SpotlightYouth Spotlight

Ana Cvetković is a recent graduate of the George Washington University where she studied Journalism and Mass Communications. Having been surrounded by journalism while growing up, it was only natural that Ana would pursue it in her studies and career. Originally from Belgrade in Serbia, Ana’s stateside home is now the east coast. Ana is also the founder of the beloved food blog, Better Than Ramen, where she blogs about her visits to restaurants around the world. Furthermore, Ana has gotten into cooking recently, and she documents the food she cooks and enjoys.

A little fun fact about Ana: she is profiled in our book, Youth’s Highest Honor. Ana shares her motivations for earning the Congressional Award and what she did to earn her Gold Medal from Congress.

Read on to learn more about what qualities Ana thinks makes a strong intern, what putting a blog post together looks like, and how she defines seizing her youth.

Name: Ana Cvetković
Education: Journalism and Mass Communications at the George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs
Follow: Better Than Ramen / @betterthanramen / FacebookLinkedIn

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Ana Cvetković: Seizing Your Youth is about taking advantage of opportunities that are given to you. It’s about saying yes to those opportunities and giving them a shot to figure out whether or not they are right for you. When you are young, people are more willing to help you out, so you should take advantage of that opportunity. Seizing Your Youth is also about making opportunities for yourself. I started my food blog, Better Than Ramen, because I knew I could write about food well without doing it for someone else’s blog or organization.

CJ: You studied journalism and communications in college. What led you to those academic passions and why did you choose to study them in a formal setting?

AC: I’ve always been surrounded by journalism. Growing up in Belgrade, I would see my grandmother read Politika, Serbia’s newspaper of record, every day. When I moved to America, I fell in love with American Girl magazine. I remember the first issue I read was February 2000 and it had these ideas for throwing a slumber party and I thought they were so much fun. The magazine tapped into my creative side. As I grew older, I began subscribing to magazines. Whenever an issue would come to my mailbox, I tried my hardest to make it last me the whole month. So it was my love of reading magazines that made me consider a career in journalism. While I still love writing, my coursework at George Washington University and internships with the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Smithsonian have made me fall in love with video production.

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CJ: What cause or issue do you care greatly about and why?

AC: While it’s neither a cause nor an issue, I believe that everyone should travel the world. Many people have shallow worldviews because they don’t know what else is out there so they think their way of life is the best. I was born in Belgrade, Serbia and moved to the US when I was very young. I grew up speaking Serbian and spending my summers in Belgrade. Besides having two passports, I feel like I have a dual identity. When I’m in the U.S., I notice how my Serbian values and traditions differentiate me from my peers. When I’m in Serbia, I feel American because I don’t quite fit in there either. I have a unique perspective because of my dual identity and travels. I’m not saying that the solution to all of the world’s problems can be solved through travel, but connecting with people of different nationalities, races, and cultures can remind us that we are all human.

CJ: You earned the Congressional Award Gold Medal in 2013. How did you get involved with the Congressional Award and what was your biggest takeaway from the experience?

AC: My high school had a strong service-learning program. Many of my friends got involved with the Congressional Award and they said it would look good to colleges and help them get scholarships. My high school’s service learning coordinator, Mary Rodgers, helped me get started and served as my mentor throughout my journey. My biggest takeaway from participating in the Congressional Award experience is that I can achieve my biggest goals with the help of organization, patience and persistence. It made me more disciplined.

CJ: You write your own food blog called “Better Than Ramen.” What prompted you to create that website and what has been the greatest part about blogging so far?

AC: I think all great ventures begin out of boredom. A few months before I launched the blog, and at the end of my freshman year at GWU, I was having lunch over the summer with two friends who were just heading off to college. One of them was going to school in Boston, another in Philadelphia and I was already attending school in Washington. We were at a Middle Eastern restaurant and we were all taking pictures of our food – this was way before the days of Instagram. I thought it would be cool to document our dining adventures in these three great cities, so I set up the blog, but months passed and we never did anything with it. A few months later, I went out to brunch with a bunch of friends on New Year’s Day while I was home for winter break. The next day I felt bored, as most college students probably do when they are home for a break. Inspired by the brunch, I decided to revisit my blog idea. I wrote my first post and the rest is history.

