Speaker: Would you please state your job title, where you currently work, and how long it’s been since you graduated from college?
Speaker: I’m currently a contributing editor for a lifestyle parenting site called The Every Mom. I –how long as it been? I graduated grad school in 2008, so I’ve been there, I guess I would say , fairly in the workforce since, then though I’ve worked prior to that as well. But since then my career line has switched.
Speaker: Could you tell us a little bit about that switch?
Speaker: Sure. I got my master’s in education, early childhood education and special early childhood education. And I taught in New York City, in Philadelphia, Boston, and Miami. And then when we moved here to Chicago five years ago , I struggled finding a teaching job since my license had then expired from New York and we had never been long–anywhere and long enough for me to actually get a teaching license in that state. So after having the babies I kind of shifted a little bit trying to figure out what I could actually do with the skills and the experience that I had. And since then it’s been a climb to try to actually figure out what I can come to and how it can be functional how we work with family life. And you know obviously make some sort of income to actually have it all be worth it as well.
Speaker: That’s great. That’s really useful. And so how long have you worked in your current field? I know the position is relatively new, right?
Speaker: Yes. The position itself I just started in April. Prior to that I was a staff writer at another parenting Web site called Romper, which is under the Bustle Media Group. And that I had it for a year prior to that I was just freelancing. So it’s been a bit of a climb to be able to actually get the staff writing job and then decide at that point–yes, a consistent writing job , but do I really feel connected to it? You know, it’s important in the way that I want it to be important? And do I have the–my–a large part of my issue after motherhood is do I feel creatively challenged? And so after having that job for a year I decided that I didn’t–it, you know, it didn’t hit all of those marks. And so I started looking again and I came across this one.
Speaker: That’s great. OK. And for this job that you’re currently in could you give me just sort of a brief description of your primary job functions?
Speaker: I do a lot of writing. Since it’s a lifestyle Web site it’s very kind of colloquial, you know blog writing. We do research based pieces, which I am assigned to largely because of my education background and because I have the knowledge on that. So that’s actually you know helps out and it feel good that I’m good. You know throw away an entire private education at NYU for no reason at all. And then we do a lot of I do a lot of content management. I work with other writers and people who want to contribute or submit pieces on developing their writing in order for it to be –I guess you could say read or relatable or acceptable to a larger audience. A lot of the time people who submit very personally to the point where it’s not exactly accessible by an outside audience. So we work a lot on that.
Speaker: That’s great. That’s really useful. Yeah.
Speaker: Could you estimate in an average week what percentage of your job requires writing?
Speaker: I would say probably 80 percent.
Speaker: Okay, great.
Speaker: And maybe even slightly more. Okay . Because, social media writing, like all that stuff. I would consider to be writing. But it’s so different and so not what my experience in writing had been prior and not what, you know, my English degree had ever taught right.
Speaker: So you–do you manage social media for the site as well or you contribute to it?
Speaker: I contribute a lot on Instagram captions and Instagram stories and Facebook write ups. Beyond that I don’t do much of the photo sourcing and stuff like that. But just for making sure the copy is on point.
Speaker: Okay. Okay. And so in addition to those what other forms or types of documents do you most often create?
Speaker: I would say the blog writing is the largest chunk of it on the actual Web site content that being–in addition to that probably e-mails, is, you know, a good amount of writing that I would not have normally considered writing. But you know as I see it now in a–actual jobs email writing has a huge thing and not only does it take a lot of time, but it has to be very specific in the way that it’s written in order for it to be effective and for it to, you know, ease the strain of your job.
Speaker: When you’re thinking about those e-mails that you typically write at work , who are the primary audiences and what are you usually trying to accomplish with them?
Speaker: I would say that there’s you know a good amount of e-mails between our team but those aren’t the ones that I would really feel any sort of pressure about. The ones where I’m working with the writers is the biggest thing. I also work with a lot of PR firms that are looking to push their own experts, like doctors and psychologists and pediatricians into obstetricians and all of those you know what we’re looking for experts to weigh in on certain subjects. But the ones with the writers this is probably where it is because I feel a sense of wanting to guide them and to, you know, to help develop their voice in the way that I never had someone do for me. But I also, you know, for the sake of efficiency you have to be quick and you know not long winded and that’s not a strong suit of mine. [laughter] So that’s that’s been something that’s been difficult for me to manage because I have that sort of perfectionist nature to my–to basically every kind of writing that I do. Sometimes you know the inbox can seem like such a weighty thing in the morning.
Speaker: Absolutely, yeah.
Speaker: Could you maybe think of a recent project a recent writing project that’s not formal-formal but a more formal than e-mail, and tell us a little bit about the process of writing it from beginning to end?
