Our next creative writing graduate probably represents a fairly large segment of our studied population—people who apply what they have learned whenever they can in entry-level positions, and who know their abilities could be better used if only their supervisors had the creativity to tap those abilities. And then there is the bind we all find ourselves at particularly troubling moments, confronted by the need to make a living and yet knowing that while making such a living we are in danger of losing the ambitions that once propelled us through school.
The subject lives in a city of around 104,000 people in the northwest corner of the state, and has two jobs—part-time as a youth ministry leader for a Methodist church and as a “banking service counselor” at a call center, where her tasks include such things as answering account questions and persuading customers to initiate balance transfers. Most of the writing samples she brought with her to the interview, however, were from a previous job organizing youth activities at the YMCA in a college town with approximately 6600 people around 20 miles south of the city where she lives. At a few points in the interview, the subject expressed disappointment with her bank job and clearly derived more satisfaction from her church position. She said she had tried to get jobs with more writing but has had the “worst luck” because companies ask for the type of experience she hasn’t been able to accumulate.
Towards end of the interview I tried to help her find writing she might derive from her experiences at the call center, particularly scripts that would either anticipate phone conversations or represent them after they had occurred. The subject responded to these suggestions with enthusiasm. “That’s a great idea. I actually, I have had so many writing ideas, and it’s so frustrating, because I have all these ideas and things to write, of all the adventures I’ve been on in my life. And I wish I could just see, with two jobs and, you know, not much free time.” This exchange also reminded her of script writing she had done in her previous job, where she developed a program called “Theatrical Thursdays,” for which she wrote out “scripts for the kids to act out.” In her current church job she saw a practical application for scripts. “As a youth ministry leader, we make announcements every week and I always have to write them down before I make them because I’ve made the mistake of not doing that and then I’ll have the microphone and sometimes blank out.”
One unusual element of this interview was the subject’s response on the survey that she had “not yet” begun to “write on concerns you have or issues you confront as a citizen of your locality, state, or nation.” That meant she was planning to do such writing in future. “I guess I’m more opinionated, as I have lived longer and have gained experience.” At the YMCA she made distinct invention and style moves to try to draw youths to her programs, conducting surveys (both paper and over the phone), using bold or appropriate colors to draw readers to a bulletin board, carefully selecting words and phrases that will make the events attractive. She also thought she could do a better job of writing the training materials posted by her supervisors on an electronic Employee Information Center at the call center. “There’s a lot of communication I would love to edit. … For the training class there were things that just didn’t even seem like complete sentences sometimes. So you were wondering how they got that far.” It was interesting that she applied a technique I’ve taught in College Writing I for correcting run-ons—“maybe cut out a whole sentence and consolidate it into two sentences.”
Much of her writing at the YMCA was produced using Microsoft Publisher, and she regretted not having it on her “older” computer at the church, where she must rely almost exclusively on Microsoft Word. The subject enhances her work with photos downloaded from a digital camera and expressed a desire to learn Photo Shop. She cited the Technical and Scientific Writing course for helping her learn to organize a letter (“The order of, the purpose for each paragraph in a letter. How it’s introducing things, the body of it, fade to the main point and then the end. I still think about that class when I’m at the end wrapping it up.”), Public Speaking, and the creative writing courses, for giving her audience awareness—“because you’d want to think about the audience and the setting and who you’re trying to reach. Keeping everyone in mind.” In one of her College Writing courses she received practice with script writing. Given her need to do advertising copy in her previous position, she would have liked our course on Advertising Copywriting to have been a requirement, and she was happy to hear of the portfolio requirement now in place.
For her church ministry job, she uses reference works such as “a teen study bible” and will “google a worship song so that I can find the music to print out.” Written and phone surveys have already been mentioned. The subject initially said she wasn’t using any research processes she learned or developed as an undergraduate but then recanted when reminded that interviewing was research, as she had done that for the Autobiographical Writing course. She hinted that she would look again at the Field Work textbook she had for College Writing II (“I still have all those books, and I wouldn’t get rid of them for anything.”), as she wishes to interview “people one-on-one about their faith. And putting that into some type of writing.” More practice in that kind of research would have been good, as the one technique that seemed to have been worked on was developing a schedule of questions.