Amanda Moves to the Big Apple

IMG_9325.jpgI have come home every day for the last three weeks exhausted. My feet aching, my ankles covered in blisters from shoes that I believed to be comfortable but have thus far betrayed me, my back damp from sweating on the subway platform and my hair frizzy from the humid city air. (Gross, I know. I’m a vision.)

Every time I make it home I feel relieved because I’m back in the safe haven that is my concrete basement apartment that seems to be perpetually a work in progress. But it is familiar and predictable, and for that, I am grateful.

New York City is not familiar and predictable. You could step in dog shit accidentally and not notice all day or miss an e-mail telling you not to come into the office until 11 when you woke up at 6 or be on the wrong subway for 20 minutes and not realize it. The city is not predictable, but my apartment is predictable. My apartment is slow-moving, and my roommate is loving and comforting, where the city is not. And I relish in those facts.

I graduated in May and all I’ve been thinking about all summer is how much I want to go back. Things were so much easier in college and I realize now that, while I did not take many of the professional and networking and classes for granted (I did pretty much all I could do and interned and worked nonstop. Yeah, this is a humble-brag), I definitely took the social aspect of college for granted, except maybe my last semester of college where I lived for going out on Thursday nights for karaoke.

In college, all your friends are right there, all the time. You could text your girl friend and ask her if she wanted to get a drink with you or watch a movie and she could say yes and then you’d both be at Viva, frozen margarita in hand, or splayed out on the couch in front of your roommate’s Apple TV in 10 minutes. 

In the city, hanging out with someone is an ordeal. You have to text someone hours, sometimes days in advance. You have to find somewhere to meet that’s in between where you both live/work or it’s a hassle for both of you. I work most days from 10 am-5 pm, so I can’t do really anything during the day. Classes at NYU start next week, so then I’ll be there doing that from 6:30-9 pm, and then the day is over and then I’m going to pass out from exhaustion and the hectic city work-class-sleep-repeat cycle will start all over.

I’ve been having not the easiest time mental health-wise here. I’m going to be honest– transitioning from Ithaca to Harlem has been HARD. Other than transitioning from living in Croton to living in Ithaca when I was 18 years old, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

When I was a kid, I always wanted to live in the city. I always wanted to know the city like my dad knows it. The city has ENERGY. The city is ALIVE. There are always people doing things– moving, thinking, creating, living. The city is where all of the people who are doing the things that I want to be doing, working in book publishing, lived and thrived, and when I was a kid I would think all the time about how, one day, I was going to be one of them.

I have been here for almost a month, and I am learning that it is a lot harder to be one of those living and thriving people when New York keeps kicking my ass with its vastness and its unpredictability.

I have learned that I am terrible at dealing with change (but I kind of knew that already. Moving here has just reiterated that). And I have learned that New York is a really hard place to live. It toughens you up, and I was not a tough person to begin with. I am basically an uncooked noodle in the boiling pot of water that is New York. (I realize that that was a terrible visual comparison but I’m going to leave it anyway because now I’m rereading this blog post and cracking up.)

Here is what I’ve learned so far: New York makes you try. You can’t just exist here. You have to be actively existing– doing things to make money, better yourself, talk to people and find human connections. The city out there is scary, and I’ve learned that I have to dive right in, no toe dipping, diving, or I’m going to fail, and failing is not an option for me.

Classes at NYU start in a week and a half (!!), and I am scared out of my mind. I’ve heard that the professors and students in my program are really nice and supportive, which is encouraging. I know I’m going to have to dive in order to survive there, and I’m terrified about that. I have been feeling kind of defeated, but what I think I have to do is just get used to living here, toughen up a little bit and find where I belong, and everything will eventually fall into place.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.53.33 PM

Posted in Things I've Learned in College | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

10 Things I Learned as an Arts/Entertainment Writer at the Ithaca Times

Not to brag, (commence bragging) but I know a lot about a lot of different kinds of writing. I mean, I was a writing major at IC. I took classes in feature writing, all different types of essays, personal, academic, you name it, professional/business writing, creative nonfiction, fiction, children’s literature, editing… I would say that I know what I’m doing when it comes to that stuff, more or less.

I’ve had experience in being an editor and in feature writing and in teaching writing and in writing copy, but something I found I was lacking in: skills in straight up journalism.

Journalistic writing is one of those writing styles that never appealed to me, but that’s also because I never really tried doing it. It’s so straightforward– it’s all facts. You have to be unbiased, and that eliminates most (if not all) of the creative elements that make writing fun.

