MA English: Communication Development, (“Completed my graduate coursework in 2002 but didn’t defend my thesis and actually earn my MA until spring 2010”)
Contracts and Royalties Manager, Nelson Literary Agency
How did you get from your major to the work, the life you have now?
My grad-school experience at CSU (more specifically, my internship at Colorado Review and the Center for Literary Publishing under the inimitable Stephanie G’Schwind) led me to attend the Denver Publishing Institute (DPI) at the University of Denver in 2002, where I met fellow student Kristin Nelson. Graduating from both CSU and DPI led to jobs in the magazine and educational publishing industries. Then, in early 2011, I joined Kristin’s staff at Nelson Literary Agency and haven’t looked back. I love what I do!
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments (both personally and professionally)?
Finishing my thesis! Ha! Seriously, though, working with Sarah Sloane on completing that last piece of my master’s degree in 2010, eight years after I finished my coursework, was a joy. Since then, I’ve been writing fiction. I’ve won a couple contests, placed in a couple others, and was even named a 2012 semifinalist in the Writers of the Future contest. But I’ve collected some rejections, too, which is also an accomplishment. Rejections toughen your skin and keep you growing as a writer.
What did you like about the English program at CSU?
I really enjoyed my program, the now-retired Communication Development program, because I had the flexibility to choose courses from the English, Speech Communication, and Tech Journalism departments. I also got to do an independent study in young adult literature and an internship at Colorado Review. So every step of the way, I felt like I had total control over what I wanted to learn. All the courses I chose, regardless of department, synergized to prepare me for my future careers in publishing, writing, and information design.
Do you have a favorite CLP memory?
Stephanie taught me so much about the importance of putting clear systems in place, staying organized, and communicating with a team during every stage of the publishing process. I appreciated that so much and have emulated her systems many times over the years. But what I remember most from my internship there is that she also taught me how to typeset a manuscript. I set the interior of Kathleen Lee’s Travel Among Men, a short-story collection published March 2002. It felt like such a big responsibility! Now I set two or three books a month, and I can’t pick up a book without checking out the design. That experience had such a lasting impact on my current career.
Do you have a favorite or funny story from your time with the English Department?
This isn’t specific to the English Department, but I do remember being late for class one winter day in 2002 because the Olympic torch was being run through Fort Collins on its way to Salt Lake City. I had to park so far away from campus and walk what felt like miles, and it was cold and snowy, and I had to fight the crowds to find a place where I would be allowed to cross College Avenue. I think a lot of classes were under-attended that day.
Was there a specific class, professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you, helped you, or inspired you when you were at CSU in the English Department?
I’ve already mentioned Stephanie G’Schwind and Sarah Sloane, who deserve millions of mentions for the amazing work they do and their commitment to excellence. Also Gilbert Findlay, who’s retired now; if he’d taught classes in window washing, I’d have been the first to sign up. And Mike Palmquist, whose Writing for the Web workshop introduced me to HTML and information design – both of which I use regularly in my career.
What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students?
I really enjoyed my time at CSU and appreciated the variety of courses offered by the English Department. The faculty come from a wide range of backgrounds and specializations, so you’re sure to find an advisor whose academic interests line up with yours. And hey – you’ll be in Fort Collins, Colorado, in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains! A great beautiful town in a beautiful state.
What advice do you have for current CSU English Department students?
Cherish your time in your program. It goes by so quickly! Absorb everything you can – advice, ideas, perspectives – but maintain your own voice, especially if you aspire to be a writer or to teach writers. (Oh, and finish your thesis while you’re still in your program. Going back eight years later to do it is tough!)
What was the last piece of writing you read or wrote?
I just sold a short story, “Jane Doe Must Die,” to Hex Publishers for inclusion in their 2016 crime/mystery anthology, tentatively titled Blood Business. In addition, I’ve recently completed a novel, which I’m polishing for submission, and I’m at work on book two.
What are your hobbies or special interests, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?
My husband is a novelist, so he and I spend a lot of time writing together, or reading, or just talking about books. We both love teaching writing workshops at various conferences and serving on writing-related panels at fan conventions like Denver’s MileHiCon and Denver Comic Con. I recently started teaching workshops in writing query letters and writing for the Web at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver. I also take art classes and enjoy experimenting with screen-printing, monoprinting, woodblock printing, image transfer, mixed media…that sort of thing. And I’ve recently started designing books – both for the agency’s authors and for a few select clients on a freelance basis – and I’m having a lot of fun with that.