This year we’re taking you behind the scenes to see how PWC operates and hear from key people on the administrative and teaching staff. Professor Suzanne Bowness teaches PWC’s Writing Principles: Introduction and Writers Identity courses in first term and the Developing Form and Repurposing Writing course in second term. She also helped to develop PWC and consults on program content as its Curriculum Lead.
How did you get started in writing? What has been your career trajectory so far?
I started out with a Bachelor’s degree in English and History, and then began my career with an internship at the former Saturday Night magazine. I was lucky enough when the internship turned into a job as the magazine’s first Online Editor, and then unlucky enough when the magazine folded. At that time I started freelancing, and have been a freelancer ever since. My business name is CodeWord Communications and I’m a generalist writer/editor with a handful of specialties including higher education, technology, careers and business.
I also furthered my education with an MA then PhD in English, where I wrote my dissertation on the role that nineteenth-century Canadian magazines played in establishing a Canadian literary and journalism scene.
What do you like about teaching writing?
I like introducing students to the wide-ranging media landscape and the different approaches to storytelling. I like helping them to think about their place within the writing world, and teaching them to be bold in trying out new forms. I like see students pursuing their own story ideas for the first time, and to see them take the same enjoyment as I do in structuring articles and putting sentences together.
What is your best advice to students as they enter the writing world?
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Keep pitching. Keep writing and building up your 10, 000 hours. Try not to work for free, and trade up to paying gigs and then higher paying gigs wherever possible. Read widely.
What is your favourite grammar or writing rule?
I am an advocate for the almost universal eradication of the semicolon. And I’m always repeating the suggestion to never use a big word when a small one will do.
What do you do in your role as Curriculum Lead?
I was involved with PWC from the very beginning, researching the landscape of writing programs out there and helping to develop courses and create what is basically the program that I wish I had taken when I was starting out. As curriculum lead, I gather notes from the industry professionals on our program advisory committee, feedback from students, and tips from the writing world in general, to update the course outlines to reflect the most current standards that students need to know to succeed in the writing field. I also help more generally with program administration, with tasks such as updating this blog.