I knew that I wanted to spend the summer in Ithaca — they say that you need at least one Ithaca summer, and this was it –so I started researching options for what I could do in my last few months here. I found that some of my fellow writing majors and copy editors I knew when I copy edited for The Ithacan (shoutout to Christie Citranglo and Jessica Afrin) had worked at the Ithaca Times, a local newspaper (print and online) that emphasized community and culture in Ithaca and Tompkins County. I love Ithaca and I thought that it would be worth it to expand my writing repertoire and look into the world of journalism.

With the help of Barbara Adams, director of the Writing internship program at IC, I sent an e-mail to Nick Reynolds at the Ithaca Times. Within two days I had a freelance job there as an arts and entertainment writer, and started writing for them in May.

18700112_10212840745479522_6149102430387878905_n.jpg

My first day on the job.

It was a freelance position, and I learned a lot about journalism and what it meant to be a journalist. I sat in on editorial meetings. I drove all around Ithaca and Tompkins County and cold called/e-mailed people to interview them. I wrote exclusively in and refreshed what I knew about AP Style.

Journalistic writing is a multifaceted style of writing. While simple and less artistic than other kinds of writing I’ve done, there are a lot of different and important parts to it. For example, ethics really matter in journalism. So does accuracy in terms of facts and quotes. Clarity in your writing is so important– clearly communicating what you’re trying to say helps you reach your audience. Sometimes you get to have fun and be creative with your openers and closers. And it’s always really cool to see your name in print and know that what you write about matters to people.

Journalism isn’t just about a simpler style of writing– it’s about helping people access information they need or didn’t know they needed to know. It’s about public relations, in my opinion, especially when it came to the topics that I wrote about this summer.

This summer with the Ithaca Times was an extremely valuable experience. It taught me about journalism, networking, and all that Ithaca and Tompkins County has to offer, and made me feel closer to Ithaca than ever before.

Click here for a link to my article about States of Mind Literary Magazine.

Click here for a link to my article about Woofstock, an animal shelter fundraiser Americana Vineyards holds annually.

Click here for a link to my article about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and Suzanne Bloom.

Click here for a link to my article about Vagabon, an artist that performed at the Haunt.

Click here for a link to my article about And the Sparrow Fell by Robert Mrazek.

Below I’ve written 10 things I learned from working this summer as an arts and entertainment writer at the Ithaca Times. Enjoy!


  1. You have to have at least 3 sources to write a full-fledged, all-encompassing article.
  2. Reaching out to people and not hearing back — especially when you’re under a deadline and you need a quote — is nerve wracking and stressful, but it’s always worth it to try.
  3. You! Have! To! Follow! Deadlines! Other editors and designers depend on you to produce content for a certain issue/date. It is irresponsible and unprofessional to let them down.
  4. Save all of the articles you write, whether that’s in print form, online link, or PDF. That way you can add it to your professional portfolio.
  5. There are lots of ways you can get creative with journalistic writing. You can write funny hooks to draw people in. You can switch up your angle so that people see a topic or a person or an event differently. You can add a creative closer/conclusion. You can add a title that grabs the reader’s attention.
  6. When interviewing, ask as many questions as you can. That way, when you write your article, you can switch up or change your focus with ease.
  7. Sometimes you can’t wait for your editor to assign you a topic. Be constantly brainstorming and thinking of ideas and things to write about.
  8. You should communicate consistently with your editor about photographing the event that your article is based on, deadlines, as well as article ideas.
  9. Make sure you’re getting compensated fairly for the work that you put in. Freelance is hard because sometimes it doesn’t pay very well.
  10. Stay connected to the community and get as involved as you can. That way you know what’s going on and have more things to write about.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 11.46.40 AM

Posted in Things I've Learned in College | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Amanda Graduates College

18555898_10212774440301934_4926171899453794022_n.jpg

Well… It’s over. I graduated college. And yeah, I’m not done with school forever (I’m heading to NYU in the fall to get my masters in Publishing: Digital and Print Media), but no more taking classes at IC for me (and no more ICC for me either!!!!)! Hooray! I’m not going to see the same people every day– the fellow students and friends and faculty in the community that I’ve come to love (and tolerate and deal with), and that’s both okay and not okay.

The past few weeks have been a blur. I’ve tried to get in quality time with the people that matter to me, but it’s been hard with graduation inching closer and closer. My friend Marisa, whether she realizes it or not, kept saying “This is the last time we…” at the beginning of a lot of her sentences, and I refused to accept that fact. I still refuse to accept it. I knew that all of this was going to end eventually.

