#83: Athena Lark, U.S. Navy Veteran, Writer, and Adjunct Professor

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Athena Lark was a 17-year-old about to graduate from high school in Newark, New Jersey when her mother told her she had a choice: Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines.

In this interview, I spoke with her to learn how she reacted that day, how her career path has unfolded since then, what she thinks of her mother’s decision in retrospect.

About Athena Lark: After retiring from the U.S. Navy, Athena Lark graduated from the University of North Florida with a B.A. in Communications. She earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of California in Riverside and has has been published in literary journals including Gently Read Literature, Hippo Reads, and Whistling Fire, as well as many newspapers (The Florida Times Union, Jacksonville Business Journal, Jacksonville Advocate, The Albany Herald, UNF Spinnaker, and UNF Alumni Magazine). She is an adjunct professor in Texas and is currently writing her memoir, Sailor Girl, about her life in the U. S. Navy. Her debut novel, Avenue of Palms, was published in 2013.

#82: Amy Hale Auker, Writer and Rider

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When I ask people that pesky question, “What do you do?,” I often get more than one answer. When I spoke with author Amy Hale Auker, I learned that in addition to the writing life, she also lives the cowboy life,  camping out for days at a time in the mountains where she works. Notably, there seems to be very little tension between her riding and her writing; what I heard instead is that each feeds the other.

About Amy Hale Auker: Amy Hale Auker cowboys on a ranch in Arizona. She is the author of Rightful Place, 2012 WILLA winner for creative non-fiction, published by Texas Tech University Press. Her first novel, Winter of Beauty, was released by Pen-L Publishing in 2013. Her new novel is due out this fall. Find out more at www.amyhaleauker.com

#81: Game Designer Jobe Bittman

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When I ask people what they do, I often get complicated answers: tales of time-consuming passions pursued in the wee hours of the night after long days spent earning a living doing something completely different.

In Jobe Bittman‘s case, he moonlights as a game designer, creating the storylines not for video games but for tabletop games. Think ‘Dungeons and Dragons’—but then stop thinking that because it’s trademarked, and Bittman actually writes for other games. He also contributes to Spellburn, a podcast about Dungeon Crawl Classics, one of the series for which he writes.

About Jobe Bittman: When asked for a bio, this arrived: “Jobe Bittman is a beaten and half-starved scribe-slave pressed into service by a sadistic demon prince. By day, he breaks all the internet. By night, he toils at freelance writing assignments and transcribes game designs at the behest of his dark master. His work has appeared in publications by Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, and Goodman Games. Please send meat.” So there you go.

#80: Jane Hodges, Leap Taker

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After the deaths of both her father and her uncle in a single year, writer Jane Hodges remembers being hit with “a pile of grief, followed by a pile of cash.” The money wasn’t enough to sustain her indefinitely, but it was enough to fund a radical change. In this interview, Hodges explains why the change she chose involved the purchase of a 12,000-square-foot elementary school near Mount Rainier.

About Jane Hodges: Jane Hodges is a longtime business/real estate journalist who has written for dozens of national and regional newspapers and magazines, a book author (Rent vs. Own, Chronicle Books 2012) and a creative writer transitioning into nonprofit work to marry those interests. A graduate of Dartmouth (BA) and Sarah Lawrence (MFA), she has since 2013 served on the board for Lit Crawl Seattle, is currently enrolled in the University of Washington nonprofit management certificate program, and has attended the Alliance of Artists Communities’ Emerging Program Institute.

#79: Entrepreneur Wilfred Martis

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I’m always drawn to stories that involve connecting a job to a childhood passion. In this interview, entrepreneur Wilfred Martis told me about his “jobby”—the first role he’s had that  melds his professional pursuits with his life-long passion for cars.

About Wilfred Martis: Wilfred is the founder of CHARIOTZ.com, a photo-based storytelling site for the custom and classic automobile markets. CHARIOTZ helps auto enthusiasts get inspired, discover new ideas, and then connect with modification/restoration businesses that can turn their dreams into reality.

Prior to founding CHARIOTZ, Martis was the Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Soraa Inc., a leading developer of LED lighting products. Martis also spent 13 years at Intel, in several engineering, business and management roles, primarily focused on the consumer electronics and embedded markets. Most recently, he was the General Manager of Retail Consumer Electronics, where he was responsible for Intel’s Digital TV and Blu-ray business. Martis also founded and ran Vistify, an Internet Appliance start-up incubated by Panasonic.

Martis holds a BSEE from Bangalore University, India, an MSEE from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

#78: Communications Consultant Indira Nair

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Today I connected with Indira Nair, a friend and former colleague based in Kuala Lumpur. Indira is a seasoned communications professional who used to work for Malaysia Airlines.

Ever since Flight 370 went missing on March 8, I’ve found myself wanting to speak with Indira, not to speculate on what happened (there’s been plenty of that already) and not to dissect the airline’s handling of the crisis (it’s far too soon for a considered analysis). Instead, I hoped simply that Indira might share her perspective on this long, strange month—as a Malaysian, as a former employee of the airline, and as a veteran communications counselor. She did, and I’m grateful to her for sharing her views. 

About Indira Nair: Indira Nair, has more than 30 years of experience as a communications professional. Prior to founding her current firm, Influence 360, Nair served as Director, Communications for the Malaysian government’s economic transformation program (PEMANDU). Prior to that, she worked for Malaysia Airlines, where she played a key role in the airline’s turnaround as a member of the senior leadership team.

In the course of her career, Nair has also worked with a number of global communications agencies, including Edelman Worldwide, Burson-Marstellar, and Ogilvy Public Relations.  








