ThirdCoast Digest: The Pfister names a Narrator: Welcome, Julie Ferris

By: Judith Ann Moriarty of ThirdCoast Digest

Link to Original Article.

I’ve never met Julie Ferris face to face, buy viagra though I did watch a video tape of her answering questions about how she might best fit into the Pfister Hotel’s Narrator residency. The scene was in a private room just off the mezzanine area, where five review panelists met over a period of two weeks, the endpoint being one writer, selected from a field of twenty, who would serve as Narrator for six months.

The quality of the applications was impressive, and as a panelist I spent hours reading each and every word.

My choice was not Julie Ferris. But I was only one panelist. The other three felt strongly that she should emerge as the winner. And that’s fine with me. She graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. I hate to brag, but my grandpa graduated from the U of I in the 1870’s.

You certainly made a good impression during the taped interview: good eye contact, a big smile and no hesitation in your presentation. I was startled, perhaps because I expected the stereotypical writer, you know, someone shy and introspective…the tweed and horn-rimmed glasses type. Were you ever that person?

Yup. I sure was. Maybe not horn-rimmed, but definitely awkward… I always felt introverted, but no one would believe that. I’m open and energetic with friends and family, but I can be shy. I’ve just learned that functioning in this world means walking up to someone when you want something and offering a handshake.

Though I always feel shy and awkward, I am that person who will tell you that there’s mustard on your lip or something on your teeth. I’ve just learned over the years it’s better to push yourself to engage other people. Life is too short to always be afraid of what they’ll think of you.

You work in City Hall, a politician’s throw from the Pfister where you will conduct 10 hrs of interviews (per week) and then shape and post on the Pfister Hotel blog two takes on your experiences. I’ve sat in that lobby recently and noticed that most of the lobby loungers are busy gazing into their cell phone screens. Will it be a problem getting people interested in being interviewed? To them, you’ll be a stranger. Right? How are you going to handle that?

I spent the summer doing environmental theater at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. Granted, people who paid their entrance fee into the Faire were prepared to be approached by actors in funny costumes with bad accents…but still, it wasn’t as hard as you think to simply talk to someone. People want it and need it; sometimes they just don’t realize it.

I rode the bus one day sitting next to a quiet grandmother who stuck tight to her side of the seat. We watched a seemingly undisciplined teenage boy with drooping pants move out of the front seats to make room for an elderly man with a cane. The boy even helped the man to his seat. For all the attitude the young man had, we were both surprised.

The woman finally turned to me and patted my arm and said “Wasn’t that just so nice?” She just HAD to express something to someone about that moment and we had shared it so she turned to me to do it. I think people can engage. I’m banking on it.

So if you graduated from the great University of Iowa, you must have some fave writers who either attended the Iowa Writers Workshop, or taught at the university.Care to share?

I went to Iowa as a rhetorician. I had three other programs I was offered, but I am from the Midwest and Iowa was very close to home. It was also ranked the top program in the country so my father just said “Do it! If the number one school wants you, you should want them!”

In the back of my head, I secretly wished that in the five years I was there I’d meet John Irving. Plenty of other fantastic writers were a part of the university community and many more have gone on to earn great accolades, but I had grown up on Irving and in many of his books, he writes about his time at Iowa. I wanted to feel what he wrote and then meet him. Sadly, he never came through while I was there.

I did spend time with Pam Houston, my personal favorite, when she launched her first non-fiction memoir. That was a favorite moment.

Did you ever have ambitions to be a novelist, say in the manner of Joyce Carol Oates or any of the many other fine American writers?

I did and I do. I always wanted to be a writer, but also wanted many other things and followed those paths. When serving as an assistant professor, at conferences and more I would explain that my next career would be novelist. Another faculty member at a conference or some such said “Oh, yes, that makes you a true academic. We all think we have a fiction book in us.” And the people standing there all nodded in agreement. I didn’t like that moment, I wanted to feel that I was different.

I left academia and finally had the time to scratch out the book, which is about halfway finished and begs for my attention.

Six months, ten hours per week, $1,000 per month. Do you get free lunches? Did you know the café serves a sandwich named after Senator Herb Kohl? He dines there frequently, but a waiter told me the Senator never orders his namesake sandwich. Big couches and chairs, a blazing fireplace, an intimate bar. Sounds like a good gig to carry you through winter. But dangerous perhaps?

I think dangerous isn’t the word as much as “addictive.” I enjoy people. And the Pfister has so many events, nooks and crannies to find them in, and now in this role, I am official.  I’m like the Velveteen Rabbit—I’ve been made real. I’m no longer just some lady talking to a person—I’m supposed to be talking to people, it’s on my nametag! With that kind of sanctioning, I wonder if I’ll find myself addicted to the atmosphere and the people and the problem won’t be getting it done, the problem will be stopping.

