We love to share stories about what our alumni are up to. In our last issue, we focused on alumni who carved out their careers in the Charleston area. In this issue, we offer the first in what will be an ongoing series of alumni profiles published in monthly installments as Folio transitions from a yearly newsletter to a more frequently updated blog. Our goal is to feature all kinds of possible futures in all lines of work. Our first profile features a relatively recent graduate–Ryan Graudin (’09)–who has met with remarkable success as a young adult novelist. You can read more about Graudin on her website, and you can pick up her books, well, just about anywhere. She has also been featured by College Today. Below she takes some time to reflect on her time as an English major and offers some useful advice for other striving writers out there.
What do you do and what do you love about it?
I have the very good fate and fortune of being a young adult novelist. This has been my dream job from the tender age of five. I was the type of kid who haunted library aisles and ran around in the woods to recreate the stories she read. This love caused me to to focus on creative writing in high school, and when I arrived at College of Charleston, I found myself torn between pursuing a “practical” major and the passions of my heart. Fortunately, an insightful roommate advised me to go with the latter, and I became an English major with a Creative Writing concentration. Seven years post-graduation and I just published my fifth book. My fourth novel Wolf by Wolf, was just nominated for a Carnegie Medal. My second novel, The Walled City, was optioned by Ivanhoe Pictures and is currently being developed for film. I love being able to share the adventures that take place in my head, and I love meeting readers who resonate with those stories.
How was your time studying English at the College of Charleston an important catalyst for the career you have chosen?
My time at CofC was invaluable. Liberal arts education exposed me to all sorts of ideas and experiences that have informed my writing. Spanish language, history, visual arts, geology, post-colonial literature–all of these have contributed to my stories in one way or another. Creative writing workshops with Bret Lott at the helm were a great toe-dip into the world of publishing—all of the persistence it takes, along with the criticism that comes with putting your work out there. Dr. Ward’s Harry Potter course taught me that children’s literature can have just as much literary merit and scholastic depth as adult works. Dr. Birrer’s class on Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials did much the same, exploring philosophy and physics in the context of story. I’ve tried to put the same level of critical thought into crafting my narratives.
What advice do you have for current English students who are thinking, with a mixture of excitement and anxiousness, about the professional and educational steps they might take after they graduate from the College?
When it comes to obtaining a career as an author, the best thing you can do post-college is write like the world is ending, but also go out and live your life. When I graduated in 2009, the job market was terrible, so my husband and I moved to South Korea and taught English for a year. I would get up every morning and write for an hour or two before school. This dogged determination, plus the traveling I did, gave me both the material and the life experience I needed to become the writer I am today. If you want to land a creative profession: be hungry for it, work hard.
Finally, with the understanding that work isn’t everything, what else sustains you in your life and work?
My Christian faith, certainly. It gives both my art and my life a purpose beyond self-fulfillment. My husband and I love to travel too. Exploring the world helps put things into perspective, and is great fodder for inspiration. Friends and family and food also make life infinitely richer.