40 under 40 honoree: Jamelia Outlaw Smith (ABJ ’03)

Grady College is proud to have four alumni recognized as 2020 40 under 40 honorees, presented by the University of Georgia Alumni Association.

The 40 under 40 distinction recognizes the personal, professional and philanthropic achievements of UGA graduates under the age of 40.

This interview with Jamelia Outlaw Smith (ABJ ’03), director of diversity and inclusion at Cox Enterprises, is one of a series of conversations with Grady’s honorees this year. Other honorees are:

Ashley McMaster (ABJ ’12)
Eric Jones (ABJ ’12)
Mikaya Thurmond (ABJ ’12)

Grady College: What experience during your time in college had the biggest influence on where you are today?

Smith: “I’ll choose two experiences. My time as a resident assistant in Creswell Hall–yes, I chose to stay in Creswell for an extra two years–and my summer as an orientation leader. These experiences had an incredible impact on where I am today because these jobs reinforced my love for guiding and directing the experiences of young people and my interest in making an impact. As both a resident assistant and orientation leader, I was the first introduction both parents and students had to the University of Georgia. In a small way, I hope I was able to shape their experience in a positive way. Throughout my career, I’ve always been able to guide and support employees and members of the community, and I think much of that comes from my early days at UGA.”

Grady College: What advice do you have for current students?

Smith: “Don’t rush it! Everyone is in such a hurry to finish school and move on with their lives. That’s definitely how I felt while I was there. Now, looking back almost 20 years later, I wish I had slowed down a bit and enjoyed the experience more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not encouraging students to spend five or six years in school. But just enjoy this moment in your life and find some way to leave Athens and UGA a better place than when you found it.”

Grady College: How has your UGA community helped you in your career?

Smith: “UGA grads are everywhere! There isn’t a place I can go where I can’t strike up a conversation about Georgia football or something else happening at UGA. This has been invaluable during my career. I started off in sales, and as a young African American woman, I sometimes struggled to find commonalities amongst my clients. Then I discovered animals and alma maters. People love to talk about their pets and their college football teams. Thanks, UGA, for always giving me something to talk about!”

Grady College: What was your vision for your career? Have you followed this path?

Smith: “This is a great question. I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve always been open to the next big adventure! What I do know is that as I get older, I gain more clarity about who I am, what I need and what type of work fills my cup. My vision was to always have a job where I can give more than I take. If you asked me if I have followed this path, I would say that yes, most of the roles I’ve had I’ve been able to leave a bigger footprint than I’ve taken and for that I’m grateful.”

Jamelia Outlaw Smith and her family on a beach vacation together
Smith, her husband and two children take a selfie together on vacation. Hard work means balancing life as a professional and parent.

Grady College: How have unprecedented times in 2020 challenged your work as a professional?

Smith: “Well since you asked–LOL! My husband and I each have a full-time job and two small kids at home. We are no different from many families that struggled to be full-time while maintaining our sanity and our careers. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve relied a lot on my faith and the grace of God to get us through this difficult season. In June, we were dealt another blow following the killing of George Floyd and the unrest that followed. As a diversity and inclusion professional, this impacted me directly and I have never been busier. The work is hard and heavy and while I don’t sleep much these days, I’m grateful for the opportunity to help create real change, even if that happens one company at a time!”

Grady College: What did you love most about your time at UGA?

Smith: “ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING! On a more serious note: friends who turned into family, football and the food. Yes, I loved the late night pizza at Snelling.”

40 under 40 honoree: Eric Jones (ABJ ’12)

Grady College is proud to have four alumni recognized as 2020 40 under 40 honorees, presented by the University of Georgia Alumni Association.

The 40 under 40 distinction recognizes the personal, professional and philanthropic achievements of UGA graduates under the age of 40.

This interview with Eric Jones (ABJ ’12), entertainment booker and producer for ABC’s Good Morning America, is one of a series of conversations with Grady’s honorees this year. Other honorees are:

Ashley McMaster (ABJ ’12)
Jamelia Outlaw Smith (ABJ ’03)
Mikaya Thurmond (ABJ ’12)

Grady College: What experience during your time in college had the biggest influence on where you are today?

