Kerri Schlottman, Director of External Relations at the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, shares some of her favorite reads.

Primary role: Kerri Schlottman oversees the External Relations Department at the Alliance offices in New York City. Besides working hard to get exposure for Scholastic Award winners through exhibitions, publications and press, she’s also responsible for securing funding for our programs and organizing events to engage the public with Award-winning works and their talented creators.

Secret fact: Kerri writes novels in her spare time. In fact, she’s participating in the November National Novel Writing Challenge.

Kerri: A very wise woman once told me, ‘You’re going to be many things.’ It was during my first semester of college and I had to declare a major and, typically, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Many (and I won’t tell you how many) years later I can honestly say that she was right: I’m going to be many things.

Like others who have no idea what they want to do with their lives, I ended up getting a liberal arts degree, which allowed me the luxury of studying everything that interested me: literature, art, history and philosophy. When I graduated college I went to work in advertising—which I can assure you is not as lucrative as Mad Men makes it out to be. Sometime later I applied to graduate school at Wayne State University in Detroit and spent my days at the agency and my evenings in the classroom. I always loved writing, as evidenced by the pile of homemade books my mom recently found in my childhood closet—replete with a make believe publishing company for them!—but it was during my graduate studies that I began to write and publish short stories. I also became interested in performance art and took part in several projects at arts venues in Detroit (think: Gertrude Stein).

Upon completing my graduate degree in visual culture, my interests tipped away from advertising and toward art. I made my unglamorous foray into the gallery world by mopping the floor and painting the walls at the Detroit Artists Market where I volunteered for nearly a year before being hired on staff. As grueling as it sometimes could be, DAM was my testing grounds for organizing exhibitions, fundraising, planning events and parties, and managing an arts space. I next moved to New York City and took a job as the Director of Operations at apexart in Tribeca where I had the pleasure of working with incredibly interesting people like Dave Eggers, Davy Rothbart, Boris Groys and a roster of talented artists and curators from the local and international art communities. In my role at apexart, I did everything from designing catalogues to planning out entire exhibition seasons.

Several years later, I came to the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers for one main reason: I was so inspired by the winning teens that I felt I had to do something to support them. And that I do: I oversee our annual publications, organize the traveling exhibition, build relationships with funders, produce marketing and promotional campaigns, and plan events and benefits. While my career has evolved, so too has my interest in writing. Last year I finished my first novel which is currently being shopped to publishers. I’m editing my second novel and my third is well underway thanks to the November National Novel Writing Challenge.

I still have no idea what I want to do with my life, but I remain excited by the possibilities that are out there and that one thing that I still know to be true: I’m going to be many things.

Advice to Writers: It’s not new advice, but it’s sound advice: Read a lot. Read everything you can get your hands on and also buy books. Supporting the publishing industry will help ensure that there will still be one in existence when you’re ready to publish your work.

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