Every Writer’s Battle: 2012 Alum Jen Emmert Shares her Story and Advice as a Recent Post-Graduate
By Christine Drawl
“…I wasn’t going to give up on pursuing writing; it had become too much a part of me to let it go that easily.” – Jen Emmert
In the epic battle between English degrees and job prospects, one Alum is valiantly fighting (or writing) at the front line in defiance of our odds. Marietta College graduate Jen Emmert (2012) pursued her undergraduate education with a double major in Journalism and one she self-designed in Creative Writing. Compelled with a desire to further her writing experience and education, she began to look at MFA programs in the summer before her senior year, though she admitted in retrospect that she had little expectation of how “strenuous” this endeavor would be. She confessed, “I was unaware of how competitive these programs would be to get in; Dr. Bland warned me in advance, but that thought really didn’t surface until I started receiving rejection letter…after rejection letter. It was heartbreaking; my morale muddied, and I honestly really started to doubt myself and my abilities.” The eighth and final program, Antioch University in Los Angeles, finally got in contact with her, only to tell her that she had been waitlisted for their fiction program. However, as invariably as the closing off of one opportunity opens up others, the chair of the department contacted Jen to offer her a spot in one of their new programs, Writing for Young People.
She was “ecstatic; it felt like a perfect fit at the time, and, as I’d come to find out after fully engaging in the program, it stayed (at still stays) true.” After discovering that she’s always wanted to “emulate hope for younger people” through her writing, Jen made another discovery. With the way the AULA program is structured, Jen only has to visit the campus ten days twice a year, leaving her to work almost unmonitored while living in her city of choice, Chicago. Her first ten-day program began in June following graduation, which included writing workshops and seminars on a variety of writing elements; so many so that she reported one student called it “Disney World for Writers.”
The independence offered by this program has allowed Jen to pursue other interests as well. Since moving to Chicago that August, she has found work at an American Apparel, and has combined her love of writing and music by writing freelance for multiple music publications such as Substream Music Press, Lemonade Magazine, PopMatters and Examiner.com, and more recently with oDesk, all while working towards her MFA. Despite these successes, she admits that “finding writing roles within Chicago has been surprisingly difficult…I’ve applied for positions for some of Chicago’s most well-known publications and haven’t heard a word back from anyone.” But she’s not giving up. “I’ll continue utilizing the resources I have and be relentless, or as I use as my motivational mantra, ‘Endure despite.’”
As the ambitious and relentless young writer that she is, her aim is set on becoming a successful novelist and music journalist. Part of her graduate program involves writing a manuscript and sending it out for publication, but Jen decided that it was too difficult to decide between two possible stories, so to solve this quandary she’s simply writing them both. “I decided to be an overachiever and do two, mainly because the ideas of them ran parallel during the residency, and I found I was very passionate about them both.”
The first one, she explains, is about “a 17-year-old girl named Sophie who has considered herself straight all her life, but, after a random meeting at a music event, finds herself falling in love with another female instead.” While it’s still in the process, she adds, “The story will unveil that newness and the hell she must go through during that blossoming. It's very coming-of-age and essentially aims to inspire others to trust their instincts, be open to sides of themselves that they previously were unfamiliar with and love who they want to love.”
The second piece, she tells us, is about “a 15-year-old male (narrated through his voice/perspective) who's a hoodlum and essentially very unlikeable; his parents are unsupportive, and he's sent to live with his aunt who hates kids; he hangs with the wrong crowd and has acquired dirty habits, and he has no idea who he is. He starts working at a concert hall, is given a mission via the owner/manager and slowly begins to discover what he wants out of his life.” We wish you well, Jen, and hope to see these in print one day.
She encourages others to stay true to the battle as she has. “Post-graduation isn’t always glamorous, especially if you’re interested in writing, but you can’t let that get you down. Pounce upon every opportunity that steps around the corner and branch outside of your comfort zone. Make connections with others, even if they don’t do exactly what you do and work with them…I’m certainly not where I want to be right now, but I know I’m heading in the write (ha!) direction!”