri-County Business Journal, formerly called Lake Business Journal, is covering business advice and successful case studies and events shaping business within Lake, Geauga and Cuyahoga counties. I learn from every entrepreneur I interview, and my work brings me together with many human resources' professionals as well. For me, writing is about learning and teaching. I like to bridge words and people. Along the way, I have cultivated sidelines including counseling studies that have helped me ask ever-deepening questions, the ones we all ask ourselves sooner or later:
• Is our best work really work, or perhaps more like play?
• What conditions foster our best work?
• What will happen to the printed word in an increasingly digital age?
I wonder. Wonder with me. Ask questions!

Good luck to all who attended in achieving future writing goals
and thank you to all involved with this event for your collegiality.

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Anonymous Carrie Buchanan said...

Thanks for writing this. I totally enjoyed the program last night -- it was everything I had hoped for and more. I was grateful for your distinctive voice and experiences. I am sure many people there related to your talk, and the humor you brought to it. I'm very glad to see it reprinted here. I took copious notes but missed a few things, and looking at it i print, i am reminded of how beautifully constructed it was.

February 23, 2012 at 12:15 PM  
Anonymous Holly said...

Thank you so much for offering your time and insight at the panel discussion last night. I very much enjoyed it!

February 23, 2012 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Carrie and Holly: I appreciate your enthusiastic comments. Let's all strive to continue the dialogues begun that night.

February 24, 2012 at 11:48 PM  
Blogger Tamanna Farhana said...

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November 23, 2016 at 10:09 AM  

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