At Oberlin, where I was a double-degree in Creative Writing and Percussion Performance, I always told myself that I didn’t want to go straight from graduation to a writing program: I wanted to work, travel, and chase those ephemeral “life experiences” first. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for! After more than a decade of trying everything and anything related to (and not so related to) writing, I am now back in school at the University of Southern California, where I am pursuing a Ph.D. in the Literature & Creative Writing Program with generous support from a fellowship.
The many lives I led before coming to USC include a post as an English teacher in a small rice-farming community in Northern Japan; a Japanese immersion kindergarten teacher at an incredibly diverse, urban magnet school in Long Beach, CA; stints as a development and publicity assistant at Miramax Films in West Hollywood, where I slogged through scripts and rolled calls (and pulled up a chair for Richard Gere); and a year as a copywriter and layout artist at a real estate firm, where I crafted mailers and print ads, and learned to love Photoshop.
I also worked for some time as a newsroom editor at Business Wire, which is a news service that proofs press releases for businesses and distributes them to all the major news outlets. Most recently, I spent three years as an editor at McGraw-Hill, where I managed the revision of several large textbook programs. It was pretty exhilarating to work with (and manage!) authors, photo editors, graphic designers, and production and marketing staffers to shepherd a project from a proposal to a printed book (complete with web sites, CDs, and other ancillaries).
Some of the jobs I’ve had were mind-numbing; others, like teaching and editing books, were endlessly challenging, but full of rewards. By waiting a little longer than some folks, I’m now faced with the challenge of tackling grad school while also worrying about a mortgage, a family, and freelance writing (I’m also a paid blogger and journalist who writes, among other things, on race and the environment). But the things I’m writing today are much more interesting to me than what I was writing ten years ago, and the experiences I’ve gone through since graduating from Oberlin—not least among them being a husband and father—are what make the difference.