Jones: “I would without a doubt have to say my experience as a White House Intern in Spring 2011 for the Office of the First Lady Michelle Obama forever changed my life and helped mold me into the man I am today. As a young Black man literally going from Vidalia, Georgia to the White House…it is something I sometimes have to stop and let sink in sometimes. These were the best six months of my life. Managing volunteers and retired dedicated citizens as we helped support one of the most influential First Ladies of our time, flagging incoming correspondence to Mrs. Obama for her speechwriting team, and staffing East Wing and Social Office events — were all hallmarks of my time there. Not only did I do incredible work, I learned so much about myself, meeting people and showing them my true authentic self without fear or shame. Although it took me off of campus and out of Athens for a semester, what I gained and made up for in terms of career advancement and life experiences was immeasurable.”

Grady College: What advice do you have for current students?

Jones: “I would tell current students to not be afraid of putting in the work. Nothing great or worthwhile comes without trials or tribulations. It’s very easy to fall into complacency with where you’ve gotten or what you’ve accomplished thus far, but keep going and continue setting an authentic and realistic yet quality standard for yourself that is parallel to no one else. There’s only one YOU!”

Grady College: What motivates you?

Jones: “It may be an unexpected answer, but honestly…pressure. My favorite quote is ‘Pressure is a Privilege,’ a line from tennis legend Billie Jean King. And although that quote was meant to characterize those intense moments on the court facing off against a formidable opponent, I take those words and apply it to the situations that happen in my life, at work, etc. The opportunity to perform, thrive and succeed under pressure is a privilege. And it is an honor to be in that position and to have that level of responsibility and expectation to pull through and overcome. It’s a guiding principle for me that continually drives and motivates me.”

Jones jokes with singer Ciara during her appearance to announce American Music Award nominations on Good Morning America in 2017.

Grady College: What was your vision for your career? Have you followed this path?

Jones: “Believe it or not, my original career vision was not to be on the red carpets and traveling the world with the most famous stars like Will Smith, The Rock and Helen Mirren. I actually thought I wanted to be a pharmacist! I volunteered at my local hospital pharmacy in Vidalia, Georgia, worked at a local pharmacy and also served as a member of a Medical Staff Youth Advisory Board. Obviously, I did not follow that path in the end. I’m beyond thankful that I listened to myself and made the decision to follow my heart and my passion in entertainment and television. As a young kid, I was always the one watching E!, shouting out and identifying every celebrity on carpets and award shows. It was second nature to me! I remember at UGA freshman orientation coming to that realization that I have always enjoyed connecting with people and was always enamored with TV and entertainment. And here I am today.”

Grady College: What do you envision for your professional journey moving forward?

Jones: “I envision more ownership and visibility in what I do. Personal and professional branding have become increasingly vital to my success as an entertainment producer. As much as the two are married, I look forward to reaching new and expected heights while setting the bar higher and higher for myself.”

Grady College: What did you love most about your time at UGA?

Jones: “I loved the people. I valued my friends who then became my family and continue to be to this day. Life-changing faculty, professors and advisors helped influence the young professional I am right now. I am forever indebted to every life that touched mine in a positive way over the course of my four years at UGA.”

40 under 40 honoree: Ashley McMaster (ABJ ’06)

Grady College is proud to have four alumni recognized as 2020 40 under 40 honorees, presented by the University of Georgia Alumni Association.

The 40 under 40 distinction recognizes the personal, professional and philanthropic achievements of UGA graduates under the age of 40.

This interview with Ashley McMaster (ABJ ’06), vice president of membership and development at America’s Essential Hospitals, is one of a series of conversations with Grady’s honorees this year. Other honorees are:

Eric Jones (ABJ ’12)
Jamelia Outlaw Smith (ABJ ’03)
Mikaya Thurmond (ABJ ’12)

Grady College: What experience during your time in college had the biggest influence on where you are today?

McMaster: “The decision to walk into the Grady career services office had the biggest influence on where I am today. I knew I wanted to start my career anywhere but Georgia – and a big city was my ideal. Before talking with Cecil Bentley, Grady College’s former director of external relations, my search had been focused in Atlanta because I wasn’t sure where to start, and I knew I needed a job by graduation. This was 2006, and Internet job searches were still relatively novel. Cecil had access to job postings that I never would have found. One of those positions was at SmartBrief, a digital media company based in Washington, D.C. Cecil encouraged me to apply despite my knowing very little about the city; I got the job and have been in Washington ever since.”

Grady College: What advice do you have for current students?

McMaster at Homecoming 2005 with Uga. She was at the Grady Alumni Tailgate as part of my Grady Ambassador duties. If you look closely, you can see the Ambassador polo. (photo submitted)

McMaster: ” I give the same three pieces of advice to all college students:

  • Study abroad. I know it’s expensive, which is what prevented me from doing it, but the experience will be worth it. You’ll always be able to pay it back later, and there are scholarships available if you can’t manage to find the money. In fact, my husband and I recently endowed a scholarship at UGA for this exact purpose — Bobby Friedmann Passport Terry Scholarship.
  • Get to know your professors. Each semester, pick at least one professor and get to know him or her on a first-name basis. These relationships are invaluable when you want to know more about the subject, require a letter of recommendation for grad school or need a professional introduction. It will enrich your educational experience and pay dividends in your career.
  • Go to class. As with most of life, half the effort is just showing up. Also, you’re a student, so treat class like it’s your job. You’ll learn more, get to know your classmates and develop discipline. And if you find you absolutely hate the class … deal with it? Most of adulthood is suffering through stuff you don’t really want to do.

Oh, and one other thing: ditch your high school boyfriend/girlfriend. You don’t need the baggage, and there are so many people to meet. Trust me on this one.”


Grady College: What motivates you?

McMaster: “Helping others. Whether through work, serving on a board, volunteering time, giving money or voting – my motivation is supporting other humans and seeing them succeed, be happier or improve their circumstances (whatever that may be). My husband and I often talk about whom we’d help, and how, if we won the lottery. Until then, though, I’ll keep working hard and being kind to people.”

McMaster teleworks and monitors homeschooling during the pandemic with her son, Marshall, and dog, Wally. She says this is how typical work day in 2020 looks. (photo submitted)

Grady College: What was your vision for your career? Have you followed this path?

McMaster: “I thought I would be a journalist, specifically a writer for Rolling Stone magazine. I did not follow this path. Although I started my career as an editor, it has taken a number of twists and turns. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never be a writer or reporter, and I really enjoy my career in membership and development. Regardless, I will always need the writing and editing skills I learned in journalism school. I’m content to have live music be my hobby, if not my career!”

Grady College: How have unprecedented times in 2020 challenged your work as a professional?

McMaster: “I’ve worked fully remotely twice in my career – first, between 2007 and 2009 and again in 2017. What makes 2020 different is that I had just started a new job two weeks before the world went remote. In this position, I manage a team of five people, who I was just getting know, and I work in development, which typically requires travel. Plus, I now have a son, who has been at home doing schoolwork and enjoying way too much television on summer break. All of this has taught me to be more flexible, more discerning in time management, and to build personal relationships with my team beyond our professional goals and day-to-day.”

Grady College: What did you love most about your time at UGA?

McMaster: “The friendships were what I loved most about UGA. Making friends as an adult can be challenging. College is such a special time – you’re out from under your parents, have very little responsibility, and get to spend unchecked amounts of time with your friends to build lasting memories, make mistakes and define who you are and want to be.”

ADPR presents ‘Driven by Purpose’ virtual series

Register now for the first Driven by Purpose webinar Sept. 15.

The Department of Advertising and Public Relations will launch its first-ever virtual series, Driven by Purpose, with a conversation between Brad MacAfee, board president, Global Impact Relations Network, and Catherine Blades, senior vice president, chief ESG and communications officer at Aflac.

The kick-off program, “Driven By Purpose: Aflac,” will be presented by Zoom webinar on Sept. 15, from 12:45 to 1:45 p.m. The complimentary registration is open here.

“The Driven by Purpose series has been gratifying for us to develop and plan,” said  Bryan Reber, chair of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations and C. Richard Yarbrough Professor of Crisis Communications Leadership.

“It features remarkable leaders in discussions that illuminate the importance of purpose in these times and going forward for companies, brands and individuals,” said Bryan Reber, chair of the ADPR Department and Richard C. Yarbrough Professor in Crisis Communications Leadership.

“We are honored to present conversations about the power of purpose in this series, which will extend through the 2020-21 academic year, and we’re especially grateful that such exceptional guests have agreed to participate and share their insights and inspiration with students, alumni and others in the professional community. We hope it will be of benefit to all.”

Following the series launch with MacAfee and Blades on Sept. 15 will be a webinar featuring  Delta Air Lines Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Tim Mapes (ABJ ’86) on Oct. 6 and a webinar featuring Carole Munroe (ABJ ’82), Senior Director of  Brand Communications for Hilton Worldwide on Oct. 8.

The programs by Mapes and Munroe will provide centerpiece conversations for the annual AdPR week celebration.

The Driven By Purpose series will continue with a webinar featuring Maxine Clark (ABJ ’71), founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop and Founder/CEO of the Clark-Fox Family Foundation, and Jeff Jowdy (ABJ ’83), founder and president of Lighthouse Counsel on Nov. 11. The November programming will focus on a theme of philanpthropy.

ADPR students will be involved coordinating the series, which will be produced by Missy Hill, program manager for ADPR and Jim Black of Grady Productions. Jody Danneman, president of Atlanta Image Arts and Hearst Foundations Visiting Professional will serve as consulting producer with Parker Middleton serving as executive producer.

The Driven By Purpose series is made possible by support from the Hearst Foundations Visiting Professionals Fund, Lighthouse Counsel and Friends of ADPR.

View the Driven by Purpose website for a full list of webinars.

Alumni Profile: Debbie Ebalobo

When Debbie Ebalobo (ABJ ’10) was a public relations student, she didn’t just go to class—she experienced college to the fullest.

She was on the national champion Bateman competition team through PRSA, involved with Multicultural Services & Programs and Grady Ambassadors and held numerous internships, just to name a few of her activities. She also earned her New Media Certificate.

Today, Ebalobo serves as director of the global external and financial communications team at The Coca-Cola Company. In her position, she is responsible for strategic direction and communications on matters of public policy and reputational risk. By directly managing the communication for issues and incidents as well as working with colleagues across globe in a variety of functions, Ebalobo promotes and protects the image and reputation of The Coca-Cola Company worldwide. Ebalobo is also spokesperson with external media and counsels company leaders on strategic media interviews.

Ebalobo took a few minutes over the summer to answer some questions about her experiences.

Grady College: What experience(s) during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

Debbie Ebalobo:  While I was at the University of Georgia, it was a whole new world. I am a first generation immigrant and the first in my family to graduate college. I came to UGA to study environmental sciences, but found a public relations major aligned with my curiosity and love of writing.

In college I was deeply involved in diversity initiatives and had a myriad of internships.

By the time I graduated, I had completed eight internships, served as president of the largest student organization in the Grady College: the Public Relations Student Society of America, became a resident assistant (RA) in the Myers community, was a board member of Delta Phi Lambda sorority, the only Asian-interest sorority at UGA and served as the president of the Asian American Student Association and the Filipino Student Association.

I was also awarded the Yarbrough-Grady Fellowship which is a semester long position that working with the Grady College external relations team to help strategize public relations initiatives and create content for the college’s website and social media channels.

These experiences accelerated my growth as a communicator and cultivated my passion for diversity and education.

GC: What mentors have you had and how have they helped you?

DE: Mentors have and continue to be an important part of my career. My PR research professor Dr. Kaye Sweetser became a mentor early in my career. Dr. Sweetser’s class was known to be difficult by the student body but she challenged her students. This energized me. She became one of the first female mentors. She was vocal, assertive and unapologetic.

Dr. Sweetser and the handful of sponsors and mentors I have continue to guide me when I’m navigating forks in the road during my career.

Dr. Sweetser now teaches public relations in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.

GC: What accomplishments are you most proud of?

DE: The accomplishment I’m most proud of (even today) is earning a college degree from The University of Georgia. It catapulted my ability to escape poverty, make a difference in my community and illuminated my passions for diversity and communication. 

GC: What motivates you?
Debbie Ebalobo and her girlfriend, Lexine DeLuca.

DE: Two things are at the core of what motivates me – visibility and curiosity.

I’m a mixed-Asian immigrant who is gay. This identity has presented unique challenges in my career journey but it’s also energized my passion for diversity–to do more, help more and be more visible in my industry and company. I still yearn for diverse role models who have “made it” and though this group is growing, I know up and coming students need more. In my journey, seeing different types of people from marginalized communities succeeding injected me with hope.

Additionally, learning motivates me. I’m a voracious reader across a cross-section of topics from AI to human rights to sustainability. I strive to understand perspectives and learn about topics I know nothing about. This curiosity has motivated me to be a better listener which is a critical skill in any field. 

GC: What advice do you have for today’s Grady College students?

DE: Don’t forget to fuel the flame of your curiosity.

College is about learning even if the topics are unrelated. If you’re interested about plants – take a class about plants. If you’re interested in rowing – join crew. This exploration will help you to mine stories that haven’t been told and in ways that are novel and different. It will accelerate finding the answer to the question – why?

GC: Let’s end with a few just-for-fun questions: what are your favorite podcasts?

DE: There are several:

  • The Unmistakable Creative
  • Harvard Business Review: Women at Work
  • Hidden Brain
  • The Accidental Creative
GC: What was your favorite non-academic pastime when you were at UGA?

DE: As a student leader, I was always hanging out at the Multicultural Services and Programs building interfacing with other diverse leaders from other organizations.

Editors Note: If you or a graduate you know would like to be part of our regular Alumni Profile series, please email Sarah Freeman (FreemanS@uga.edu) with details.

Between the Pages: Mary Kay Andrews’ “Hello Summer” with moderator Monica Pearson

Grab your book or your e-reader for the UGA Alumni Association’s first ever Between the Pages virtual book club. The July book is Hello Summer by Mary Kay Andrews (Kathy Trocheck [ABJ ’76]), released in early May. Ongoing (optional) discussions of the book will take place on Goodreads and our exclusive gathering with Mary Kay will be hosted on Zoom on July 16 at 7 p.m. Atlanta’s first African-American and first female news anchor Monica Kaufman Pearson (MA ’14) will moderate the discussion.

Register now for Speakers Bureau

Visit the Speakers Bureau registration form to tell us about your interests.

Reassurance, encouragement, advice and support are what our students are most in need of right now and one way alumni and friends can help is by getting involved through our Speakers Bureau.

Grady College has created a Speakers Bureau and is asking alumni and friends to register to be matched to talk with groups of students virtually. Opportunities exist to address industry-specific clubs, classes and small groups.

“Our students really benefit from hearing from professionals who have paved the way before them and this is a great way for our alumni to give back,” said Diane Murray, director of alumni and outreach. “In addition to alumni, we have a lot of friends and parents of students who are in the industries we serve. We hope anyone who can provide experiential insight or advice will be willing to help.”

The registration form is brief and will provide a snap-shot of the applicant’s background so the college can best match skill sets with the needs of student groups.

Murray expects most of these conversations with students to take place via Zoom calls this academic year, and that local professionals could talk with students in person in 2021.

Questions? Email Diane Murray at murrayd@uga.edu.

Lindsey Rogers Cook debuts first book

The following was written and reprinted with permission by Lauren Morgan Patrick (ABJ ’07), editor of Pretty Southern.com, a website that shares stories about Southerners doing great work in the region and beyond. The Q&A below was originally published on the Pretty Southern website. In addition to her website, Lauren can be found on Twitter.

We’re thrilled to shine the spotlight on Lindsey Rogers Cook (ABJ ’14) who wrote her first novel, How to Bury Your Brother, which debuted in May 2020.

Full disclosure: Lindsey and I both attended from the same journalism program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication; however, I’m a few years older and have watched Lindsey’s career take off since she graduated in 2014.

Some good news: in addition to her first novel being published, Lindsey was a recipient of the John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award which recognizes a Grady College graduate of the last decade who has experienced a successful early career.

Lindsey Rogers Cook works as an editor at The New York Times where she teaches reporters and editors about data, and about how to make stories pop on digital media. She graduated from the Women’s Leadership Program at Yale’s School of Management in 2019, a program designed for women in management to prepare for future leadership roles. She also taught data journalism at the graduate level for American University, as an adjunct professor, both in Fall 2015 and Spring 2017. Previously, she worked at U.S. News & World Report as the data editor for news.”

Upon seeing the good news about Lindsey’s first book coming out, we caught up over email and are happy to share Lindsey’s stories.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from originally? After UGA, what compelled the move from the South to New York?

“I was born in Atlanta, raised in Georgia and attended the University of Georgia, so Georgian all the way. After graduating as a journalism major from college five years ago, I headed to Washington D.C. for a job at U.S. News & World Report. From there, I got a job at The New York Times as a digital editor and moved to New Jersey. Leaving the South was never my goal, but so far, it’s where my journalism career has led me. My entire family and most of my husband’s (he’s also a UGA grad) live in Georgia so we come back often.”

When did you start working on this book? How long did it take from idea/concept to completing your manuscript?

“I started working on the book in 2014, the summer after I graduated. Originally the idea was sparked by a dream, which is how I get many of my writing ideas. Since childhood, I wanted to write a novel, and I figured, why not now? I had never taken a creative writing class (still haven’t) and had no idea how to go about writing a book, so I just sat down and started writing. I would put the book down for months at a time, then come back to it, particularly when I was feeling homesick for Georgia and my friends and family there, all during my first jobs at U.S. News, through covering the 2016 presidential election, planning my wedding and many things in between. My husband was in law school at George Washington University at the time, and we’d spend most weekends working together at the law library (him studying and me writing). It took me three years to write and edit it, over which time, the concept, characters and plot changed dramatically since I didn’t outline at all.”

Where did the original inspiration come from for “How to Bury Your Brother”?

“The idea originally came from a dream, but was inspired by my family’s own experience with opioid addiction and overdose and the death of a close family member. None of us found letters like Alice does in the book, but Alice’s journey was inspired by the questions that come up after suffering a loss like that — mostly, why. The answer is slippery and impossible to deduce, but through the book, Alice gets some of the closure we didn’t.”

“My family has been incredibly supportive while I wrote this book — it’s dedicated to my grandmother, who has read it dozens of times. I was worried about their reaction at first since addiction is such a personal and in many ways, shameful issue for a family to deal with. But, I’m glad that during my own path to publication, Americans have become more open about addiction and mental health. Reading and discussing this book has helped my family have some difficult conversations about addiction, talk more openly and, ultimately, get some closure, and I hope it prompts similar conversations for the many families who have lost a member due to the opioid crisis.”

What’s your writing process like? Do you have a dedicated day/time to write?

“I don’t have a regular writing routine. I’ll go through periods where I write a lot, and some when I write nothing. For a long time, I wished I could stick with a writing routine and was sure that’s what a serious writer was “supposed” to do. But, I’ve decided to embrace the ebb and flow of my creative process. A great read about all the different work styles of creatives is Daily Rituals: Women at Work by Mason Currey. I keep it in my office as a reminder that there are many ways to be a writer.”

“For both my books, I sat down and tried to write as much as I could without stopping. I admire writers who can start with a chapter-by-chapter outline — it seems very civil. For me, it’s too overwhelming though. I write until I’m too angry and annoyed and confused to go on, then stop and try to untangle what I’ve written. When I’m done with the first draft, I try to outline it. My characters often surprise me while writing, and the endings of both books have been a surprise to me.”

How was the journey of working on the novel to finding an agent and publisher?

“A bit painful, to be honest! Until I started looking for an agent, I knew VERY little about the publishing industry and how it worked. I read Before and After The Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Your First Book by Courtney Maum this year, and it’s a fantastic resource I would recommend to any first-time writer. It’s easy to get sucked in to researching all the oddities of the publishing industry, and avoiding it during the writing process helped me stay focused.”

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer? Would you share some of your secrets to success?

“There’s no right or wrong way to be a writer.

“Read a ton. Read diverse voices and genres and places and opinions. Read books you love and books you don’t and think about why. Take a book you love and make a chapter-by-chapter outline, tease out what the author is sneakily doing to your soul. I usually read about 80 books a year, and I learn something about writing from every book I read.”

“Write down EVERYTHING. My friends, family and coworkers are familiar with me writing things down that make me laugh, interesting stories, good dialogue or fun facts. I get ideas from everyone I meet and write them on notecards that I shuffle through when I need some inspiration. I can always find one to use. Try it. Perhaps it will annoy those closest to you, but whatever, you’re a writer now, see point one. Read the journals and letters of other writers. I love all the weird observations made by David Sedaris in his–they remind me that everything is copy and that often, truth is stranger than fiction.”

