Going Back to My Roots as a Writer

Posted by Anna VanHorn on September 5, 2017


“She wants to be a writer when she grows up,” a well-meaning, but somewhat absentminded friend recently told me about her teenage daughter. “I mean, I just wish she’d go into something practical. Who really gets to be a writer?” She said with an eye roll.

“Well… I’m a writer,” I said with a laugh. A look of horror came over her face as she tried to explain herself saying, “Oh, I meant a real writer.” She genuinely meant no offense, and I knew what she was trying to say. Rather than let her continue to dig herself into a hole, I told her that it is true that being an author is difficult, but that it is certainly possible for her daughter to earn a good living as a writer.

Often people who hope to make an artistic endeavor their profession are discouraged and told to go into something more practical. But the truth is, there are any number of ways to use your creative talents in your full-time job. As a Content Strategist at Mitchell, with an ad copywriting and social media background, I write literally every day for my job. No, I’m not writing novels, or songs or movies, but I didn’t set out to write novels, songs, or movies. And, I love what I do.

Truthfully, I set out to be a music journalist – and I was for several years on a small scale. Writing for local and regional entertainment magazines helped sustain me financially and build up my resume. As a bona fide music fanatic and a self-admitted music nerd, what I didn’t expect was that writing about music would eventually grow tiresome and be something that I dreaded. I had turned what I loved into a job and taken the fun out of it.

The realization came that I needed to take the skills that I had cultivated through my education and experience and separate them from my passion for music. That’s how I landed in marketing. And while writing taglines, press releases, commercials and the like isn’t what I set out to do as a teenager, it is immensely satisfying and dare I say – fun. I use my artistic talents to come up with creative solutions. I get to collaborate with wildly talented colleagues who inspire me daily. And every day I get to do one of the things that I love almost as much as music – write.

By separating my personal interests and my professional life, it reinvigorates my passion and my “want-to” to contribute back to the music community. One of the ways that I do that is by acting as the Social Media Director of the Fayetteville Roots Festival, that took place this year August 23-27. The festival, which started in 2010, is a celebration of roots/folk music, food and community. I’ve been involved with the festival for 6 out of its 7 years, and had the privilege to watch musicians like Iron & Wine, John Prine, the late Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, Chris Thiel, St. Paul & The Broken Bones and so, so many more top-tier musicians grace our stages.

One of the aspects about the social media at the fest of which I am the proudest, is our ability to post professional photos of each musician or event within 15 minutes of the set ending or many times, while it is still happening. This year, we had a team of seven professional and “advanced amateur” photographers capturing every aspect of the festival, which I post in real time to our social channels. To my knowledge, there aren’t any other music festivals that post photos of this quality in real time, and it is a cornerstone of the Roots Fest social media strategy. 

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The Wood Brothers with Bryan and Bernice Hembree of Smokey & the Mirror, photo by Michael Woods.

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Old Crow Medicine Show, photo by Jeremy Scott.

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John Fullbright, photo by Meredith Mashburn.

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Amy Helm, photo by Jeremy Scott.


This year, I added two people to my team to create the ultimate #FayRoots Social Dream Team. We had two community correspondents (who also happen to be Mitchell Art Directors), a “Twitter guy” and a social media professional who captured Facebook Live and behind-the-scenes footage, while I did my best to organize where everyone needed to be and when and what we posted. Every year this festival grows and gets better, and this was without a doubt the most robust and creative social media coverage thus far.

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2017 #FayRoots Social Dream Team (minus our Twitter Guy, Daniel) – (L to R) Allyson McGuire, me – Anna VanHorn, Hannah Bailey and Stephanie Hogan


One thing I’ve come to expect each year is a sense of pride and accomplishment, while always striving to make the following year even better. Working for Roots Fest is a labor of love – heavy on the labor and heavy on the love. I wouldn’t work 12-14 hour days if I didn’t care about music – and now the festival – as genuinely as I do. Each year, I walk away physically and mentally exhausted with a satisfied heart filled that is filled with pride to be associated with such a unique and successful event. It truly is my pleasure to lend my professional skills to something I care so deeply about.

I don’t know about everyone in the creative field, but I know the secret to my success in this industry is a blend of passion and profession. Sure, it’s possible to become a professional artist. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have songs, or movies or books, or even music reviews. But writing solely about music wasn’t a good fit for me because it took the joy out of it. Working in marketing is something that I truly love doing, but still leaves room and energy to explore my personal interests too.

My advice to that teenage girl and anyone else whose mother doesn’t want them to be a writer is – Be a writer! Be a musician! Be an artist! Be a whatever you want to be! People – and sometimes you, yourself – may doubt that going into the creative field is a smart decision. But there are many, many industries that will support your artistic talents in a lucrative way. Sometimes you just have to find them and be flexible and realistic about your expectations.

Your passion and profession may not be one and the same, but there’s no reason they can’t overlap. And when they do, it’s truly a beautiful thing.


Editor’s Note: At Mitchell, we believe in encouraging each other to pursue our personal and professional passions. We are thrilled to shine a light on team members like Anna living Mitchell values and sharpening her skills as she pursues her passion for music and community. #AlwaysMitchell