I had started several blogs in the past, but they never lasted long because they didn’t have a theme. I knew I could keep up a food blog because I have to eat, so whether it’s a meal at a restaurant or something I whipped up at home, I would always have something to write about.

The greatest part of blogging is having people tell me that they love reading my blog (or even that they’ve heard of it!). Part of the reason I gave up on past blogs was because I felt like no one was reading them. BTR is like an online diary for me because I have so many memories associated with the meals I’ve had. However, the blog is still written as a guide with practical information, so it’s thrilling when I hear that people have gone to a restaurant that I’ve suggested. It’s rewarding and empowering knowing that I’ve influenced someone.

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CJ: You are passionate about writing and sharing information about food with your BTR audience. What is the process of creating a post and how much time is required?

AC: The process is pretty quick at the restaurant. When the meals come to the table, my friends or boyfriend or whomever I’m dining with know to not touch their meals until I’ve snapped a picture (thanks for putting up with me!). I’ll usually ask my friends for a bite or two of their dishes, or for them to describe their meals. Then I take notes of my impressions or their thoughts on the Notes app on my phone. I try to be as unobtrusive as possible when I’m eating out with a group of friends, but they’re gracious and are used to my picture taking at this point.

When I go to write a post, it could take anywhere from an hour to a few days, depending on how excited I was about the meal. I typically take photos with my phone, which isn’t great in low lighting situations, so I spend time touching up the photos so that the lighting quality doesn’t distract from the post. Then I write my review, do some research on the restaurant, and insert the photos. After that, I create social media posts for the new article to make sure it gets to as many readers as possible.

CJ: You spent your senior year at GW interning for the Office of Communications and Public Affairs at Smithsonian Institution. What are your top three tips for being a strong intern?

AC: 1) Have a specialty. At the Smithsonian, I produced, filmed, and edited videos for the Seriously Amazing marketing campaign. I was the office expert when it came to using our cameras and video editing software because I’ve used them in class and my past internships. My colleagues had tons of experience in other areas of public affairs that I didn’t know much about, but I was an important part of the team because I had expertise in an area that others didn’t know as well.

2) Always ask for more work. Show that you’re eager by taking on extra assignments. An internship is really what you make it, so if you’re okay with just doing the bare minimum, you won’t impress anyone and you won’t learn all that you can. Do as much as you can to learn what you enjoy doing.

3) Learn from your co-workers. Asking your co-workers about what they do and how they got there flatters them and gives you insight into career options in your field. This is especially useful if you don’t know exactly what you want to do. Your colleagues could also put you in touch with other people they know at places you may want to work.

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CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on work and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

AC: My Mondays are atypical right now because I just graduated and am looking for a job, so I’ll describe my typical Monday during my last semester at GWU. I only had one class on Mondays, so I was one of the lucky few who didn’t have to wake up to an alarm that day. I’d sleep until I was well rested, make myself breakfast, then go to my American Architecture lecture. I was out at 2 p.m. so I was free to do as I pleased if I’d taken care of my schoolwork.

I’ve really taken advantage of living in DC by thoroughly exploring the city. I minored in art history, so one of my favorite spots to spend time in is the National Gallery. It’s less touristy than the Smithsonians, so you can easily occupy one of the comfy couches they have in each gallery and read, study, or sketch for a few quiet hours while taking in masterpieces by Rubens or Fragonard.

