Copywriting & Writing Consulting
I love thinking and writing about art and culture, so working with artists and creative professionals to help them tell their stories has been a natural, though unexpected, part of my work lately. My training in scholarly writing and academic cultural critique inform everything I do, even if I'm writing a blog post or consulting on an artist statement. My approach is to think just as strategically about what I'm trying to say and who I'm trying to reach. I construct story carefully, choose words artfully, and proofread obsessively.
The Challenge: When Pokémon Go launched, it felt like everyone had something to say about it. But much of the media buzz was failing to provide any real insight or context. I knew my academic friends had useful perspectives to share, but scholarly writing is slow by design and so is not often able to respond to of-the-moment events.
The Solution: I recruited a handful of brilliant folks to offer their first impressions, and set up a roundtable format in a shared document so we could write quickly, collaboratively, and without the pressure of supporting every observation with reams of research.
Result: Keeping brilliant people on a tight deadline is not easy, but we pulled it off, getting the post polished and live on Medium while the topic was still buzzworthy. The final piece is full of provocative insights, and it was a real pleasure to work with this group of big thinkers.
The format of In Media Res allows for short, timely reflections by scholars, activists, and journalists. It's particularly cool to see the ideas develop in the comments as contributors respond to each other.
I'm by no means a scholar of popular music as such (unlike some of my fellow contributors), but lately I've been exploring the way that all kinds of popular texts — films, tv shows, music, etc. — get recontextualized through the form of the 'internet think piece.'
I happened to be writing this post during the week that saw the release of Beyonce's Lemonade and the death of Prince. As was the case for many of us, my experience of those pop music events was framed primarily through headlines in my Facebook feed posted by friends. While a few of those headlines were simple news reports, most were think pieces, reflecting on broader cultural issues like race and gender. I put together a quick slideshow to illustrate the point.
You can find my commentary and slides here: "Rethinking Thinkpieces: Pop Criticism as Pop Culture."
Social Media Peer Fundraising Campaign
The Challenge: Running a marathon is hard — and as a charity athlete, not only do you have to run the miles, you have to raise the money. Peer fundraising wasn't too difficult the first time around, but my third year in a row, I found it much more challenging. Donors were understandably less enthusiastic once the novelty had worn off, and I found that some friends and family who intended to contribute simply couldn't remember if they had given this time around or not.
The Solution: I created a simple series of graphics for social media to keep my friends and family up to date. Including the names of donors in the image allowed me to express my gratitude publicly while also serving as a reminder to those who still intended to give. Using the graphic as my profile pic on Facebook and tagging the latest contributors in each new version of the image widened its reach. I also created a dynamic splash page linking back to the donation site so I'd have an easier URL to share.
Result: I was thrilled to surpass my fundraising goal, raising more than $3000 in contributions for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. I used a foolproof template-based printing service so I could quickly (and cheaply) create a thank you postcard to mail my donors, each one personalized with a handwritten note.
Update: I'm running the Chicago Marathon again and donations are welcome!
Fresh Copy & Content for Salon Website
The Challenge: A local salon investing in a website redesign needed fresh copy to match — as well as new material to launch a blog.
The Solution: Budget restrictions made a total overhaul unlikely, so I took the existing "about us" content and made it more web friendly — simpler to read, easier to skim. The owner had given questionnaires to the staff to use as bios. I streamlined that raw material, getting rid of any sprawling answers to irrelevant questions. While respecting the integrity of what everyone wrote, I reshaped their answers to fit a consistent format designed to highlight the team's professionalism while still letting each stylist's personality shine through. I worked with existing images and a few bits of information about the salon's services and products to write a series of initial posts to launch the site's new blog. I had a great time researching hair and fashion trends to make sure I was getting the language exactly right.
The Result: After the first draft, the client wrote to say: "I LOVE what you have done so far! You have captured the image I want to project. Great information with a playful edge!" And when the work was done: "I'm super happy and look forward to doing more work with you in the future."
Social Media Presence for Academic Program
The Challenge: A required, foundation-level college course does not typically have to market itself, but in this case, administrators decided that the First-Year Seminar (FYS) program at Columbia College Chicago needed to do something about persistent misinformation surrounding the course and its purpose.
The Solution: One of many things we did to show off what was really going on in FYS was to build a social media presence. Our strategy was "show don't tell" — rather than trying to explain FYS, we built Twitter and Facebook feeds to share content about exactly the kinds of issues students would be exploring in class. Targeting current and prospective students, as well as academic colleagues at Columbia College and beyond, the feed featured posts about creativity, the artistic process, thorny issues surrounding contemporary art and media, and the importance of liberal arts education. We also shared news items related to the books and films discussed in the course, promoted campus events, exhibited student work, profiled instructors, and shared timely tips that would be of use to students. I developed the strategy, authored content, and worked with school's in-house design team to create great visuals for the feeds.
The Result: The FYS Twitter feed became one of the most active channels serving the college's 10,000 students and engaging the extended community of faculty, staff, parents, and prospectives, providing valuable content on everything from snow day closures to gallery openings, and extending the program's mission to engage young creatives in thoughtful discussion of the culture of our time.
Baggage Exclaims: Poetry for New Media
The Challenge: Poetry struggles with a reputation of being slow and stuffy, decidedly analog. What might it look like if written for a fast and fleeting digital space like Tumblr?
The Project: Baggage Exclaims became my extended creative writing experiment, featuring nearly 100 posts designed to smuggle poetic writing into something that looks at first glance more like catalog copy. The project references the tradition of ekphrastic poetry, which is typically written in response to great works of art. Here the form is playfully redeployed in response to, of all things, man bags — which provoke ambiguously irreverent rumination about the deep significance of our modern-day "baggage."