Writers in our network

Writers in our network: Chief Daydreamer Kim Grob

profilepic_lowestKim has honed her craft by writing for some of the biggest brands in the business; Intel, Visa, Adobe, and Nike have all trusted Kim to be their voice on a project or 10. But as the co-founder of Write On Network, she’s been able to fulfill an even bigger and deeper desire not only to use her talents for good, but also to empower other writers to do the same. Today, working from our writing headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City, you’ll find Kim leading a team of experienced copywriters who work together to help clients tell their stories–and change the world.

When the idea of Write On Network came up, how did you know the time was right to go for it?

The idea came to me at the perfect time in my life–when I had the small business experience and the well-connected professional network I needed to pull it off. I also had that prickly feeling of restlessness that can’t be ignored and a willing partner--Jen Jackson–who completely shared my vision for what Write On could be. I don’t think I could have made something like this work earlier in my career. That stuff about paying your dues? It’s true. Luckily for me, the dues were usually pretty fun and easy to pay.

Do you have a favorite type of writing project?

When I worked in the agency world, my favorite type of project was always the one that was most creative and high profile. I think many agency creative pros feel the same way–everyone’s kind of clawing their way to greatness and recognition. These days, it’s a little different. I like projects where I feel like a real partner with our clients; where we can work together to achieve something much greater than the sum of its parts–whether it’s a big branding assignment or an email campaign. The feeling of making our clients happy is what excites me.

What causes or non-profits motivate you?

I’m a sucker for almost any progressive cause. As a writer, promoting purpose-driven organizations is infinitely more interesting and satisfying than creating purely profit-driven copy about car insurance, energy drinks, or any of the other zillions of consumer products for which I’ve written. The truth is, I’m much more of an idealist than a capitalist.

What book are you reading right now?

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. It’s a brilliant and beautifully written first novel–penned by a prominent Stanford physician. I have to admit that I’m a little jealous of people like Verghese, who can think and create from both the left and right side of the brain. I mean, really: Writing a critically acclaimed novel and leading the Department of Internal Medicine at Stanford!? It doesn’t seem fair.

Where do you turn for creative inspiration?

I don’t think you have to look far. You just have to be paying attention and noticing the things all around you. For me, it could be as simple as overhearing my daughter singing in the shower. Or going for a run in the park to knock all the clutter out of my head. Or just stepping away from my computer to do the dishes. It’s a song on the radio, a video on YouTube, an old book pulled down from the shelf.  It’s anything, and it’s everywhere.

With an MFA in creative writing, does the urge to write the great American novel tug at you?

Not really. It’s such a long, solitary process, and I don’t think I have the stamina for embarking on a decade of writing that may never see the light of day. I like more instant gratification, and I like to know that I’m using my skills to make an impact in the world, which is why I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be right now. But here’s a secret: One day I want to be Billy Collins.

Writers in our network: Comedienne-in-Chief Jen Jackson

Jen Jackson has the writing chops to take on any kind of project, and her portfolio covers the gamut–from scriptwriting and editorial to web content and advertising copy. But she also has a secret writing weapon: humor. Yes, our founding partner is a damn funny writer who knows how to make audiences laugh, and that comes in especially handy for cause marketing, where heavy subject matter often needs to “lighten up” just a little. But Jen doesn’t just use the written word to make folks smile. You’ll also find her out on the road, inspiring people as a competitive runner and co-founder of the Sweaty Moms Running Club. We love her ability to eloquently articulate the big struggles and small triumphs of life, whether she’s running an epic marathon or crafting the perfect headline for one of our nonprofit clients.

What do you love about writing?

Definitely the people I get to meet. One week it’s a cardio-thoracic surgeon who performs robotic mitral valve replacement surgeries, the next week it’s an outdoor enthusiast turned CEO of his own organic dog treat company. People are fascinating, and the chance to get a glimpse into their world really satisfies my inquisitive nature. I love diving into a client’s business and uncovering insights they didn’t even know about themselves. I learn something new every day and get the chance to become a mini “expert” on topics I’d never even thought about.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do about it?

Seriously? I figure it’s just a by-product of the job. When I’m searching for a word or a phrase often I “survey my surroundings” and just think (aka: stare out the window), which is a guarantee that someone will walk into my office and think I’m just staring out the window. Which I am, but all in the name of work. Running really clears my mind. I can go out with just one thought or one headline and come back 6-8 miles later with a fully developed piece. The trick is getting it into the computer before it leaves the brain.

