Alumna Laura Flanagan has managed to put her Waterloo English degree to work: she’s written for the Ministry of Culture’s iCON Magazine, Hello! Canada, Flare Magazine, Torstar Digital, and Toronto.com, and is now a communications specialist at York University. Thank you to Laura for agreeing to participate in Words in Place!–JLH
JLH: When you were deciding on universities, what other ones did you consider? And why did you decide on Waterloo?
LF: In addition to UWaterloo I was accepted to Laurier and McMaster. I grew up in Waterloo and although the experience of going away for school appealed to me, I’m so glad I stayed. UWaterloo was the best school for me because of the option to do an English degree that wasn’t purely literature-based, along with the advantage of attending a prestigious school in a really great community.
JLH: In retrospect, what stands out about your undergraduate career? Professors? Courses? Hangouts?
LF: I had several really great professors that helped shape my career path. Both Judith Miller and and Jacqui Smith’s classes pushed me out of my writing comfort zone and helped me develop as a writer.
Also, I met my husband at UWaterloo so that’s obviously a really special memory of my time there.
JLH: I’m curious about your career in publishing. Did you find the office culture consistent as you moved to different publications, or was it really shaped by the content of the magazine?
LF: It was absolutely different across publications. Different magazines attract different employees and the culture is often defined from the top down. The editor in chief has a “vision” and the culture is simpatico with that. The magazine is often a reflection of that vision and culture coming to life in the pages.
JLH: As you became more senior in the industry, what became noticeable about the junior people coming in?
LF: Honestly, how mediocre their writing skills are but how many different platforms they’re versed in. It’s certainly beneficial to know how to write for print, the web, and marketing pieces but you still need to be a good writer. I’d rather work with a solid writer who can learn how to write for different areas than someone who knows the fundamentals of online but not the craft of writing. That is much harder to learn.
JLH: You’ve moved into communications—did that feel like a smooth transition? Are there ever days where you miss your previous work?
LF: For me it was a very smooth transition and one that I’m happy I made. I loved working in publishing but was ready for a different challenge. Communications has turned out to be an industry where I can wear many hats: social media strategist, web and graphic designer, art director, manager, and of course, writer. I’m equally passionate about design as I am about language, so I am grateful for the opportunity to do both. That’s not necessarily available in most communications jobs but I have looked for or created opportunities for myself where I get to do both.
I miss the people I worked with in publishing — I made some great and lasting friendships. And the perks! It’s a great industry to be in when you’re young.
JLH: Finally, can you share what has been your favorite book of the last year? And what you are reading now?
LF: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt was amazing. Next on my list are Night Film by Marisha Pessl and Landline by Rainbow Rowell. But I’m always looking for recommendations. In August I’ll have completed the coursework for my MA in Communication and Culture (joint program through YorkU and RyersonU) so I’m looking forward to having my nose in a book that’s not academic.
You can connect with Laura on Twitter and Instagram @LauraFlan.