Monday, May 4, 2009

Professional Practices Course Prepares Writers for Life After College

Chester College is making great effort to expand the types of classes offered to students. This year the Department of Writing and Literature added a requirement, Professional Practices for Writers. The class, taught by Jenn Monroe, gives writers insight into the various areas they can venture into after graduation. This includes story submissions, grant writing, graduate school and potential jobs. The class also covers resumes and interviews along with the legal issues surrounding writers and their work and how to protect themselves. The class will now be offered every fall semester.

The fall semester was the first time the class had been offered. SO Good staffer Steph Libby interviewed Jenn Monroe to find out how the class came about, what it accomplished, and how it might change.

Steph Libby: What prompted the addition of Professional Practices?

Jenn Monroe: It was a natural progression in the growth of the department’s offerings. We knew our students were talented but we wanted to make sure that they were ready for life after Chester, no matter if they wanted to look for a job, continue writing, go to grad school or some combination of these.

SL: How do you think the course helped students?

JM: Well, in really tangible ways: you’ve been accepted into the MFA program at Goddard College and Beth Ann [Miller] has had work she sent out as part of the course earn an honorable mention from Glimmer Train and first place in a contest sponsored by Hollins University. But generally students have said that they were not aware of grant writing or how to go about finding freelance opportunities. I think most of them feel slightly less stressed about what comes next.

SL: Is there anything you’re going to do differently within the course the next time it’s offered? Anything you’re going to add?

JM: I’d like to do much more with the grant writing, to really see one of the proposals go all the way through to a completed project. I’d also like to do much more with securing freelancing opportunities as well. I’m hoping there’s more time for guest speakers and off-campus trips too.

SL: Do you think students actively thought about these practices (grant writing, graduate school, submissions) prior to taking the class?

JM: I think students actively panicked about what they were going to do after Chester prior to taking the class. While the class won’t solve all of the stress, at least it gives students some tools and some perspective.

SL: What do you think were the best and worst parts, the pros and cons of the class?

JM: It is difficult, in a class like this, to be sure that you are reaching everyone in terms of their goals. Some people are really certain that they do not want to go to grad school, or at least not in the next few years, so I think they felt going through the application process was a waste of time and they didn’t take it seriously. This class, perhaps more than others, really is what each individual student chooses to make it. I’m just putting the information out there.

SL: Why did you choose the books you chose? How do you think they helped the students?

JM: I like the MFA book (The Creative Writing MFA Handbook)because it is a great resource for programs; the law book (The Law in Plain English for Writers) is one that all writers should have, simply to protect themselves.

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