Speaker: I’m working on a piece right now actually about rediscovering yourself after motherhood, and that’s been–because it’s something that is very important to me , it’s been one of the one such taking I’m looking at the open the browser window right now has 35 revisions on it already. But the process, you know, usually I do a bit of notetaking. Sometimes certain sentences just come to me and I just jot them down quickly and then kind of of expand based on that and play around with it reorganize , make sure you read it try to cut down words because that’s always something of mine that I need to work on and then make sure that it’s successful in a way that has actionable points that are relevant to a larger audience. I think that personal writing in that way can seem so overwhelming because you want to share your story but you also need to make it accessible for somebody else. Otherwise there’s no there’s no point in having them read it. And you know there’s not going to be, obviously, in a workplace we rely on clicks, and we rely on traffic, and we rely on the content being interesting enough that when we promote it on social media that the audience is going to want to come to the website and actually read it. So that sort of stuff weighs on me, as well. Then for this particular one I’ve reached out to my editor a couple of times just to see, you know, where she thinks that there needs to be more explanation or a better transition. She told me that it’s perfect as it is, which only frustrated me even more. So I reached out to the managing editor of our sister site just this morning to ask him what she thought as well. Because I’ve been convinced there has to be something wrong with it. You know I appreciate a lot of input and I appreciate the critique and criticism and all those things. I think feeling as though I’m not a writer it’s something that has stayed with me and I’m not sure why that is. And even though it’s my job now I think because it’s maybe a different sort of writing that I’m used to or that I’ve learned or it that I’ve grown up loving in terms of literature. You know it feels it always feels less than.
Speaker: I think that’s a very familiar feeling to most people. Yeah.
Speaker: When you think about these types of projects that you’re working on–this is sort of a broad question–but how did you know or how did you learn how to perform them?
Speaker: I would say a lot has to do with just doing it, and then, you know, like, I said asking for advice constantly. But I also am a serial researcher. And you know I really look into books obviously as another part of it. But I look at a lot of resources that have to do with copywriting and social media writing and, you know, captions that convert and you know what sort of format is a good way to organize blog posts. And you know how to draw the reader and all that stuff. I end up reading so much of that that I don’t actually have time to read anything I want to read.
Speaker: Right. Right.
Speaker: Because I’m so so concerned with being good at what I do.
Speaker: Uh huh. And so this really transitions well into this next question. You know, what I’m especially interested in is the points at which people feel unprepared or less than right feeling like they’re not up to snuff in terms of their writing. When you came into this job and you felt that–it sounds like to some extent–what did you do other than–are there things that you did other than research to overcome those challenges or at least make progress?
Speaker: I think for my particular path , the part that was really big was making sure that I went in a–I went about it in a manner that made sense. And by that I mean you know first being able to freelance, you know, a few pieces here and there for websites that are big bigger not so big. But being able to get good feedback on those and learn a little bit more about how to write for an audience, a little bit more about what it means to write content online, and then be able to go into that staff writing job at Romper which you know writing wise was very very easy work, but content –you know the content was simple and straightforward and it was, you know, a lot that was based on search engine optimization. So–but being able to learn that part of it then how–you know, how to use keywords effectively in your writing. Where, where the links are supposed to go where, you know, where you want your–what you want your heading to look like, why you want your headings to look like this. All those things fell into place over there. And so along with the research that I was doing when I was at Romper I didn’t do any social media at all, but I watched a lot of theirs. And then by the time I got into this job I felt a lot more comfortable in that I maybe didn’t have the experience but I had the knowledge on how to go about it.
Speaker: That’s great. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. You talked about asking for feedback from an editor both your direct editor and a sort of parallel editor. Would you say that–is there someone who oversees your writing direct directly ? Does that primary editor oversee your writing usually?
Speaker: My–yes–she does. My managing editor does directly oversee it. The funny part about that is that she doesn’t have a writing background. She has a marketing background, and it seems to be, you know, there’s this toss up between those two worlds because writing wise I’m like, well, you know this is what makes sense and she’s like you know marketing wise this is what we need to do. So there’s a bit of a conflict between the two worlds, as it is now that I see it. Now that online writing is becoming such a thing in that–you know it’s kind of like the primary way people are gaining information and also outputting information. The dichotomy between the two is something that I find really fascinating.
Speaker: Yeah, absolutely. That’s really, really interesting. And how would you say –I mean I can see this dichotomy and imagine how it might play out, but how do you think that she judges the success or the quality of the writing that you’re handing her?
Speaker: I would say directly based on stats.
Speaker: Oh, wow, that’s really interesting.
Speaker: I think she personally appreciates my writing and she’s told me that and, you know, she says that many times and even if my pieces don’t do very well she still likes them. But in terms of being the managing editor of the website and my boss she has to look at how it converts.