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CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

AC: I’m always looking for new ways to improve Better Than Ramen. Now that I’ve graduated from college and am on the job hunt, I have a little more time to dedicate to growing the site. I’m looking into forming partnerships with brands and local businesses to create exciting new content. I’m also hoping to introduce videos to the site because I have the skillset to do so and because multimedia storytelling would add another dimension to my writing.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

AC: If I’m drained and stressed out, I unwind with a cup of tea and Netflix. House Hunters International is my guilty pleasure because I was born in Belgrade, Serbia and have traveled a lot so I love seeing how people live around the world. If I’m dealing with a stressful situation I need to talk it out, so I’ll call my family or my boyfriend to work through the problem.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

AC: When senior year of high school comes around, don’t take AP Physics. You don’t need to take the most difficult class your school offers, especially because physics has absolutely nothing to do with your college major! In high school we are taught to take everything so seriously and that everything will look good or bad to colleges, which will then look good or bad to employers. Stay focused, but don’t take everything so seriously!

Ana Qs

Images by Ana Cvetković

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We fell in love with Katie Evans’ designs when we first laid eyes on them. It’s not hard to adore her bright and colorful designs. Having freelanced, worked at kate spade, West Elm, and Gap, Katie is no stranger to hard work and late nights. Now working as the Art Director at Ivanka Trump, Katie is involved with social media, editorial stories, and marketing. We were very excited to meet with Katie at the Ivanka Trump office in New York City, which is powdery pink and filled with inspirational images and quotes. We are motivated by Katie’s creativity and hard work, and we know you’ll be just as inspired.

Name: Katie Evans
Education: B.F.A. in Graphic Design from the Maryland Institute College of Art
Follow: @heykatieevans / katie-evans.com / ivankatrump.com

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Katie Evans: Taking chances and not being afraid to make mistakes. You’re young and now is the time to experiment with what makes you happy and what doesn’t.

CJ: You received your BFA in Graphic Design from the Maryland Institute College of Art. What sparked your love of design?

KE: I attended an arts magnet middle school and high school where I was a visual arts major concentrating in drawing, painting, and sculpture. In high school I continued those studies and did a crossover into the Communications department to take a graphic design class. CD album covers and booklets were what originally sparked my interest in design. I remember pinning them on my bedroom walls. I also designed a couple of covers for my friends’ bands.

When I was a junior in college, I still didn’t know exactly where I wanted to take my career. A professor gave me an assignment to spend a weekend collecting anything that I was attracted to. The next week I brought back a bunch of Martha Stewart’s Blueprint Magazines, editorial shoots from Lucky Magazine, and a bunch of fashion ad campaigns. My professor was like, “Duh, you should be in fashion.” I questioned her about how I could play a role in fashion as a graphic designer. She told me that fashion companies need graphic designers – they do the windows, the packaging, and the hangtags, etc.

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CJ: You are the Art Director at Ivanka Trump. What does your role entail? 

KE: Ivanka started her licensee businesses a while ago, and she recently hired a small team to revamp and bring new life to the brand. We recently launched our new site, ivankatrump.com, that includes articles on work, style, travel, home and play.

I concept all of our editorial content on the site and our social media channels. Everyone does a bit of everything here because we are so small, which is great because you can be involved with different aspects of the brand. Our team makes all of our ideas come to life. I still do graphic design which I think a lot of Art Directors don’t do anymore. It keeps me on my toes.

CJ: You freelanced as an Art Director, Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and Consultant for years while also maintaining jobs. How did you go about securing freelance work, and what advice do you have for those interested in freelancing?

KE: I originally started freelancing because I needed the extra money. I always had a steady job and paycheck to fall back on, and freelancing let me experiment and find out what worked and what didn’t. For my first freelance job, I was paid $500 to design 10 different stationery cards for a new company. Looking back on that now is crazy to me. I want to smack my 22-year-old self and ask what I was thinking! I spent so much time on those cards. It should’ve been $500/per design. When I figured out what I wanted my freelance projects to be, I was able to pick the ones I liked the most. Most of my jobs came from word of mouth with a mix of referrals from social media and LinkedIn. I did freelance as a career for a little bit, and then Ivanka Trump lured me back into the corporate world.

