English Majors Unite!

The other day there was a bit of a kerfuffle on Twitter. I know, quelle surprise!

A very successful writer was asked for a bit of advice from a young fan as a new English Major.

The writer’s response? English Major = “Do you want fries with that?”

I mean.

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She told the fan to get a degree in something that would get them a lucrative job and write on the side.

Yeah. Sure. Some people totally do that. But to completely belittle the fan’s already chosen path while also tearing down the service industry? REALLY?

You won’t be surprised to find out that I, myself, was an English Major. I have a loverly BA in English with a concentration on Creative Writing. A major I created myself because it didn’t exist at my school at the time. I was very lucky that my adviser was also the department chair at the time so getting it approved wasn’t quite the battle it could have been.

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I am damn proud of my degree. I have both dyslexia and dyscalculia. Believe me, getting dyslexia under control has been much easier than my dsycalculia–there was no way I was going to be a math or science or business major. But guess what? As a self-published writer, I am running my own business. My husband also runs his own business, but I also help with that. I run the office for both of us. And my degree helped me, believe it or not.

English degrees teach you critical thinking, creative solutions, and so much more.

Now, do you need an English Degree to be a writer? Of course not. I know many writers who are also something else. Writing isn’t paying the bills just yet for them. But it might some day.

Did I need an English Degree to be a writer? To be a good one, yes.

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I can say with a little confidence that I had “raw talent” when I was younger. When I got to be creative with my English assignments, I always did well. I actually remember my senior English AP teacher writing “I can’t wait to see what happens next!” on a paper I turned in. It was an amazing feeling. I really thought I could write. I thought I was a good story teller.

Then I went to college.

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I had professors who were published novelists and playwrights and poets.

And they let me know raw talent wasn’t enough then and it wouldn’t be enough in the future. They tore my papers apart. I had one professor (the aforementioned adviser) who knew I was turning in the first drafts of papers and would automatically deduct a full letter grade because of it. I went to him, demanding to know why I kept getting B’s on my papers and he told me. He told me even if the paper was an A on the first try, that just told him the second try would be that much better.

My poetry was ridiculous. It was flowery and vague, like I didn’t want my reader to know what I was talking about. My professor shredded my poems until I learned to paint a damn picture that he could see.

I am the writer I am today because of the lessons those professors gave me. It was well worth the time and money. Maybe I would have gotten to that point as an English Minor, or just taking a couple of classes for fun, who knows? But I know being an English Major changed my life and I am damn grateful for it.

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Do you need to be an English Major to be a successful writer? Of course not. Or maybe you do. None of us are the same. Some of us need the instruction, some of us don’t. Some of us will write a NYT bestseller in our 20s and others will do so in their golden years. You are special and different and need to decide what is right for you. Don’t let some random person–even if they are a NYT bestseller themselves–tell you what is the right path for you.

Oh, by the way, I was a waitress all through college. It was the most thankless, degrading job I’ve ever had and I worked in insurance after college. Never tear down the service industry. Customers are assholes and service industry people are overworked and treated like shit every day. Everyone should have to wait tables on Mother’s day, or run a cashier over the holidays. People would be far, far nicer and learn some damn manners.

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Now. Thanks to that English degree, I’m putting out my 16th novel (under this name), and it is up for pre-order now! If you were a fan of my Ash & Ruin Trilogy, this is a companion novel, maybe you’d like to take a peek?

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Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Kobo Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | ibooks

 

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7 thoughts on “English Majors Unite!

  1. There is a great website (www.dearenglishmajor.com) that is a wonderful resource for English Majors to get ideas of how to use the skills they have honed in their courses in many sectors of employment. Even if you don’t end up writing professionally, the ability to communicate both verbally and on paper (or online) is a commodity that many employers look for regardless of what type of industry they work in. For that author to so easily dismiss a fan’s question like that is completely asinine. This was a really great post and thank you for sharing!

    1. Shauna Granger

      Yes! Exactly. I think there are a lot of instances where employers are just happy you have a college education.

      Thank you and thanks for the link, maybe a student will see it here!

    2. <>

      Yes! I work in communications/marketing/PR and I can’t tell you the number of times I see executives who make way more than I do, who can’t write for anything. I know it’s job security for me, but it also makes me mad. Shouldn’t at least average writing skills be a skill all business people have?

      1. Shauna Granger

        I cannot get started on having better communication and typing and grammar skills than over-paid Chief Officers. I mean my god.

  2. Glad you brought this up. I was floored when I saw this on Twitter, especially when I saw who said it. Now I don’t happen to be a fan, but this woman is a HUGE star, someone you would think would be above all this. I don’t know why she felt the need to be so mean. I hope she’s not normally like this.

    I was a double major in college because my English professor finally convinced me to upgrade my English minor to a second major. I voiced to him the fear that I wouldn’t be able to get a job with an English degree and he told me that it prepares you for so much more than teaching or writing (at the time, I had never entertained the idea of being a writer.) But with the possibility of going into law (English helps you to think critically and digest large amounts of information, not to mention make a rational argument), marketing or business writing, I was sold. Now I’m so glad I listened to him.

    In fact, I took on this very topic in my romantic comedy Been Searching for You. The main character, Annabeth, is a writer at a PR firm. She is tasked with developing a school-year-long campaign to raise the number of English majors at the University of Chicago. I wrote a real PR campaign for the character, hoping to show readers the number of career options open to English majors. Apparently Ms. Famous Author hasn’t read it. 🙂

    Attitudes like the one expressed by this author are outdated and they sicken me, especially coming from someone to whom many readers/writers/English majors look up to as a role model. Note to self: do not behave like her.

    1. Shauna Granger

      From what I gather, this is pretty on par for her attitude. I saw some people reacting with “oh, she said something horrible again? No surprise there.” So yeah.

      Also, nice little promo there 😉

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