January 18, 2013

elephant Has a Crush on… our Parade of Apprentices!


What would you say if I told you I’ve never met most of the people I work with in person?

Over the past year, I’ve worked with a variety of amazing people at elephant journal, largely on a virtual basis.

Among them are our talented and hard working crew of apprentice editors. You may notice “Assistant Editor” at the bottom of many of our articles; these names represent a group of apprentices who have set aside six months to train in new media editing and social media marketing with elephant. They edit guest articles, meet to do group edits and brainstorming sessions on Skype and write articles of their own. While that may sound sophisticated, the reality is a lot of hard work (and hopefully some fun).

While every once in awhile, someone finds they don’t like editing—or job changes and other life stuff gets in the way—and they move on, all in all it’s been a wonderful experience for Brianna and I to work with this team. We’ve met some phenomenal writers and wonderful people. These people are one of the many reasons I love working for elephant.

I asked a few questions of some of our current team:

What piqued your interest in the program?

Kevin Macku: Until I heard of the apprenticeship, I had only ever read one article from ej that someone linked forever ago, and it wasn’t until a few days into the apprenticeship’s “test-run” phase that I even knew the article had come from there. A fellow teacher trainee from my class knew I was a writer and *was* an ej reader. I had been keeping a regular blog since about halfway through teacher training (so for about three months), and so she knew I was a writer.


Jennifer Townsend: My good friend, Kate Bartolotta, is the managing editor for elephant journal, and would periodically ask me if I wanted to contribute anything from my own blog. Not being vegan or a yoga practitioner, lol, I didn’t feel like I had anything to contribute. She said that ej was looking to expand it’s horizons, cover a broader range of topics. One day she mentioned they were taking on editing apprentices for a six-month period—I figured if nothing else it would help me strengthen my own blogging skills, so I asked if I could intern.


Jayleigh Lewis: I had been playing with the idea of writing for elephant for a little while. Then, when the announcement came via Facebook that you were looking for apprentices, I decided to go for it, since the apprenticeship combined several of my interests (writing, editing and social media). I wanted to apprentice specifically with elephant because I’d get to read and write about topics I’m passionate about.


Terri Tremblett: I love elephant journal and I’ve always loved to write.  I previously worked for an online magazine where I wrote, edited and published my own column five days per week.  I enjoyed the whole process of that, doing the research, meeting deadlines every day.  So this opportunity was a perfect fit for me because it was all of those things in addition to editing, which is my dream job.


Edie Lazenby: I liked writing for ej. I thought I could learn a skill that I could market down the road. I love to learn. Writing is my first love.




Tara Lemieux: The apprentice program is so much more wonderful than I could have ever imagined. Everyone here is so amazing—always graciously sharing their knowledge, expertise, and gentle nudges. I have grown so much more as a writer, and am so grateful. [Note: Tara was already an elephant columnist before coming on as an apprentice.]



Lacy Ramunno: I’ve been a huge fan of elephant journal for a few years. My mouse seems to always scroll over to the links that run through my feed daily—mostly when I’m needing a pick me up or a brief mental vacation from the daily stresses that occur during cubicle work. I happened to notice the elephant journal apprentice opportunity post go through my Facebook feed. I thought to myself “why not try!?!” …I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. My inner voice whispered ‘Just go for it!” I had just changed from my regular job to a new, less time-consuming position.


Malin Bergman: I think what I found most interesting about it was that I wanted to get more experience editing other people’s work—it’s really not always as easy as some might think! Also, I was a huge fan of elephant and really wanted to get involved!



Josie Huang: I had only read elephant journal a few times and subscribed to the Facebook page. Then one day I saw the apprenticeship application post, I thought to myself, “why not?” I’ve always loved reading and writing, but never thought I would called myself a writer. But as I think more about the topics that elephant journal covers, they are all the topics I’m passionate about. I knew then that being an apprentice would only encourage my growth, challenge what I knew or thought I know. Also I’m curious about social media and I wanted to learn how to use it effectively in sharing my passion and my voice. But most of all, learn to shed the fears I’ve had about my abilities to write and share myself with others.


Sara Crolick: Finding a community of like-minded individuals is such an essential part the human experience. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to combine that sense of community with the work I love. Being a member of the parade means constant inspiration and practical experience. I’m delighted to be here.


How is it going? Different than you expected? Better? Worse?

Terri: I have really enjoyed being an apprentice, even more than I expected.  I have learned so much, and appreciate all of the training and guidance that the editors have provided.  I get excited when I see a new article show up in my e-mail, and disappointed when I have to wait a few days for the next one.  I like working through the articles and making them look great, trying to find just the right pictures etc

Kevin: It’s been far greater an experience than I imagined. I found a new love in editing. It sounds strange, but getting a word document is always fascinating. Just seeing the different things I can do with it. Like I said before, I take a strange pride in seeing people comment like, “So well-written!” when I know some of the sentences or paragraphs were altered to make it flow better. But I just smile and nod my head. The first time I edited an article and saw it posted, I found a strange euphoria that I haven’t felt in years. I had something with my name on it that I could show people. I’m used to acting on stage; yeah, we have playbills, but I could never meet new friends and say, “Look at this thing I did.”

Malin: My favorite thing is probably the sense of community. I love exchanging thoughts and small talk on the “parade” board with the other apprentices. And it really brightens up my day when I get nice emails, etc. from writers whose posts I edited! I have learned some tricks that I try to incorporate in my own writing as well, particularly how to write a short post that at least has some potential to grab people’s attention. Not to mention how to create a good title and how to choose pics—invaluable lessons!

Josie: It’s going very well and better than what I expected. The primary reason is the people and the sense of community fostered within this group– everyone including fellow apprentices and staff editors. I didn’t expect this—everyone is supportive, responsive and caring. This eases my initial timidness right from the beginning. I’m learning more than just editing; the social media is a big area of learning opportunity for me. In many ways, I’m being challenged to grow out of my shells, to share my own voice and to learn how to interact with different type of people, writing styles and audience. I love it.

Jayleigh: The apprenticeship has far exceeded any expectations I had before I started. I just thought I might learn a little and get some experience in the fields of editing and social media. Instead, I have been able to enjoy great community with my fellow apprentices. We inspire each other to go for the best in our own writing, and we encourage each other during our marathon editing sessions when WordPress isn’t working and we’ve been struggling with the same damn technical problem for hours.

Lacy: After only a months’ time, I’ve learned how to navigate WordPress (no previous experience), link key phrases to other sites, pair images with writing submissions. Most importantly, I’ve learned a few basis grammatical rules that seemed to have disappeared through out the recent years of exchanging approximately 140 character messages. I am, in fact, learning my first language all over again.

Edie: I don’t know what I expected. But I love it. I love editing. My dad told me to tell you I could not edit. He missed point of program. And I have improved if slowly…

Jennifer: Wow, am I ever learning a lot! Yes we’re editing, formatting & learning some html code, but we’re also learning how to promote pieces via social media and hone our own writing skills by submitting our own pieces and critiquing each other’s articles! I am loving it!

Is it weird only working with people online instead of in person?

Josie: Though I wasn’t sure how it was going to work at first, I find now that it’s not weird at all. In fact, it’s fantastic. Like I said, everyone is very responsive and supportive. The communication is always present. Even if I don’t get the answers right away, once I share it to others either on FB or emails, I always receive feedback. The communication and consistent loops makes it easy for me to work with everyone.

Kevin: Since the only way we have to relate with people through this is work, I feel like I actually kind of know people here better. We don’t deal with the petty and superficial (except when we write about it). The team edits are really fun, and stress how any block paragraph can be sliced up three different ways. Or someone can suggest something totally off the wall (“What if we take these three sentences here and move them up to be the very first paragraph?”) that just wildly works.

