CARISSA CHESANEK INTERVIEW

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CARISSA CHESANEK INTERVIEW

A member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, Carissa Chesanek is an American writer. As a freelance scribe, she writes articles about fashion, health, beauty and relationships for a multitude of publications, with the high-profile likes of Vestiture magazine acting as one of the prime outlets for her writing.

Passionate about being as creative as possible through multiple mediums, Carissa feels equally ‘at home’ with expressing her feelings by painting, having first developed a serious interest in conveying emotion courtesy of images alone when she studied Illustration.

Here, in an exclusive interview with Steve, Carissa chats candidly about her enviable experience as a hard-working and highly-respected writer, how she regularly receives more feedback from men than women about her thought-provoking columns, and why she still gets an unparallelled kick out of catching sight of her name in print…

HEY CARISSA, HOW’S LIFE? 

Great, Steve – thank you! I am just relaxing with a cup of tea on this rainy afternoon.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING, AND WHAT ARE THE MAIN ADVANTAGES OF FREELANCING? 

I have been writing ever since I about ten. I would always wander around in my yard, find a tree to sit under, and write for hours in my journal. Officially, I started writing around ten years ago when I got my first writing internship with The Celebrity Cafe. I find the main advantages of freelancing are that I can make my own hours, and I can work wherever I want. I can really go anywhere and be able to do my writing. I also really like the fact I can normally pitch my own ideas instead of getting them assigned. I really enjoy seeing my stories online or in print and know that it was an idea that I came up with on my own.

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AFTER STUDYING JOURNALISM AT UNIVERSITY, WAS IT LONG BEFORE YOU MANAGED TO SECURE SOME WRITING WORK? 

I actually got my BA in Illustration. I was lucky enough to get the internship at Celebrity Café and I think that was how I really got my career going. I think that it is important to have a degree in journalism, but many places are really looking for experience; even if you have the degree, you still may not get the job without the proper experience. At least that is what I found during my career search.

WERE YOU FASCINATED WITH WRITING FROM A YOUNG AGE, AND WHAT IS IT ABOUT WRITING THAT SO INTERESTS YOU? 

I have always been interested in writing. I always felt it was a great outlet for me. I was always better at writing down how I feel instead of expressing it vocally. Writing has just always been a part of me.

YOU ARE A MEMBER OF THE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S WRITING GUILD. WHAT LEVEL OF INVOLVEMENT DO YOU HAVE WITHIN THE GUILD, AND WHAT IS THE MAIN PURPOSE OF THE GUILD? 

I am an active member in which I attend meetings and events that the organisation holds, and I stay in close contact with the other members with bulletins, emails and newsletters. The International Women’s Writing Guild helps female writers learn more about writing and how to further their career with writing workshops and author events. This organisation allows women writers to meet many extraordinary people such as other writers, authors and literary agents.

I am also a member of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women in Manhattan.

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HOW DID YOU GET ON THE ‘VESTITURE’ WRITING TEAM, AND WHAT KIND OF ARTICLES HAVE YOU PRODUCED FOR THEM? 

I became a part of Vestiture magazine by applying to their job posting for the writer position. After looking at their site and reading their magazine, I thought that they would really be someone I could work with because they work with fashion and beauty topics, which are two topics I really like to write about. I was lucky enough to have them feel that I could work well with them also!

BEARING IN MIND THAT YOU WRITE ABOUT SUBJECTS SUCH AS FASHION, HEALTH & FITNESS, RELATIONSHIPS AND BEAUTY, IS THERE ANY SPECIFIC SUBJECT WITHIN SUCH A BROAD SPECTRUM THAT YOU ARE THE MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT? 