What does it mean for all of this to end, anyway? I’m glad that there are some people I won’t have to see or deal with, maybe ever again (except on social media). So that’ll be the end of that, I guess. Regarding people who you don’t have great relationships with, my dad always says that you have to make them matter less. So they’ll matter less because I won’t have to see them ever again at all. (!)

On a somewhat different note, they say that you need at least one Ithaca summer. So I’m here til August, working at The Ithaca Times. And maybe that’s part of the reason why I haven’t accepted that I graduated from IC. I’m still here, even if a lot of people aren’t. It just doesn’t feel like it ended. There are people I know who are also staying for the summer. People will still be coming back in the fall, even if I’m leaving. Kids just keep cycling through. College is still happening, even if I don’t go here.

There are a lot of people that graduated with a lot of ????????? feelings, meaning they don’t know what they’re doing next, whether that means getting a job or going to grad school or what. And that’s fine! It’s okay to not know! It’s okay to still be figuring things out!

I’m graduating with more !!!!!!!!!!!!!! feelings. I’m lucky to have a plan and set things for me to figure out in the coming months, and to have people to support and help me through it. But it’s still scary that I won’t be coming back to school here in the fall. It’s scary that things are a little uncertain, even if I have a plan.

I remember how much I used to hate it here. I’ve been looking back at my reflections from when I was a freshman and from when I was a sophomore. Freshman year I was sad and alone. I had a boyfriend who lived in Buffalo, and I thought that was all I needed. But it turned out to not be enough. I had 3 great friends, and then I didn’t (my own fault). (We’re all on good terms now, which I am grateful for.) I left Ithaca without really anybody. I forced myself to figure out who I was without my boyfriend and without anyone else. I was not excited to come back in the fall, I was on the verge of transferring…

But I came back to give it a second chance. My dad always says that people need second chances, and so did Ithaca. I remember going to the A&E Center to pick up my keys to my new dorm room in August of 2014 and running into Sam Brodsky, who I knew from Intro to Poetry. She was a person I greeted with a hug and a smile, and someone who was actually happy to see me. She was a friend. And that’s why I decided to stay. That’s why I made my goal for sophomore year Amanda makes friends.

Thank you Sam, for being my friend all four years. Thank you for listening to me cry and for reading my writing and for being my person. Thank you for being a deciding factor in me staying.

That year I met and became friends with a lot of people, who I almost named here but decided against. All of these people who– some who aren’t in my life anymore, some who still are, some who I’m close with and some who I’m not, some who I can wave at in the hallway and smile at, are the reasons I stayed. My sophomore year was probably the best year of my college experience. I made friends, I lost friends, but I found a place where I belonged, more or less. Sophomore year is when Ithaca became home.

I didn’t write a reflection post-junior year because I was afraid. This is the hardest thing for me to write about because I’m still kind of afraid– of people brushing off my feelings and what I write about because they don’t like me. I’m afraid of people making judgments about what I have to say and about me because they don’t like me. But honestly– that’s dumb. I shouldn’t care about what people think of me. And this is my space to say what I think.

Last year I was in a not-so-great relationship with a boy, and that boy came with a lot of baggage. I lost a lot of friends because I made the decision to be with him. I received mean, anonymous messages on Tumblr– I even got a death threat. I was ostracized from a lot of people. I felt uncomfortable in Ithaca. I felt like I didn’t matter. I made myself small and take up less space in the world so I couldn’t hurt or bother anybody that I had hurt by being in a relationship with him. I stopped writing. And no matter how much I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t, I was really unhappy in that relationship and with myself. The only people that could see it were my friends who tried to warn me. Sabina tried to do something about it, but I wouldn’t listen to her.

The summer after junior year I had so much anxiety about my relationship with this boy and maintaining my relationship with this boy that I developed a sort of eating disorder. I was playing a hunger game with myself. I lost so much weight that my clothes didn’t fit. I was so hungry all the time I could barely concentrate. I stopped brushing my teeth. I stopped taking my medication. My trichotillomania started acting up again, and my obsessive compulsive disorder became harder and harder to handle. I didn’t put on makeup for work. I stopped hanging out with my friends. I didn’t care about myself, and this boy didn’t really act like he did either.

Eventually we broke up, but enough damage had been caused by my relationship with him that it affected my relationships and friendships with other people in Ithaca. And that is what hurt the most. It made Ithaca less of a home for me. Sabina said to me on the last night I saw her (she’s going to Europe for a while post-grad) that our friendship hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it, which meant so much to me that I cried in the middle of Moonie’s.

