PTAC interviews staff periodically to understand more about "how stuff works" at PAMM.
Recently Liz Tracy came to visit PTAC to teach us about her experience as a writer. She told us some hilarious stories and helped us understand more about the winding path to a professional career. We followed up with this interview. Thank you Liz!
Gaelle Augustin, PTAC 2nd year
Can you briefly describe your childhood? (interests as a kid/teen, family, school)
I was born in White Plains, NY, where I lived with my younger brother and parents. We started moving around the East Coast when I was 4 because my father started attending medical school. I even went to first grade in Saint Vincent in the Caribbean. I loved it there – the ocean was at the end of our street. It’s a very poor country, but magical and colorful and relaxing without being boring. I moved to South Miami when I was in third grade. I was on the IB track in middle and high school for French, but I couldn’t quite commit to studying as hard as they wanted me to! I played the flute and I painted and I wrote poetry. I loved to travel and visited the Middle East twice in high school. My mom is Lebanese, so we have a connection there. My aunt was in the Peace Corps in Tunisia, so she took me and a cousin back to visit her old friends when I was 14, and we visited Palestine, Israel, and Jordan as a family when I was 15 because my uncle was working with the World Bank on the Oslo Accords then. Very cool stuff.
Can you talk about college life and finding a job later on?
I went to FIU and I majored in Religious Studies and minored in Art. I loved my professors there and all of the weirdos, secret geniuses, and dummies I met at the dorms when I lived on campus. College was as good as high school sucked. I learned so much about having fun and just living life. I studied Religion in grad school at FSU immediately after I graduated. My focus was on Caribbean religions and my thesis is online. It’s a postmodern feminist approach to Santeria, mixing religion, anthropology, and philosophy – so fantastic. While I was there, September 11th happened and I entered a barren job market. I sold makeup at Bloomingdales until I started volunteering like crazy doing anti-war rallies. Both those jobs actually led me to be hired at Human Services Coalition (now Catalyst Miami) where I worked for three years in the community on issues related to poverty and human rights. I moved to NY then back and wrote grants at Miami Children’s Museum and the Miami City Ballet. At about 27, I started blogging and had some luck with that – Miamibro.blogspot.com. Then I started a blog with my friends theheatlightning.com to experiment with the ways you can report on the web. I started writing for NBC Miami and then Miami New Times. I became the music editor for New Times Broward Palm Beach for three years, which was a magnificent learning experience though not lucrative. I left last year to work here at PAMM.
Briefly describe the process of grant writing.
Well, there are many kinds of grants – government, corporate, and foundation. You basically find an opportunity through personal relationships or just looking around smartly online or just knowing who’s handing out grants. Then you look for programs at the organization that will meet the requirements of the grantors. Then you tailor your proposal to meet these guidelines and pray they give you money. Also, you have to report on these grants, so you have to work with everyone at the organization to make sure the requirements in the contract with the grantors are met.
How did you end up at PAMM? (What kept you from going further with religious studies?)
I actually started working here with the help of a high school friend and some friends that worked here already. I was ready to leave New Times full time. I still freelance for them and other publications like inverse.com and Tom Tom Magazine. I’ve written for Rolling Stone, Huffington Post, the Atlantic, which is a dream come true. I love writing in all its forms, and I’m happy to be here to support an institution and programming that is vital to this community. I would love to one day go back and get my Ph.D in Religion, but that’s for when I have less energy and more focus. The thought of taking my GREs again is horrifying. And I love writing grants and journalism because I feel like they have a greater impact on how we live right now. But if I studied Religion again, I’d probably spend a lot of time researching ideas that wouldn’t reach the public for many years. Maybe I like the somewhat instant gratification of what I do now. Maybe I just like occasionally writing about Kim Kardashian.