#77: Antonia Crane, Writer and Performer

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In this episode, I speak with Antonia Crane, author of SPENT, which Kirkus Reviews called the “revelatory, unapologetic life story of a San Francisco stripper and sex worker.”

Reading both SPENT and a recent article that Crane wrote for Playboy, I was struck by the complexity of Crane’s experience in the sex industry. While she endured plenty of dark and difficult times, Crane also describes finding the work empowering. In the interview, we discussed this tension; we also covered off on unionization and whether Crane would encourage a young girl to follow in her footsteps.

About Antonia Crane: Antonia Crane is an author, writing instructor, and performer in Los Angeles. Her memoir about her mother’s illness and the sex industry SPENT has just been published by Barnacle Books. She’s a columnist for The Rumpus, a contributing editor for The Weeklings, senior editor and founder of The Citron Review, and was a film consultant on Jill Soloway’s Afternoon Delight. As a winner of The Moth, True Stories Told Live, she’ll be competing in the Los Angeles Grand Championship on March 24, 2014. Her writing can be found in The Heroin Chronicles, Soft Skull Press’ Johns, Marks, Tricks & Chickenhawks: Professionals & Their Clients Writing about Each OtherThe New Black, The Rumpus, Dame Magazine, Salon, PANK magazine, Black Clock, The Believer, Frequencies, Slake, and The Los Angeles Review.

#76: Endodontist-Screenwriter Eric Weinstock

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As many Work Stew readers know, I stuck with a job that was wrong for me for far longer than I should have. I experienced what I now view as a colossal failure of imagination, remaining in PR in large part because I wasn’t sure that a radical change was really feasible. To help me think more creatively about my options, I started to collect other people’s stories here at Work Stew—not because I thought I might switch to, say, python hunting or high-rise window washing but rather to drive home (to myself if no one else!) just how many possible paths there really are.

In stark contrast to me, Eric Weinstock has not suffered from a lack of imagination—far from it. In this interview, he explains how he went from law to dentistry to screenwriting. I love that he was prepared to train anew when he realized he didn’t want to practice law, and I love that performing root canals for a living did not, in his view, rule out the prospect of also writing scripts. I suspect that many more of us might lead such rich, hyphenated lives (“Hi, I’m an Endodontist-Screenwriter!”) if only we knew that it is in fact possible.

About Eric Weinstock: Eric Weinstock is a Board-certified Endodontist (root canals and oral surgeries) with a solo practice in Canton, Massachusetts. In addition to private practice, Dr. Weinstock serves as the course director for the Ethics and Professionalism in Dentistry class at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. He is past-president of the South Shore District Dental Society and a Fellow of the American College of Dentists. He started a yearly campaign called the Dental Care Drive which involves collecting dental supplies from local dentists and distributing these supplies (in coordination with an organization called Jewish Family & Children Services) to the underserved of the greater Boston community. Prior to his dental training, Dr. Weinstock earned a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, and occasionally serves as an expert witness in malpractice litigation.

Outside of dentistry, Eric Weinstock is a contest-winning screenwriter of short and feature films, with several projects currently in various stages of development. His dramatic comedy, A Perfect Smile, about a womanizing dentist on the run, is in pre-production, with Tom Sizemore, Andy Dick, Sally Kellerman and David Proval currently attached.

His film, The Key, about two young lovebirds, Carla and Dan, who try to salvage their relationship following a wild one-night romp by Dan, is also in pre-production with plans to shoot this spring/summer in NYC, following what will hopefully be a successful Kickstarter campaign.

#75: Tim Pratt, Former Financial Advisor to NFL Players

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There are some jobs we’ve all known about since we were kids: astronaut, firefighter, doctor, teacher. And then there’s the sort of job you don’t even think about until you meet someone who does it.

For me anyway, the work that Tim Pratt did for several yearscounseling professional football players on their finances—fell into this category. Until we talked, it wasn’t on my radarso I wanted to know: what was that like, and how did he get there?

During our interview, Tim’s cell phone was a bit temperamental (sorry for the occasional distortion), but Tim himself was delightfuleven when I asked whether those of us in Seattle could count on his support for the Seahawks. He dodged that one, but he was gracious about it.

About Tim Pratt: Tim Pratt earned a B.A. from Adelphi University and captained the Division I Lacrosse Team for the Panthers. He also earned an M.B.A. from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. After working at Goldman Sachs for six years, he accepted a position with the NFL (National Football League) where he stayed for three years. In that role, he focused on helping NFL players to plan and manage their financial futures. He is now a Principal at Purlieu City Partners, a real estate investment company. Tim and his wife Simone have two boys and call Brooklyn, New York home.

#74: Michelle Bowman of Save the Children International

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There are now more than 120 voices in the mix at Work Stew, and one theme I hear over and over again is a craving for meaning. Everyone needs to make a living, but—as the cliché goes—we also want to make a difference. “Saving the children” seems to me to be as compelling a purpose as any, so I was curious to connect (via the great introducer, Mary-Katherine Brooks Fleming) with Michelle Bowman, Save the Children International’s brand new Director of Strategy.

In particular, I wanted to learn: how did she arrive at the role she’s in now? Why did she spend some time in the private sector along the way? And why did she invest in an MBA? Despite the late hour after a long first day on the job, Bowman gamely tackled all of these questions. Winning points for being extra helpful, she also shared the one thing she might have done differently had she known then what she knows now.

About Michelle Bowman: As the Director of Strategy at Save the Children International, Bowman coordinates the strategic direction for the world’s leading independent organization for children, operating in over 120 countries. She holds an MBA from the Wharton School, an MA in International Studies from the Lauder Institute, and a BA in History and Literature from Harvard College. Michelle is originally from Oregon.