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Writing Advice From a National Geographic Reporter Who Took Their Love Of Writing And Transformed It Into A Career!

Writing Advice from Nat Geo Writer

Many of you know us through our Meetup groups where we mainly focus on fiction writing and story. 

But in the last 20 years, our homeschooling community enjoy our company for a bit more. Besides our popular poetry classes, and recently a comic & graphic novel course, we’re also known for our nonfiction focus. That includes novel and short story literature analysis, journalism, persuasive essays, and even entrepreneurship.

Stories, after all, permeate all manner of writing from magazine articles, news articles, and even the TV or YouTube commercials you’ve seen. 

Well, recently, I was interviewed by editorial article writer, Erica Jackson Curran for a piece on our writing coach service. 

What is an editorial writer? Essentially, this is a writer that works on a particular featured subject, such as poverty, how it occurs, and how it might be solved. Typically, it is published in a newspaper or magazine. For many of our students, they’ll recognize it as a persuasive essay as it provides both the DFNs (Data, Facts, and Numbers) and the stories through interviews and the experience of people finding themselves without a job, and forced to be put out on the street. These articles, if not all, are meant to provide a strong persuasive argument that hopefully changes our minds so that we can begin to move in the right direction. Pulitzer prizes are won for this kind of editorial work. 

Pulitzer Medal

The Pulitzer Award. 

Credit: https://www.pulitzer.org/page/medal

After reading Mrs. Jackson-Curran’s fantastic piece on  12 Mind-Bending Playgrounds Around the World on National Geographic, I had to reach out and ask if I could interview her regarding her experience as a writer. 

Thankfully, she agreed!

Mrs. Jackson-Curran (I’ll use her first name from here) has written for The Washington Post, Lonely Planet, Parents, Time-Out, and Vice

As a marketing content writer, she can help businesses like thesprucepets.com create articles that will attract people who are Googling for a topic like,  “Best Pet Insurance Companies.” Google will help direct these inquirers to the magazine or company’s website. 

Hmm. So do companies pay writers to help them write articles that people want to read? Yes, companies will gladly pay you to write articles for them! But, you have to write well and do research beyond looking up another website’s information. You often have to conduct interviews just as a journalist would. 

Fortunately, Erica has worked as a newspaper journalist so she knows how to find excellent contacts and speak to a wide variety of subjects from student loans, health, entertainment, food, travel, design, and parenting. Sounds kind of fun doesn’t it? Can you imagine being assigned to travel and write about food? Yum!

I hope features like this interview, and others by our students and our staff, will inspire you and your family to consider writing as not just a profession or an outlet for creativity, but as a tool to investigate deeper into topics you are curious about. 

Without further ado, here’s Mrs. Erica Jackson Curran answer my questions!

  • When did you decide you wanted to write as a career?

    • I think I knew that I wanted to be a writer as early as grade school. I loved any assignment that involved writing, and I received a lot of encouragement from my teachers. When I realized I could build a career out of doing something that I enjoy, and that I'm good at, I never really even considered anything else! I also really loved the idea of having a totally flexible career that would allow me to make my own schedule.
  • How did you decide to be a journalist or article writer?

    • Of course, there are so many different types of writing — copywriting, grant writing, poetry, fiction, and marketing (which I actually do sometimes). Majoring in English in college gave me a chance to dabble in many of these writing styles, and I realized that I most enjoyed editorial writing. I enjoy the process of researching my subject, getting to know it, then the challenge of presenting it to readers in a way that is interesting, useful, and maybe even enlightening.
  • What advice would you give to your younger self?

    •  Read more, write more. These are my best tips to improving as a writer. I would also say it's OK to evolve as a writer. Don't pigeonhole yourself.
  • Are you working on a personal project that involves writing?

    • I started a website called Parennial Travel before COVID to write about my passion for family travel, now that I am a parent. I had to put that on hold because of the pandemic, but we're about to embark on our first big adventure in a while, and I hope to start writing for the site again soon.
  • What are your goals or dreams for this project?

    • I want to help other parents feel confident traveling the world with their children by showing them how incredible the experience can be. I enjoy writing about traveling with my family more than anything else.
  • What are some writing rules that you've developed that you try to adhere to?

    • My writing environment is very important. I can't have any distractions. I also need to read good writing regularly in order to be inspired. If I find myself experiencing writer's block, I can often get past it if I take time to read something good like a well-written article. Social media is a terrible distraction so I try to limit it when I'm working and in general. The more time I spend scrolling Instagram, the worse my writing becomes. I swear it kills brain cells.
  • What is your sequence for writing an article?

    • It really depends on the type of article it is. For a traditional editorial piece, I'll start by researching my subject, usually by Googling the subject and reading other articles about it, and taking notes. If the article requires interviews, I'll then work on locating some expert sources, reaching out to them, and then interviewing them. Then I'll gather all of my interviews into one place and highlight the best quotes. Then I'll write an outline and a rough draft, then let the piece rest for a few days before giving it a final polish and turning it in to my editor.
  • How did you come to write for a publication like National Geographic?

    • It's taken years to build up a portfolio that has helped me to be noticed and respected by editors at higher-tier publications like NatGeo. I had to start at the bottom with smaller regional publications and work my way up.
    • My network has also been very important. I stay in touch with other writers I've worked with both as a writer and editor because we're often climbing the ladder together, and we often share sources with one another and make valuable introductions that lead to assignments.

Thank you, Erica, for your time and inspiring responses!

You can check out Erica’s popular articles here on her Contently page

Her main website at Parennial Travel is focused on travel with kids. Erica has traveled extensively and can address any concerns one might have regarding traveling abroad with young children in mind. I especially love her spotlight on other families making traveling a core part of their life experience. 

If you’re thinking about traveling abroad, you can get in touch with Erica. She and her team at Parennial Travel can provide custom travel planning recommendations from flights, to homes with the best amenities, family-friendly restaurants, and even suggestions for babysitter services during your trip!

If you enjoy reading this kind of content, let me know. If you are a parent that enjoys incorporating writing into your life, I’d love to interview you. 

The more ways we can inspire our young writers to read and write, the better informed our next generation of citizens will be. It’s more than important. Reading and writing quality content is necessary!

To your writing life! 

Royd Hatta

Writing Coach

Resources: Featured Photo Credit: Parennial Travel

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