Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Badass Biz: Shannon- World Traveler, Romance Novel Writer, Nonprofit Worker

I have so much admiration for world travelers. It's my dream and I'll get there one day, but in the meantime, I want to chat with as many people who've done it as possible. Maybe their experience with flow through to me via some type of magic osmosis and I'll be just as proficient at it-- and brave enough, too! Today I'm chatting with Shannon (who also interviewed me here) about her world travelers and her badass location independent work as a romance novel writer and nonprofit helper.

1) Please tell us a little about yourself Shannon. Well first of all, thank you so much for having me! In a nutshell, I’m a writer, a practitioner of Ashtanga yoga, a travel enthusiast, a blogger, and an analyst for a non-profit in D.C.! Also, I love South American red wine with a strange ferocity. I think that about sums it up!

2) You're a fiction writer, what training or schooling did you receive to do this? My training was essentially my childhood. I grew up surrounded by books, started writing around age 8, and received my first rejection letter at age 9, from Highlights Magazine. From there, it was a non-stop writing train, with tons of novels and short stories completed during my formative years. Technically, I’ve taken one creative writing course in college, but I study and read and practice voraciously, which forms the bulk of my ‘schooling’.

Amazing coffee farm and jungle in South America. 

3) For many people, working for a flexible non-profit is a dream job. How did you land this gig? It was total luck. I had been hired by them for a little writing gig—to write an employment ad scouting new talent, actually. I convinced myself with my own ad, and asked to join the team. They accepted me, and I’ve been with them ever since.

4) Your non-profit work affords you the flexibility of world travel. Where have you been? Since I’ve been with the non-profit, I’ve traveled mostly South America. I’ve lived in several places with this job, such as Valparaiso, Chile and Cusco, Peru. But I also travel for pleasure while maintaining regular work hours, and some of these destinations include very extreme distances: the farthest being India (huuuge, and often difficult, time difference with D.C.) and Easter Island (the most remote island in the world! Spoiler alert: the internet was horrible, not surprisingly!).

Van Says: Clinging for dear life in Peruvian mountains...that would be. I AM TERRIFIED OF HEIGHTS. I had nightmares about driving in the mountains of Puerto Rico for a week afterwards.

5) What are your top three favorite cities/places that you've visited, if you can narrow that down? Of all my world travels, Mexico is one of the top three: it was where I went first, by myself, as a young and na├»ve 19-year-old traveler just getting her feet wet. I also love Valparaiso, Chile, another home base I had. Each time I go back I wonder if this is the time I’ll stay permanently…the mix of eclectic bohemian art, salty air, and chaotic, grimy streets has a special enchantment. And finally: Nuweiba, Egypt, which was one of my stops during a 3-month backpacking stint through the Middle East and Europe. It was one of my first encounters with the Middle East, and I will always fondly recall the haunting echoes of the Call to Prayer through the Sinai mountain range, and wandering the sandy shorelines of the Aqaba Sea.

6) What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced during your travels? I don’t do very well with excessive attention, and as an introvert, it can be very draining for me. Being tall, and blonde, and with dreadlocks, this makes for some uncomfortable situations at times, especially in areas where physical diversity is low. I also travel alone often, and in low moments, the feeling of being totally isolated and a focal point of attention makes me feel like the spotlight is only on me.

7) What tips do you have for someone who wants to work for a nonprofit? I’ve worked for other non-profits before, and they can be hard to get into. Don’t give up the hunt if you’re set on helping an intended community or have a honed skill set. Flexibility is key, whether that means relocation, or accepting a different position than you had imagined, etc.

8) What does your work as a remote analyst entail? I mostly hunt down the data that we use to analyze teacher education programs throughout the USA. So I’m contacting principals and superintendents, submitting open records requests, and doing a wide variety of other Google Docs-related tasks. This allows us to obtain the information that we then analyze in conjunction with set standards in order to critically assess a large variety of institutions of higher education (IHE’s) and their teacher preparation programs.

9) What would be your tips for anyone who wants to be a fellow vagabond world traveler? Managing expectations about what life abroad looks like can be really helpful. It’s not pure sightseeing and lazy wandering: for example, I work 50-60 hours per week minimum between my day job (the non-profit) and writing and maintain a fairly strict schedule, but these jobs afford me the chance to change my location as I wish. There are some people who do graphic design freelance, or open their own businesses in new locations, or who have a hefty savings and draw from that while working odd jobs, like hostels or bartending. There are many ways to do it, so find the way that works for you!

10) The hard work cannot be escaped as a soloprenuer. I feel like I'm working literally nonstop (for little pay, ha!) How about tips for anyone who wants to be a fiction writer? Keep reading, and keep writing! Writing is a skill that is honed through practice; it’s not just an innate gift that you’re born with or not. Practice makes perfect, in this case, but that practice is greatly aided by a diverse body of literature replenishing your creative banks!

11) Good advice, and agreed, that's true in all fields. You put in the hours and get better. What are your biggest challenges, juggling all that you do? Time management! I constantly swing between delirious optimism—as in, the “I can do everything I want to, let’s add on a new project no problem” complex—and despondent realism—the “what the fuck was I thinking scheduling so many deadlines this week?” effect. I don’t know how to find the happy balance there—it’s a work in progress!

Check out Shannon's writing and blog online, thanks so much for sharing your story with us!


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