When I began my trek to become a college graduate, I started off on a different path. I was following the familiar that I had been hiking for the past 30 years. My plan was to actually get my degree in finance because I enjoy “playing with money.” I wanted to teach others how to be responsible and make their dreams come true. I never thought a course as ambiguous as calculus would keep me from reaching this goal.
After I discovered I would have to leave school or go down a different road, I did research, spoke to my “advisors,” and prayed long and hard, finally deciding to take the fork that lead to what was actually my first love; English. While I had no idea that I would be able to support myself with this degree since I didn’t want to be a teacher and thought editing was out of reach. I did think though that perhaps a degree would help me overcome the stigma of my age, which was a big reason I had been unemployable for two years.
I was very happy with my decision. I loved the courses. I gained respect and even enjoyed learning about authors, eras, and nations I previously had no interest in. I discovered that I actually could understand Shakespeare and Olde English writing. I was introduced to Indian writers and realized that my view of that culture really came from a western viewpoint. I learned how to become a critical reader and not just take a text at face value. No, I don’t regret my decision at all to get my Bachelor of Arts in English. I just kind of wish I had done it years ago.
In what I thought was my final semester at Kennesaw State University, I took the course “Careers in Writing.” This course was to become the turning point of not only how I saw my degree, but how I looked at my future as an English major. First of all, very early in the semester, I discovered that I somehow had missed the fact that there was a Minor in Professional Writing. When I looked into this, I realized that I had indeed taken three of the four courses needed to complete the minor. All I needed was the fourth course, and though it could have been waived, an internship. I began to turn over in my mind the possibility of extending my degree another semester and go for the minor.
Secondly, I had never wanted to even think about a Masters Degree, but after also hearing about the MAPW in that same course, I decided to talk to my advisor. I was encouraged to extend, obtain an internship, and even apply for the Masters program. After talking with my children, family, and friends, this is the path I decided I wanted to follow.
Which brings me to the third point I gained from that course. Our instructor required us to make an online professional portfolio to be a storage facility of the coursework we would be doing during the semester. Only, if done correctly, this could not only be twisted and tweaked and turned into a viable vessel to show to potential employers. My fellow students and I would probably need this tool since, as I came to understand, we are professional writers. This is where I came to believe that I could leave the accounting world behind me and maybe even support myself as a writer, editor, or website owner.
During my extended semester, I took other classes that made use of the professional portfolio I had begun in that first course. So, for a year, I added to the original until it had become out of control. Now, I am going to be editing, scaling, re-arranging, and deleting to make it what I want it to become; a work I will be proud of to show to perspective employers to convince them I may just be who they are looking for to fill the position they have open.
STATEMENT OF NEED
What began as, in my eyes, an experiment and a piece of course work can turn into a valuable tool for me to use in my graduate studies and ongoing as I reach for success as a Professional Writer. It will be, of sorts and quite simply, a storage vehicle for samples of my work. While that is the “definition” of a portfolio, it will be so much more than that. Most artists have a black zippered case with handles to carry their samples with them on interviews.
While this system is still in use, especially for painters or illustrators, the internet has opened a door for artists to have the ability to have their works collected in one place for anyone to see at any given time. No longer does one have to carry a clunky, oversized case with them wherever they go and no longer have the fear of something getting lost or misplaced. Once it is listed on a website, it is there seemingly forever. Now a writer can be on an airplane and with a simple twist of fate be seated to a captive audience who may be in the need of some assistance. Just bring up the website on a laptop or phone, and share work with whichever agent, editor, publisher, marketing director, or bestselling author is sitting in the next seat.
The probability that there will be perspective employer is the reason that this portfolio is not only necessary, but also as professional as possible. To this end, there will be rules that need to be followed, even though not “to the letter.” As with anything creative, a person’s vision and personality will need to be shown through their portfolio’s. The form and layout may be patterned, but the content and design should be played with. This should completely reflect the person who created the work and the site.
I researched four websites to see which elements of those I liked and could maybe incorporate into my own. I was also looking for similarities among theirs and with mine. What I discovered is that all the websites basically had the same format even if the layout and personalities were different. I investigated the sites of two of my favorite authors, John Grisham and Sue Grafton. I also wanted to take a closer look at Tony Grooms while comparing his to a classmate, Will Lawson.
John Grisham and Sue Grafton, I’m sure, had theirs built by professionals. Both speak to who they are as writers and work well with their personalities. Grisham’s is streamlined with four titles on his menu. The header gives off an intense feeling with its stern picture of him against a stark background. In fact, the whole website gives off a stark vibe with its color scheme of white background and blue lettering. Even though there are small thumbnail photos on the site, the only pop of color that catches the eye is the yellow that Grisham’s name is written in. All of this gives the site a very clean, easy feeling which is very easy to navigate.
Sue Grafton’s site, on the other hand, is more colorful and is more laid back and inviting. Her header is a picture of her 25 “ABC Mystery Books” lined on a shelf. She has seven titles listed on the header as well as on the footer. It, too, is easily navigated, and gives the reader a glimpse into the person who was Sue Grafton. Even though she passed away in December of 2017, her site still embodies who the author was and her accomplishments over the years.
However, I think Tony Grooms is my favorite. I like the black background with the white lettering. His homepage has a graphic that shows who he is and what he believes in with a snippet of what sounds like a tribal song with 10 titles on the header. He even has a link to a you tube video. The layout of the site is user friendly and easy to navigate. With its background, instead of being stark, it feels very dramatic.
