Mount Mary’s Aspiring Writers Learn from Wisconsin’s Very Own

Written by: Jeana Prudhomme, graduate student in English

On February 5, Mount Mary English students who attended the Writers on Writing event had the opportunity to indulge in first-hand lessons from Wisconsin writers to learn from their own struggles and successes. This includes Jeanette Hurt, a food, drink, and travel writer of publications such as Drink Like a Woman: Shake, Stir. Conquer, and Jim Higgins, a writer and editor of food and performing arts stories. He is also the author of publications such as Wisconsin Literary Luminaries: From Laura Ingalls Wilder to Ayad Akhtar.

The Writers on Writing event began with Hurt’s talk on her personal experiences as a freelance writer. After completing pitches that didn’t go as planned, and spending years researching topics that weren’t fully utilized, she has finally found her place writing about drinks and travel. Now, she gives students a chance to learn from her own personal lessons.

  • Take every experience in your life, good or bad and make money from it. Being a nonfiction writer means that you have the freedom to write about what you know. For example, after experiencing the passing of her dog, she wrote: “8 Things NOT to Say to Someone Mourning a Pet."
  • Go with what interests you. As simple as this may seem, Jeanette reminded audiences of the new and fascinating rabbit holes that she was taken down during her research, such as the naming on the “Brandy Old Fashioned” phenomenon.
  • When writing nonfiction, get the details right. Readers who know the truths of the stories about locations or events will become irritated with authors who don’t provide correct information. This then causes these authors to lose credibility.
  • Take advantage of writers conferences and meet with editors. Some writing opportunities come easier than others, but you never know who may be willing to take your pitch and run with it. Additionally, keep a positive attitude at these events. Avoid talking about “How hard of a year it has been." Editors do not like Debbie Downers!
  • Put in your time. Hurt expressed the times throughout her career when she was reminded, “You can’t make money as a travel writer because everyone wants to do it so you won’t make money." However, Hurt proves that with dedication, the dream is possible.

Higgins, among many things, is a writer and editor for books and performing arts pieces of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He humbly entertained the audience with his pieces of advice for writers in Wisconsin.

  • Define any kind of writing as creative writing. After asking the audience whether they are nonfiction or creative writers, he encouraged the audience to understand that writing in itself is creative. Today, writers must evoke originality in whatever they write, proving that creativity is essential.
  • Never feel discouraged if a day job is part of your writing career. Higgins explains that many authors that he has come across believe they may not make it with a full-time job getting in the way. However, it matters more about the desire to keep writing, even while having other responsibilities.
  • A Wisconsin writer must have the following characteristics: Be born there or move there, live in a tiny house, get outside, know your community, and keep writing about it. This can be taken as humor or not, but writers who stick to what they are familiar with, create ingenuity.
  • Let some parts of your writing “go wild." Beauty in nature is created when it is left wild. The same thing applies to writing, when authors allow their writing to reflect their natural selves. This enhances originality and naturalness.
  • If you think you’re too old, you’re not. Students studying English at Mount Mary University are of varying ages. Higgins reminded them all to take Laura Ingalls Wilder into consideration, who was 65 years old when Little House in the Big Woods was published.

Undoubtedly, attendees of this event will explain that they have experienced the motivation that could only be gained first-hand from Hurt and Higgins. It is a reminder for students of Mount Mary University to take advantage of the series events that the college has to offer. You never know what lessons you may learn if you don’t take all opportunities given to you.