Job Hunting, Kermit, and Indiana Jones-style Adventures: An Interview with Dave Powell

Each day, more and more amazing writers join HubPages, and it is an absolute pleasure to get to know them. One particularly cool new Hubber is Dave Powell, who has already published a handful of excellent Hubs- and brings with him some fascinating background to boot!

Though busy getting started on the site, Dave Powell was kind enough to interview with us.  Read on to get to know this promising (and awesome) new Hubber!

What brought you to HubPages?

Since I’m over 60, I’ve become an unemployed Technical Writer four times in the last 10 years (due to departmental closings and company bankruptcies). And my job-hunting experiences over this decade have inspired me to begin writing a blog about a unique job-hunting method for today’s terrible job market.  Recently, this technique helped me realize that the kind of job I really want today isn’t in a chair at corporate-America’s table… but instead, at my own computer, writing what I want when I want to write it.  So after doing a lot of research about blogging and monitized online writing, I decided to begin with a variety of articles on HubPages. (I wrote for both Helium and Associated Content a few years ago, but their editorial controls seemed a little restrictive.)

You mention in your bio that you’re a professional writer— could you tell us more about your background?

My first degree was a B.S. in Mathematics from Denison University (Granville, OH) and I obtained an M.S. in Science Journalism from Boston University.  I then worked as a computer-technology journalist and PR writer for about 15 years… writing for (and sometimes editing or managing) magazines like Popular Computing, Networking Management, Infosecurity News, Lightwave, Leaders, and the Harvard Business Review. For a change of pace, I switched to technical writing in 1995, and wrote user documentation for companies like PictureTel, 3Com, Philips Medical Systems, Polaroid, SyberWorks, and most recently, Kurzweil Technologies.

You also write in your bio that you were an editorial advisor and author on Sesame Street, which is indescribably cool. How is writing for Sesame Street different from writing for other publications and businesses?

It was cool! First, their audience (generally, kids from about three-years-old into the teens) is incredibly fun to write for! But Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) also seemed to pay more attention to (and more actively protect) its audience than many of the other publications with which I’ve worked.  For example, back in the ‘80s, they had just launched a computer magazine called Enter, and asked me to write articles that would inspire girls to become more interested in computers.  I proposed writing mystery stories like high-tech Nancy-Drews, and the “Katie Parker Computer Mysteries” were born.  (They quickly became the most popular part of the magazine.)

My first story (“The Case of the Hungry House”) was quite autobiographical… about a boy who vanishes in a supposedly haunted house.  And I actually had Katie see a ghost in the house.  But the folks at Sesame Street wouldn’t allow that… they thought a ghost would be too scary for their broad audience.  So I replaced the ghost with a less-scary plot twist that proved a ghost had been there. This was well before the very popular Goosebumps books came out… with ghosts, goblins, and even detached body parts.  So I think that even Sesame Street would now consider ghosts to be pretty tame stuff!

I have to ask— Did you ever meet Jim Henson in person?

Oh yes!  I was also on CTW’s Editorial Advisory board, and Jim sat across the table from me.  Well actually, Jim and Kermit sat across from me!  That was before Jim had become the media persona who later emerged. In fact, he was so shy then that he talked a lot  through Kermit during our meetings!  One of our biggest bones of contention with CTW was that they wouldn’t sell Enter magazine in magazine racks or put it in libraries.  They didn’t do that with their other mags… and wouldn’t make an exception for Enter.  But Kermit and I kept pointing out that Enter didn’t have a companion TV show like Electric Company, 3-2-1 Contact, and Zoom magazines… and needed an extra push to compete with mags like Peanut, Coco, and Family Computing.  Sadly, CTW didn’t listen to Kermie, Jim, and me, and Enter ended very quickly… along with my Katie Parker Mysteries.

You’ve written in many different environments throughout your life—  does HubPages stand out as different in any particular way?

I love the fact that people don’t have to get advance approval to write and publish their articles.  I think too-tight controls hinder creativity on some of the other publishing sites. HubPagers seem to have more freedom than those writing elsewhere.  This also enables higher-quality work than you see on other sites.  For example, during a brief fling with eHow, I tried to publish two articles that were dramatically more informative than most of what was already there. And both were rejected because they already had a ton of lower-quality pieces. I then browsed a bit more around eHow, and was stunned at how shallow many of their “procedural” pieces were. “Three steps to fix a PC”… things like that! I’m NOT that kind of writer, because I like to help people…  and helping often requires context and explanations. HubPages seems to offer a nice balance between creative freedom and editorial control, which I like.

So far, you have four Hubs and all of them are on pretty different subjects— ranging from Paint by Numbers to American architecture and resurrecting dead PCs using Ubuntu.  What has inspired these articles?

Several things.  The Ubuntu piece came out of my own recent experience doing something I’d never attempted before… bringing a dead notebook back to life using Ubuntu to help save on project costs.  And I thought other non-techie PC owners might benefit from it.  Similarly, I thought that other eBay sellers might enjoy the eBay article with detailed (and somewhat unusual) tips gleaned from decades of selling there. And the Paint-by-Number and architectural pieces came from my deep interest in creativity, handcrafts, architecture, and modern design. Like most writers, I have too many interests, and this apparently odd mix of articles is actually the beginning of several “content channels” that I plan to fill. HubPages seems to be a wonderful place to do that!

What sorts of things do you hope to write about on HubPages in the future?

Creativity in all its forms, handcrafts (especially for kids), jewelry making, education and eLearning, science-fair projects (I did some beauts in my childhood), job hunting, architecture, modern design, Second Life (I’m an architect, inventor, and teacher there), photography (especially Digital Infrared), and whatever other topics catch my fancy!

What are your motivations as an online writer— what drives you?

Three things have always given me the most pleasure as a writer:

  • Teaching through the written word.
  • Sharing neat things.
  • Discovering and sharing completely new knowledge.

The latter was why I once won a business-press equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize! I thought that an article I’d published gave the data-networking industry some entirely new knowledge, and when the committee in Geneva called to tell me that I’d won their international business-press award that year, I knew that I was correct. I still love to discover and share new knowledge!

And finally, are you about to post any Hubs that you’re really excited about?

A couple actually!  One will be about a novel online job-search strategy that has worked beautifully for me in the past (I’ve found all of my jobs over the past decade through online searches, as opposed to networking). The times definitely seem right for that article!

I’m also writing a slightly autobiographical piece about how families (who may be tired of the artificial packaged adventures of amusement parks and water rides) can find REAL adventures… Indiana Jones sorts of adventures. And sometimes… right in their own back yards.

So keep an eye out for these!

 

Thanks, Dave Powell!

You can read Dave Powell’s Hubs (since this interview, he has published two more- one on entering college, another on easing schools’ financial woes, at http://davepowell.hubpages.com/

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