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.
Within the walls of Blackbird Academy of the Arts‘ downtown-Conway studio, ballerinas spin, painters brush, writers scrawl and musicians compose. The building is constantly brimming with creativity, and it’s all due to the passionate work of one professional writer and the supportive team standing behind her.
Jennie Strange, the founder of Blackbird Academy, graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in 2005 with a number of creative and professional writing classes beneath her belt. Calling upon her newly acquired skills, she went on to establish a nonprofit organization that works tirelessly to “give all persons in the Conway, Arkansas area opportunities to experience and take part in artistic endeavors.”
Today, aspiring artists of all ages receive dance, music, film, creative writing, visual arts and theater instruction from Blackbird’s gifted teachers. Like an intricate frame that holds a beautiful painting, Professional Writing plays a big part in supporting the academy’s vibrant work. Strange said that “while the mission of Blackbird is focused on the creative arts, this mission could not be communicated without a strong foundation in technical writing.”
When it comes to communicating Blackbird Academy’s mission through writing, Tara Adams takes center stage. Adams, who is also a University of Central Arkansas writing graduate, serves as the organization’s advertising and marketing director. Calling upon an extensive set of skills and tools, she currently works from home to inform the community about classes, performances and individual pieces of art.
During her time as a professional writer working for the academy, Adams has done “a little bit of everything.” “I’m never asked to do the same thing twice,” she said. Adams explained that writers must often adapt their skills to the needs of their organizations, occasionally taking on projects that may feel challenging or outside comfort zones.
On any given day, Adams may work on advertisements, promotional posters, programs that are handed out at performances or pieces she calls “hard writing”–documents like class registration forms that are vital to the academy’s daily operations. She also delves into digital content by writing updates for Blackbird Academy’s website and social media profiles. Adams said she is currently working on a “spotlight blog” that showcases works of art that emerge from the academy’s classes.
Actors aren’t the only people who have audiences; as a professional writer, Adams is well aware of who is “in the crowd.” She relies on different voices and appeals when writing, and she tailors documents to appeal to specific groups of readers. For instance, she said all flyers are essentially “calls to action”–writings that encourage readers to complete a certain task–but she uses two very different design approaches for promoting adult classes and youth classes. Knowing when to go for the glitter and frills can mean the difference between an empty classroom and a full one.
To complete projects for Blackbird Academy, Adams relies heavily on Adobe software. “I use InDesign and Photoshop all the time,” Adams said. She suggested that having basic web-design skills is also beneficial for professional writers, because “that’s the way of the world now.” Adams encourages students to create their own blogs using content managements systems like WordPress, which powers Blackbird Academy’s website.
Regardless of what tools are being used to complete a project, there will always be room for improvement. “As a writer, in general, you can’t get too attached to your work,” Adams said. She added that the promotional posters she designs for Blackbird Academy often go through at least three drafts, and her co-workers offer their suggestions at each step of the process. It is important for professional writers across the board to be willing to mold their designs in response to constructive feedback.
If you enjoy surrounding yourself with artists and all the canvases, concerts, monologues and musicals that come with them, you might enjoy writing for a nonprofit organization like Blackbird Academy of the Arts. By leveraging their technical communication skills, professional writers can become part of a world of creativity.