Coming into senior year trying to deal with the repercussions of my relationship with this boy was really hard. People still don’t like me because I dated him. I hurt people because I dated him. And for that I am genuinely sorry. It was selfish of me, but I got hurt in my relationship with him too. This is something that I’ve wanted to write for a very long time, and now I feel like I can put it out there. I’m saying this because I want people to understand it was hard for me, and that I’m sorry.

Senior year was a year of recovery. It was a year of growing and moving on. It was a year of finding somewhere that I belonged. It was a year of not giving a shit about what other people think of me, or at least to a lesser degree. It was about doing my best and living my life for myself and my future, not anyone else.

I’ve always struggled with the concept of home. I didn’t feel like my mom’s house was home when I lived there. I don’t feel like my dad’s house is home anymore, not that I ever really did. My freshman year I lived alone in a single room and I hated it. My sophomore year my roommate and I didn’t get along. My junior year roommates and I struggled with keeping the status quo in our apartment.

This year, in my house on Hudson Street, I found a group of people that I could have fun with and be myself with– a group of people who were truly supportive and kind and who gave me a place that was mine. They made Ithaca feel like home for me, and for that I am grateful too. Thank you, Alexa, Kaitlin, Dom, Evan, Luke Waldner. Thank you thank you thank you.

I found a home in IC Women in Communications– this semester I had the honor and privilege of being president of a group that I’ve been a part of for all four years of school. WIC has always meant so much to me (how many times have I written about it on this blog?). My e-board and general body members have always been so supportive– WIC is a club dedicated to professionalism and women in communications, but we were also friends, and we became really close. WIC helped me find a sense of belonging here, and for that I am also grateful. Thank you to my Spring 2017 e-board– Lexy, Allie, Natalie, Kiersten, Madi, Emma– for lending an ear and a hug when I needed it this semester.

I think that what I’ve looked for all four years of college is a place where I belonged. I wanted people to like me and want to spend time with me. I wanted friends. I wanted people who would listen to me and who I could trust with myself. I wanted a place that felt like I was supposed to be there. It took me a really long time to find all that and figure myself out in terms of that, but I found it here in Ithaca and I’m not ready for it to be over.

In August I move to New York with Siena to attend NYU and I have to figure out where I belong all over again. That is what these !!!!!!!!!!! feelings are. They’re about finding a place and finding people and finding what I’m all about somewhere else. I will be under construction in New York instead of Ithaca, and I’m scared.

Right now I am lucky to have found my voice again. I’m happy I can be honest with myself and with everyone else on here. I graduated college. We’ll see how everything else goes.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.53.33 PM

Posted in Things I've Learned in College | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Working for Hire in the Educational Market

Capture.PNG

In last week’s shoptalk meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, we talked about the educational market and working for hire. Members collectively asked and answered questions about these topics, which I’ve outlined below if you’re interested in working fore hire as a writer.

What materials are published in the educational market? 

There are many opportunities to get your writing out there and get published in the educational market. You can write lesson plans, manuals, test passages, text books, test questions, biographies, and all different types of nonfiction educational material. Most educational writing is work for hire. 5386189.jpg

What does it mean to work for hire

When you work for hire in the book publishing industry,  you, as a writer, can propose an idea, but it’s more likely that a publisher/packager will assign you something to write that you will be compensated for upon completion.

It’s great to work for hire because it gives you a guaranteed income and publication credits. You also don’t have to worry about formatting your book, or artwork and photos that will accompany your text. (Keep in mind that you don’t receive book royalties and you don’t own the copyright on your own material, which you might have issue with as a producer of content.)

What is a book packaging company?

A book packaging company is a company that is hired by publishers to get specific books/topics produced by writers. They work as the middle man between you and the book publisher. They’re more likely to hire work for hire writers than publishers because they pay writers less so they can profit more off of publishers.

How do I find a work for hire company to send my work to?

Check out these websites/books for market lists:

  • evelynchristensen.com/markets.html (Children’s author Evelyn Christensen has a page of links to publishers of educational material.)
  • the-efa.org (The Editorial Freelancers Association)
  • apbaonline.org (a trade group for book packagers)
  • mollyblaisdell.com/wfh.html (
  • aepweb.org (Association of Educational Publishers)
  • NFforKids Yahoo Group (a listserv for the discussion of writing, marketing, and publishing nonfiction books for children)
  • Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career by Nancy I. Sanders

Some more fun stuff about working for hire and the educational market:

  • The biggest employers of work for hire writers are educational publishers and book packaging companies.
  • Book packagers and publishers determine how the book will be formatted– meaning, chapters, word count, side bars, even the targeted reading level, will be decided beforehand.
  • You don’t have to fact check when you write educational materials, but you do have to cite your sources when you submit.
  • Writing for the educational market doesn’t pay very much, but adds to your writing experience as well as publishing experience, and can open doors to other publishing opportunities.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.53.33 PM

 

Posted in Books, Things I've Learned in College | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Value of Stories and Storytelling

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

This week’s meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators offered a presentation by storytelling experts, Mitch Weiss and Martha Hamilton. Mitch and Martha have dedicated their lives to storytelling. Starting to collaborate in storytelling in Ithaca, New York, Mitch and Martha have been writing children’s stories together for over 36 years (just as long as they’ve been married!). Check out their website here, and the clip below to see a sample of their performance from the meeting.

Mitch and Martha specialize in telling stories based off of other stories, like fables and folktales. Retelling these short and simple fundamental stories help children tell stories of their own. Many famous authors have taken old stories and their ideas and recreated them. For example, The Rough Faced Girl by Rafe Martin, Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson, and Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella Story by Tomie dePaola are all retellings of the classic fairytale Cinderella.

In retelling stories, Mitch and Martha emphasize that you must change the title and tell the story in your own words while still respecting the general outline/plot of the original story. You also have to give credit where credit is due.

Mitch and Martha’s first collection of stories was called Stories in my Pocket. It was published by a small publishing house called August House that specializes in storytelling, and they continued to publish books there, along with their collaborative work with Ted Arnold at other houses.

2c9dc0785c23cc25c50e96a80d777d50

Fly Guy books written & illustrated by Ted Arnold

Ted Arnold is a famous children’s book illustrator, of Fly Guy and Parts fame. Mitch and Martha pitched an idea to Ted Arnold about illustrating stories with noodlehead characters (pictured below), and he loved it. They ended up sending their idea to Scholastic and then to Holiday House, a smaller book publishing company in New York City.

12543278_560670907414683_1701396483_n

Hey, who are you calling a noodlehead?

On their website, Mitch and Martha talk about the importance of teaching students the craft of storytelling:

It’s difficult to be successful if you’re not a good communicator and communication is, at its most basic level, the ability to tell a story well, whether to one person or to a group. Most of us will use reading and writing in our chosen professions, but all of us will use speaking and listening. Yet in the past, these two literacy skills have received little attention compared to reading and writing. There is growing recognition among educators that literacy is more effectively taught when reading, writing, speaking, and listening are seen as connected and equally important.

In my Multimodal Literacy class, I’ve learned that this is definitely true. Learning to actively listen as well as speak are two skills that have been undervalued in most education systems. Learning how to tell stories increases self-esteem, it’s inclusive, improves kid’s listening skills…Storytelling is how we pass down values and beliefs. Rather than memorize facts, we remember the essential information and how it makes us feel. It helps kids be more articulate when speaking. Learning a story rather than memorizing a story essentially ensures a better understanding of its meaning and craft. It also encourages critical thinking and creative writing, as well as a love and appreciation for other cultures and places.

This also brings me back to what working at Writopia has taught me and preaches– writing stories and giving students the space they need to write and think critically and creatively is so important in their personal development. Writing and storytelling helps kids communicate and understand themselves and the world a little better, and that is incredibly valuable. I think that Mitch and Martha understand that value, and it was really heartwarming to see them work together, talk about their books and stories, and perform for us.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.53.33 PM

Posted in Things I've Learned in College | Leave a comment

Bold Beginnings: How to Hone Your Opening

Read the following:

  • “My alarm went off at 7:30 a.m. I yawned, got out of bed, walked to the bathroom, and started to brush my teeth. I was so excited to see Taylor Swift in concert tonight!’Jess, come downstairs! I have something important to tell you,’ I heard Mama shout from the kitchen.”
  • “The night Taylor Swift fell from the stage was the same night Mama told me I was adopted, and I’m not sure what broke my heart more.”

If you picked up a book in a bookstore and it had one of these bullet points as a first sentence/paragraph, which would you be more inclined to buy and read? Which would you be more interested in?

I, for one, would definitely be more interested in the book that starts off with the second bullet point. It catches my attention, it starts off with rising action, and it makes me want to read more.

The second shoptalk meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators I attended at my local Barnes & Noble was hosted by Rob Costello, a representative from the Highlights Foundation (an organization that holds workshops for children’s book authors and illustrators — check out their website to learn more!) and a young adult fiction writer. He focused the shoptalk specifically on the importance of a good novel opening, and on the dos and don’ts of how to write one.

Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 12.10.10 AM.png

Good openings to novels help make what you’re writing appeal to readers. Generally speaking, if the first page/line doesn’t grab the reader’s attention, you’ve lost 50% of your potential audience. Former literary agent Leslie Daniels says that if the first line doesn’t grab her, the manuscript goes back in the pile (which is kind of depressing, if you ask me).

That being said, the main job of a book’s opening is to hook the reader. And openings are really hard to get right! You have to include information about background and characters that seem critically relevant and necessary to explain, all the while maintaining the reader’s interest.

There are two types of openings that Mr. Costello warned us not to start with:

  1. Data Dump Opening— when you overwhelm the reader with facts about your protagonist that don’t really matter. Example: Describing the physicality of your main character right off the bat isn’t all that interesting.
  2. Steady State Opening— when you provide background information/set up the scene before inciting an incident. Normal life isn’t interesting! And it’s no way to hook a reader.

Mr. Costello also warned us not to begin with dialogue or backstory or a dream or a prologue.

He also warned us that many people (including him) will tell you not to begin with dialogue or backstory or a dream or a prologue, but that these rules don’t apply to everything. If you demonstrate sufficient skills as a writer and hook the reader, anything you write can work.

Something that always works is dissonance.

In the music world, dissonance means “a lack of harmony among musical notes.” In the literary world (and otherwise), dissonance means “a tension or clash resulting from the combination of two disharmonious or unsuitable elements.” It can be anything that’s counterintuitive, unsettling, contradictory– elements that grab the reader’s attention and force them to engage and ask questions

Dissonance works in novel openings because it disrupts the flow of the reader’s expectations in shocking ways. Taylor Swift fell off the stage at a concert and a protagonist’s mother telling her she’s adopted are two dissonant plot elements that clash and catch the reader’s attention, making them want to read more.

The easiest way to create dissonance in your opening is to begin with action. If you have action, there’s conflict. You can also create dissonance through setting, mood, and voice/tone. Anything that contradicts itself and grabs your reader’s attention works, and once you’ve grabbed your reader’s attention, you can test their patience by providing more expository information.

I’ve always found beginnings to be one of the hardest things to write. I never know where to start or how to start or how to start in a way that will make what I’m trying to say matter. I think, ultimately, that two things you have to keep in mind are your story and your reader. How can you make what you’re trying to say matter to the person that you want to read it and engage with it?

Just some things to keep in mind.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.53.33 PM

Posted in Creative Writing, Things I've Learned in College | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Everything I Learned at NYWICI’s 2016 Student Communications Career Conference

14900435_1439162002763846_5248921008376329740_n

Ithaca College Women in Communications e-board and general body members attend NYWICIscc16.

This past Saturday, November 5th I attended New York Women in Communications’ 2016 Student Communications Career Conference as Vice President of Ithaca College Women in Communications with the fabulous, motivated, and accomplished e-board and general body members of WIC. This was my fifth time attending the conference– the first time I went I was 17, in 2011. (Shoutout to our amazing president Katie Baldwin for all her hard work planning and budgeting and leading. The trip wouldn’t have happened without her!)

What made this year so special for me was that it was my last time attending a NYWICI conference as a student at Ithaca College, since I’m a senior. In honor of that, I wore the dress that I wore when I won a NYWICI scholarship as a senior in high school (luckily it still fit!).

Since it’s my last year, I’ve been thinking about the conference and its implications with a new perspective. I was 17 when I first attended. I knew what I wanted to do with my career at the time (it’s always been children’s book editing, for those who don’t know) but was too young to understand how I was going to get there. Going to the conference when I was 17 helped me focus my goals, without having to put them into action just yet.

As a senior in college and someone currently applying to graduate school, all of the amazing women panelists and speakers that I’ve encountered and listened to, all of the career and life advice that I’ve received, all of the eager and motivated college students I’ve met at the past five conferences, came into play. I’m about to enter the real world. It’s time to take everything I’ve learned and apply it. Thanks to NYWICI, thanks to WIC, I couldn’t be more prepared (still scared, but significantly more prepared) and excited about my future as a young professional woman.

Screen Shot 2016-11-06 at 9.16.29 PM.png

Taylor Trudon and Stephanie Guzman, my scholarship mother hens, and Ashley Schwartz-Lavares, a fellow scholarship winner, at NYWICIscc16.

Like last year, I took a lot of notes at the conference and compiled a list of it all, which you’ll find below! I summarized each panel I attended/speaker I listened to, as well as wrote down the big picture/specific lessons and advice that I learned. I also italicized the lessons that especially hit home for me.

