Eric Shay Howard

Bad blogger. Complicated. Gay.

Read the blog, below. Eric blogs about creative writing, business, education, lgbtq+ AND DIVERSITY, and other things. he’s a little bit complicated. he blogs in first-person.

the blog ⬇️

  • I’m A WGU Alumni Ambassador

    I’m A WGU Alumni Ambassador

    I received an email a few days ago. I’m now officially a Western Governors University Alumni Ambassador. That means I get to travel some and help with WGU events and also answer questions about college from prospective students. This is pretty exciting. I have wanted an education gig for a while now, and while it’s not teaching directly or even really being employed by a university directly, it’s something that I can do and gain a lot of valuable experience from I think.

    Why I’m Excited About Being An Alumni Ambassador

    It’s a volunteer position. I don’t have enough volunteer experience on my resume. Everyone else’s LinkedIn profiles have volunteer experiences to the brim and I’m just sitting here like, I taught through Americorps for like 6 months once. Volunteer experience is becoming more and more important. Employers really look at that stuff. It shows them a little bit about your interests, plus that section is usually full of plenty of additional experience.

    As an Alumni Ambassador, I’ll get professional social networking and marketing experience for sure. I’ll be active on LinkedIn a sharing information about college a lot. I’m pretty sure that I’m also expected to help with any events near my area that WGU does. I will also be able to help with lots other events, maybe even have a good excuse to travel some.

    There’s a meeting I have to attend at the end of the week. I’m sure I’ll know more then. If anyone ever has any questions about college or continuing their education, I am available on LinkedIn. You can also message me through my Facebook page. I can also answer any questions about my experience at WGU. If you’re a fellow creative writer or artist, but are also contemplating a business degree, I’m also in a unique place to be able to answer questions about that. My blog is about my creative writing. I post short stories every Friday, but I also have a business side.

    Anyway, that’s that email. I’m an official WGU Alumni Ambassador.

    I Got An Award

    I also got a second email yesterday. Apparently I recieved a “Capstone Excellence Award” for my MBA capstone project. I’ve seen people post about these excellence awards in Facebook groups and I never got one on a paper. Getting one for my capstone feels like a big deal so I’m going to brag about it. I get an official certificate sent to me soon. My digital certificate is also on the way. You know how I feel about certificates from my previous blog post about the LinkedIn Learning and Udemy platforms; I put in the time and effort, so if I get a certificate of any kind for something, I’m going to put that on my brag shelf, too.

    That’s two pretty awesome emails in a week, in my opinion!

  • Continuing My Education – Thoughts On Udemy and LinkedIn Learning Platforms

    Continuing My Education – Thoughts On Udemy and LinkedIn Learning Platforms

    Hello, fellow creatives! It’s time a brutally honest post. I don’t make very much money from my writing, so I have a day job at a firm. I have an MBA and I’m proud of it because it was actually hard and took a lot of work. I coordinate IT stuff in an office and do office coordinator things during the day and I write my strange, quirky fiction about secret gay crushes and arsonists in the late evening hours. Since my day job generates the majority of my income, I have to keep up my “business education” so that I can generate more income as time goes on, because inflation is unfortunately a real thing and we need to admit that to ourselves as we plan our creative writing endeavors. For me, that means doing things like taking courses about business, management, and leadership. This past week, I took some LinkedIn Learning and Udemy courses. I have thoughts about the platforms.

    My Thoughts On The Leadership Courses

    First, I’ll disclose that I didn’t have to pay for either of these platforms. Western Governor’s University has some amazing resources and they continue to give access to things like LinkedIn Learning and Udemy for Business to their alumni. I thought maybe there’d be a limit, but I seem to be able to take courses and learn new things about business as often as I’d like. I like that. I’ve only completed two courses so far, though. I finished a course on “Practical Leadership Skills” by Chris Croft on Udemy, and a course on “Managing Teams” by Daisy Lovelace on LinkedIn. They were easier courses to understand and take in. The leadership skills course was a great refresher of some of the leadership theories and philosophies that I learned during my MBA, and it did a great job of applying those theories to real world situations. I actually find leadership theory just as interesting as some of the literary theories that I studied for my English degree. The team leadership course was also a good crash course and would be great for a new manager or supervisor. I’m not a manager yet, but I do hope to be one soon. What’d I’d really like to focus on in this article, though, is the learning platforms themselves. I did run into a few snags here and there.

    My Experience with the Udemy for Business Platform

    The Udemy course was the most interesting of the courses I took. It had both very relevant information and very academic information and was presented in a way that was understandable. It took me a while to complete all of the content in the course. Once I completed it, I wanted my certificate of completion so that I could post it on my LinkedIn and show people that I’m actually trying to stay brushed up on leadership skills. Unfortunately, the certificate wasn’t generating. I’ve completed all of the content and it tells me I have a certificate, but when I click the certificate page, it doesn’t show my certificate and I can’t download it. It’s like it’s stuck on a server somewhere and the page for it hasn’t been properly generated. I emailed Udemy support and am waiting on their reply. (Update: it took a day or so for the Udemy certificate to fully generate and become available ON MY iPHONE, but it still won’t load on my Mac or my iPad. Still unable to share it on LinkedIn.)

    You may be asking, is this certificate a big deal? Well, yes. I put time and effort into learning about a topic and I was promised a certificate, so I want it. I know it’s not a recognized credential or from an academically accredited institution, but it still shows initiative. Additionally, certificates are a great personal reminder and motivator when you’re looking to self-assess your progress on a new set of skills.

    In the Udemy course, there were a lot of downloadable charts and diagrams. Some of these resources were easily downloadable on my iPad, while others were embedded in a way that required me to use Safari on my Mac to be able to find the “save as PDF” button. There was really no reason for this that I could think of, other than purposefully making it harder to download SOME of the diagrams, but really easy to download others. Some of it was downloadable onto my device but stuck inside the Udemy app, other content was able to be saved my Files app. I think it’s weird and they need to think about that a little more.

    My Experience with the LinkedIn Learning Platform

    The LinkedIn Learning platform doesn’t mess around. It’s intuitive, quick to load, works well, and I can ACTUALLY DOWNLOAD my certificates and share them on LinkedIn without any trouble. The downside of the platform is that the content tends to be very fast paced. The videos are often shorter and more concise. This may appeal to some, but I enjoy the conversational, slower classroom style lecture of Udemy for Business a little bit more. I’m sure there are differences between courses on LinkedIn Learning and some may be more conversational than others, but I have clicked around and started a few different courses and so far the fast-paced, brief style is very popular on LinkedIn.

    It may be a good thing in the long run. The shorter the content, the more learning I can squeeze into my week. I may have to adjust my learning style a little. I didn’t really have to take any notes when I took the Udemy course because the diagrams and charts were baked into the content menus and were their own “sections” of the course. LinkedIn Learning tends to keep files and downloadable files off to the side in a separate place that you can access outside of the video content.

    Udemy and LinkedIn Learning: Which One Is Better?

    If I had to pick one over the other as a company to provide its employees with continued learning experiences, I’m honestly not 100% sure which one I’d pick. I think the Udemy for Business model offers a little more flexibility from the company side of things. You can set course paths and prioritize things. The LinkedIn Learning model is sort of a Netflix style, “all you can learn” model. At least on LinkedIn you can network and chat with co-workers and other connections and share your successes a little easier. Again, my experience with the certificates actually working on LinkedIn Learning is also gives the platform significant favor.

    I suppose I’d say, if you’re taking it up on yourself to learn things and your company isn’t providing you with one or the other, LinkedIn offers a few more benefits for your career when you buy the premium subscription. You have have access to LinkedIn Learning plus more stats and tools for your job-hunting.

    If your company is providing you with one of them, you might as well take advantage of that one. There’s plenty of worthwhile content on both Udemy and LinkedIn Learning, so don’t stress about not having one if you have the other.

    Here’s my actual certificate from LinkedIn Learning. I’m still unable to get my certificate from Udemy. I will update this blog post if I can ever get it downloaded.

    Update: It took a day or so for the Udemy certificate to fully generate, but it finally did and I was able to download it.

    I’m working on my LinkedIn page as well, so I guess I’ll put a link to that on here. I’m not great at LinkedIn, but I need to get better at it.

  • Switching Bedrooms – Short Story

    Switching Bedrooms – Short Story

    I write short stories and post them on my blog on Fridays. I hope you like this short story, “Switching Bedrooms.” If you like my fiction, check out my fiction collection, Crushes.

    Switching Bedrooms

    I wrap myself in the soft fuzz of it all every night except the second Monday of every quarter, when I sleep over at his house to save a few gallons of gas. His room stays hotter than the attic back home in the summertime, when Nanna and I would switch rooms every two seasons to spare her the heat exhaustion. Randy and I sleep all skin out on red UofL sheets, his Pit Bull under the bed stretching his legs across the hard wood floor. Sometimes I wrap my arms around my shoulders to help me pretend I’m snuggled inside of that cheap green microfiber blanket from Target that I know my mother takes off of my bed and uses while I’m away. Last quarter I marked the front left corner with a black sharpie, only to find it moved to one of the top corners when I’d returned. Mother never asked any questions about my blankets or my sheets growing up, for which I remain thankful as we wade through the early stages of Parkinson’s. It’ll be too late to ask her if she knows about me and Randy soon, for which I’m also thankful.

  • Why I Love Writing Short Fiction

    Why I Love Writing Short Fiction

    You may have noticed that one of the main things I post on my blog is short fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I blog about life and stuff throughout the week, too, but if you’ve looked around on my website you’ve probably found links to my fiction collection and my short stories. This is because short stories are what I enjoy writing the most. I love writing short fiction and I want my blog to be a good archive for my short stories over the years.

    What’s So Great About Short Stories?

    I think most people would probably wonder why I spend so much time writing short stories instead of trying to tackle that next great American novel. Another thing I don’t want you to assume is that I never attempt writing novels. I do, but so far I’ve not completed a novel, or even really came close. I think it’s because I enjoy exploring characters so much. I play with context and rewrite and rework so much because it’s actually FUN.

    I like to think of short stories as moments. Yes, technically it’s a story. It should probably have something of a beginning, middle, and end, but you have much more leeway in exactly what that means and how you break those parts down in short stories. Once it’s finished, what you generally have, whether the plot spanned days or weeks or years, is a good moment of a thing that doesn’t take forever for someone to read and enjoy.

    The fun continues after that, though, for me anyway. After some time, I will generally want to experiment with those characters some more. I may write another story about them, or I may take a story I already wrote and rewrite it. Sometimes I’ll just write about the character in another situation to see what happens. I’m not much of a plotter, so I never know how my stories will end when I start them. I’ll play around with context, with character motivation, or with details. Sometimes by rewriting like this, I “figure stuff out” that I didn’t understand about the characters or situation before, and then I’ll rewrite the story again.

    Closure Seekers, Beware

    Readers may not get the closure that they seek at the end of the stories, and if you’re really into closure, I wouldn’t recommend reading short stories, especially the literary style kind. For me, it’s never really about closure. It’s about the moment. You don’t get closure in life with everything, at least not in the moment. But, if you like character exploration that doesn’t take forever and a day to ingest, I’d say short stories are good thing to try reading (or writing.)

    I think what it all boils down to is that I like writing short stories because they’re fun for me. I just figured I’d try to coerce some of you all into liking them, too. I know it’s not the most popular genre, but I just love writing short stories.

    Check Out My Short Fiction

    I share my short stories every Friday on my blog so that you can read some of my work for free. Check out the Free Stories section of my website.

    If you’re interested in writing short stories, or if you like reading my short stories, you’ll probably also like to hear my thoughts on typos.

    You can check out my fiction collection, Crushes, if you like my work. It’s a fiction collection with stories about characters from the south exploring their sexuality. It’s available on Amazon and is also available on Kindle.

  • I Paid For Some Ads To Drive Traffic To My Blog

    I Paid For Some Ads To Drive Traffic To My Blog

    That’s right. I have an MBA. I have marketing skills. I bought ads last week. Google ads, Facebook ads, and Twitter ads. I took a test and wrote a few papers about it so I know what I’m doing. I pushed the buttons and I turned them on and I let them go. EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE FINE!

    It was thrilling. I felt so alive. What a rush of endorphins. I might do it again. Have you ever used ads to drive traffic to your blog or website? Totally my first time, I think.

    I mostly did it because I was curious if I could apply some of the stuff I learned in the MBA program to my creative stuff. I mean, I know you don’t NEED an MBA to understand ads and marketing and paid SEM, but it was certainly helpful. I don’t know why I never dived into it before. My blog’s niche isn’t exactly and easy one to generate organic traffic with. I write short fiction which hardly anyone reads unless they are forced to by a professor or are short story writers themselves. I’m not well-known so no one is going to be searching for me on Google. Also, I’m honestly probably not all that good at blogging anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I still do it. No one said I had to be good at anything that I enjoy. So, after thinking about all of that, I decided I’d cancel my gym membership for a little while and place some Google and Facebook ads and see what happens.