If you’re thinking about going strictly freelance, you have to be passionate about what you’re doing. You have to be a go getter or you will go nowhere. You also have to be organized because now you are a bookkeeper, assistant, answering emails all day, and you still have to pump out the creative. It took time, but I was able to figure out how long projects would take me and account for client feedback to get it all done in time to start my next project. It was tricky to find that right calculation, so being flexible was important.

When I first went full-time freelance, I had nine clients. It was a disaster on my side, but I put on a good face for my clients. I had no social life, I was overworked, and I will never make that mistake again. I think the happy medium was 3-4 clients, with 2 recurring clients and 2 rotating projects. I had to be very strict with my clients about deadlines so that it didn’t interfere with other jobs.

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CJ: How did you stay organized and efficient while balancing freelancing with your corporate jobs as a Graphic Designer?

KE: Google. Google has helped me do everything. I used spreadsheets for my bookkeeping and the calendar for meetings and deadlines. I would have each client assigned a different color so I could visually see the different projects I had. It worked because I could access those files from wherever I was – whether it was on my computer or phone.

CJ: You’ve worked as a graphic and web designer at some amazing places such as kate spade, West Elm, and Gap. What are your biggest takeaways from these experiences?

KE: The biggest thing I learned was that if I’m not passionate about the brand and what I’m marketing, I can’t do my job 100%. At kate spade, I lived and breathed that brand. The projects were so much fun. The kate spade team was very small so I was able to get my hands on everything, from window installations to stationery collections to working on photo shoots. I loved that so, so much. Every day was different and I was building a great portfolio.

The other companies I’ve worked for were much larger and at those jobs I was hired to do one thing and that thing only. They had huge teams to do everything and I realized through those experiences that I thrive better in smaller environments where I can play a part in all aspects of a project. I like to see things from start to finish.

CJ: What is the best part about being a designer? The most challenging part?

KE: The best part is telling stories. Just being able to tell a story about what a girl is doing and what she’s wearing and what she’s thinking and feeling. Finding a way to bring that story to life is the best part.

The most challenging part is finding the balance between making something beautiful but also selling that product. It’s tough to be conscious of both.

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CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

KE: 7am: Rise and shine! Go for a run! #TeamIvanka is training for a half-marathon in April. Most of us are new runners and can’t imagine running 13 miles. So far 4.5 has been my most.

9am: Take the F train uptown. Read theSkimm on my ride up.

10am: Write out my to-do’s for the day. Respond to emails.

10:30am – 2pm: Plan our next editorial shoot, pull inspiration, select models, snap a photo of Ivanka for Instagram, and edit videos.

2:00pm: Lunch! If I eat too early the day goes by much slower.

2:30 – 5:30pm: Work with our Editorial Director to plan the next month of stories. Call people and brands that we want to collaborate with, design creative for our social media channels, a little bit of pinning to Pinterest.

5:30 – 6:00pm: Regroup with my creative team to make sure we’re meeting deadlines.

6:00pm: Out the door!

Trump Tower

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be an Art Director or Graphic Designer do now to set themselves up for success?

KE: Be multifaceted in your line of work. If you’re a graphic designer, take a variety of art classes and learn as much as you can. You’ll be more valuable to your employer. As a designer, explore print, packaging, publication, digital, and visual. It will set you up later in your career to think about a project holistically.

Also, be nice. It still blows my mind how small this world is.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

KE: I just finished reading You Before Me by JoJo Moyes. I laughed and cried.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

KE: I like to take deep breaths, go to the gym, and shop.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

KE: Your career path is going to be hard work, but it’s going to be worth it. And pay attention in your foundation art classes! Find a way to enjoy it and embrace your art style. You may think they’re boring, but they’re teaching you the basics of art that will come up in every aspect of your job.