Enjoy!


screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-8-44-49-pmLiz Perle– Digital Strategy & Consulting, Teen Trends & Tech 

What it’s all about: Liz Perle was our first keynote speaker. She works at Instagram and used to work at HuffPost Teen– her whole deal is figuring out what teens like and teen trends in social media, technology, and culture. She is extremely connected within NYWICI and seemed like a down-to-earth, passionate person who really knew what she was talking about.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Don’t go after an important sounding job. Go after an important job.
  • Remember that there’s no difference between online life and offline life.
  • Be honest in your work and be human.
    • Being transparent about the work you do/where you are will make a difference in how credible you are as a worker/person.
  • Always be looking at what younger people are doing.
    • Young people understand authenticity better than anyone else.
  • Communications jobs might someday exist in spaces that aren’t communication spaces right now.
  • Be obsessive about things.
  • Understanding computers/how to sort through data is an extremely useful skill in today’s day and age.
  • Figure out how to back up what you’re saying with facts/data.
  • The best way to succeed in a job is to be bold in what you’re doing.
  • Frame your elevator pitches with a problem. Identify the problem you’re solving and the space you’re filling and they will see why you are necessary and important.
  • Social media is not a distraction. It’s a tool.
  • Ruthlessly prioritize what you’re working on.
    • To focus better and be less distracted, do fewer things.

14900380_10210821519240128_7624353726365273031_nDigital & Social Media Platforms Panel 

What it’s all about: The first panel I attended explored how online platforms can help expand your audience, repertoire, and experience through the point of views of Liz Gumbinner, who is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Cool Mom Picks, Roxanne Emadi, who is an editor and curator at Buzzfeed News, Kari Hodes, who is the Head of Audience Development and Analytics at Time Inc., and Lauren Rabaino, who is the Director of Storytelling and Brand Development at Vox. The panel was moderated by Melissa Finney, who is in advertising partnerships at Flipboard, Inc.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Everyone you meet is going to come back in your life in ways you never expected, so be nice and know that everyone is a potential ally/a potential mentor/a potential contact.
  • Be okay with being highly qualified.
  • You don’t get a seat at the table– you earn one. Keep kicking ass at what you’re doing and you’ll be at that table.
  • If you work really hard you won’t just get there– you’ll be there.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask people for things, whether that’s a job, a raise or a collaboration.
  • You don’t have to have it all figured out from your first job.
  • A job is a job is a job.
  • Take computer classes/data analysis classes. Knowing/understanding data is the new literacy.
  • Ask about salary. You will find yourself working at a substandard salary for years if you don’t ask to get the money you deserve.
    • Negotiate the base of your salary first.
    • Believe in yourself and ask for a raise.
  • Don’t ever take a job just for the money.
  • The worst thing that can happen is that someone will say no. But you should always ask.
  • People will not share information with you if you don’t share information with them.
  • Have a personality online. Follow people, respond to them, show them you care about the industry.
  • Always be involved in your field. Any opportunity doing anything remotely related to what you want to do is always worth it.
  • Don’t be so precious with your work. Put your work out there even if it’s not perfect. That’s how you learn from your mistakes and scale quickly.
  • Give yourself as many opportunities as you can.
  • When you’re using social media to network, learn about how the person/organization you’re trying to network with uses social media and determine whether or not that’s the best way to connect with them.
  • The average amount of times for you to reach out to someone if they don’t respond is seven.

14956028_10210821520760166_6194705464505938272_nDigital Creators Panel

What it’s all about: The second panel I attended was primarily about creating online content and how to be a successful online content creator/professional through the experiences of Beca Alexander, who is the President of Socialyte Collective, Drea Bernardi, the Creative Executive of the AOL/HuffPost Partner Studio, Alyssa Bossio, who is a Social Media Influencer at Fitlyss, and Jessica Franklin, who founded heygorjess.com. The panel was moderated by Amy Emmerich, who is the Chief Content Officer at Refinery29.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Networking is so important! Get out of your comfort zone and talk to people. It really makes a difference.
  • Getting a job is a mix of who you know and what you know.
  • Fashion is a great way to start a conversation with someone. Always use a fashion item to start a conversation. (Example: I like your necklace, where did you get it?)
  • It’s what you know that gets you to the who you know.
  • Everyone reads their direct messages no matter how large their following is on Twitter. It never hurts to reach out that way because it shows that you’re engaged in what a brand/a person is doing.
  • Social media is an easy way to network. It’s so easy to connect over common interests on social media.
  • The more persistent you are with contacting someone the more likely you are to get a message back.
  • It’s never too late to change what you’re doing/what your career path is. You could wake up tomorrow and be interested in something else and that’s totally okay.
  • In order to stand out, you have to have an understanding of what everyone else is doing too.
  • You have to maintain authenticity when creating content for any social media platform and be mindful of the different audiences that will consume your content on various social media platforms.
  • Observe different trends that occur on various social media platforms to keep up with the times.
  • If you want to remain authentic, you always have the option to say no. And if you can’t say no, negotiate.

