Patricia Cason is a junior English major at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She writes for The Odyssey to gain experience as a published writer for her life after graduation. Her writing has always interested me, not only because she is a friend of mine, but because she doesn’t stick to just one topic. She has some articles that are in the popular list format, but she also writes about some more serious topics as well. My goal for this interview was to gain some insight about what motivates Patricia to write about what she does and to learn about what she takes from the overall experience of writing for The Odyssey.
How did you become involved in writing for the Odyssey? Was it strictly because you are an English major or was it more on your own personal interest?
Patricia: I started writing for The Odyssey because “being published” is important for anyone considering a career as a writer. Where you’re published doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you’re putting your work out into the world for people to see. The biggest reason I write for [The Odyssey] is to demonstrate interest in written communication for future employers. I chose The Odyssey because it’s a lot more relaxed than our student newspaper, The Breeze, and I didn’t want to deal with strict deadlines in addition to my academic course load.
How do you come up with topics for each one of your articles?
Patricia: A lot of the topics I write about come from personal experience, or are common themes I pick up on during conversation with my friends. I write down potential topics whenever they come to me, so I have a lot of article titles scrawled in my notebook and in my iPhone notes. One time I wrote almost an entire article while I was hosting during a slow day at TGI [Friday’s], which was definitely a better use of my time than actually working.
You seem to have a good range of topics varying from your “Society Killed the Liberal Arts Major” to a more controversial topic such as the article “All the Questions You Were Always Too Afraid to Ask” and a few light-hearted lists such as “8 Reality Checks for My Insane Expectations of Freshman Year”. Are there different approaches you take to each type of article and/or certain things you keep in mind when writing the more serious ones?
Patricia: Sometimes I choose topics because I think I’ll get a lot of social engagement, and other times I feel as if the topic itself is important, and needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, the audience I reach from Facebook and Twitter shares is primarily bored college students, so articles such as “All The Questions You Were Always Too Afraid To Ask” always get drastically more views. It’s kind of disappointing actually, because a lot of people say they care about deeper issues, but don’t engage with it in their free time when it’s offered to them.
After writing for an online publication, do you see any striking differences about writing online vs. for print?
Patricia: I’ve never written for a print publication, but the biggest difference that I see is the types of people you reach and the ability to measure your audience. I can see the exact number of people who read my articles, which isn’t possible for print sources. Additionally, since The Odyssey gives its creators the burden of sharing and marketing their piece for views, I really only originally reach the people I’m friends with on Twitter and Facebook. So, if I wrote an article that primarily 30 year-olds would be interested in, they’d probably never see it because my younger followers wouldn’t be interested enough to share it.
Overall, would you say that writing for The Odyssey has helped you grow as a writer and has prepared you for life outside school with an English degree (career wise)? If so, in what ways?
Patricia: It’s been interesting, because I have the freedom to explore pretty much anything I want and have it published. It’s also taught a bit about writing for the public vs. academic papers. Obviously, I probably shouldn’t use words like “ostensibly” in Odyssey articles, or my readers will disengage with the content. I’ve definitely learned that the general public heavily favors lighthearted “fluff” writing.
I found Patricia’s answers to #3 and #4 particularly interesting because they can be nicely tied to the Social Action assignment we just had. She points out how she wishes to have lots of public engagement about her posts but often gets her hopes up because of the limited audience had access to. She points out how her friends on Facebook and Twitter claim to have concern for the deeper issues but doesn’t engage with it in their free time. This is something that all of us have claimed to experience in our reflection of our social action. Additionally, this lack of sharing can impact what she chooses to write about since she must keep that audience in mind.