I am a journalism student at Harvard University and this is my portfolio in progress.
When I was twenty years old, I dropped out of Hampshire College after a sloppy, wasted year. Like many who self-destruct before receiving a college degree, I went into retail – the prickly haven of young people in transition who lack marketable skills. Selling jewelry, then shoes, then clothes, for six years I worked weekends and odd hours and smiled when I didn’t want to and learned how to fold sweaters like a champ. Then I was promoted. And promoted again. Suddenly I had a career instead of just a job. Working 14-hour days in pastel pant-suits and heels, I began to realize that if I didn’t get out of retail soon, I would never get out at all.
So I quit. I moved out of my lovely Back Bay apartment and into a basement hole in Brookline. I temped. I scrimped. I went back to school at Harvard Extension. On June 5th, 2008, I graduated with my ALB from Extension with a concentration in natural sciences. Originally I wanted to be a scientist, but with each passing semester found that my talent was less in the practice of science, and more in writing about it. I learned that writing was what I loved and was what I was best at. I decided to check out the creative writing program at Harvard until I recalled that I have no talent for fiction. It was when I looked at the course offerings for the journalism degree that I began to feel as though I had found the right place to land. Travel writing! Food writing! Opinion writing! Yes, yes, and yes.
The fast-paced, headline-grabbing culture of newspaper journalism is not exactly my speed. I want to be an essayist, not a newsperson, but without the skills of a newsperson I probably won’t get where I want to go. There is a whole mash-up of skills and techniques that need to become second nature in order for me to lay the foundation of what I hope will be a career in narrative non-fiction (which requires neither pant-suits nor high heels). Those skills – sources, AP style, working under a tight deadline, interviewing, re-writing, etc. – are what I hope to gain from this program, as well as the mindset of approaching stories from a journalistic perspective.