On Tuesday, December 6th, English majors attended "Building Your Life as a Writer and Editor," a writer's life and career exploration event guided by a panel of published writers from Fordham's English faculty. Panelists included novelist Stacey D'Erasmo, novelist Mary Bly, poet Sarah Gambito, and novelist Jennifer Gilmore.
The event began with D'Erasmo, Bly, Gambito, and Gilmore introducing themselves and speaking to their experience as writers and the careers they've had to support their writing projects over the years: from food service and corporate jobs to publishing and teaching. They stressed the importance of having time to write and writing for some "non-scary" amount of time every single day.
Gambito discussed working in literary nonprofits, the growing areas of content management and the career opportunities related to the way we access and digest writing, in addition to the resources at Fordham to help students get started now. She stressed how classes in communications, media studies, and digital content could complement English majors' course load.
D'Erasmo walked students through her own path as a writer, from an unrewarding MA experience to writing for the Village Voice. She shared her experiences in publishing and editing and how she came to prioritize joy as a practical element. She knew she found her place as a writer when she found a publication where she "actually cared about the massive amount of work [she] was doing."
Bly, who is a New York Times best-seller, stressed the importance of using one's years at Fordham to intern, write content, and produce tangible results. She encouraged students to find and hone their voice and interests: "Read all the time and think, Why am I enjoying this?" Noting the ways her own scholarly interests have influenced her popular fiction novels, Bly encouraged students to bring their unique outlook to their careers and writing. "You really need your passion, because it's all hard."
Gilmore echoed the other panelists' advice and offered her own experience on the writing life. "Touching your work everyday is so important." But she also discussed how different people might approach writing, depending on their career path and their personality. She stressed that for those interested in working in the publishing industry, there are so many areas of focus to choose from: marketing, publicity, production, and editorial. No matter what career path writers chose, Gilmore emphasized the importance of staying connected to other writers and those with similar interests. She also noted that curiosity is key to writing. "Be super curious. Live a little, too. Let things in and never say 'no.'"
Following the roundtable discussion, the panelists took questions from the audience. Following students' concerns, the panelists went in depth on the process of getting published, the MFA vs. NYC debate, and the uncertainty on planning for the future.
With all four panelists agreeing that planning for your life and career can be difficult to imagine, Gambito offered the following: "You should have A, B, and C plans that are all pretty fantastic and exciting to you, personally."
For more career advice for English majors, check out our new student guide with resources at Fordham, internship listings, and real experience from published writers.