This is hard for me to answer because I really feel a strong passion for each of these topics. I have always enjoyed working with topics geared towards women, and when I started my sex and relationship column for www.examiner.com, I was really hoping I would be able to reach a broad range of women and help relate to them. However, I was surprised at the huge response that I receive from men over my work. I think that I get more emails from men than I do women, telling me how much they enjoy reading my column every week. So many men have told me that they hate seeing all those women magazines that are supposed to tell women how to make their men happy, because usually the information is completely false in their minds. It is nice to hear that they like what I have to say and that they don’t think of it as faulty information.

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HAVE YOU EVER WRITTEN ANY CREATIVE FICTION? IF SO, DO YOU TAKE A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO THAT KIND OF WRITING COMPARED TO THE WAY IN WHICH YOU TACKLE THE ACT OF WRITING ARTICLES FOR MAGAZINES? 

I have! I really enjoyed writing creative fiction when I tried tackling it in the past, but it is really hard! I am used to writing non-fiction work, so making an outline of all made-up characters and settings was a little hard for me. I really envy the writers out there who are so creative and are able to come up with some really great story lines. I am hoping to work more with fiction as time goes on.

GIVEN THAT YOU DO SO MUCH WRITING, IS IT RIGHT TO ASSUME THAT YOU MUST DO A LOT OF READING AS WELL? IF THAT’S THE CASE, DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVOURITE AUTHORS? 

I read… a lot! I have friends and family members actually make fun of how much I read and enjoy it! I absolutely love books! I have bookcases filled. I am a traditional girl as well. I prefer my books in paper version so I can feel the pages as I turn to the next page. No Kindle for me! I normally read a few books at a time. Usually, I read one for fun, one for work, and one for helping my writing career. I have so many authors that I really like and admire. To name a few, I would have to say, Alice Sebold, Candace Bushnell, Emily Griffin, and Malcolm Gladwell.

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DO YOU STILL GET A THRILL FROM SEEING YOUR NAME IN PRINT? 

There is nothing like seeing your name in print for the first time! It is so rewarding. I still get goose bumps when I see my name in print or even online. I feel very proud and accomplished because I am able to share my passion with the rest of the world. I don’t think seeing my name in print will ever get old.

APART FROM ‘IN’ WRITING, WHERE DO YOUR PASSIONS LIE? 

I love art. I really enjoy painting, and it came on me unexpectedly. All of my life I always sketched, but in college I took a painting course and I just fell in love with it. I feel so relaxed when I am painting; when it actually comes out good, it is extremely gratifying. My father recently passed away, and I find myself painting more than ever. I think that it has helped the grieving process in some respect because it really allows me to paint how I feel, and it can be shown without any words at all. I am hoping to do a series of paintings dedicated exclusively to my father.

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IF YOU HADN’T BECOME A WRITER, WHAT KIND OF CAREER DO YOU THINK YOU MIGHT HAVE SOUGHT INSTEAD? 

That’s funny you asked that because in college I had so many different career paths I wanted to follow. I couldn’t make up my mind what I wanted to do. I began school taking courses in Criminal Law because I wanted to attend law school after getting my BA and become a Criminal Lawyer. While I really enjoy watching crime shows, I am glad that I won’t have to work in a courtroom all day. I know I would never be able to do that day-in and day-out. I like change. I then switched to marketing, but I knew that wasn’t for me because I was terribly bored in the classes. I knew I needed to be in a more creative field, and that is when I switched for the last time to my art degree in Illustration, which my parents understandably disapproved of. They were worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a job in art, but I knew that I would figure out what I wanted to do once I got out of school and headed into the “real world” everyone told me about. I knew that writing was my calling and I knew that now was the time to go back to school and get a degree in it.

FINALLY, FOR PEOPLE INTERESTED IN YOU AND YOUR WRITING, WHAT IS THE BEST WAY FOR THEM TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR WORK? DO YOU HAVE ANY WEBSITES TO WHICH PEOPLE CAN FLOCK? 

You can find me on my Examiner column and, of course, on Facebook

(Questions by Steve Rudd; Answers by Carissa Chesanek)

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