This article is part of the “Write For” series, a collection of writings produced by the University of Central Arkansas Department of Writing to highlight incredible organizations that rely on professional writers. To learn more about Professional Writing and the opportunities it offers graduates, click here.
There are writers who live in the South and then there are Southern writers. Southern writers can win the hearts of readers through a well placed “y’all” and a “darn” or two. They can’t pick up a pen without a glass of sweet tea condensing on the desk beside them, and occasionally it’s a tumbler of something stronger. It’s writers like these who knock the mud off their boots and craft articles that attract shoppers from around the world to Bourbon and Boots’ online storefront.
Bourbon and Boots is an emerging online retailer based in Little Rock that sells unique goods with a heaping helping of regional culture on the side. The company employs professional writers not only to curate new store items (more on that here), but also to draw in the company’s target audience through eye-catching articles.
A quick visit to the blog-esque “Read” section of the Bourbon and Boots website reveals a large collection of intriguing titles like “To Eat or Not to Eat – Roadkill” and “Eight Essential Apps for Southerners.” The site’s more than 300 articles are the product of a creative posse of writers and its editor, Melissa Tucker.
Tucker has a background in journalism, and she still occasionally writes for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Her role at Bourbon and Boots, however, is quite different from that of a reporter. She and a stable of freelance writers produce writing she describes as “relatable” and “shareable.” She offered the site’s collection of “signs your from” articles as an example of ideal Bourbon and Boots website content.
In her “10 Signs You Might Be From Arkansas” article, writer Kerri Jackson Case points out a handful quirks that come with living in the Natural State. In the humorous list, she pokes fun at names of towns (Possum Grape, Evening Shade and Fifty-Six), Arkansans’ universal term for soft drinks (“cokes”) and commonly cited landmarks (“the old Walmart”). It should come as no surprise that Case lives in Little Rock, which is one reason her work resonates well with Bourbon and Boots; Tucker said a writer working for the company should be familiar with the South.
In addition to knowing the territory, Tucker said writers should possess a number of skills that make them versatile. “Specialization is dying off,” she said, meaning that individual employees should be comfortable fulfilling multiple roles that were once assigned to a group. For instance, writers shouldn’t always expect someone will go along behind them to plug relevant photographs and other graphics into their writing. A resourceful writer will have ideas for creative content that enhances online writing. “Images are as important—if not more so—than words,” Tucker said.
Tucker said it’s important for Bourbon and Boots writers to be able to work independently and have a curious, creative approach to their work. It’s also a good idea to develop some “thick skin,” she explained, because Internet writers often run the risk of offending unruly readers. For instance, an article about Southern state slogans received mixed reactions from the website’s visitors because some thought the piece was a bit too “negative and demeaning.”
Bourbon and Boots writers should also be acquainted with content management systems like WordPress that allow companies to post their articles and products online. They should also be able to understand website analytics (information about the way visitors interact with the site) and search engine optimization, or SEO (the practice of organizing website information so it appears higher in search results).
If you have a hankering to share your love of Southern culture with the world, there’s a good chance that you’d enjoy writing for a company like Bourbon and Boots. There are countless online readers waiting for you to pour your country soul into articles that have a dash of photographic know-how and just a pinch of thick skin.