“Join a writing group, preferably one for debut fiction authors. Just make sure you agree to be tender and supportive with each other as you’re writing your first books. I joined a group of fellow journalists while I lived in Washington, D.C. and their encouragement, deadlines and feedback was essential to me.”

“There’s no such thing as an aspiring writer. If you write, you are a writer. Period.”

“I’ve got some book recommendations too:

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere). With a title like that, how can you not be intrigued? This is my go-to recommendation for writers with an idea who can’t figure out how to get started.

I am a HUGE fan of the ‘thesauruses’ written by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman. I own all of them and keep them on my desk.”

Before the Coronavirus outbreak, were you planning a book tour or to travel to the South? Where have you been sheltering in place?

“Before COVID, I had planned to do some events in the NYC/NJ area and some in the South. All, of course, have been canceled. I’ve been sheltering in place with my husband and our two cats in my family’s home in Duluth, Georgia. We’re both working remotely and plan to stay in Georgia until it’s safe to travel.”

What are your favorite books / who are your favorite authors?

“So many! As I said earlier, I read a ton. And on top of that, I have so many unread books in my house, many of which I’m hoping to work through during shelter in place. I love finding authors with large back catalogs that I can work through. Some authors whose new books immediately find their way into my cart: Dani Shapiro, J. Courtney Sullivan, Zadie Smith, Ann Patchett, Claire Fuller, Celeste Ng, Lauren Groff and Patti Callahan Henry.”

Some of Lindsey’s favorite reads include:

A few books I’ve loved so far this year:

What’s next? You mentioned you’re already working on a second book!?

“I sold my second book (unwritten) alongside my first, so I’m racing toward a deadline on that! It will be published in Summer 2021. The title still TBD, but it’s also a southern family drama, this time set in Memphis, Tennessee.”

Here’s a bit more about “How to Bury Your Brother”

Alice always thought she’d see her brother again. Rob ran away when he was fifteen, with so many years left to find his way home. But his funeral happened first.

Now that she has to clear out her childhood home in Georgia, the memories come flooding in, bringing with them an autopsy report showing her family’s lies, and sealed, addressed letters from Rob.

In a search for answers to the questions she’s always been afraid to ask, Alice delivers the letters. Each dares her to open her eyes to her family’s dark past—and her own role in it. But it’s the last letter, addressed to her brother’s final home in New Orleans, that will force her to choose if she’ll let the secrets break her or finally bring her home.

Everything I Never Told You meets The Night Olivia Fell set against a vivid Southern backdrop, How to Bury Your Brother follows a sister coming to terms with the mystery behind her brother’s disappearance and death.”

You can support her (and indie book retailers) by purchasing How to Bury Your Brother from Foxtale Book Shoppe or Indiebound.org.

You can also follow Lindsey on Twitter.

Grady alumni offer tips tor reporting on COVID-19 from home

Editor’s Note: this feature originally appeared on the Medicaljournalism.grady.uga.edu website.

Quarantine started early for Erica Hensley, an investigative reporter with Mississippi Today. In early March, she attended a conference focused on computer-assisted reporting in New Orleans, hosted by the Investigative Reporters and Editors. A few days later, IRE announced that a conference guest had tested positive for COVID-19, and all attendees were advised to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Erica Hensley working from home (photo provided)

“I started covering coronavirus as a potential patient from home,” Hensley said. “Which meant I was having to call into every press conference. I was having to do my best to research and fact-check from home. Because I literally couldn’t leave to go chase stuff down,” she said.

Journalism is a hands-on career. Reporters go into the field and make direct contact with sources to gather the facts and see things for themselves. However, on March 11 the World Health Organization officially deemed the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic, leading to more widespread social distancing measures. The dynamics of reporting was forced to change at a time when health reporting is all the more important. At the same time, access to key experts— such as emergency room doctors and epidemiologists— became more difficult as those essential workers managed the virus’ spread.