Speaker: That’s fascinating.
Speaker: How long do you typically have to complete a writing project? You talked about this this piece you’re working on now about finding yourself after having kids as being a longer term project. Is that–but that’s not typical?
Speaker: That’s not typical. I tend to take a longer time–longer being maybe a week–on the personal pieces because it takes me a longer time to be able to wrap my head around all the emotional stuff like you know in blocks around there and she is fine with that. She gives me leeway on that. But in terms of the more, what would I–I don’t know what you would call the more flat subject pieces, like the one that I’m working on next is you know dental care for toddlers and infants. Those sorts of pieces I’m expected to put out about four to six a week. And I work three days.
Speaker: Oh interesting. Right. OK. So two a day. Wow.
Speaker: OK. So now how to shift and look backwards a little bit. I’m wondering what kind of writing you remember being asked to create as a student and the ways in which you think those experiences sort of set you up or didn’t to work right in the workplace. You mentioned being an English major, right?
Speaker: So what kinds of writing do you remember being asked to do?
Speaker: I think it–you know I don’t remember so much about it –I remember you know English comp being–that that freshman English comp class being based on forming argumentative essays I think? You know in a pretty traditional paragraph format–not the five paragraphs essays that you’re used to in high school, but being able to organize and set up a paper in order to make a point. I think was the focus of that. And then as we got into more literature it was always based on analysis for the most part, so using that kind of you know here’s here’s my point , let’s prove it sort of set up. That’s what I largely remember the English side being. I also was a psychology major as well. And I think on that site it was more of a lot of analysis as well. But also just kind of research based presentation of not facts but maybe a concept or an idea.
Speaker: OK. Yeah. And how do you feel like those writing experiences prepared you for the kind of work you do now, if they did at all?
Speaker: I’m sure they did in that I was probably able to kind of get a feel for my own writing. And I was also able to get a feel for how fast I write. Sean always would make fun of me in college because you know we’d have a 20 page paper and I’d start it the night before and he’s like, basically clearly you just work well under pressure and you can’t plan you know worth a damn, which largely seems to still be true. So I think the reason that I can convert, you know, these articles pretty quickly is that I’ve kind of learned how to let go of that perfectionist stream, especially when the writing itself isn’t something that I’m truly connected to or that I feel so strongly about.
Speaker: Yeah, yeah.
Speaker: You know whereas like the personal pieces take a little bit more time because it’s so directly connected to me.
Speaker: Right. And that makes a lot of sense to me. Are there certain things that it would have been useful for you to learn or to do as a student to be even more prepared at this stage?
Speaker: I always think that, you know, if I could go back to college now what would I focus on. But I really do find this online content world really really fascinating. I mean I know colleges now have started to gear towards that a little bit. Obviously when you know when we’re in school it wasn’t even a thing right. You know, people–I mean they like live journals, like that–you know, like nobody had blogs that wasn’t a thing, like social media didn’t exist. None of this was relevant. And so I don’t find that the education I had at any fault in not preparing me for the world. I don’t think anybody expected writing to have changed so quickly [inaudible]. You know, it’s really just–it’s been a whirlwind, if you look at it. I think now going forward schools can do a lot to, you know, point kids in the right direction because it seems as though even, you know, fields that are more scientific or anything–like when you’re publishing now you’re doing it online. You know you’re writing interest articles to gain, you know, funding because it draws people in and they feel connected to it and that’s how you get research money. Like all that stuff is so interrelated now that it’s become relevant in every field.
Speaker: Right. Yeah, absolutely it has. That’s really interesting. Yeah, and I do feel like there’s some flexibility that we really should be teaching now even more so than the content because we have to assume that this writing will continue to evolve, right? Thinking about like how do we teach them about the writing world now but also how do we teach them to sort of evolve with that, which I think comes a little bit more inherently to some people, right, than than others.
Speaker: Right. For sure.
Speaker: So this is sort of a shift back to your current writing. Could you tell me a little bit about what is at stake in your writing?
Speaker: What do you mean by that?
Speaker: What–why does your writing matter? And what would be the effect of your writing succeeding or failing?
Speaker: That’s hard because, you know, I feel like as a writer you always feel like you’re writing doesn’t matter.
You always feel like, clearly this is stupid and whey am I’m doing it? I think it’s important –I think the personal work is important because it’s vulnerable and because it has the ability to connect to people and to make them feel less alone. And I think in that sense of parenting that’s very, very important. I think that informative articles are important because so many people rely on Google for information. And there’s been so much–quote unquote, I hate using this term–but fake news. You know that you kind of want to provide that little piece of reality and you know instead of fear-mongering and instead of using click bait headlines and things like that, you know just kind of reassure people that, hey you know this is the actuality of it, and you know yes you should talk to experts. But also here’s a little bit of a rundown say don’t freak out for the rest of the day.
