Here's another one from my Be a Writer vault.

I vividly remember the day Jennifer Brett walked into my office at what would later become the Kenan-Flagler Business School. I couldn’t believe my luck! It was patently obvious even then that she was a great story-teller and solid journalist. And there she was, seeking an internship with me. Since then, she’s been a sought-after reporter, currently a columnist (The Buzz), multimedia journalist and social media expert (@AJCbuzz) for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Southeast’s largest newspaper.

Be a Writer Like Jennifer Brett

What kind of writer am I?

I write about gossip, pop stars, actors and actresses, authors, artists and other performers. It's a great job, but a lot of hard work in other jobs at smaller newspapers led me to this point. I spent years writing about crime, politics, education, business and other topics before I started my current job.

Why do I write?

I learn new things and meet fascinating people every day, and my job as a writer gives me the opportunity to share all that interesting information with readers. Even though I write about true events, I try to tell a story each time I write an article for the paper. My stories are full of suspense, humor, true love, broken hearts, outrageous behavior and surprise endings. The difference is the characters and events in my stories are real.

What made me want to be a writer?

When I was in 11th grade in high school my school chose two AP English students to enter an essay contest. Contestants were supposed to write about patriotism and democracy. I was selected along with a very smart boy in my class who went to a great college to become an engineer. He spent days researching the topic and wrote an essay with facts about the American Revolution and other important moments in our country's history. He used lots of big words and fancy phrases. I spent about an hour on my essay. I wrote a simple piece about what democracy and patriotism meant to me, without big words or a complicated history lesson. I won! I had always liked writing but this was the first time I thought I might have enough talent to pursue a career as a writer. (When a local reporter came to my school to write an article about my winning essay for my hometown paper, I thought she had the coolest job in the world). Also, although facts and reporting are crucial to a job as a newspaper writer, this early victory taught me that simple, clear writing can be the best way to communicate with readers.

What advice would I give to a writer who was just starting out?

Read great newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post -- and mine, of course! Read great magazines like the New Yorker and Harper's. Read great books, not just the classics. Find contemporary books by gifted writers, like the elegantly written "White Oleander" by Janet Fitch. She shows that vivid imagery doesn't have to involve a bunch of five-dollar words and strangled prose. When you have writing assignments, ask for an honest appraisal of your work. No one gets better on a steady diet of praise.


Read the first installment, featuring rock biographer Philip Dodd.