Join us for another in a series of interviews with winners from our recent 2021 Awards Ceremony. Our goal is to give you insight into how our fleet’s best simmers write and imagine their characters as well as how they participate within our fleet out of character.
This month we’re interviewing the writer behind Commander Jo Marshall playing a Human Female First Officer assigned to the USS Gorkon. In 2021, she won multiple awards, including the Jake Sisko Prize, the Rising Star Award, and the Staff Member of the Year Award.
DeVeau: Hi Jo! Would you please tell us a little about the writer behind the character — where in the world do you hail from? What sort of interests do you have? Whatever you’d like to share.
Marshall: Hey! Thanks for having me. I’m Em, and I’m one of those British folk that do odd things like knowing the dunkability ratio of all biscuits, complain about the weather more often than I should, and drink tea (and coffee!) like it’s the key to life everlasting. Keen storyteller, occasional graphic artist, somewhat musically inclined, and absolute goober. I enjoy walking, talking, and reading; sometimes all three at the same time.
You were the first recipient of a brand new award for 2021. The Jake Sisko prize is given to members of the Federation News Service Team who regularly go above and beyond in their contributions and participation. Would you tell us what drew you to the FNS team and how you participate in that task force?
The FNS was one of those taskforces that I had my eye on coming into the group. I read everything on the website in a short time and loved the opportunity the group had to expand on our playable universe by introducing ideas and spinning articles from it. We’ve had some incredible creativity coming through there in recent years; articles inciting missions on ships, ideas being exchanged, personal stories being played out, and article hooks to keep a captive audience for a while.
I got involved first as an article writer, chucking in some in-universe articles to see what would happen, and from there got involved in the editing of articles for publishing to the site. Over time, I enjoyed doing that more and more; showcasing the talent we’ve got in the taskforce by facilitating their delivery onto the site and making it a regular weekly publication. We’ve got about 70 subscribers to the newsletter, which isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s getting out there!
Now I’m the News Editor, who makes sure everyone’s stories are edited, feedback is kicked over, and we’ve got an article to publish every week.
A second award you received was the Rising Star Award. Given to members of lieutenant commander rank or higher who show great promise in many facets of their participation in the group, and to whom we look to as future leaders. What does leadership mean to you, and how do you use it to support our game and community?
Personally, leadership requires supporting those around you and doing what you can to help them succeed. When you step into a staff role, it becomes your responsibility to place writers in the right place at the right time for them; throwing them into the limelight to have their hero moments where it counts and bolster that feeling that they’re doing well. You’ve probably seen it yourself: when you put someone on a team or task, and they’re in the perfect spot that fuels their inspiration, they find their rhythm and unleash their creativity with a fury.
Leadership also denotes trust and respect. I can’t expect anybody else to put in the hours for the OOC task forces or facilitate the storyline effectively if I can’t be trusted to do so. Setting a good example is the capstone, and I’ve learned these lessons from the top leaders in this community.
However, the best part of being a leader here is you don’t have to be in a staff position to be effective at it. You can be a creative and innovative leader at any rank and level. I’m always looking for our future leaders in our ensigns and up all the time and hopefully nurturing as best I can!
The final award you received in 2021 was the Staff Member of the Year Award, given to those who have contributed tirelessly to the organisation through many OOC channels while maintaining excellence in simming on their vessel. Not only that, you are the first who was not of a Captain rank or higher to receive this award. What were your thoughts upon receiving this?
Surprised! I didn’t expect to be nominated for it, and definitely not to be awarded it. We’ve got so many dedicated staff members in the community that go to great lengths to make sure things are composed and professionally done behind the curtain so that it doesn’t ripple on the surface, and they all deserve this award ten times over.
But I’m not a silo, and it’s certainly not a one-person effort. We’ve got phenomenal teams that really pour themselves into everything we do to make it fun, make it efficient, and that bit better every time. I’m really thankful for the opportunity to be part of that legacy, and it knocks my socks off sideways that I can help the community in all the ways I can.
One thing mentioned was all the ways you participate in our community beyond the FNS, but in other task forces, a presence on Discord, the Forums, and facilitating various facets of our game. You put a lot of time and effort into SB118. Could you share some tips and tricks for organising your time and getting involved without burning out?
Burnout is a funny thing. I need to push myself to stay focused on the task at hand and build in my rest time. Read one day, write the next, and don’t do the same on the same day unless I need to — the joys of being staff is sometimes this has to happen! Work purposefully and get the creative aspects done. If I stop to research something on our Wiki or Memory Alpha, it throws me out of the zone, so instead, I’ve found that highlighting the particular thing I need to research then coming back to it when I’ve done the bulk of the sim really helps me stay on task.
I’m murder for to-do lists. I make them for home, for work, for SB118, etc. I started making them to help revise for my exams and it’s worked for me since. Zipping through the most important tasks of the day gives me more time to do the creative stuff. This is where the Pomodoro technique really comes in handy. Setting it for 25 minutes of work, then 5 minutes of break time to do something fun, keeps me focused. Might stretch, might chuck a ball around, might find the cat and play fetch, might get a snack.
I think having another hobby that you enjoy doing, which takes you and your mind away from writing for a while, is essential. I get some great ideas when I’m doing something else, almost like my subconscious is still working on stuff while my body is flipping tractor tires (minus tractor) or just taking a walk around the park to enjoy the sunshine and meet random dogs.
And just as importantly, know when to take some time for yourself. Rest and re-energise.
Another area in which you are extremely involved is the Image Collective, where you and other talented artists use your skills to offer beautiful graphics and sometimes even drawings and digital paintings to enhance our community’s experience. Would you mind sharing with us how you got into art and image manipulation?
Funnily enough, it relates to the point above about needing another hobby to take my mind away from things. I started doing some creative stuff on the side of my focal studies and found I really liked it, and that started on old computers with early versions of Photoshop. I used to design stuff, then screen print onto t-shirts and hoodies with friends doing fashion design, which was a lot of fun.
Though my fave will always be pixel graphics 😀
Thanks for your time, Commander Marshall!
You can read more about Commander Jo Marshall on the wiki.