In a world where the many seek mediums outside of the written word for their news and entertainment, there are still some who celebrate it.
Dan Kois, a senior editor of “Slate Magazine,” and Scott Raab, author and writer-at-large for “Esquire” and author of “The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James,” have both dedicated their lives to producing written material.
“People who still value the written word, whatever the medium, are really precious, and I think precious to all of us,” Raab said.
Kois and Raab visited Ohio State Thursday to discuss their experiences as career writers for their respective magazines and tell how they obtained their positions in what is arguably a dying industry.
The writers were invited to speak at OSU because “they are perfect models” of people who have made “their way in the world as writers,” said Michelle Herman, director of Ohio State’s creative writing program. “There are not a lot of teaching jobs as writers,” Herman said.
The writers spoke to a crowd of about 40 people, including professors, graduate students and undergraduate students in a multipurpose room on the first floor of William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library.
For just over an hour, both Kois and Raab talked briefly about their current careers and how they obtained them. Most of the time was taken answering questions from the audience, providing tips on how to write as a career, in particular in regards to the magazine industry.
“The No. 1 piece of advice I would give you is if you have a magazine you want to write for, just spend a month focusing an insane amount of energy and attention toward that magazine,” Kois said. “You would be surprised how unbelievably flattering it is for an editor to get an email from someone who is actually paying attention to the magazines that we edit.”
“That advice should be engraved, chiseled into stone,” Raab said in response to Kois’ tip.
Raab also stressed the importance of endurance.
“Endurance turns out to be an underpinning talent without which (real talent) ultimately amounts to very little,” Raab said.
Raab told the audience about a moment when a story of his was criticized by a visiting author when he was in graduate school at a writer’s workshop. After reworking the story, he was able to sell the story to a “magazine that was sold exclusively to doctor’s offices,” he said.
One of the last pieces of advice from the writers covered journalistic logistics.
“If you are a writer who turns in clean copy, on time and isn’t an a–hole about it, you are better than 80 percent of other writers,” Kois said.
“I would raise that percent,” Raab said in response, as some of the audience laughed. “Nobody indulges artists … If you can deliver that clean copy on deadline, you will always be employed.”
For some perspective career writers in attendance, the information and experiences the speakers talked about were inspirational. This rang true for Katya Bubeleva, a third-year in psychology with a minor in creative writing.
“I love listening to other writers just because every single one of them that has been doing this for a while are like, ‘Just never give up, keep on doing what you’re doing,'” Bubeleva said. “That’s really inspiring for me, and for every writer. The more you’re told not to give up on what you’re doing, the more willing you are to do it, the more motivation you have to do it.”