Interview: Writing in West Michigan

About The Project
This online book is a collection of profiles of local professional writers composed by the students in WRT 200 Intro to Professional Writing at Grand Valley State University. In this project, students work in groups, visit and interview local writers to get their first-hand views of the working lives of professional writers in West Michigan. Before reading the book, you might want to know what students found through their fieldwork:

What is Professional Writing?
Professional writing is an art in the way that creativity plays such a large part in the finished product, but is very much a science because we must know how people read and how best to keep their full attention. Furthermore, the professional writer of today must not only have an in depth knowledge of the product or service they're advertising or organizing for, but also have technical training to wield any of the newest software programs in whatever way is necessary for that particular job. In many ways, the good professional writer is the writer with the most marketable skills and the most diverse and effective creative style.
-- David Pettigrew

Professional writing is not necessarily writing, but rather making sure an intended audience gets information in a concise, correct manner.
-- Bettie Groenhout

Professional writing is composing a clear and concise ‘product’ for a specific targeted audience. The two most important entailed elements of this are the audience and communication. In all forms of professional writing, you are writing for an intended audience. Numerous times I discovered that the information being written is nothing like general knowledge; it requires a great deal of learning.
-- Meagan Pimm

In professional writing, how you say something is almost as important as what is said. By that I mean that what a piece of writing looks like is as important as what information the piece conveys. Writing must represent its medium. Writing on a web page should be easy to browse and contain many subheadings for easy access. It should have a standard format so it can be accessed by any computer.
--Dan Pepper

Who Are Professional Writers?
If asked to define a professional writer today, I would say that a professional writer is someone who has the skill to communicate with all types of audiences, and the ability to generate documents that fit the needs of both businesses and consumers. A professional writer is someone who understands the influence that technology has on communication and is able to harness that influence in order to make documents more appealing and appropriate for the intended audience. This may sound like a skill that takes years to master, however, many people without the term "writer" in their title, could in fact be considered professional writers.
-- Megan Shorter

Professional writing has emerged and changed throughout the centuries, new technologies are introduced constantly and old ones become obsolete. We’ve come from the first quill pen to typewriters and now computers: from oral traditions, to poetry, the novella, to epic novel trilogies. With ever growing communication technologies has come the need to know what is going on in places far away. And with all these changes a whole new position has materialized, the professional writer.

One of the books that we read in WRT 200 defined a professional writer as someone whose job is 30%, or more, writing. That shocked me a bit because that meant that professional writers aren’t just writers, but also professionals. Because of this 30% idea, I have a new view on what professional writing actually is. As we would think, newspaper articles, how-to-guides, and websites are pieces of “professional writing.” But an idea that is new to me after having taken this class is that things like, report card comments, doctor’s reports, e-mails to co-workers, press releases, and thank you letters are also all forms of professional writing.

Of course [there] will always be “professional writers,” those technical writers or copy-editors, but we cannot discount professional writing as a skill for those people alone. Almost all professionals in today’s society can consider themselves “professional writers.”
-- Stephannie Wallace

The "Writing as a Profession" project definitely helped all of us to gain a better understanding of professional writers. Who would've thought that biology professors could be put into the category of writers? … Before taking this course, my view of professional writing was someone who only writes, all the time, in their job. Ghostwriters, journalists, magazine writers, and novelists were all ideas of professional writers. After taking this course, however, I learned that a wide variety of professions utilize writing, and many people who work in fields completely unrelated to publishing or journalism can be considered professional writers… Whether it be scribbling messages as a secretary, writing prescriptions out at a pharmacy, or writing grant proposals at a non-profit organization, writing is a part of so many different fields.

I believe professional writing is a field that will continue to grow as more and more areas are included in it. The possibilities are endless when it comes to writing.
--Caroline Shanks

Professional Writing or Creative Writing?
Professional writing can still creative though. The writer is given a chance to take a concept that is black or white and make it colorful- to bring his own voice to his piece.
-- Christine Moye

It is necessary for communicating ideas to a broad audience, for writing about specific fields to particular audiences, for using whatever creative acumen you have and attempting to apply it to reaching out to others. In short, [professional writing] is both somewhat easier than creative writing in that you are given a clear idea of what to write about and far, far harder in that you must try to present said information in a tasteful, clear, and engaging manner, either alone or with the help of a group.
-- Tom Sikkema