Thursday, March 22, 2012

Career change pieces: on writers James Erwin & Kevin Van Valkenburg / football coach Joe Moglia

I've come across a number of pieces over the last few weeks with each interesting and all involving career changes.

Longest of the pieces was "How One Response to a Reddit Query Became a Big-Budget Flick" for Wired by Jason Fagone. I first heard of Fagone from an excellent Esquire profile on iconoclastic video-game programmer Jason Rohrer and he tells in the Wired piece quite a career change tale. Reddit is website community where people can link to or post original content they find interesting and Fagone details how Reddit resulted in Des Moines, IA based James Erwin going from being a technical writer to signed by Warner Brothers studio screenwriter.

It's a somewhat amazing path, but which actually makes sense after reading some of Erwin's content reprinted in the Wired piece. The trigger for his writing came from a Reddit discussion thread about modern day armed forces battling in ancient Rome to which Erwin posted fictional vignettes about a US Marine Expeditionary Unit dropped into that setting. It was compelling writing which then (a) acquired a subreddit heading of RomeSweetRome, (b) was found by a Hollywood talent agent and (c) led to the Warner Brothers deal to write a full screenplay and Erwin's leave of absence from his technical writing gig. It was a well written piece by Fagone that details a very cool tale of a guy who did some extremely creative work.


Related to the same writing career change subject (though, not as large a change as Erwin's), I enjoyed quite a bit the commentary "Kevin Van Valkenburg: A fond farewell to The Sun and its readers." It was written upon Van Valkenburg's leaving (of his own volition) the Baltimore Sun to write for ESPN and has some profound content on writing, working and taking chances.


Finally, it doesn't have the same writing career element, but another piece of note lately very much had the same career change theme... and follows up on a story seen previously. In September 2010, I did the (long-titled) post "Ex-CEO as Nebraska Volunteer Coach / Not too Late for Career Changes" that linked to a story on Joe Moglia.

I hadn't heard anything new on the former Ameritrade executive who wanted to be a college football coach until seeing the piece "Former CEO taking over at Coastal Carolina." Written by Reid Forgrave for the site Fox Sports Carolinas, the piece details Moglia's background and move from the Cornhuskers to head of a United Football League team and now... head coach for football at Coastal Carolina University. One could take the cynical view and say that Moglia's money helped him get the gig, but it seems more accurate to say his money helped him have the time to work really hard to reach this career goal. Would certainly have been easy to just be content with what he'd accomplished previously, but it was cool reading about Moglia going after something he wanted to do.