There’s nothing like being a WestConn student and reading in The Echo the accomplishments of one who’s been in our shoes. I’m talking about WCSU ’13 graduate Drew Mazur. A former Managing Editor for The Echo as well as a Professional Writing major, Mazur has since put out a book of poetry earlier this year titled Drewisms: Poems, Lyrics & Reveries, which he published himself. And on Friday, Aug. 28, he’s releasing an album inspired by his book, simply called Drewisms. Below is a brief Q&A with the writer.
1) Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from, and when did you realize your passion for writing and music?
Born and raised in Central New Jersey until middle school. Moved to Ridgefield, CT where I am still a resident. I played saxophone from late elementary onward. I have a background playing jazz sax. In addition, my parents got me into Bruce Springsteen, George Harrison, Steely Dan, The Doors, etc. When I was 16, I saw Billy Joel at the MSG and started to teach myself piano. Originally I composed jazz-rock pieces for the Ridgefield High School Jazz Band to try during practices, but obviously we never played them at performances; they were fun to try at practice though.
In late high school and college, I got into songwriting. I was exposed to Keane, Nick Drake, Duncan Sheik, Jeff Buckley, The Smiths, Regina Spektor and Rufus Wainwright. I chose the creative option of the writing program at WCSU in order to strengthen my lyrics. I started taking poetry classes and loved it! I got deeper into poetry and it became a second passion. I love Emily Dickinson, Leonard Cohen and Marilyn Chin. I was a staff writer and editor for the Echo too.
I also started playing the Midtown Coffeehouse and got to open for some great acts! I premiered many of my songs there.
2) We always hear about books being adapted into film, so it’s refreshing to hear that your first self-published book of poetry inspired you to turn it into an album. When did you have that “Aha! This could be an album!” moment? Or was that always the plan?
The poems were selected from 3 years of work. Some of the songs are even older. I started working on recordings of the songs before the book project started. The recordings were building up while I finished the book. After the book release, it seemed logical to release all of the self-produced tracks as a compilation album inspired by the book!
3) Could you explain the process of self-publishing, especially to those, including myself, who assume that publishing with a higher entity is always the way to go? What are the perks?
I published Drewisms: Poems, Lyrics & Reveries through CreateSpace. A friend of mine who self-published a cookbook recommended it. For one, you have complete creative and lexical liberty. That part is obvious. You can market the book however you desire, through a blog or locally in newspapers. But I won’t lie: it’s hard to be your own PR team. It’s helpful to know how to use social media, write a press release and have basic web-design skills.
You also have the financial benefit of print on-demand. When someone orders a book online, it prints right as the purchase is processed. In the past you had to order in bulk and hope you calculated the right amount for release, or else lose money! It’s a blessing for the independent writer.
Certain independent bookstores will also give you consignment deals. They will test-run a few copies of your book and see how it sells.
4) I appreciate the fact that you were a Professional Writing major out of WestConn, and have since found success with a book and now an album. Any advice for the current writing majors? Is it hard after graduation because we’re not majoring in say, business or nursing?
Writing majors really need to have a game plan before graduation. They should be ready to apply to jobs at least 3 months before. It’s a creative field so it’s also very competitive. Definitely consider doing internships while you’re still in school with a publisher or newspaper. You shouldn’t expect to have a single, steady 9-5 job as a writer unless you teach or work in media. Find multiple writing gigs if you go freelance. And be prepared to get on your own case.
A certification after graduating might also be a smart idea. I just received a certification in TESOL and will teach at Westchester Community College this fall.
5) What is your ultimate goal? Where do you see yourself in 5 years or so?
My ultimate goal is to continue writing and start teaching English (ESL). I hope to be published in some poetry and writing journals. I may even think about a fiction novel. And, of course, I will write new music!
Go and support Drew Mazur right now by purchasing Drewisms on Amazon for $8.91!
You can also find it on iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify.