Saturday, November 10, 2018

Alex Lyman

Here is my interview with Alex Lyman!

Tell me about yourself:

Much of my career in writing has been in media and journalism, in print, television, radio, and blogging. I am currently Senior Copywriter at Western New England University, which is my alma mater. I have a BA in Communication (with a concentration in Media Theory and Production) and an MS in Organizational Leadership. While I was getting my master’s, I did research with one of my professors about how college freshman identify and relate to close and distant female role models. This research was published by Palgrave Macmillan in the textbook Leadership and Role Modelling: Understanding Workplace Dynamics, as part of the Palgrave Studies in Leadership and Followership series.

I am currently working on two books. The first is with my undergraduate advisor and great friend, Brenda Garton-Sjoberg, which offers advice to college students for how to be successful in college and beyond, from both the perspectives of a semi-recent student and a professor.

The second book I am working on will be about how entrepreneurs and small business owners can connect with the media to help brand their business and establish themselves as thought leaders. It’s still in the outline stage, but the idea kind of hit on me on the head one day. I freelance for a lot of small business owners and entrepreneurs, and I find myself often giving a lot of guidance as to how my clients can put themselves out there in the media, because the ins and outs of the business aren’t always obvious to the average person. Having worked in broadcast, print, radio, and digital mediums, I find I can be helpful in that way.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing (or at least setting the stage to be a writer) just about my whole life! I was an avid reader from a young age, to the point where my parents would have to tell me to stop reading. I’d always excelled at and loved English class, but I really started to understand and revel in the process during high school. I was given a lot of space to experiment in different ways in my writing, from poetry to short stories.

In college I studied journalism, and that has been the craft that I’ve most enjoyed. While the focus is always on presenting the facts clearly, there is quite a bit of room for creativity, particularly when you work in broadcasting. That juxtaposition, for me, is wonderful. It is a big responsibility to truthfully tell the stories of others in a way that make the reader understand and empathize with the story. I consider journalism in any form to be a privilege as much as a passion.

Professionally, I’ve been writing for seven years, first as a television news producer and newspaper reporter, and now as a marketing writer, blogger, and freelancer.

Where is your favorite writing spot?

At work, I do really well on my Mac desktop, but at home, admittedly, you’re much more likely to find me laying on the couch when I’m writing! If I can work and be comfortable at the same time, why not? Plus, there’s no better place for a mid-project creativity nap! I also have a great screened in porch, which is incredibly peaceful as well, so more and more I find myself enjoying that setting.

Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years?

In five years, I still see myself as a journalist, whatever form that may take. That’s sort of the beauty of it—there’s so many avenues journalism can take, and it keeps things fresh. There are always new stories to tell, and new mediums to tell them in, and that excites me. Of course, I also hope the two books I am working on will be out in the world by then, and new projects will be in my lap!

While I am not a fiction writer like most of the author’s featured on this site, I love reading fiction, and hope to eventually write some fiction of my own—I certainly have an active enough imagination, it’s just a matter of finding the confidence and solid storyline, and simply getting it down on paper.

What literary world would you love to visit for a day?

No question, Harry Potter. It’s not the most original answer, but I’ve read all seven books dozens of times, and I still love them as much as I did the first time around. I always get something new out of them, and increasingly find them to be relevant to today’s times. I think J.K. Rowling was so thorough in creating this world as though it were real, and planning things out that maybe were never expressed in canon, but are true nonetheless. While I am not a fiction writer, these books always make me wish I was!

I also love The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series—the main character is an investigative journalist (which I very much identify with), and spends his time almost like a detective, trying to figure out answers so that they can be published. One of the other main characters is a hacker of sorts, which interests me to no end, as I am almost left-brained to a fault, but wish I understood computer science more. I recently did an article for work about artificial intelligence, and it is such a fascinating topic. I did learn that it is highly unlikely that there will be a robot apocalypse in our lifetime (thank goodness), but it’s hackers that we must contend with in our quest for internet security.

Any website or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?

At work I often refer to the Chicago Manual of Style, which our University Style Guideline was based off of. The AP Stylebook is great as well, and I am pro-Strunk and White. Craftwise, I love “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser, and “Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts” by Joseph Harris. These were both assigned to me in college, and they’ve always served me well.

Besides texts that help me refine my style and technique, I am a big advocate of reading and studying other peoples’ work; anything from news articles, to short stories, blogs, and poetry. I find inspiration in all sorts of genres, and try to bring that into my own writing so it doesn’t get stale.

What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?
For me, the easiest part is knowing what direction I want to take a story in, whether it is an article or something promotional for the University. I hear the basics of what needs to be done, and I almost immediately have an idea in my head about how I want it to go.

For example, when I interview someone and I get the perfect quote from them, I suddenly know exactly how I want to tell their story and what themes it will revolve around. I can take separate puzzle pieces of a story and fit them altogether fairly easily. Because of that, I tend to write short outlines of what needs to be said in the article, rearrange everything to flow well, and then get down to the hard work of actual writing. For me, having a clear direction makes the writing easier (and hopefully better).

Do your novels carry a message?
The great aspect of working in journalism and marketing writing is that everything has a message. The two books I am working on are practical and offer advice to soon-to-be college students and entrepreneurs. Of course, my research contributes to academia and shines a light on how female role models are perceived.

My favorite part about working for my alma mater is that I had an incredible experience there in my college years, and every day I get to share that with prospective students. Choosing a university can be a scary concept for an 18 year old, but if my work can reassure or excite them in any way, that is fulfilling for me.

have also been very fortunate to work with freelance clients that are not only great businesses and people, but have interesting stories about how they got to where they are. For example, I have been writing for Pixie Monroe of Monroe Casting in Los Angeles, and her brand is really all about love. Pixie loves her actors and crew, and wants the best for them. She encourages everyone to pursue their dreams, no matter what stage of life they are in, and is leading by example in that area. It’s been really inspiring to be part of, so I consider myself lucky!

