David M. Hazard ’77
Author, Blood Brothers
Founder, Ascent Adirondack Writing School and Retreat
"At UC I not only learned the basics of the writing craft, I began to use them, giving me experience, experience, experience. THAT is what counts in most fields."
What was your major and are you working in that field now? (What do you do you?)
Journalism-PR, with a minor in literature (’77, Summa Cum Laude). I began writing for publication in my freshman year at UC, for magazines, then got into publishing in 1979 and by 1980 was editorial director with Chosen Books. Wrote my first book (for children) in 1981, and my first general audience book in 1983. That book, Blood Brothers, lofted its subject, Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Christian, to international status and he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. It’s in 21 languages and has a Foreword by former Secretary of State James Baker. Besides Blood Brothers, I have written about 30 other books with my byline and ghosted about 20 others.
By the time I left working inside the publishing industry to found Ascent, several years ago, I had helped to launch the careers of close to 250 authors. Most of whom I had personally coached. I had thought, why not start a “prep school for authors”? -because there is so much to know, not only about the craft of writing but about publishing in general. I paired this idea with my enjoyment of coaching, which I find personally enriching.
This is why I do what I do now, which is to direct my own Writing School – Ascent -- in the Washington DC area. Though I have clients all across the country, whom I coach via Skype.
What attracted you to that course of study?
I love the power of words. The ability to shape people’s thinking, move their emotions, challenge their certitudes with new ideas – that attracted me to writing in general.
What classes helped you most in your career?
The single most formative class, for me, was an elective I took more or less “by accident” – Interpersonal Communications, then taught by Chloe Rexroad. It opened my head to the understanding that real communication doesn’t happen when you stand and blah-blah-blah your ideas or messages at other people… it begins to happen when you shut up and listen first. Then you start to understand what other people believe or think, and why… then you have a chance to start a true “conversation” with them… which is what commune-i-cation is. After that… all the journalism-pr courses. I can’t single out one as most helpful.
What was your first job out of UC and how did it affect your career path?
My first professional job was at UC. I was chosen to run the News Bureau. Don’t know if they do that anymore. If not, they should. It was amazing experience.
After UC I worked at the Hospital Association of New York (HANY) in Albany. Professor Ray Simon helped me get that job. It tossed me into a high-demand communication job, which I loved, and gave me experience with the New York and national media. The two most beneficial things were: learning professional standards and comportment – fast; and learning how to tighten and focus my messages to connect with a given audience.
What was the best thing about Utica College?
The ability to connect directly with profs and instructors – the individual attention they could give you because they weren’t swamped with hundreds and hundreds of students… so you could get questions answered and get advice to shape your college experience and get ready for life after college.
If there were one piece of advice you could give, what would that be?
Get all the practical experience you can while you’re in school. Working hard at your courses and pushing yourself to excel in class and course work is important – mainly because you need both the information you’re learning and you need to learn great work and personal habits. But every practical experience – every internship you can land, every part-time job related to your field of interest – will build, not only your resume’, but your base of experiential knowledge… which “seasons” you. I’m going to cheat here and say, the above…plus: Don’t wait for a door to open; go out and make things happen.
How has your Utica College experience helped you get to where you are today?
At UC I not only learned the basics of the writing craft, I began to use them, giving me experience, experience, experience. THAT is what counts in most fields. When I left college I had several years of experience on my resumé – which put me ahead of people graduating from “name brand” colleges and universities with journalism degrees and much less experience. Out in the working world, people want to see what you can do. They care far less about where you got your shingle.
How have you changed since being a UC student?
Besides getting old and bald? - I more convinced than ever that the world needs great interpersonal communication. Our national “dialogue” needs people with much much better interpersonal skills. Right now, sides are mainly shouting at each other across a gulf.
If you could sum up what UC offers in two or three sentences, what would you say?
Great courses of study; access to Profs; opportunities for practical experience…Those things and a warm, college-community atmosphere.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I have founded the Ascent Adirondack Writing School and Retreat, which occurs every September near Old Forge, NY. The website address for the Ascent Adirondack Writing School and Retreat is www.itsyourlifebethere.com.
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