Bluefield College alumna, Brandy Campbell, shares her story of how she became a feature writer for Compassion International.
May 7, 2011
Imagine traveling to countries like Ethiopia and Haiti. Imagine sitting with a child, asking him to tell you about the scariest day of his life. Imagine writing these stories so that thousands of sponsors will know the struggles that are happening in countries they will never visit.
This is Brandy Campbell's job.
“I didn't always know I could be a writer as a career,” said Campbell. “I didn't know all the avenues in which you can use writing. All I thought about were books.”
As a Bluefield College alumna, Campbell came to the college seeking a major in education because of her respect for the profession.
“But I kept thinking, 'I can't do this the rest of my life.'”
Campbell changed her major from education to English to communications, and finally became an English and communications double major.
“I called my mom when I decided to change my major, and I was a little nervous about what she'd say. But she said that she had always known I was supposed to be a writer.”
At Bluefield College, Campbell was given opportunities to write. She became a staff writer for The Rampage, and because of the small staff, she was given more opportunities to write.
“The environment wasn't intimidating though. I got to tell people's stories from the beginning. My professors saw my ability and let me hone my craft.”
Campbell's passion lies in telling stories. Now, as a feature writer with Compassion International, it is her job to look for new stories to tell. But when she was a student at Bluefield College, she hadn't always known she was writing features.
“I didn't know what I was doing was writing features at first. I don't like to do quick marketing pieces. I was a feature writer before I knew what one was. I was good at that magazine style. Also, I knew I needed to write with excellence. But know that I have had my fair share of press releases and boring stories.”
The summer before Campbell's senior year, she interned with LifeWay. The connections she made there allowed her to have a temporary job with LifeWay for a year after graduation.
“I got a lot of freedom,” she said. “I learned how to write for an audience. I learned how to think like a mom or a 20-year-old boy. That made me a better writer. It was a great starting point. I also had tough editors, and that made me a better writer. I appreciated that.”
Following LifeWay, Campbell moved to Missouri and worked at Hannibal-LaGrange College in Public Relations.
“I didn't know anyone and I didn't love the writing,” Campbell said. “It was a tough few years. I felt like I wasn't going to end up there permanently. But I learned that we need to do our best in the waiting season. It was a tough few years.
Campbell had been sponsoring a child through Compassion. As she browsed its website one day, she noticed a job posting. It was her dream job. She applied, went in for the interview, and landed it.
“If I ever moved again, I wanted it to be closer to the east coast,” she said. “Compassion is in Colorado. I didn't know where Compassion was located until I flew over for my interview. I think God kept me from knowing.”
Campbell was chosen out of 140 applicants.
“I was absolutely scared to go to Colorado,” she said. “But I feel like God prepared me for it. When I moved to Nashville, I knew a few people. When I moved to Missouri, I knew no one. I force myself to be an extrovert when I move. Fear can be paralyzing. Fear prevents incredible opportunities.”
Now, Campbell is able to travel the globe, writing stories about the children who are sponsored through Compassion.
“Sometimes it's hard,” Campbell admitted. “The stories can't always be published. It's too much for the sponsors and donors to stomach. The tragedy is too much. Awful, awful things happen to these kids. But there is also an incredible amount of hope followed by that tragedy. These kids accomplish amazing things.”
Campbell has grieved for the stories that end in tragedy. She has grieved the death of her stepfather. She has grieved the death of one of her sponsored children.
“We should be sad about children dying and people losing parents,” said Campbell. “But even when the stories don't have happy endings, we can know that ultimately there is victory in Christ. My faith cannot be defined by my circumstances. I think we have a hard time being around sad people. Loss and grief makes us uncomfortable. But I can relate and I am not afraid to tell these stories. Sometimes, it's okay to embrace grief. It's okay to grieve. But grieve with the knowledge that there is a better place.”
Campbell believes that being able to write about grief has made her a better writer. She is constantly trying to find new ways to tell stories better. She listens to her editor, reads writers she admires, tries new things, attends conferences, and writes constantly.
“I've heard the quote that says something like 'a writer can't not write.' That's not true,” she said. “We all have off days, off weeks, off months. Power through the hard seasons. Power through when you feel like you aren't a great writer. Go ahead and write your crappy first draft sometimes. Do everything you do with excellence. I found new ways to make my job exciting. Without excellence, no one will trust you and you burn bridges. Write articles for The Rampage with excellence. Do this to honor yourself and to honor the craft of writing.”
Soon, Campbell will begin a master’s program in Creative Nonfiction. She wants to be a better writer, and she encourages all writers to keep writing with excellence.