Seth Fein’s literary career began with (a) his creative writing professor’s refusal to write him a recommendation for grad school and (b) the alternative that stood ready to hand, being an “analogue troll” for buzz magazine (back when it still existed in print form).
If the word “career” conveys for you a beige cubicle in an office park somewhere, an hour talking to Fein is a welcome corrective. His career is one he created for himself, based on the things he loves doing: booking bands, writing, being a part of the local community. In 2005, he created the Pygmalion music festival, which has since grown to be a literary, tech, craft. and food festival as well, with more than 60 sponsors.
“Pygmalion is the main thing I do,” Fein says, but it is hardly the only thing he does. As Co-President and CEO of the Nicodemus Agency, he also promotes bands, consults, and offers design and photography services. He also runs Smile Politely, an online magazine started in 2007 to fill a gap in the Champaign-Urbana cultural scene.
Fein’s message to students? Spend your twenties doing what you love–or at least, figuring out what that is. Fein shredded the motivational-poster version of that sentiment and spoke frankly about the realities:start-up costs (working multiple paying jobs to support the not-yet-paying gigs), the inevitable compromises (turning down well-heeled advertisers in order to build a coherent brand), the trade-offs (living with the limitations of the local community while working to make it better).
The bottom line? As Fein put it, “just start writing your own sh*t.”