The Pfister Narrator: Historic Hotel Selects First-Ever In-House Journalist

The historic Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee has named Julie Ferris as its first-ever Pfister Narrator. In the role, she will spend time in the hotel’s lobby, interviewing visitors and guests and sharing their stories on the Pfister’s blog. As Pfister Narrator, she will be posting blog entries twice-per-week over a six-month period.

“I am truly honored to have been chosen for the position and am very eager to begin,” Ferris says. “I look forward to all the meaningful opportunities before me to really experience both visitors and natives of our city, all linked to this one iconic space. I know everyone has a story to share and I’m ready to grow from each and every one of them.”

An established blogger, Ferris also has experience in teaching, management, public relations and media writing. She holds a Ph.D. in mass communications and journalism from The University of Iowa.

Ferris was chosen to serve as narrator from a significant pool of qualified applicants by a review panel, which included Jeff Sherman, president of OnMilwaukee.com; Judith Moriarty, a longtime local writer; and several representatives from the hotel.

“The success we’ve seen with our Artist-In-Residence program has encouraged us to focus even more on the interactive experiences guests enjoy at our hotel,” says Joe Kurth, general manager of The Pfister Hotel. “Our guests have a special connection to The Pfister and interesting stories to tell—we’re excited to share their unique experiences and backgrounds with the rest of Milwaukee and beyond.

“We’re confident the narrator program will be a huge success,” adds Kurth. “In fact, we’ve already received interest from writers from across the country who are interested in duplicating the concept of the Pfister Narrator in their hometowns.”

More information about the Pfister Narrator program and an application form for the next narrator position—due March 1, 2011—can be found at ThePfisterHotel.com/Pfister-Narrator.

The Pfister Narrator: Historic Hotel Selects First-Ever In-House Journalist from PfisterHotel on Vimeo.

Pfister Narrator: The review process has started!

In our previous post about The Pfister Narrator program, we mentioned how speechless we were about all the entries we’ve received. The review process has started.

Judith Ann Moriarty gives some insight in to the initial meetings with the selection panel. Check back for updates. We look forward to introducing our new Pfister Narrator soon.

Pfister Narrator: The entries are in!

Wow.

We are speechless. Just…Wow!

Thank you everyone for the overwhelming response to the Pfister Narrator program. We have a binder bursting full of entries.

Seriously, we do!

Furthermore, thank you to The Writer magazine, Poets & Writers magazine and ThirdCoast Digest for spreading the word about the program and preaching the Pfister’s commitment to the arts.

A review panel is currently evaluating all the applications and we will have our Pfister Narrator selected in the next couple of weeks.

Stay tuned to the Pfister Blog to find out who will be the first Pfister Narrator.

The Pfister Narrator Program 2010-2011

Do you consider yourself the next Ernest Hemmingway, Virginia Woolf or Oscar Wilde? Or are you an aspiring reporter who wants to someday be compared to the likes of Barbara Walters, Walter Cronkite or Katie Couric? Or maybe you just love interacting with people and have a passion for writing? Here’s your opportunity to gain experience and meet new people, while enjoying one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

The Pfister Hotel is in search of the first ever Pfister Narrator, an individual who will spend time in the hotel’s lobby, interviewing visitors and guests and sharing their stories on the Pfister’s blog. The chosen applicant will have the opportunity to open new doors, gain experience and meet new people, while enjoying one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

“There are so many interesting people who pass through our doors each day,” says Joe Kurth, general manager of The Pfister Hotel. “We’d love to share their unique stories with the rest of Milwaukee and beyond. The Pfister Narrator will be responsible for helping us achieve that goal, while gaining valuable personal and professional skills along the way.”

The Pfister Narrator will be expected to work a minimum of 10 hours per week over the course of a six-month period and will publish a minimum of two blog posts per week. In return, the Narrator will receive his/her choice of a $1,000 monthly stipend, scholarship for continuing education or donation to a charity in his/her honor, complimentary parking and meals within the hotel’s cafeteria.

How to Apply

To be considered, applicants will need to submit an application form, current resume, 2-3 writing samples of recent work, a 200-word proposal, cover letter and two professional references. Deadline for submissions is Oct. 1, 2010.

A review panel will evaluate the applications and ultimately choose the Pfister Narrator.

Don’t miss your chance to become the first ever Pfister Narrator! Download the application form and submit it, along with the additional required materials, to info@thepfisterhotel.com by Oct. 1, 2010.