Although CJ has known she wanted to be a writer since she was eight years old, her professional experience began as an obituary writer for the Asbury Park Press, often working 11-hour shifts documenting people's entire lives in 80 words or less for the paper's large Sunday edition. She considered it a privilege to pay tribute, at least in summary, to those who had recently passed. For many, it was the only time their lives would be written about, and there were some unique and inspiring stories to be told.
Her career continued as a freelance journalist with the local Rockland County, NY, newspaper, the Rockland Journal News. During her interview, she was asked to choose a byline. She chose the initials "CJ" in part to honor her recently deceased father, whose family had always used names containing J's, and also to keep her gender a secret so there would be no predisposition to judgment of her writing.
She was hired as an on-staff reporter a year later in Putnam County, NY, and did a Sunday shift in busy Westchester County, NY, where she covered breaking news stories including murders, highly inflammatory racial incidents and fatal accidents. It was here CJ learned to put her personal feelings aside and cover the news in an impartial, detached manner - particularly when one rainy Sunday night called for her to cover a serious car accident and see her first corpse. Her tenure on that shift proved to be life-altering.
Venturing into the not for profit world. CJ served as the editor of an advocacy newsletter with a readership of more than 60,000. She was tasked with putting a human face on the world of people with developmental disabilities, writing feature stories that would inspire altruism and increased awareness. She considered it a gift to use her talent for writing to help illustrate the lives of people with disabilities and promote increased understanding and acceptance of them as people with a purpose.
This work led to a job at a local not for profit hospice, where CJ was once again named editor of a newsletter which highlighted end-of-life care. The feature stories she researched and wrote increased her understanding of death as a process and a natural progression of life. This work not only helped further hone her writing skills, but also her understanding of the stages of life and her insights as an author.
Moving on to a job as press secretary for the Rockland County executive, the top elected official in her home town, was both an entrÃ©e into the complicated morass of local politics and an opportunity to expand her writing skills. In this capacity, CJ was on the other side of the journalistic fence - she pitched the news instead of reporting it. Her journalistic experience gave her an edge in knowing what reporters would cover and why. As a result, she was named the top press agent for the county executive, who had served a 30-year tenure. CJ also researched and wrote the county executive's annual State of the County address, which was a singular accomplishment and a unique opportunity to grow and evolve as a writer.
Since her recent departure from Rockland County government, CJ has embarked on writing her first novel and is pursuing her Associates degree at a local college in Liberal Arts with an English track. She hopes to graduate within the year and pursue her Bachelors degree in creative writing at her dream school, New York's Columbia University.