    Running Ads Actually Worked Really Well

    Turns out, I got A TON of traffic from it. It was kind of crazy. The majority of the ads ran Monday through Friday. I ran both Google and Facebook ads throughout the week. The Facebook and Twitter ads ended on Saturday. I kept the Google ads going into the weekend. For some reason, I’m getting better Google ad results on the weekend than I was throughout the week. I don’t know if that’s a trend that checks out with Google or not. Maybe I’m forgetting to turn something else off, I don’t know.

    traffic stats for my blog

    I wouldn’t consider most of the traffic to be “converted readers” yet or anything. I don’t think anyone stuck around. But, the cool thing is that now I have numbers to look at and try to tweak and do better next time. I can look at my ad results and analytics and ask myself “how can I tweak these ads to get to my target audience a little better?” Or, “what does my blog offer and how can I show it in these ads to get people who click on them to stick around next time?” You know, stuff like that.

    Anyways, it was a fun little experiment. I’ll definitely do it again. I don’t have unlimited funds for it or anything, but maybe a few times a month it wouldn’t hurt. I might keep the Google ads going, because they are fairly cheap compared to Facebook and Twitter ads.

    Have you ever experimented with ads? How did it go?

  • I Have An MBA, Now What?

    I Have An MBA, Now What?

    Now that I officially have my Master of Business Administration, I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with it. Obviously, along with my enjoyment for writing and blogging, it equipped me with enough knowledge to figure out how to get this blog going a little better. But, I’m also open to some other ideas. I’ve been looking into teaching business courses as an adjunct instructor at a college or university somewhere. There’s a lot of competition, though. Plus, I don’t have THAT much teaching experience.

    I taught K-5 through Americorps for a little while. That being said, teaching children is very different from teaching young adults, or so I hear. But, I’m still actively pursuing it. I have a SMART goal. I have specific amounts of applications I’m supposed to have submitted by specific target dates. It might take me years to get a position, but I won’t be able to say I’m not trying.

    The First Round of Applications

    I did apply for an after-my-day-job teaching gig locally, but I found out soon after that the hours wouldn’t actually work around my current job after all. I actually messed up and didn’t correctly send the email stating this to the interviewer, and I think I might’ve accidentally burned that bridge. That was a really good bridge, too. So, I have to be more careful. I can’t just be applying to anything and everything. More research and thought will be required.

    Anyway, I’m trying locally first. There are a couple of local community colleges nearby. There are also a couple of bigger universities in this city. After that, I’ll sort of expand my search diameter and apply in some other metropolitan areas. There’s also the possibility of teaching online.

    Why Teaching?

    I think it has to do with just finally being in a position to be able to give back to society a little. I struggled so much financially for so long, especially through my undergraduate years. I was a nontraditional student (that means older) so now that I’ve been able to live comfortably and save some money with the day job, I have the capability to teach others who are also possibly the first in their family to go to college, get a degree. A master’s degree, even.

    It’s A Lot Like Submitting Fiction, Actually.

    So, just like with my creative writing, I just make my submissions the best I possibly can and keep submitting until something sticks. It takes years sometimes. I can either stop submitting or I can just keep submitting, you know?

    In the meantime, I’ll keep writing stories, posting on my blog, and doing my own thing. I’d love to teach English someday, but that will require another degree, I think.

    bachelor of arts in english

    So about the image above: no, this isn’t my MBA. This is my BA. I’m still waiting on my MBA diploma to arrive. COVID19 caused some long delays in the process with the university’s vendor and with shipping so I don’t know exactly how long I have to wait, but it should arrive soon. I needed a photo for this blog post, though, so I snapped this of my BA real quick. I will switch the photo when I get my new diploma.

    Update: Master’s Degree diploma arrived and blog post image updated.

  • Making Sure I Write Enough

    Making Sure I Write Enough

    Now that I’m actually trying to do this blogging thing and fiction writing thing right, I’ve got a number of things I actually have to accomplish each week. Now that I’m finished with grad school, I think it’s totally doable.

    For my blog every week, I need to:

    • Post 4 blog posts about something.
    • Post a short story on one of the days.

    So, that’s easy. Of course, that doesn’t count all of the social media work. The blog posts will automagically post to my twitter and Facebook when they post on my blog. The blog posts will post on my blog and to my social media at 8am eastern time Monday through Friday. In addition to that, though, I try to retweet some stories from my blog, to drive traffic to them. I usually schedule those tweets for 12pm Monday through Friday. That means I need a constant supply of stories on my blog to keep this going. I’m only getting one new short story on my blog a week, so of course that one is usually retweeted at some point throughout the week, plus four other older stories.