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Image: Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We discovered Moni Yael Garcia by happy universal chance. While stumbling through the internet we landed on an amazing site called Real Heroines and were immediately mesmerized. The graphics, the stories, the layout – everything captured our attention and we needed to know who the mastermind behind it was. We are excited to introduce Moni Yael Garcia, freelance designer, illustrator, and entrepreneur extraordinaire! From web design, to photography, to mobile, to identity development, Moni does it all (and makes it look effortless!). We asked Moni to describe her work as a self-starter and where her life and creative inspiration comes from.

Name: Moni Yael Garcia
Occupation: Freelance Designer and Illustrator
Age: 27
Education: University of Texas at Austin
Follow Moni: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Dribbble

Carpe juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Moni Yael Garcia: Enjoying your time as an individual where responsibilities are few and self exploration leads to personal epiphanies.

 CJ: What originally drew you to design and illustration?

MYG: I’ve always had an interest in art and drawing. Even before kindergarten I would sculpt roses out of Play-Doh and dinosaurs out of aluminum foil. I really enjoyed experimenting with colors and drawing what I saw in picture books. I found these things relaxing and the only way to accurately understand myself and the world around me. I never considered design or illustration as a sustainable form of living. I went through various career choices from grade school to high school, and becoming an artist was never something I considered possible. Even though both my parents are creative individuals their careers have followed more traditional paths. Luckily, I came across the “graphic designer” occupation during a career research project for my 11th grade BCIS class. That’s when all my tension on choosing a career dissipated, and I finally had a direction I could wholeheartedly follow.

CJ: After graduating from University of Texas in Austin you struggled to find footing in the professional world – what made you decide to invest your time into late night tutorials and, in hindsight, was it worth it?

MYG: Late night tutorials were the only thing that kept me sane after graduating from UT. It was such a tough time for me. I couldn’t find a job for almost a year due to the competitive nature of the industry and the recession. The majority of places were under a hiring freeze and if they were looking for new employees, having no experience in the field just didn’t cut it. I only had one real internships under my belt and my skill level was bare minimum. Don’t get me wrong, my education in the University of Texas Design Program helped me immensely and gave me an understanding of design, the importance of concepts and the creative process. However, I needed more experience and a chance to level up my abilities as a designer. I actually treasure these obstacles now. They drove me to push through, take initiative, and reevaluate my goals.

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CJ: What was the main trigger that made you realize that the corporate environment wasn’t for you?

MYG: I would say the differences in our creative process. The pay was great, and the hours were predictable, but I found myself constantly frustrated in the way things were approached. Then after several months of trying to make it work I had a heart to heart with myself. Would I be happy working there for the next five years — heck even two? Did I see myself growing into the designer I wanted to be or would I fall into complacency? Would it be okay to go to a job that I would eventually come to hate every day? I saw no progress in site and that’s when I decided to make a change professionally.

CJ: What inspired you to create a personal website, and how has that affected you professionally?

MYG: The reason I decided to create my own personal website instead of using a standard template was because I felt it necessary. I wanted to showcase my work, creative skills, and personal story in an unconventional manner. I was ready to step out of my current situation and become a full-time freelancer. It was definitely a challenge filled with stress during the whole process, but ultimately I knew it would lead to my new identity. I strongly encourage all creatives to have their own website, or at least some form of a digital portfolio where they have the ability to showcase their own work. Behance, Cargo Collective, and WordPress are great places to start if developing your own custom website from scratch isn’t possible.

CJ: Can you please tell us more about your volunteerism work with the Boys and Girls Club Holthouse?