Which cause would you most love to write for?

There are so many worthy causes that need their stories told, picking one would be impossible. I’m a total sucker for the outliers; the smaller organizations really setting out to make a difference in their communities. Of course, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing amazing international work – if they gave us a call, I’ve got a blank Word doc ready to be filled.

What are you reading right now?

I usually have a pile of books on the beside table, which drives my husband crazy. Right now my stack includes The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, Queen Bees and Wannabees (I have a 10-year-old daughter) by Rosalind Wiseman and Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott. That pretty much covers all the bases.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?

I shudder to think! Really, it’s hard to imagine. But funny too because so many times I’ll interview a person and think, ‘what a cool job, I should have been an oncologist, or installation artist, or philanthropist, or whatever that person is.’ Then at some point during the conversation the person I’m interviewing will ask me about being a writer and I can tell they’re also fascinated with what I do. I’d like to think they fantasize about about how fabulous it would be to be a writer.  Whether they do or not, that’s when I realize I’ve got a pretty good gig.

What advice do you have for new writers breaking into the business?

Never say never. There are clients and products and topics that I never thought I could write about. Not because I thought I was “above” them, but simply because I did not think I had the capacity to understand the subject, which makes it pretty challenging to write a cohesive piece that other people can understand. And over the years I’ve had some doozies! I’ve interviewed a Japanese graphic designer (who only spoke Japanese) for an Adobe piece about the trendy company Uniqlo, written about computers on the International Space Station, learned what makes a Nike golf ball soar, and researched the intricacies of more medical procedures than I hope I’ll ever need.  But mostly, I’ve had the privilege of talking to so many amazing, inspiring people, who at their core are just people who need to have their story told.

Writers in our network: Multi-talented Maria Cole

With copywriting experience in everything from high-tech to nonprofits, Maria Cole can write convincingly about virtually any subject, and she’s a true expert at tapping into the emotional core of a story. She’s written powerful direct response TV spots for organizations like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and The Humane Society while also crafting compelling copy for powerhouse brands like Adobe and Netflix. As if all this wasn’t enough, this multi-talented creative pro is also a paper crafts artisan with her own Etsy store, Paperiah. We love the infectious enthusiasm Maria brings to every project and the incredibly human voice that infuses all of her writing.

When did you know that you were a writer?

As long as I can remember, I’ve always been a storyteller. I love creating dialogue, painting vivid details, and inspiring my reader. While I had all the right elements under my belt for a while, stitching them together took some time to perfect. Once I learned how to tighten up my writing and make it better with each pass, I knew I could hang as a writer.

How did you get your first break as a copywriter?

I started out at an advertising agency in Portland … as an HR Assistant! After some time, my creative side started calling. So I sought advice from one of the writers, who connected me to one of the creative directors. I wrote some copy for a healthcare client and soon after, I found myself on a different floor with a new job title.

What’s the most inspiring project you’ve worked on?

The most inspiring project I worked on would have to be a commercial for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Everyone from the staff to the patients are true heroes! The miracle work St. Jude performs on a daily basis is so incredible. I’m fortunate to have played a small role in their quest to save lives.

Which nonprofit would you most like to write for?

I would love to write for a nonprofit such as Mental Health America. MHA is a national organization that promotes mental health education and connects individuals with someone who can help. Even if I wrote the tiniest banner ad, I’d still feel pretty honored to contribute to MHA’s cause.

Which writer do you admire most?

Mark Twain for his imaginative stories, versatility, and timeless approach to writing! Every writer can benefit from reading some of Mr. Twain’s principles on writing, especially his stance on tightening up your copy.

What book are you reading right now?

Currently, I’m poring through The Unbreakable Rules of Marketing by Cathey Armillas and Jeff Berry. It’s a wonderful book that’s geared towards anyone looking to market a product, their company, or simply themselves. Even though I have a marketing background, I love having this “paperback refresher course” handy!

Where do your best ideas come from?

Honestly, my best ideas come from life experiences and everyday conversations. I find that most of my copywriting starts with brainstorming out loud before I write. It helps me make my clients sound more human-like and relatable. Finally, visualizing the outcome I’m after also helps me create the best ideas

Writers in our network: Serious storyteller Melissa Jones

Melissa_Jones_profile_picMelissa Jones has a knack for unravelling complex ideas and transforming them into simple, clear prose. Whether she’s writing about the mobile enterprise or health care reform, the copy always sings. This comes as no surprise considering that she has pretty much been a writer all her life. We love her ability to write both punchy headlines and smooth paragraphs. Her incredible “can-do” attitude doesn’t hurt, either.

 

Why did you choose a career in writing?

I first discovered that creative, “in the flow” moment in the 4th grade. That’s when I knew that I love to write. A good writer makes it look easy—like the words just flow effortlessly with perfect rhythm and cadence. But there’s a lot of thought and hard work that goes into creating a compelling story. For me, writing is like solving a puzzle. Once I work through the crux of the problem and can hone in on the message I want to convey, the pieces start to fall in place. The best part? That lovely combination of joy, relief, and even a twinge of angst after submitting final copy for review.

Which writers do you admire most?

Where do I begin? There are so many writers—past and present—that I admire. I love Ernest Hemingway’s economy of words. There’s the tale that he once won a bet by crafting this six word story: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” True or not, that anecdote perfectly captures his clean, frugal style of storytelling. And it’s this eloquent simplicity that I strive for in my own writing.

What are you reading right now? 

Ask me what book my nose is buried in now, and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. For now, the book at the top of the stack is Booker Prize winner “Sacred Hunger” by Barry Unworth. Although not an easy read, it’s gripping and beautifully written. I enjoy well-told stories like this one that transport me to another time and place and really make me think.

Where do your best ideas come from?

My best ideas come from the world around me. Snippets of conversations and interactions, that lucid state before waking, during a short trail run, and even in the most unlikely place—the shower. The challenge is getting those ideas out of my head and into the computer. That’s why I always carry a small notebook with me for when those random sparks of inspiration hit!

 

Writers in our network: lifelong learner Leah Saycich

IMG_5121Write On Network is thrilled to have our intern, Leah, sharing space and ideas with us at The Pickle this summer. Find out why Leah is such a great addition to our network.

What led you to pursue a career in writing?

I’ve loved writing since the 9th grade, but back then it was more of an outlet for my teenage angst. I didn’t think writing could be a career until I became an English major. I come from a background of doctors and dentists so its taken me awhile to really explore the many types of writing, but I’m getting there and realizing just how happy I am to be involved in the writing industry. Writing is so fulfilling to me and I feel very lucky to be here, interning at Write On Network.

What do you like most about writing?

I’m fascinated by a challenge. I love the feeling I get when I look at an assignment and at first feel lost, then take a deep breath and come up with something amazing. Along similar lines, I like trying to find ways to take intense emotionally packed topics and add some comic relief without lessening the content. Serious topics are sometimes scary to read about so its an interesting challenge for me to see if I can make them a little more reader friendly.

Which writer would you most love to meet, and what would you want to ask him or her?

I can’t choose between J.K. Rowling and Markus Zusak. Firstly, upon meeting each of them I would have to sit in their company for at least 20 minutes before I would be able to properly speak. Then I would love to just chat with them about their writing process and the amazing stories they have been able to tell in a simple heart warming and heart breaking manner. Also I’d be very interested to know what their hobbies are.

What are you reading right now?

I just started The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. After finishing All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, I was dying for another fresh perspective about World War II. I’m not entirely sure where my love for stories from that period come from, but the period and an outstanding writer suck me right in.

What advice would you give to younger students who want to pursue writing?

This is going to sound cliché, but it’s advice and advice generally sounds as such because it’s true. Firstly, be very afraid. I mean that in the sense that it’s okay to be afraid and uncertain. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t or didn’t feel the same way. Secondly, never give up. You won’t always get the encouraging feedback you want, but don’t let that stop you. Keep on keeping on, you won’t regret it.

Where do your best ideas come from?

My best ideas usually come when I’m in a public place, yet still focusing on my own work. I love to be in the heat of things. Also a positive story or kind word from someone can be very inspirational for me; I’m always open to listen to people and their stories. If I’m ever really stuck I’ll go out and do something fun. I’ve been trying out a lot of new hobbies lately, some being painting, sewing and even skateboarding. Each of these have been highly enjoyable, but have also required perseverance to improve and ultimately achieve goals I’ve set for myself. When writing, I experience a similar combination of enjoyment paired with perseverance, making these new hobbies just the thing to inspire something great.