Have any new writers grasped your interest recently?
I don’t believe either of these writers are exactly “new,” though they are semi-new to me. In the realm of non-fiction, I absolutely love Jen Sincero. She’s a no-nonsense type of writer, and though I don’t know her personally, I feel that her writing is an extension of her personality, and I love that. She writes books to help people, especially women, go after the life of their dreams, and her brutally honest advice is what we all need to hear.

In fiction, I’ve liked Elin Hilderbrand and her Winter series a lot—they aren’t “hard” reads, but very enjoyable. It’s a feel-good set of books, all based around the same family each year at Christmas time. Each member has their own trials and tribulations, some more serious than others, but definitely interesting. You really feel like you get to know the characters well, and you care about what happens to them. Hilderbrand unabashedly breaks the fourth wall and promotes other books within the book, which I find entertaining and inspiring (I love that kind of confidence). She’s created some real page-turners, and always leaves you feeling happy in that family’s home.

Do you have any tips for other writers?

Regardless of the genre you work in, stay true to your own style. I find that other people, writers and non-writers alike, will always have an opinion of what they think a piece of writing should look like and aren’t afraid to let you know. While there is often value in constructive criticism, don’t be afraid to stand your ground on the areas that you believe in. It’s easy to doubt yourself and make edits solely to please others, but remind yourself why you made specific choices. If those choices still resonate with you, stick with them.

I would also say that writers should experiment in different genres. This will do a few things: it will give you a different perspective, get you out of your comfort zone, and inspire you. All of these things are so vital for your growth as a writer. To play with words in new ways and contexts will stretch you and keep you from falling into the rut of doing the same old things. Writing should be an adventure; the minute you fall into old habits or become bored, it will show in your craft. And if you’re not in on the journey, neither is the reader.

Before you go, can you leave us with an excerpt?

“Roadblocks in Your College Career” from Degrees of Understanding: Perspectives from the Professors and the Student by Brenda Garton-Sjoberg and Alex Lyman

College is an empowering time in your life. You’re constantly working toward one or more goals, whether it’s achieving all A’s for the semester, securing a coveted internship, or simply keeping your life more organized. Students always have that “carrot” dangling in front of them—if they have the motivation to go after it. I’ve always found it exciting when I was working toward an achievement…even when the work becomes difficult (which it does). It can be tough, as the college environment offers numerous distractions, some positive and others negative. Your social life, the Internet, video games, partying, and a warm inviting bed calling you for a long nap all are extremely tempting. Not that it’s a bad thing to be distracted—sometimes giving yourself a break is refreshing and you can come back to your agenda with a new perspective.

My point here is that anything worth doing, won’t be easy. And you’ll be sure to face setbacks along the way. Almost everyone knows what it feels like to study hard for a test and still receive a disappointing grade. Sometimes, even if you put all the effort in, the results don’t work out as you’d planned. This happens to every college student at some point, either in or out of the classroom. You plan, you work hard, and sometimes you get knocked down, and it doesn’t seem fair.

One setback certainly doesn’t change who you are overall. What makes the difference (and you’ve probably heard this before) is how you bounce back. If you can find a way to put disappointment behind you, and keep pushing forward, that’s what will ultimately make you a winner. In fact, sometimes failure isn’t bad, if you learn from your mistakes.

The rule I made for myself was, when faced with disappointment, I was only allowed to hold it inside for one night. I would come back to my room at the end of the day and cry, mope, eat chocolate, and do whatever it was that would make me feel better. I literally got the feeling of failure out of my system, and vowed to get going and do better. And the next day I would. By letting myself feel badly and wallow, I was effectively draining myself of the bad feelings. Instead of dwelling over a few days and hanging on to it, I was able to let everything go. Sometimes it was difficult to not carry my feelings over to the next day, but by reminding myself that these feelings were sure to bring more failure, I was able to stay positive and motivated.

This skill has certainly helped me both in and out of college. The real world is filled with its own set of challenges and roadblocks. Many graduates expect their careers to blossom and be all they wanted it to be, right away. There will be an adjustment period from being a student to becoming a young professional. You find yourself questioning (again) your life expectations, what you want from your career, etc. And you will most definitely find that life (and your carefully plans) will surprise you.

Alex Lyman is a western Massachusetts native with a career that has spanned television and print news, independent film, marketing writing, blogging, and business consulting.

She attended Western New England University, where she earned a B.A. in Communication with a concentration in Media Theory and Production and an M.S. in Organizational Leadership. Her graduate research was published by Palgrave Macmillan in the textbook Leadership and Role Modelling: Understanding Workplace Dynamics, as part of the Palgrave Studies in Leadership and Followership series.

Alex began her media career at local news station ABC40/FOX6 as the weekend assignment editor, and was promoted to 5:00 p.m. newscast and weekend producer. She also experimented in the world of independent film making as a Production Assistant with Merritt Films and was a freelance reporter for The Republican newspaper and

Currently, Alex is a senior copywriter at her alma mater in the Division for Marketing and External Affairs. She has also been a blogger for the Huffington Post, and has contributed guest blogs for several companies including BRIGADE, Casting Hope,, and the Entertainment Industries Council, among others. Alex has also worked with a variety start-up companies such as AnyCafé, ZIRUI, and Lumme.

Twitter: @AlexLyman89
Instagram: @AlexLyman2

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