Similarly, Will Lawson’s site is also black with the white lettering. The header picture really speaks to who Will is as a person, while the rest speaks to who he is and who he is becoming as a professional. Currently, he only has one title, so it is a work in progress, but I feel that he is on the right track. I look forward to watching his site form and take shape.
COMPONETS AND CONTENT
My website is entitled a sentence here a paragraph there and is hosted by Reclaim Hosting. This site is for students and teachers and has an affordable yearly subscription fee. With this host, I was able to overlay a free Word Press page that, because of the hosting, the ads have been removed. The official name of my site is “Donna Cochran Writes,” and the tagline is “Telling the Tale of Me.” My header has a picture I took of a quill pen.
Currently, I have seven items listed as my menu: Home, About Me, Content Creation, Short Stories, Research, Digital Stories, and Understanding Writing. My home page has a paragraph explaining why I chose the depiction of the quill, along with my contact information. About Me is a brief bio of myself, along with my aspirations for the future. This is also where my resume and Linked In link are located.
The next four are where my work is stored. Content Creation and Digital Stories are assignments from other courses of which I am fond and proud. Short Stories is where I have completed and the beginnings of these type of pieces. Research holds research papers I completed during my undergraduate work.
The last item, Understanding Writing, is for the coursework I am producing in the class of the same name. So far, there are blogs I have written posted there. But, as the semester progresses, there will be other subtitles with work created placed there. When this semester is over, this section will be removed, and the work housed there will be moved to other titles or deleted.
While I have the base of the portfolio I want, there are still tweaks that need to be done. It is my intention to renew the subscription of this website every year. It is my hope that I will continue to add to the works created. Therefore, I should never consider the website done until I lay down my pen for good. However, I am going to be working on the layout of this site during this semester to make it reflect more of who I am. To reach this end, I will be using the following action plan.
I want to learn more about thumbnails and place them on my landing page by the end of October. I think this will aid with the ease of navigation. By Thanksgiving, I intend to have samples of my upcoming work listed, and by the end of the semester, I want to have more completed stories available.
Following is my about me page, which is a compilation of my about and about part deux pages from two separate semesters. I know that it needs to be consolidated and duplicates removed. Advice will be appreciated.
As a child of the ‘70’s, Donna Cochran opted for marriage and children after graduating high school instead of going to college. Being a wife and mother for 17 years kept her busy, and when she became a single mom after her divorce, she had to enter the work force full time, working in the accounting field. Then, in 2014, at the age of 58, she decided to take her life in a new direction. She enrolled at Kennesaw State University. She is scheduled to graduate in December 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in English, a Minor in Business Law, and will be one class short of a Minor in Professional Writing. She is also planning to apply for the MAPW program at Kennesaw State with a concentration in fiction writing. Since age 10, she has dabbled in writing, but never pursued it seriously. She now wants to change that and take her life down a different path. She has ideas for three books she wants to write. Since she is also becoming a little more computer savvy, she wants to begin a blog or two.
Donna has two daughters, five grandchildren, and six grandpets. Her hobbies include reading, music and travel. Even though she has lived most of her life within 20 miles of her childhood home in Mableton, she spent three months in Charleston, SC, and another three months on Long Island, NY. But, it was the two years she lived outside of Boston that she enjoyed the most.
After a few life changes, Donna Cochran decided to make a major change in her life and career path. In 2016, she decided to attend Kennesaw State University as an undergraduate in English. She will graduate in May 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in English along with double minors; Business Law and Professional Writing. She has also obtained an internship with Dr. Lara Smith-Sitton to research and write articles about non-traditional students at Kennesaw State university.
Donna is a divorced mother of two daughters and a grandmother of six, four girls and two boys. While most of her life was lived in Cobb, Douglas, and Paulding Counties, she did spend three months in Charleston, South Carolina as well as Long Island, New York. She also lived outside of Boston for two years. Most of her professional life was in the accounting field, but now hopes to change career paths and become an author.
While spending time with her family is her favorite past-time, Donna also enjoys reading, listening to music, and re-furbishing old furniture. She chose to use a quill pen as her header picture because like her, this pen is old-fashioned, and some consider out-of-date, but it is still relevant and viable.
John Grisham is a lawyer from Mississippi who became an author. He realized that writing books was just an extension of telling the litigants stories to the juries. Most of his career has been spent writing law-based novels. However, he has also ventured into other arenas such as a Wall Street brokerage and even wrote about a baseball player who was traded to an Italian team.
Sue Grafton is the author of 25 novels starring a female private detective named Kinsey Milhone, which is also known as the “A B C Mysteries.” Grafton based the character loosely on herself, giving Milhone many of her flaws but added the characteristics such as bravery that Grafton wished she had more of. With her passing in 2017, Grafton’s alphabet ends with “Y.” Even though she had already laid out the plot and outline of “Z,” she was adamant that there would be no ghostwriter.
Tony Grooms is a professor and the head of the MAPW at Kennesaw State University. He holds an MFA and has written novels, short stories, and poems. Most of his work centers around the African-American experience in the Deep South.
Willie Lawson is a graduate student in the MAPW program at Kennesaw State University. He is also a Professional Writer, Editor, and Blogger. As part of the MAPW program, he is also a training Teacher’s Assistant.