14962542_10210821521240178_1906655113652360308_nBrittany Masalosalo– Special Assistant to Vice President Joe Biden in the National Security Affairs Office at the White House

What it’s all about: Brittany Masalosalo was our lunch keynote speaker, and she has a super cool job working as an assistant to vice president Joe Biden. She was a lieutenant in the Iraq War, is trusted with big government secrets, and is also a single mom.  She’s survived so much adversity and was an incredibly inspirational speaker.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Mind your example. Remember that someone is always watching what you do.
    • You are an ambassador for your values.
  • Trust your relationships.
    • No one can attribute their successes to just themselves. If you want to change the world you need help doing it.
    • The relationships you develop over the course of your professional career are owed to your successes.
  • Manage your time through balance.
    • Set personal deadlines that establish habits.
    • Managing time is about figuring out your priorities and making yourself a priority sometimes.
  • Know how to work hard. Nothing will sharpen you for the rigors of a difficult world than facing your challenges.
    • Invest your energy into things you care about.
    • If you can learn how to stomach a failure as well as learn from it, you will fail well.
  • Don’t do anything if it’s not in line with who you are.
  • Have a knowledge of the political world no matter what line of work you’re in.

14908205_10210821521160176_3994837123829797064_nCollege 101 Panel

What it’s all about: I attended this panel because one of my best friends who I actually met when I won a NYWICI scholarship in 2013, Vivian Nunez, founder of Too Damn Young, writer and content creator and all around awesome person, was speaking on it! This panel was for high school students looking for advice about college and their futures. Other amazing ladies on this panel include: Naomi Ducat, an intern for the U.S. Department of Defense, Nicole Howe, an academic advisor for the New York University School of Professional Studies, and Alanna McCatty, a Creative Service Intern at the MedShadow Foundation. The panel was moderated by my NYWICI scholarship mother hen, Taylor Trudon, who is the Youth Special Projects Editor at MTV.

14910455_10210821522600212_775567990068250684_n

Me and Vivian Nunez, founder of Too Damn Young and one of my very best friends.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Your major doesn’t necessarily impact what field you go into, but taking away certain skills from your field of study is important.
  • You have to be smart and intentional when crafting your own story.
  • Writing skills are essential everywhere. Learn how to write.
  • Planning out your schedule is pivotal.
    • When you’re passionate about something, you’ll make the time for it.
  • Sit down and have coffee with as many people as you can. Learn about people and how they got to where they are and take what you can and apply it to yourself.
  • Maintain connections with people you intern with.
  • If you apply for an internship at your dream company and you don’t get it, don’t give up. Keep applying.
  • Don’t set one future job as your goal. Be open minded.
  • People remember people. They don’t remember resumes.
  • Speak with intent and own your quirks.
  • Mentors don’t have to just offer you career advice– they can also offer you emotional support!

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-8-44-14-pmNYWICI Leaders Panel

What it’s all about: The last panel, moderated by Saundra Thomas (the Vice President of Community Affairs at WABC), presented career and life advice from current and past presidents of NYWICI. Panelists included Liz Kaplow, founder and CEO of Kaplow Communications, Kim Kelleher, Chief Revenue Officer & Publisher at WIRED Media, Jacki Kelley, COO at Bloomberg Media, and Nancy Weber, Chief Marketing Officer at Meredith Corporation.

Personal and professional advice/information: 

  • Do something you’re really passionate about so it doesn’t feel like work.
  • Make sure your career ladder is up against the right wall.
  • When you graduate, think about internships you’ve had that you liked and check back in with those companies.
  • Know why you’re using each social media platform you use.
  • When applying for jobs/internships, consider the people who you might work for at the companies you’re applying to, because that’s who you’re going to learn from.
  • When you go to a job interview, ask the question: “Can you give me an example of someone that’s worked for you and how you’ve advocated for their growth?” And if you like their answer, that company is for you.
  • LinkedIn is helpful, but it’s not real networking.All the major decisions about your career will be made in a room you’re not in.

#NYWICIscc16

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.53.33 PM

Posted in Things I've Learned in College | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments