Writers Near and Far: Shared Prompts and Tic-Tac-Toe Boxes — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog

By Megan Vered and Jennifer Lang Part One: Creating Community by Megan Vered I open the link to our scheduled Monday evening meeting and, one by one, mini faces appear in virtual boxes. How happy I am to see the women from my weekly writer’s group! We’ve been meeting in my home for the past […]

via Writers Near and Far: Shared Prompts and Tic-Tac-Toe Boxes — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog

A writing group is so essential for a writer. I have been a part of a few over the years, and they always make me a better, more aware writer. I was introduced to the concept at the Blue Ridge Writing Project at Virginia Tech in 2010, and since Sheltering-in-Place started, I have not thirsted for one more. I love that writers like Megan Vered and Jennifer Lang are making the magic of writer’s groups work virtually across continents, and time zones. We need these type of communities as we try to document and give voice to what is going on in society. We also need the support and fellowship as writing becomes an even more solitary endeavor.

Stay Safe, Find Your People, and Write On!

Writing Prompts for When You Can’t Write Due to a Global Crisis — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog

Every writer out there…this list is gold 🙂 I’m thinking of a braided essay on toilet paper and bras…

By Julie Vick Can’t seem to get much writing done during the pandemic? Here are some writing prompts that probably won’t help: Write a letter to your younger self. Find a way to casually suggest that you start learning how to cut your own hair. Plan a trip to a different room in your house. […]

via Writing Prompts for When You Can’t Write Due to a Global Crisis — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog

Transitioning out of Teaching

woman sitting on hard wooden floor

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

Teaching is a career that if you have the passion for it, is extremely rewarding. You see on a daily basis the impact you make on young people’s lives. I felt that for 15 years, but last June, I made my exit from the classroom.

I loved that I had a hand in making lifelong readers and writers, but also good human beings. I pored myself into my craft. Constantly reading about innovative approaches, paying for and attending professional development events to keep myself sharp, buying all the tools I needed to scaffold learning and spark engagement, writing grants when the needs were larger than my checkbook, taking home my grading and lesson planning every night and weekend.

I did it all and I do not regret any of it, but at some point, it gets to be too consuming given the constant bureaucratic mandates, increasing role of teachers as surrogate parents, endless testing and constant degradation of profession by the public. I say this knowing I was very lucky.

I worked in a public high school and public university. My administrators gave me a great amount of autonomy in curriculum planning, classroom philosophy and general operations. Again, I was lucky. I knew I could not continue the constant work and made the decision to leave before I became a teacher who just checked the boxes.

It was exciting that last year. I felt free and excited to dip my foot into something new. I loved teaching, but I hope at some point the public will truly realize the great work that teachers do every day as they not only teach children, but provide snacks and meals, use their paychecks to buy supplies, give their off time to support students at events, serve as counselors and provide support for those facing homelessness, domestic abuse situations and bullying. Many of my colleagues worked extra jobs just to make their own ends meet and that is a travesty in our society.

Enough soapbox. Transitioning out of the classroom is not easy. I knew I wanted to write in a professional capacity. Luckily, I have some published pieces, maintained this blog for the past decade and served as a trainer of writing in various capacities. What I did not realize is the landscape has changed a great deal.

I went ahead and updated my chronological CV, joined some remote work sites and started applying. It was not so successful. I knew I had the skills they were looking for, so I blamed my lack of copywriting or digital content creations for not landing some gigs. And that was some of the problem, but more of the problem was how I was presenting myself. The thing about changing careers is you need to figure out what the new job is looking for and finding where that intersects with your skills, that equals transferable skills and teachers have lots of them.

As I was looking around at advice for career changers, I ran across a really informative site : StandoutCV. I gobbled up their wisdom. Based on their advice I started looking at all the different job sites to gather the skills and requirements companies were looking for in new hires. I made a list of key words and then started listing my own skills to figure out what transferable skills I possessed.

It turned out I was in pretty good shape. As an English teacher, I was comfortable communicating with others, writing for a variety of audiences, collaborating, meeting deadlines, attending to details, creating content in many forms and editing for voice and style- I was actually a really good fit for professional writing.

Then I needed a vehicle to show this for potential employers. Enter the Combination/Hybrid CV. I realized as a career changer with depth of experience in a field I no longer wanted to work in, I needed a document that showcased transferable skills and allowed me to what a good candidate I actually was. One of the remote work sites I joined has a step-by-step guide to writing a stellar Combination CV, Flexjobs. They provide examples of a good and bad version of each section, as well as a sample. Their guidance was really helpful. One other site I really liked when crafting this new version of my CV was O*Net Online. This site allows you to look up any job and get the complete profile of that job including skills, work habits, tasks, abilities and knowledge needed. This helped me adjust the language of my CV to more mirror the jobs I would be searching.

Some may wonder why I chose a CV versus a Resume. If you have a number of publications, presentations and awards/certifications, it might be beneficial to include these and that calls for a longer version. It depends on your experience and what type of job you want.

The CV was just the start for me. I realized I needed some other types of writing samples besides academic journal articles and poems. This is where it gets tricky for writers because everybody wants experience even for an entry position. I went to the internet again to research how to get this experience. They all relayed similar advice: start a blog, network, do some spec writing, use volunteer opportunities. I did some spec writing for an online travel guide website and then an opportunity presented itself. An acquaintance of mine who is a wedding photographer contacted to me to look at her website and give her an opinion of usability. I did that, but as I was looking, I realized I could propose something that would help both of us. I offered to ghostwrite all of her content to make it tighter and add SEO in exchange for giving me a testimonial and allowing me to excerpt some of the writing without outing her identity (important when you ghostwrite). She accepted and I am currently working on putting up these items on my professional portfolio.

The moral of the story here is that leaving the classroom does not have to be the end of your professional life. Think about what your dream job is and look at how you can massage all your experience into something new and exciting.

Remote Work Hangouts

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Remote work can be the most satisfying and freeing choices for your career, but it can also be lonely. I have a lovely home office/library space. The furniture is comfy, there are plants and lots of sunlight- very inspiring. Sometimes though, I need some human interaction.

Enter coffee shops.

They have been the offices of many remote workers as our jobs move more online. There is enough noise, some people you can talk to or not, fresh coffee and usually some baked goods. The catch though is the space needs to be remote work friendly- solid tables, light, wifi and most importantly, lots of outlets! Remoters published an article that gives a great overview of all the pluses and minuses or remote work, as well as a glimpse into what the future of remote work could be. If you are currently freelancing or even working remote for a company, Remoters has some exceptional resources.

Local Options

Over the past two weeks I visited all the possibilities between Panama City proper and Grayton Beach, Fl. (my new home turf). Below is my roundup best to last, but let me say I did not go anywhere that did not offer food in some way- got to have a snack when you are working for hours staring at the screen. There may be more out there…drop me a message if you think I missed one of your faves.

#1 Black Bear Bread Co.

This one is the furthest from my home, but so worth it. There are many comfy seating options from the cushioned banquettes in the bakery are to the bar and couches in the bar room. It is busy. Always. Find your table first and then get in line to order. They give you a number and bring everything to you. The people who work there seem very happy- always smiling, chatting and refilling your coffee. The baked goods are really, really tasty. Did I say really tasty? They are! Everything is baked fresh and when they run out, they are out.

I usually order a large cup of Stumptown Coffee– the richest brew I have sampled from any of the shops. I am kind of hooked on their french toast, but I have tried croissants, pop tarts and grain bowls as well. There are outlets everywhere! Literally, every seat has an outlet right near it including the bar seats- it is a remote worker’s mecca! I stay usually 2-3 hours and nobody interrupts me except to fill coffee or pass a kind word of greeting. I never feel pressure to get out and the buzzy, hip vibe is perfect for writing. I frequent here 1-2 times a week even though it is 35 minutes from my house.

#2 The Pour

I passed this place many times before I ventured in because I was afraid it would be too faith-based. I was wrong. It is a Christian-based coffee shop, but it is so much more. They believe in their community and supporting it with transitional housing and other initiatives- they are a certified non-profit. There are some religious pieces of art on the wall, but there is also a plethora of comfy seating from couches to chairs to more traditional work tables. The decor is a mix of upcycled lighting, rugs and furniture.

I stayed for an hour my first time and it was so relaxing. It is a large space with tons of outlets. I counted eight remote workers when I first entered (always a good sign). The music is indie/folk. The staff is friendly and efficient. I had a coffee, which was nothing special just Community coffee and a pancake muffin which was really special. Baked products are house-made and pretty yummy. They also have a couple of breakfast options, but not a huge selection. This spot exudes good vibes and is a nice change from the home office.

#3 Amivida Coffee

I visited both locations, Rosemary Beach & St. Andrews, and much prefer the St. Andrews location. Rosemary Beach is a fun area, but the cafe itself is rather small and not conducive to remote work- no space to really spread out and plug in.

The location in St. Andrews is large, tons of different types of seating and outlets everywhere. The couple of times I visited, there were numerous remote workers on their laptops and conducting meetings. It is extremely remote worker friendly. There is also this independent spirit in the cafe that appeals to my own independent spirit. I love everything about this place except the food and coffee.

I worked uninterrupted for hours catching snippets of conversation about the community rebuilding after Hurricane Michael and all the new upstart businesses setting up shop. There is a fiercely proud quality to St. Andrews evident in their tagline #keepstandrewssalty and their deep support of locally-owned businesses. All of this makes me want to go here often, but the coffee was bitter both times and the two food items I tried- Spelt breakfast sandwich and muffin were dry and not very tasty. I plan to go and try ordering tea to see if that is more to my liking because I want to love this place and support it. So, in the end this places rocks for getting writing done, but the food and coffee were not as rocking.

#4 Cafe Aroma

This one is by far the closest to my house. I had really high hopes, but it was just okay. To be fair, I went thinking good coffee and a breakfast, but it was more good coffee and a donut.

They serve Lucky Goat coffee which is pretty good, a little bitter. They are really more of a lunch/deli location than breakfast. The sandwich I got was okay, but not great. The blueberry cake donut was fantastic! The space is quite large, but not many tables. This is a miss I think, at least for my purposes. There are outlets by the 7ish tables they have, but it is just not very comfortable. The space itself is a little stark and could use some cozying up. I went here twice, but did not stay for more than an hour. I think there is potential for remote work here, but it is not there yet and maybe they are catering more to the just walk in, get your coffee and donut, and leave crowd.

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#5 & #6 Sunrise Cafe & Bakery & Loaf Cafe & Bakery

I lumped these together because I would not consider remote working from either one.

Sunrise Cafe is super cute inside with a very beachy vibe. Loaf has that European minimalist thing going on. Both are comfortable spots with plenty of seating. But, my major requirement of outlets are basically non-existent.

I also did not feel their breakfast and coffee options were anything to write home about. Sunrise has a limited breakfast menu, but the ingredients were just kind of mediocre (American cheese etc.) and the coffee was the run of the mill Community Coffee. I did order a latte to see how their espresso drinks were and it was weak.

Loaf has an extremely limited menu, but their baklava is outstanding. I also love their community bookshelf where you can drop a book off or pick one up. Both have their good points (European menu options for lunch etc.), but they just were not sufficient for telework.