MYG: Well, for a couple of years I had the opportunity to share my Fridays with a group of 7 to 11 year olds at one of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston. I wanted to make the most out of my visits with these kids, so we set up “Club Tech”, in which we covered business, art, design, programming, and robotics. Basically everything I learned during and after college. I wholeheartedly believe it’s important to give back to others who may not have certain opportunities or resources available to them due to circumstances out of our control. Exposing younger generations to these subjects early in their development sets them up for success. I really tried to create a curriculum that encouraged creativity and problem solving. At times it was difficult to motivate them through a project though, since they already had a long week of school, but they were real troopers. Some of our favorite activities were, creating business cards for their fictional business, building real working cardboard robots, 3D printing figurines, and designing their own computer game. As long as I was able to open up a new world for one of those kids, I’m happy.

CJ: What advice would you give to younger artists/designers/illustrators who are still studying their craft?

MYG:  Five things. 1) Don’t overlook the history of your profession. It’s always a good idea to study the basics and build a strong foundation. 2) Dissect the world around you and don’t be afraid to recreate work you find inspiring. (Just don’t claim it as your own!) 3) Explore different concepts and techniques that spark your interest by jotting them down and finessing them through whatever medium necessary. 4) The more you make the more you learn. It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re in a competitive field, but nobody starts awesome. You need time to develop your skills and even find your passion. 5) Posting your process on a social media outlet is a great way to document your journey and can even help you land possible internships or jobs.

I think if you keep these things in mind you’ll be able to find your own voice and make great things.

CJ: How do you create and maintain a work-life balance?

MYG: Honestly, I’m still working on that. As a sole proprietor it’s up to you to find work, manage clients, execute projects, and develop your business. It can be stressful and rewarding at the sametime. My personal time almost always relates to my business time, though indirectly. Whether it be daily exercise to get my creative juices flowing, hiking expeditions as a form of self reflection, designing products for my online shop that require a more personal approach, and even sleeping to work through mental blocks. I like to use this time as fuel for what I do and want to accomplish. As I see it, let the way you live your life dictate how you approach your work.

CJ: As a self-starter, how do you keep yourself on-track with goals and deadlines?

MYG: Having a scattered “To-Do” list with no unforeseen end can be daunting. That’s why I’ve switched over to organize my priorities with a project checklist where I have the flexibility to assign daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. I plan out all my client work and personal projects in Producteev, a free online management software, and move on to display my weekly and daily tasks throughout my workspace. I’m a very visual person so seeing things I have to accomplish outside of the screen and on my whiteboardand post-it notes keeps me focused. Overall this process allows me to change between projects and stay productive when I’m burnt out with one in particular.

Moni Garcia QsCJ: Where did your love for women’s rights come from?

MYG: I can’t really pin point where my strong interest for women’s rights came from, but I’ve always been fond of encouraging others to reach their full potential, whether they be women, men, boys or girls. We’re all human and treating someone poorly due to gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, disability, or social status is baffling. Equality encourages a future of strong innovative thinkers and leaders, better economy, more creativity — not wanting everyone to be equal is just a stupid outlook.

CJ: How do you strive for equality in your everyday life?

MYG: Innately we all yearn for personal equality and acceptance. However, a constant barrage of negative comments and imagery can distort anyone’s understanding on how to treat others and even themselves. Personally, I stay true to my own convictions and openly express my concerns on issues that impede equality. Education on the subject is extremely important and in most cases allows people to reevaluate stereotypes they perceived as true. That’s why on August 26th my partner and I launched Real Heroines: an on going web project that compiles notable women who cultivated their minds and overcame adversity by defying social conventions. Through this site we hope to inspire female empowerment within men, women, boys and girls, from the action of their predecessors, so we can all move beyond gender stereotypes and grow as people. Education and an open mind brings awareness on equality, or any issue, really.

CJ: Growing up you were raised in a household that provided you with two different cultures – how did those experiences shape who you are as an adult?

MYG: I value knowledge and education and have a strong work ethic, but that’s more from being raised by a teacher and an engineer than being a second-generation Mexican-American. Growing up bilingual made me create a sort of pidgin involving a mixture of words and sound effects to express myself. Being the product of two cultures provides a perspective on problem-solving that neither culture might have on their own.

CJ: What is your favorite way that technology has changed over the past five years?

MYG: We’ve refined technology for so long that it’s much more accessible to individuals rather than only large corporations. This accessibility allows us to further integrate it into our society. An individual can now use technology to create something they’ve imagined with a degree of polish that used to only be possible with a team of people or large-scale machinery. 3D printing is a great example. And the whole thing is cyclical. The more we adopt, the more we refine, which in turn integrates it further into society.

CJ: What advice would you give to your eighteen-year-old self?

MYG: Take risks, stop waiting! Allowing your school curriculum to dictate your every move will only hinder your growth. Take the initiative to apply for internships, seek mentors, and invest in personal projects. These experiences will feed your creativity and raise your skill level ten fold before you graduate from college. Welcome obstacles that come your way and then kick them in the shins!

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Image: Courtesy of Moni Yael Garcia

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Have you ever stumbled upon a Twitter feed where you find yourself 10 minutes later still laughing and scrolling through the tweets? This happened to us with Lyndsay Rush and her hilarious observations and comments. How she manages to make every day occurrences so funny in just 140 characters is a mystery to us, but we’ll happily continue reading and laughing.

Besides her obvious comedy chops, Lyndsay Rush is also a talented writer. She is a columnist for HelloGiggles, SheKnows, and The Everygirl, as well as a copywriter. Storytelling and writing has been a passion for Lyndsay ever since she was little, and she has honed her skills through different mediums – film, Spanish, and blogging. We’re huge fans of Lyndsay’s columns, as well as the advice and lessons she shares. With her great sense of humor, emphasis on being thankful, and dedication to her craft, Lyndsay definitely seizes her youth.

Name: Lyndsay Rush
Age: 31
Education: Bachelor of Arts, University of Kansas
Follow: Twitter / BrandBurst

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Lyndsay Rush: I think being aware and present and thankful for where you are in life is a trick that benefits everyone. As for seizing your youth, it’s so fantastic when you’re young to go big. Try new things, embrace what freaks you out, ask a lot of questions. Befriend failure because it means you’re out there, it means you’re making the most of life.

CJ: You went to college at the University of Kansas and studied Film and Spanish. How did you determine what to study?

LR: I always laugh at this, since it seems so random. But my justification now is that I knew I loved storytelling, I just chose the wrong medium (film) and I always loved language, I just focused on the wrong one (Spanish). But I wouldn’t change a thing. I still adore the Spanish language, and when I stumbled into copywriting, I found that having a unique background was actually appealing to clients and employers, because my tone of voice was different from someone who studied marketing or journalism, for example.

CJ: What sparked your love of writing?

LR: I have been writing since I was little. My mom had my siblings and me keep journals from the moment we learned how to read and write (which, ahem, for me was 4 years old. Child genius alert, I know.) So I learned at a really young age how fun it was to tell stories. And then when I quit my job in finance 3 years after college, I started a blog about being unemployed, and really found my storytelling and humor voice. That silly little blog ended up getting some serious traction and I eventually used it as a way to get other work, leading to my career today.

CJ: You are a columnist for Hello Giggles, The Everygirl, and SheKnows. What is your writing process and where/how do you find inspiration for articles?

LR: I’d say it is a mix of my original ideas, and then specific stories pitched to me by my editors. I’m so thankful, at all of these publications, for editors who really “get” me and let me try new things or go in directions that might be off the beaten path. It’s seriously the most fun job ever.

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CJ: You are also a freelance copywriter for a number of different companies. What does being a copywriter entail?  

LR: Basically anything that businesses might need written, I write. From web copy, to naming products and services, to taglines and slogans, to ads, to social media, to bios to emails…there is so much that businesses need to communicate, and it all has to be specific to who they want to reach, which in turn feeds how they need to speak (write.) At the beginning of launching out on my own, I literally took anyone who would pay me. I was just stunned that I was getting paid to put words together. It was so dreamy. But then as I’ve gotten deeper into the field, I’ve been able to hone in on what I love the most, and only accept projects and companies that want my specific tone (conversational, witty, unexpected). This is a real treat, because I get to do what comes most natural to me.

