Works and Days

Publishing and Education with Ruth Werner: Serena Offenbaker, Winter Shadow 2016

For my Winter Shadow, I stayed with Ruth Werner and her family. Ruth works from home where she juggles various projects related to her role as an author, artist, and educator, specializing in pathology and massage therapy. I had the fortune of getting to know her and her family, while getting some insight into publishing. Unfortunately, due to some health related concerns I was unable to engage with the opportunity as fully as I would have liked.


I did, nonetheless, have a rewarding experience. Speaking to Ruth about the intricacies of her work helped me realize the various approaches one can have into the field of education, despite my previous misconceptions of its limits. Seeing the way that she interacted with the field and others in it showed me how I might incorporate my own interests, skills, and passions into my educational pursuits without having to sacrifice different aspects of my identity. For example, Ruth talked about how she majored in theater at Reed but that her time here “made it clear I [Ruth] could go into any direction I wanted” stating that she “never felt constrained to follow any particular path” because she was supported by Reed to study anything that made me passionate and to trust that that would work out. And despite theater belonging to an entirely, seemingly disparate realm, she believes that her practice in the area helped her develop skills that were transferable to her role as an educator. Together we spoke at length about the importance and marketability of effective communication, which gave me confidence about moving forward into the world of publishing.

Ruth and I also talked about the significance of having vision, of being imaginative, problem solving, and being open to failure. She gave me some very valuable advice about pursuing publishing, which I’d like to share for others who might be pursuing it as well:

  1. Play to your strengths; only write about things that excite you.
  2. Identify your market/audience, create the project they need, write the book you wished you had had when you needed the book you are writing. This applies to both fiction and non-fiction.
  3. Accessibility is what contributes to success. Make yourself available to communicate with people about your work: consumers, publishers, editors, etc. (anyone who makes decisions about your book). Build a brand around being accurate, credible, and friendly. Be open to feedback.

I was able to gain a lot from this experience, despite my circumstances. I assisted Ruth with some tasks related to her project revising a textbook, in order to publish a new edition, as well as her project assisting with the curriculum of a school in Costa Rica. In downtime, her and her family helped me make the most of my time at the Oregon coast where they live, as we went to the aquarium, got fresh crab to make a delicious, coastal dinner, and visited some souvenir shops. It was very nice to stay with such hospitable people. Ruth said she loves the Winter Shadow program and will always be happy to host Reedies!

(Photos: above right, Ruth, Lily Curt, and Woody. Below, Ruth with fresh crabs)


Tags: winter shadow, externship, publishing, education, curriculum, pathology, massage therapy, textbook