Ready to meet another new face at BOCA? Erik Fowle joined BOCA’s writing team this summer! Originally from the SF Bay Area, Erik went to college in upstate New York and has lived in San Francisco the past four years. During the past five years, Erik has worked in tech PR, at a software startup and as a freelance writer. He’s a big Bay Area sports fan – football and hockey being his favorites – and is always up for a Giants game.
What brought you to BOCA?
Short story: Natalie Wolfrom!
Long story: I was writing as a freelancer for about two years. But it’s tiresome and often frustrating when work is inconsistent and I spend every day by myself. BOCA was both the end of a long journey looking for a full-time writing position and the beginning of collaborating with a real team of other creative human beings.
What is your favorite part of being a writer?
Writing has always been a passion, an emotional and creative outlet for me. I love that about it more than anything. I think people view writing as something that’s totally on the right-brained side of the spectrum. And that’s very true of, say, writing a short story or jotting something down before you go to sleep at night. But with projects like press releases and ghostwritten articles, I find that writing often feels much more like putting together a puzzle. How do I turn this research into something interesting that people will want to read? How do I turn a CEO’s answers into a poignant story? There’s a lot more logic involved in writing assignments than one might imagine.
I enjoy that I can be creative and still solve a puzzle. When a release I’ve written crosses the wire, a publication posts a byline I worked on or a client says, “This is great,” I feel a big sense of accomplishment. Writing is so personal regardless of the topic or assignment, which is why I think it can be hard to accept criticism. There isn’t a better feeling than when you receive positive feedback or when you finally turn something into a finished product.
Who are your favorite authors/writers, and how have they influenced you today?
Oh, man. I love Ernest Hemingway. The fishing scene in The Sun Also Rises made me laugh because I can imagine sitting with a friend, drinking a few beers and having the same type of conversation they had. The Great Gatsby is my favorite book. The last page or so in particular is one of the most beautifully written things I’ve ever read. It’s a reminder that not everyone has to be a minimalist. That there are so many different styles and so many ways to make a story work.
On the Road is a sometimes-unintelligible stream of consciousness. But it’s amazing. I enjoy how so much of it is set in San Francisco and Northern California.
Cormac McCarthy is also an awesome author. Hemingway and McCarthy’s prose is a lesson in precision. In accomplishing so much with so little. In focusing on movement and action and dialogue.
Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Bad Girl is an incredible love story. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude is really something else. I wrote a paper in college on The Catcher in the Rye that I’m really proud of. I could go on.
What are some tips that you can suggest to the everyday person who wants to improve his/her writing?
Pay attention to what you read. The next time you read a book, an article or a story, find something that that author does well. Figure out why that style or strategy works. Then focus on that in the next thing you write. I find that writing, like sports, necessitates focus on one small thing at a time. You’re not going to just go out there and get better at every aspect of soccer. But if you work on a skill until you’ve mastered it, then work on another and another, eventually the finished product is greater than the sum of all those individual things you’ve learned how to do. Writing is the same way. Focus on one thing at a time. Get better at it. Then focus on something else. It will all build on itself. Above everything, practice. Keep yourself writing something every day. Even if it’s short or if you’re not happy with the initial draft(s). Write something.
My roommate has a New Yorker subscription so I’ll open up to the fiction piece and read the first few paragraphs. If I’m hooked I’ll keep reading. If not, I stop. It’s helpful to see what makes those writers successful at developing a sense of mystery and suspense.
What is your tip for someone looking for a content position at a PR agency?
That’s a good question. I really don’t know. I got lucky with BOCA. When you’re out there looking for a position, look for something that will allow you to focus on writing as much as possible. Once you’ve spent some time in a content-oriented role, it will be easier to move into other similar positions. Hopefully.
What do you do outside of work?
I play in a men’s lacrosse league in the spring. We have games in Sausalito every Saturday and go to a big tournament at Lake Tahoe every summer – that’s been a highlight of my summer for years. I play soccer in a few leagues in the city and try to play sports as often as possible. I don’t like running for the sake of running – someone’s got to be nipping at my heels if I’m going to get my legs moving.
I hike (Point Reyes is one of my favorite places for that) and sit in Golden Gate Park (or just the Panhandle) and go to the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building. I like food. I like dive bars. I like Yosemite and I like kayaking. I like crossword puzzles (Mondays and Tuesdays, anyway). I love going to sports games. Hockey games are so much fun in person. It mixes the physicality of football with the fluid movement of soccer and, oh, yeah – they do it all on ice skates.
Do you have any current writing projects outside of work? If so, what are they?
I want to get a short story to a point where I’d consider submitting it for a contest. It would be fun to see what people actually thought of my writing.
Are you into spoken words or poem reciting? If so, what are some things you enjoy writing about?
Nope. I’m a terrible poet and don’t enjoy the spotlight (unless it’s playing sports under the lights). As far as writing in general, I write about whatever’s on my mind. I write about things that keep popping up in my head over and over. I write about things I’ve done and seen. I write things I think I’d enjoy reading.