    Next, I need to try keeping up with Patreon. This will require:

    • Posting a new, early draft of a short story every weekend.
    • Posting a more polished short story every weekend a week before I post it on my blog.

    Now it is sort of starting to get a little harder. Because I just started the Patreon thing and haven’t really seen it through the first week yet, I don’t exactly know how this will work out, but I think I can sort of figure it out.

    My Short Story Schedule

    So, every week, this is how posting my new stories will go.

    • Post last week’s early short story from Patreon to my blog.
    • Post a new draft of a short story to my Patreon.
    • Post a new early short story to my Patreon.
    • Repeat.

    Now, I can’t share ALL of my work early on Patreon or even on my blog, because I still need to leave some things technically “unpublished” so I can submit them to literary journals and stuff like that. Plus, I still want to have a good amount of stories that are exclusive to my fiction collections, because why would anyone buy the collection if they can read all of them for free easily in one place like on my blog?

    This means that, at least once or twice month, I need to write an extra short story that doesn’t really get posted anywhere. Of course it takes me years of rewriting before any of my stories are actually good. (You’ll see if you become a patron because of those early drafts I’ll be posting every week.)

    So How Much Writing Am I Doing Every Week?

    Let’s count how many stories I’ve signed myself up for every week.

    • 4 blog posts about life or my thoughts or whatever (for the sake of creative writing, let’s refer to these as the “creative nonfiction pieces”.)
    • 1 short story draft for my Patreon. (Doesn’t have to be good, and can be a rewrite from the week before.)
    • 1 more polished short story for my Patreon a week before posting it to my blog.
    • The short story that I post on my blog is the story that I posted on my Patreon last week, so that doesn’t add to the weekly count.

    So, that’s just 2 short stories for sure every week. They’ll be, you know, on the shorter side, probably. That’s 8 short stories a month. If I want to have extras for literary journals, lets say 1 or 2, that’ll be 10 short stories a month.

    That’s over 100 short stories (or drafts of stories) a year. A lot of them will probably be microficiton or really really short stories, though. But, that doesn’t always make it any easier. And, I definitely won’t have 100 fiction-collection-worthy stories in a year. I think maybe 2 or 3 of short stories are decent enough to event try to submit to journals every year.

    So, ambitious? Yes. Still doable? Well, it’s starting to sound a little bit like a house of cards, but I’m going to just do it anyway. This is supposed to be fun. It may not work exactly like I think it will, but I have somewhere to start.

Bluegrass Writers Studio MFA Summer Residency, 2022. Photo by Ben Keeling.

I’m Eric Shay Howard and I’m a bad blogger. I’m also an author. I live in Louisville, Kentucky and work at a law firm.

I’m currently a graduate student in a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. Lately, I’ve been blogging about that. I also have a Master of Business Administration and have completed a few certificate programs in Human Resource related studies. Occasionally I blog about business and other MBA-related things. Blogging about my day, bad dates, or package delivery issues are also not out of the question.

I wrote a fiction collection called Crushes and self-published it because sometimes I just like to push buttons and see what happens. I think this book is pretty alright, I suppose. Buying a copy helps me out. Feel free to leave a review on Amazon as well.

crushes by eric shay howard fiction collection book cover

I’m an Amazon Affiliate and occasionally post affiliate links to products in my blog posts and throughout my website. I always disclose these links, just so there’s no confusion. There’s more information about this on my page about my privacy policies and disclosures.

If there’s ever any confusion about this feel free to drop me a comment below the post in question, or you can email me or reach out to me through my social media. Other contact methods are here.

Eric’s bookshelf: currently-reading

The Silkworm
tagged: currently-reading
Words of Radiance
tagged: currently-reading
The Cloven Viscount
tagged: currently-reading
Dark Rise
tagged: currently-reading
The Gunslinger
tagged: currently-reading
tagged: currently-reading
Mistborn: The Final Empire
tagged: currently-reading

Blogs and People I Like

Here are some other blogs and people that I like to read or keep up with. The order is arbitrary because I started out going for alphabetical order but then got busy with classes or something so now sometimes I just rearrange them for no reason.

Equipment Test! Podcast Artwork

I made a really bad podcast over the summer called Equipment Test! because I bought a microphone. But if you like really bad podcasts, you can listen to it here, or find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other places.