Jayleigh: The apprenticeship just wouldn’t be as fun without the community (and our ability to laugh at ourselves). I’ve learned that there are others who love writing as much as I do, and also others who are just as much of a grammar nerd as I am.

How are you enjoying doing your own personal articles?

Kevin: When I was published? Oh man, I’m used to with my blog being happy with 50 views after a few days. When my first published article crossed 100 views in the first hour or two of its being online, I was on cloud nine for the whole 24 hours…I have no doubt that my writing has improved tremendously not only by seeing how others write, but what they write.

Josie: Honestly it is challenging but I’m excited about it. I have had blogs for several years but this is the first time I’m writing with a wider public domain audience in mind, meaning I’m not just rambling without self-edits of any sort. The logical side of my brain says, “writing is making sure that my words are concise and clear in its message, have consistent format and proper grammar.” The creative side of me says, “be free! Express yourself via words like painting or dancing. There is an art in writing—a wider range of writing styles that I can explore here, but I still want to keep my readers in mind. It helps me to become a better writer and dig deep to find my own voice.

Edie: Love love love the writing and the community is amazing!

Lacy: This apprenticeship will offer that confidence as I read other writing styles. This experience thus far has also provided a wonderful refresher on the language structure we all share on daily basis.

What do you hope to get out of the experience?

Jennifer: So much more goes into a successful online magazine than I imagined, and I am truly grateful for this opportunity. I’m proud to be a part of elephant journal, promoting “the mindful life.” I hope to be asked to work for elephant journal officially as an editor at the end of my internship.

Kevin: At first I really just wanted to improve my writing. Discovering that I have an affinity for it and that I enjoy it, I honestly wouldn’t mind…yes, exactly, eventually doing it for money. I don’t know how to go about applying for jobs as an editor; I only have one friend who does it, and she’s in D.C. Down the line maybe I’ll publish a book, but I want to have an experience worthy of the writing of one first. Being a good writer is only half the battle. Having something worth the writing is the other. I’m not Tom Clancy.

Jayleigh: I definitely do hope to do more work like this going forward. I will keep writing for elephant no matter what. I’ve also been thinking about moving into marketing and publicity writing. This is something I might not have had the confidence to do if not for this apprenticeship. I’ve learned so much about how to marry quality writing with audience appeal in a way that gets the message across clearly and with a minimum of fuss yet does not water down the zest of the author’s words and thoughts.

Malin: I wanted to work as a grant writer and in the interviews that led up to me getting hired for my current job, I emphasized that I have a lot of experience breaking up text, using lists, headlines etc and making it easy to follow for readers—I totally learned that from the staff editors here at elephant! Also, they checked out my personal articles (the ones that were up then) and thought it was cool that I was versatile and had been “published.” Finally, I pointed out that I have experience editing other people’s work without making it my own—it comes in handy for us sometimes since in some proposals, you lift a lot of text from existing documents and have to stick with the voice that’s in there already unless you have time to rewrite the whole thing.

Josie: This apprentice encourages me continue to stay passionate and keep up with the topics that are shared on Elephant’s communities. I already feel like it has helped me become not just a better writer or editor, but also an effective communicator, reader and participant in discussion forums. Or just share myself with the world

So these are of a few of the people that make my job enjoyable, make our articles look wonderful and make elephant great. Huge thanks to all of you!

Read more from all of our apprentices:

Jayleigh Lewis, Jennifer Townsend, Kevin Macku, Edith Lazenby, Tara Lemieux, Terri Tremblett, Malin Bergman, ShaMecha Simms, Lacy Ramunno, Sara Crolick, Amy Cushing, Wendy Keslick, Rebecca Schwarz, Elysha Anderson, Maja Despot, Anne Clendening, Olivia Gray, Christa Angelo, Thandiwe Ogbonna, Stephanie Vessely, Caroline Scherer, Evan Livesay, Madison Canary, Karla Rodas, Sarah Winner and Sara McKeown


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