Mark Ostermeyer – Creative Writer with Editing Aspirations

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as an MSU English major has been both transformative and revealing. Coming into college, I knew that I wanted to take the Creative Writing Concentration to improve my fiction and non-fiction writing skills. I can say that after taking both introductory and advanced courses in CW, I have gotten much better at crafting stories with sound plots and realistic, dynamic characters. My other ENG classes from 210 to 492 have revealed to me how literature can offer an entry point into or, at the very least, a way to understand different ways of life, different life experiences. I have read Latino/a literature, poems by Audre Lorde, essays by David Foster Wallace and John McPhee, and books by Colson Whitehead and Kelli Jo Ford. I have found that there are countless experiences and narratives in the world. Literature, regardless of genre, offers a perfect conduit of expression. The English program showed me that conduit.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

During my sophomore year, I took ENG 280 with Professor Jyotsna Singh. That class helped me grow my analytical skills and introduced me to a diverse set of fiction books, my favorite of which was Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West. In reading each of these titles, I saw that genre fiction has so much to offer the literary community. That class inspired me to be wide read, something that will only help me in my future editorial career. Last semester, I took ENG 428 with Professor Megan Giddings. The advanced fiction class was centered around extensive revision and workshopping. Over the course of the term, I wrote four versions of the same story, changing the point of view to find the version that best enhanced the plot. I am grateful for that class making me a great writer.

And, of course, I have to give a shoutout to Professor Stephen Rachman and my other classmates in ENG 481. We were a small group, but I enjoyed every conversation we had. Thanks for making a great seminar!

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

My advice for future English majors, and any student coming into the College of Arts and Letters, is to tailor your classes around a specific career/professional/literary interest. CAL offers Creative Writing classes, Film Studies courses, Screenwriting classes, etc. There are dozens of offerings and professors that can help you make the most of your degree. You can add minors and concentrations to help land the internship experience that will lead to your dream job. Take advantage of all of CAL’s offerings. You will not regret it.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? (capstone courses, honors thesis, independent studies, etc.)

Like I previously mentioned, in my ENG 428 class, I had to write four versions of a story. That piece was a 15-page thriller about two homicide detectives trying to bring a serial killer to justice. The story represents my best fiction work in my time in the Creative Writing program. From all of the feedback I got, I learned how to focus both on my strong characters and on the main theme of the limits of justice.

In my ENG 368 class this semester with Professor Tamar Boyadjian, I am working on a creative adaptation of a Robin Hood ballad. I have had to consider class themes and the typical themes in the original Robin Hood manuscripts to produce a fictionalized adaptation. The project in particular has let me blend my love for creative writing with course material.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

After I graduate from MSU, I plan on building an editorial career with a trade publisher. I do not know who I will be working for quite yet, but I am eager to work with books and help authors get their stories in print.

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during COVID. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that most businesses and organizations run. Last summer, I dealt with my summer publishing internship being canceled. This year, I have had to adjust to my work at The State News and the book publishing industry being fully virtual. The process has not been easy because of the fact that—and I am assuming I speak for many journalists and editors and publishers—I would love to return to the office. The pandemic, however, persists. As a result, I have had to lean on my friendships with my coworkers, rely on their knowledge and advice, and communicate with them to get quality work done. The State News has published amazing articles since the start of the pandemic and only because of our collaborative workflow. It is a process that will help me transition into a career in book publishing.