Pioneer Spotlight: Karen Pluemer
Karen Pluemer, an English lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, began teaching at the university in fall 2012. She currently teaches Technical Writing; Writing, Editing and Publishing in Multiple Media; and Advanced Writing. She also has taught Business Communication, Newswriting and College Writing.
Pluemer has over 20 years of experience as a professional writer and editor. After working in-house as a senior production editor for McGraw-Hill Higher Education, she launched Wise Owl Editorial, LLC, her own freelance editing and writing company, where she worked on several projects in various capacities including copyeditor, developmental editor, project manager, class test program manager and technical writer.
Pluemer is also a novelist and a screenwriter, with agent representation in Los Angeles, California, and was recently selected to participate in the Women in Film Mentorship Program and the 2014 CineStory Fellowship. She is a 2015 Semifinalist in Universal Pictures’ Emerging Writers Fellowship, a 2015 Semifinalist for the CineStory Fellowship and a 2015 Second Rounder at the Austin Film Festival. She has a master’s degree, a degree in feature film writing from UCLA-Extension and is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, the American Film Institute, Women in Film and Mystery Writers of America.
In January 2016, Pluemer was accepted into the Madison Writers’ Studio, where she will workshop her Young Adult novel with Michelle Wildgen, an award-winning novelist. In March 2016, she was invited to be a reader (someone who judges submitted screenplays) for the screenplay contest at the Austin Film Festival.
What are three things you hope students take away from your classes?
Overall, my goal is to teach students respect for the process of writing and for the ability to write clearly, concisely and accurately. Many people hurry the thinking process that is necessary to write well; if you don’t take the time to think about what you’re saying and how to write it so that you communicate to your audience concisely and accurately, your message will be unclear.
Each semester, students in your Magazine Editing and Writing course publish an online magazine called "No Money, College Edition." How does this learning activity help prepare them for their careers?
Students learn how to pitch ideas, think like an editor by assessing ideas for viability and usefulness (i.e., does this idea fit with our editorial vision for the magazine?), write pitched articles, integrate editorial notes in a revision and layout the article in a digital magazine format. Students can show the “No Money” magazine and their own final projects to prospective employers as examples of their work.
What other learning activities will your students work on this semester?
In Technical Writing 3000, the students are assigned a final project. The goal of this project is for the students to solve a problem (ideally within the student’s major) by creating a survey (or using another data collection method) and analyzing that data to suggest a data-driven solution. Some of these projects work out very well for students. We’ve had students earn raises at their places of employment because their managers were so impressed with their ability to use data to make a decision to solve a problem or improve upon an existing process.
In 1996, you launched Wise Owl Editorial, LLC. What projects have you worked on?
My biggest project was Martin Silberberg’s textbook, “Chemistry: The Molecular Nature of Matter and Change.” I was the freelance developmental editor on that project for his third and fourth editions and developed the first edition of his preparatory chemistry textbook, “Principles of General Chemistry.” Among a myriad of other projects, I have been a copyeditor for human anatomy and physiology textbooks, a project manager for a drama anthology, an editor of a children’s literature anthology, a project manager for the McGraw-Hill’s Class Test Program and a technical writer for case studies for McGraw-Hill’s Chicago and New York City offices.
You are also a screenwriter. Could you describe one of your projects? What has been most rewarding?
I’ve been very lucky that some talented people have taken an interest in me and my projects. I’m presently finishing a Young Adult novel based on an original screenplay idea I pitched to my Women in Film mentor. She recommended me to CineStory where I met two other producers who are also interested in the story. One producer offered to read a draft of the novel, and another producer gave me her card and said she’d help me in any way she could. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a writer is the diverse number of people I meet. I have friends who are in commercials and movies, and who are writers, painters, photographers, film producers, from all parts of the world: U.S., Europe, Africa and Asia. The other rewarding aspect is that I am part of a community of writers. It’s inspiring to see people take care of each other and respect each other’s vision and voices.
Interview conducted by Laurie A. Hamer, UW-Platteville College of Liberal Arts and Education. To nominate someone for the Pioneer Spotlight, email email@example.com.