Writers Institute

Amy Harper '01

Getting a job at In Touch magazine as a senior editor must have been a huge step in your life, how was the creative writing program at SU able to prepare you for a job of that caliber?
What skills left SU with you and into the workplace? I was hired as the Editorial Assistant at In Touch Weekly in 2002. It was like winning the lottery. But I had no idea what I was in for. Previous to that I was a freelance beat reporter for the Standard Speaker newspaper in Tamaqua, PA. That experience is what made the then Editor-In-Chief of In Touch decide that I was the right person for the job. He said, “I like that you have newspaper experience because it shows me that you already know there’s nothing glamorous about the publishing industry.” During my 8-year tenure there I worked my way up to Senior Editor, though long hours, late nights, and countless rewrites. The creative writing department at SU taught me how to take criticism, which is a constant in the magazine world, and not be offended when asked to completely rework a story. My time at SU also taught me dedication to the craft, and a strong work ethic. It also helped prepare me for a life of final deadlines by teaching me to be a disciplined writer.  

What made you switch from working at In Touch to working as a blogger for HollyBaby?
Office politics. I was let go from In Touch shortly after the Editor-in-Chief, who hired me left. The new editors cleaned house and removed anyone who had been close to him. An editor who mentored me at In Touch was named the Editor in Chief of HollyBaby and brought me on board as her Senior Writer at the blog. During my short time there, I learned to write even faster, and more conversationally, as the rules and tone of web writing are completely different from that of a print magazine. Ten months after being let go from In Touch the company hired me back to write for In Touch’s more fashionable little sister mag Life & Style Weekly. After a little over two years at Life & Style, I agreed to help the company launch yet another new celebrity weekly Closer. We hit newsstands in November and it’s been a wild rollercoaster ride! The Editor-in-Chief of Closer is another editor who mentored me at In Touch. It’s all about connections! They really are the only way to break into and survive in the intense world of weekly magazines.  

Was there one Creative Writing class in particular that really stuck out to you/impacted you?
My non-fiction class with Dr. Fincke was probably the most helpful class as far as preparing me for a job in celebrity journalism. During that semester, I learned how to interview a subject and craft a story based on those chats. Surprisingly, poetry also helped me with my fears of public speaking. In this industry if you don’t speak up and fight for your ideas, you will be left in the dust.  

What is one piece of advice you would give the students in the Creative Writing program that you wish you would have received/did receive?
Even if you think you wrote the most amazing piece, someone is going to rip it apart. Learn how to take criticism. You will never please anyone. Make friends with a thesaurus. And really learn how to do online research. Back when I started we still used LexisNexis and Google was brand new. You’ll save yourself hours of work if you know exactly how to refine a search. And of course: Show don’t tell.

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