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2013 Twenty Questions Interviews : Karen Pilarski

20 Questions Interview with Karen Pilarski

Freelance Writer, Instructional Designer


Karen Pilarski

1. What's your name?

Karen Zolo-Pilarski.

2. Where are you from?

Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

3. Who are you today?

I am an educated woman with creativity dripping from my fingertips.

4. What do you do? (Elevator speech)

My day job is a document secretary at Alverno College. I also do freelance writing. Iíve started blogging instead of just randomly sending my work to friends and reluctant colleagues.

5. What's your story (how did you get here)?

I grew up in a poor family (9 children) and my parents were neglectful. There was never food unless the local church gave us a handout. Our home was dirty and not well maintained. I used to draw people (not very well) and make up storylines. This was before the Sims computer game. :) In high school my creative writing teacher picked my essay to read to the class. She said I was talented. To someone who had no confidence this was uplifting. Then I started to write poems about boys I had crushes on. Typical lovelorn teenage stuff. I still write about the mushy stuff but also about other topics that strike a chord with me or something I know someone else is going through. I care deeply about children, the fight against cancer and family. I also write about inner struggles I'm going through.

In college I wrote for the school newspaper and was promoted to Managing Editor. After college I did some freelance writing for a local newspaper. In grad school I started sharing notes on Facebook. Then I felt I should try blogging. I just graduated with my Masters in Instructional Design and Adult Education. However, my true love is writing.

I've been married for almost 5 years. I have two teen step children (ample writing material there). I love to travel and hope one day to live in New York City. If you look at my poems, I have several about New York City. People think I'm crazy for that dream but it is important to dream big. It gives the discouraged something to visualize and something to work for.

So here I am today with a passion for writing and wanting to do something with it.

6. Why is creativity important to you?

Creativity helps me to express my thoughts and feelings. I donít want to hurt peopleís feelings. Writing allows me to write about things without putting names in. Creativity is also a stress release. I love feeling strongly about something and putting a pen to paper or clicking on the keyboard.

7. When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?

When I was a kid I used to write apology letters when I wanted to make up with someone. It was hard to stay mad at me because as I was told I had Ďa way with words.í Soon I would write poems and I noticed the effect it had on people. For example, I was asked to write a poem for a classmate that passed away. Her family was greatly touched.

8. How did you embrace it?

Instead of going down a bad path, I decided to use creativity to get me though a rough childhood. Writing allowed me that outlet to vent and I knew it would keep me out of trouble.

9. How did that feel?

It feels good that my writing is viewed as insightful to others. I hope it helps others who are going through their own inner struggles.

10. Where has your journey taken you?

Due to paying for college and paying rent, I havenít had the time to write full time. I did freelance, but that didnít pay the bills.

Attending Alverno College made me feel more confident to try new things. Iíve had the best professors in the world. They were super supportive and helped me to see my potential as a writer and as an editor. Mostly Alverno College gave me the confidence to be me.

Although not related to writing, as an adult I was able to travel, something I never did as a child. It was amazing going to New York for the first time (and 2nd and 3rd). Iíve been to California, South Dakota, Nevada, Florida and other places. I was just recently in Jamaica as a graduation gift.

11. What challenges have you faced?

Negativity from others. Iíve heard ďwriting wonít pay the billsĒ or ďYou have to be super talented.Ē Secondly, getting my foot in the door. While Iím ambitious, normally people want someone with experience or you need to know someone in the company.

12. What worked for you?

I used to think social networking was a waste of time. Now Iím trying to embrace it. I use Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter to reach out to others in my career field.

13. What didn't work for you?

Sitting around being depressed that my life was going nowhere. The perfect job wonít fall from the sky. It is up to each of us to try and make things better for ourselves.

14. What three tips can you share with those starting on a similar path?

  1. Branch out and network with people. Iím pretty shy but Iíve made some good connections just by emailing people and asking for advice. It might not get you published but it will get you closer to your goals than sitting around waiting for opportunity to knock on the door.
  2. Be able to take constructive criticism. When I was an Editor, I had some students get upset when I would make changes or tell them to rewrite something. People want you to shine, let them help you by making your work stand out.
  3. Keep writing even if it is just for yourself. Iím currently working as a secretary and applying for jobs. While Iím waiting for responses I keep writing. It keeps my skills sharpened and allows me the creative outlet. Lets face it — secretarial work isnít glam or exciting. I love that I have writing to keep my spirits up.

15. What are you working on now?

Again, just trying to get my name out there and blogging. Linkedin has really helped me. Not in terms of jobs yet, but networking. You would be surprised how people really feel for those who are starting out. People are so supportive and eager to help you. All you have to do is ask. I just graduated, so trying to adjust to not being in grad school.

16. What's coming up for you in the next year?

Iím not sure. I hope to find a career that allows me to use my creativity.

17. What else do you desire/dream to do?

I dream to work for a magazine or news channel. If you want specifics, I want to work in New York City. Iíve thought about writing a book.

18. How will you make that happen?

Keep taking chances and risks. I have perseverance and determination. Getting my work out there for others to see.

19. What one question would you like to answer that hasn't been asked?

What inspires you to write?

I care deeply about children, the fight against cancer, human rights and romance.

20. Whatís your Web site and/or blog address?