CJ: You are an incredible, relatable, and hilarious writer. Your Twitter feed, in particular, is smart and laugh out loud funny. How does humor influence your writing, and how can one improve their humor writing skills?

LR: First of all, thank you, that’s so kind. Secondly, you’re right I am hilarious. Kidding. But really, I think observation is the key to humor. I think the best comedians and humorists are able to see at a layer deeper than the average person. They point out and heighten things that we may have missed but that always make us go, “That is SO true!” It also helps to keep track of the people you think are funny, and see how they write certain jokes, or tell certain stories. There is so much to learn from others and being well read is a huge help. Some people think that if you read other humorous writing that you will be tempted to emulate them and lose your voice, but I disagree. I don’t think people can fake being funny; I think it just feeds into your overall experience in life and adds different notes to your writing.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from being a writer?

LR: This is tough, but I think a big lesson I have learned along the way is that the more people there are reading your stuff, the more negative feedback you’ll get. This is just a numbers game. When I started writing for Hello Giggles, for example, and thousands of people were reading my articles, those were some of the first times I had gotten really nasty comments from readers. Similarly with bigger websites I’ve written. People love to hate stuff. We are a bunch of haters, these days. But try to focus on those who love what you have done, and then if (this is a big IF) there is actual constructive criticism in the comments or feedback, take that and grow. It’s all an opportunity to grow and get better and throw it in those haters’ faces. Just kidding. Mostly.

CJ: What is the best part about being a writer? The most challenging part?

LR: Best part for me being a freelancer is working in my pajamas. Most challenging part is being self-motivated, organized, and disciplined so that you get that work done…even if it’s while in your robe.

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CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

LR: This is going to make me look so un-glamorous, because I can be a kind of nerdy introvert. But I wake up, make coffee (a must,) get out my to-do list for the day (I am still old school on this, I write those suckers down. Nothing is more satisfying than crossing something off a list with a pen. Nothing!), and then I prioritize what needs to be done and when. Then I check and answer emails, and then get to work. If I have a big project starting that day I will go work form a coffee shop, since a change of scenery sometimes helps spark my brain. I take breaks whenever I need to, to ride my bike or meet a friend for lunch, or watch a show. I LOVE and thrive on a flexible schedule and consider it a luxury that I don’t have to be creative in that dastardly 9-5 window. I work a lot of nights with wine, especially if I’ve given myself the afternoon to play.

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be a writer do now to set themselves up for success?

LR: Read a lot. And take notes on anything that you observe that catches your interest. Take classes! Improv classes and writing classes. Pay attention to what your heroes are doing. Write every day, even if it’s minor, even if it’s 3 jokes about current events, or one line of dialogue. Have a time and place where you write and stick to it. If you truly care about it, prove it by making time for it and doing the work.

CJ: When you aren’t crafting clever tweets or writing your columns, how do you like to spend your time?

LR: I love to travel. Because I work for myself, I can go on trips and still get work done, while taking in a new culture. I like riding my red bike around Chicago and checking out new coffee shops and bakeries. I really enjoy improv and sketch shows, iO and Second City in Chicago, and UCB in New York. My dream night is a dinner party on a friend’s patio. Oh, and I consider myself a nail artist. Probably change my polish 3-4 times a week like a total psycho.

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CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life?

LR: Hope, change, god, relationships, chips.

CJ: What’s next for you?

LR: Ideally, I would be writing for television. Either late night shows as a monologue writer or for sitcoms, or awards shows. That’s my next big plan, at least.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

LR: I would tell her to stop trying to please other people. And to really stop worrying what other people thought; to be a little more open-minded and daring, and to put away her credit card. I would also tell her to cut it out with the tanning already.