Speaker: Right. Right.
Speaker: You know, I think that’s relevant because it’s becoming–information is so widely spread now and a lot of times–you know, 85 percent of the times it’s incorrect . So it feels important in that sense. If the writing itself were to fail –I mean it fails in two ways it fails by not being important to the reader. And it also fails in not being–or the reader not being able to reach it, and that you know that part of it lands on marketing and search engine option optimization and you know getting traffic to your website and things like that, which are everyday struggles for us. But it also you know when an article falls flat, when it doesn’t get a lot of views and we know it’s good stuff it’s can be really upsetting because we know it’s not getting to the people that we need to get it to. And so it’s not helpful. You know, it doesn’t help that it’s out there. It has it can only help if the person who needs it is reading it.
Speaker: That’s great. Yeah. What is the most difficult thing about about writing in your specific position?
Speaker: For me. It’s writing in a less academic tone . Because I’ve done so much academic writing my entire education and most of my career , it’s really hard for me to be conversational in writing and that’s, you know, a lot of the comments that I get in terms of edits actually make this less stuffy? How can we make it less academic sounding, how can we make it sound less boring ? You know how can we make it seem like you’re talking to your friend? And I really struggle with that.
Speaker: OK that’s great. That’s interesting. You mentioned the feedback that you get from your editor. Other than that feedback , has anyone helped you with your writing in the workplace?
Speaker: How do you believe you’ve evolved or improved as a writer in this current sort of field, so maybe since you started freelancing till now?
Speaker: I think a lot has been on my own kind of , you know, transformation–my own side research and what I do to try to implement those things in my writing. But I really do wish that I had somebody to , you know, kind of just develop me. But it’s you know like we were talking about before it’s –the people that are the higher ups in my –in our company, aren’t writers by profession. Or by background. And that can be frustrating because at some point it feels less professional than it should. But I think that’s also the nature of just being a part of a website like this.
Speaker: What do you mean by– Where–
Speaker: Oh, I”m sorry. Go ahead.
Speaker: No go ahead.
Speaker: I was going to ask you , what do you mean by less professional than it should.
Speaker: You know there’s still that part of me having gone through an English degree, having gone through a master’s program, having worked with university writers for so long as a writing tutor. It –it doesn’t feel like writing a lot of the time. It doesn’t feel like the writing that you’re used to. You know, and that’s that has a lot to do with the fact that I resist change in every corner. But it’s–you know, like, we were talking about the field of writing has changed so much in the last 10 years that you kind of–and this is me speaking solely for myself here–but I judge people that don’t know how to write, in the sense of how I’ve learned. And in the sense of like education-based writing. You know, the girl who started our company is–she is excellent at being able to reach her audience she’s you know had a very successful personal blog, she has you know 50,000 Instagram followers and she’s grown the Every Girl loves websites , you know, to millions of page hits a month, but for some reason I still don’t feel like that’s writing.
Speaker: Right. That’s really really interesting to me. And that leads me to the next question which is, like, I can see how you view the writing here. How do you think the organization as a whole values writing ?
Speaker: I mean it’s definitely an integral part of the website. They push out, you know, the Every Girl pushes out, I think four posts a day, and we do too at this point. We’re working on moving up to three. But it’s you know that’s all the content is writing–in social media too. So it’s extremely important. And they’re very, very effective at it.
Speaker: But it’s a totally different kind of writing than I’m used to. So you know I have trouble grasping that part of it. Like, you know it’s it’s very informal writing, I should say . It’s conversational, you know, there’s –you know, abbreviations and, and and you know little phrases that people, the kids nowadays use. [laughter] But then, it’s like, you know, for me it’s like well can I take it as seriously as I take say the Times of the Atlantic or something like that? Like what –you know, what’s real and what’s better? And there is no better really. It’s more in terms of you know are you able to write for your audience?
Speaker: Right. That’s great. That’s a really interesting way to think about it. And this is actually just our last set of questions so how did you define successful writing as a student versus successful writing in your current position, and would you say that you are a successful writer in your current position ?
Speaker: As a student I think , you know, I solely went off of what my professors comments were and what my grades were in order to judge what the writing was and I was always pretty good at academic writing. This I find a lot harder . Would I consider myself successful? I think maybe I’m, you know, maybe I’m at the beginning of the path where I will someday feel like that? But I think–I think I can be effective in the writing that I’m doing. You know I do get comments from people that say that, you know, that the article was helpful to them or it meant a lot to them or they could relate. And I consider those things a measure of how successful it was .