“You also feel bad calling them sometimes because you’re like, ‘I’m sorry. I know you’re super busy and you have really important healthcare things you need to do and not just talk to journalists,’” explained Victoria Knight, a reporter for Kaiser Health News.

But she and other Grady alumnae said that while coronavirus has disrupted their day-to-day routines, it hasn’t stopped them from getting important information out to the public.

“I think it’s important to not give up and just keep going,” Knight said.

It’s Never Too Late To Learn New Skills

In a series of short videos shared with current Grady students, alumnae of the health and medical journalism program who work in the fields of journalism and public affairs said they have found innovative ways to maneuver this new normal.

They offered suggestions for covering the most popular news story of our time, including tips for using video animations, for moving beyond the numbers to add context and for taking cues from what other news organizations are doing.

“It’s never too late to learn new skills,” said Hyacinth Empinado of STAT News. As a multimedia journalist, she creates animated explainers to help simplify complex ideas, like how COVID-19 compares to other causes of death.

She encouraged students to learn video animation technologies like After Effects and D3. The Adobe Creative Suite provides access to a form of reporting that doesn’t require going out into the field to collect footage, Empinado explained.

Hensley said she relies on her understanding of the social determinants of health to add context to her stories on COVID-19.  Each day she scrapes data from her health department’s website to get an update on the number of coronavirus cases in her state. But she tries to look beyond the numbers.

“What do these increases and tests mean? What are our per capita rates for our counties?” Hensley asks herself.

Lauren Baggett, director of communications for UGA’s College of Public Health and host of the show Health Desk on the WUGA, suggested looking at what other news outlets are covering, particularly those on the local level.

“Our local Athens papers are really doing a better job of communicating the resources that are available to individuals and families in our community,” she said.  Stories about how locals can support the service industry are top of mind for consumers of news, she said.

Alumnae advised current students to keep pressing on, despite the challenges, and to view the pandemic as an opportunity to innovate alternative approaches to reporting and storytelling.

You’re not alone, they told students.

“This is an unprecedented time. We are learning a lot, and we’re learning a lot on the go,” Baggett said.

2019 alumna creates scholarship for Grady Sports Media

Not long after the University of Georgia paused instruction to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grady Sports Media undergraduate certificate program got an unexpected bit of good news.

Alumna Taylor Maggiore, who had just graduated in December, wanted to create a scholarship to further the advancement of women in the tumultuous professional world of sports media.

“The certificate gave me the tools and skills to land my dream job,” wrote Maggiore in an e-mail to Vicki Michaelis, director of the program. “I think the least I could do is help another woman in our field by easing some financial burdens that come with it.”

Maggiore started in January as a stage manager for ESPN in Bristol, Conn. Thanks to her generosity and an employee matching donation from ESPN, the first Taylor Maggiore Scholar will be announced in Fall 2020.

“Taylor’s passion and talent for sports broadcasting energized all of us while she was a Grady Sports student. I’m thrilled and so grateful she’s reaching back to give our current and future students a helping hand and infusion of that energy,” said Michaelis, the John Huland Carmical Professor of Sports Journalism and Society in the Grady College.

Maggiore (far left) worked with four other Grady alumnae last spring at ESPN. Others included Ann Drinkard (ABJ ’16), Caroline McLeod (AB ’19) and Sarah Buck (AB ’18).

Maggiore got involved with Grady Sports as a first-year student producing high school football games and worked a variety of events for Daktronics and the SEC Network during her time on campus. She mentored Cedar Shoals High School students through the UGA-Grady High School Sports Broadcast Program, an initiative aimed at supporting the recruitment of underrepresented, underserved and first-generation students to UGA. She also was a UGA orientation leader and was named a Cox Institute Levin Leader by the Department of Journalism. She was the student speaker for the undergraduate commencement ceremony in December 2019.

“We know that as Bulldogs, we will be productive and educated members of society,” Maggiore said in her speech in Stegeman Coliseum. “We will shatter glass ceilings and be kind to one another. We will give others opportunities because we’re all sitting here today because someone took a chance on us.”

Grady Sports Media will continue raising funds to sustain the scholarship and Maggiore’s legacy in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. If you are interested in contributing to the fund, please contact Welch Suggs, associate director of Grady Sports Media, at wsuggs@uga.edu or 706-363-0752.