Welcome to my About page.
Here you can find all the answers to your burning questions about me!
Read on to discover more...
- Tell me about your Ph.D. research (the elevator pitch).
- Why did you study French?
- You're from the U.K. – why did you come to the States? Do you plan on going back there?
- Why did getting a Ph.D. take you six years?
- Do you have teaching experience?
- What else did you do while you were at NYU?
- Do you still work at a university?
- Why did you leave academia?
- Why do you like working as a copywriter?
1. Tell me about your Ph.D. research (the elevator pitch).
My Ph.D. was on French Literature. It focused on 20th- and 21st-century culture created by writers from the former French Empire. I studied at New York University and my supervisor was Prof. J. Michael Dash.
My Ph.D. dissertation looked at the work of a Caribbean author called Édouard Glissant (1928-2011). He’s one of the most celebrated modern black philosophers to have written in French, and a hugely significant voice in Caribbean studies. Up until now, Glissant has mostly been celebrated for his philosophy and for his criticism of problematic policies in the French overseas departments (and former plantation colonies) of Martinique and Guadeloupe.
But despite being praised for that aspect of his work, Glissant saw himself first and foremost as a poet. He produced a large amount of poetry, fiction, theater, and art criticism, much of which has been neglected or even ignored. My Ph.D. analyzed that writing and also investigated the little-known contexts in which it was created.
I revealed Glissant's involvement with experimental Parisian art and poetry circles in the 1950s, and his work with grassroots community theater projects in the Caribbean during the seventies – a violent decade for Martinique, as protests and calls for independence led to police crackdowns.
Take a look at my Research page to learn more about my publications on those topics. My research seeks to enable a famous Afro-Caribbean cultural figure – and his boldly innovative writing – to be understood in fresh ways.
2. Why did you study French?
So many reasons! But it definitely started when I decided to do a language course in Paris when I was 17. I went on my own and managed to make friends with a bunch of people who didn't speak English. I loved how speaking French enabled me to meet people and explore a culture I'd never properly know otherwise. Communication magic, right there.
3. You're from the U.K. – why did you come to the States? Do you plan on going back there?
It was 2010, the economy had just tanked, and I had a shiny offer to read interesting books and study French culture in New York City. Fully-funded. I was 22, and I took that offer like a Parisian tourist grabs a croissant. Fast forward to 2018, and I'm now married to a New Yorker. I live – like just about everyone else who writes in this city – in Brooklyn. It's very different from my rural hometown in North Wales (see photo above), but it's pretty pleasant here, so I plan on sticking around.
4. Why did getting a Ph.D. take you six years?
If you're asking that, you're probably not from the United States – am I right? I too, dear reader, come from a land where Ph.D.s usually take 3-4 years. But here in America, a Ph.D. program often includes a Masters (I got mine from NYU in 2011) and completion of around three years of coursework. This gives you a more thorough grounding in the subject, but means that the whole process takes longer. So when I earned my PhD in six years, I was actually pretty quick to finish when I did...
5. Do you have teaching experience?
I have lots of experience with teaching and creating educational materials. In fact, I was one of nine teachers to win NYU’s Outstanding Teaching Award in 2013. That was my second year of teaching. After that, I taught lots more – especially when I worked in a competitive, year-long postdoctoral teaching fellowship at NYU from 2016 to 2017.
What have I taught? Well, literature and film from all over the world, to students with very different levels of expertise in those subjects. I've also taught French language from Elementary French I right through to more advanced levels (French grammar can be fun! Really!!) I’ve taught in cavernous lecture halls and small seminar rooms. And from 2013 onward, I designed and delivered multiple professional development workshops to help hundreds of instructors at NYU become better teachers and job candidates.
Basically, I'm passionate about great writing and communication. I've taught those things, studied those things, and I now implement them every day in my career by producing sharp, on-point writing as a copywriter.
6. What else did you do while you were at NYU?
Plenty of things!
I co-started and ran a speaker series and book group on postcolonial culture, as there weren't many professors teaching on the topic in the NYU French Department at that point.
I founded and ran a regular meet-up for undergraduates – called “Café et Conversation,” check it out on Facebook, it still happens! – where students could speak French, fuel up on coffee, and stuff their faces with cheese. (This was inspired by another event I ran – called “Cocktails et Conversation” – when I was an undergrad at the University of Oxford and President of the French society there. Unfortunately, U.S. drinking laws ruled out a repeat of that one…)
I co-organized an international conference on what people mean by “art,” with twenty panelists from four countries. (Conference title: “but is it art…?”) I wrote grant applications and won nearly $30,000 in funding. I was awarded fellowships to work in Martinique, Paris and London (I know, I know – but really, I did do work there!) I interviewed artists from the Caribbean. I gave talks at academic conferences all over the United States.
I became really knowledgeable about the best Greenwich Village happy hours.
7. Do you still work at a university?
I don't. I work as a professional copywriter and run my own business, GroWrite Creative. My last job at a university was a year-long postdoctoral fellowship at NYU, which ended in August 2017.
However, I am an Affiliated Researcher with the University of Birmingham in the U.K. I’m a member of their FRANCOPOCO network – a group of researchers and scholars from all over the world who explore culture from the postcolonial, French-speaking world. But the University of Birmingham does not pay me and I am not one of their employees.
8. Why did you leave academia?
Too many reasons to list them all, but here’s a smattering:
- Very few tenure-track jobs.
- No stable academic jobs in my field in New York City (where I plan on living for the foreseeable future).
- The inflexibility of the tenure system.
- Massive funding cuts to the humanities.
- A genuine desire to go out and try something different!
9. Why do you like working as a copywriter?
I love telling stories in ways that make people sit up and listen.
I love meeting entrepreneurs and learning about their businesses. I really love helping them grow their companies by using top-notch, super-readable copy to convey what's special about their brands, and to establish trust and authority with their ideal customers.
I love writing in a variety of styles, to resonate with a wide range of audiences. I like creating different kinds of writing – website copy, emails, blog posts, worksheets, e-books, articles, video scripts and more – to engage readers and boost the effectiveness of companies' digital marketing strategies.
I love making entrepreneurs' lives easier, and I work hard to help them connect in meaningful ways with the people they most want to help.
To find out more about what I do as a copywriter, check out the GroWrite Creative website!