We’re here with another interview with a member of the Academy Training Team for insight on how our training works, and as recognition for all the hard work that goes into training new members each and every week of the year!
This month’s interview is with the writer behind LtCmdr. Jocelyn Marshall playing a human female assigned to the USS Gorkon. LtCmdr. Marshall is also the most recent recipient of the Boothby Award, an annual award for trainers who go above and beyond their Academy Training Requirements. These trainers display an outstanding example of dedication to bringing new cadets to our community.
THORAN: Hello LtCmdr. Marshall! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself for the folks who may not know you?
MARSHALL: Hey! I’m Em and I write for Jo Marshall, the XO of the USS Gorkon. It’s the only ship I’ve written on since graduating from the Academy myself back in 2016. I live and work in Belgium as an Ops Officer for NATO, which is a lot more boring than it sounds. I’m from the UK and so, like most fellow ex-pats, I have to smuggle tea across the border through France. Baked beans taste strange here and fish and chips cost a fortune. I’ve been roleplaying for years, I’m often found with a book in my hand, and if I haven’t got at least one 15-page JP going on, it’s cause for concern. And I have a slight addiction to coffee, but doesn’t everyone?
How long ago did you join Academy Training Team, and what was it like getting started?
I definitely don’t have to look it up… It’s been about a year now! I joined the training team as a Lieutenant in September 2018. Getting started was the easiest bit about the whole thing! For the first two sessions, you volunteer for, you’re the resident ghost. You read the sims and feedback sent in, observe how the cadets are performing, and join in with the discussions in the staff group. All that prepares you for the real test. Writing as a mock cadet is both really rewarding and challenging. I think for the first time around, I was more nervous than the cadets! Like a PNPC, you develop a character ready to take their final examination with real cadets. It’s your job to set an example of how we do things, so every sim has to be scrubbed and polished for cadets to emulate — and they will! It’s so much fun to do.
What’s been your favourite part about training so far?
My favourite bit is always seeing a cadet I’ve helped to train graduating into the fleet and enjoying themselves. It sounds like a textbook answer, I’m aware, but there really is nothing like it. Over this year I’ve been in classes with some amazing writers graduating/slipping into our community who are now shooting up the ranks with boundless energy and enthusiasm. It’s a privilege to be one of the first people to sim with and get to know them before they’re all wearing Admiral tricorners.
How do you approach the role of CO of a training class – what’s going through your head as you’re simming?
I try and jump in with a lot of energy and create a welcoming atmosphere for the cadets to feel comfortable in. Coming into a group knowing you’re simming alongside existing members can be quite daunting for some, and having to roleplay in a format you’re not used to can be challenging. So, from the offset, my efforts go into making sure the cadets know they’ve got time to get used to it all, can ask questions when they like, and just have FUN! It’s a week where anything can happen — create a new species, get chased by a xenomorph through the vents, cure a plague, go back or forward in time — and I’m there to ensure they’re getting the best out of training by demonstrating those creative skills. If I’ve done my job right, they’re confident in taking their first steps into the fleet.
For some technical specifics, when I’m putting a sim together for the team, I make sure I’ve read and delved into everyone’s posts, capturing those small details they’ve included. I ask questions in character to tease out creative answers and solutions and aim to ensure everyone knows how important they are to the story we’re crafting. Absolutely none of it could be done without a great XO and mock cadets. They help bring it all to life and make the role of CO insanely easier.
Some of the best advice I’ve ever had from my CO is, “If you take an interest in someone’s character, they take an interest in yours.” Regardless of whether we’re together for a week or a year, you’ve got a character and a story, so tell me about it.
What’s your favourite memory of your time on the training team?
Oh man, that’s a question! There are so many classic moments! I’ve given the XO the run around on a haunted ghost ship, I’ve been the XO having issues with man-eating ankle-biting tribbles, and I’ve been the CO stranded on a planet with werebears scratching at the door and a full class of eight with nowhere else to go, slowly going mad.
If I had to pick just one, it would be writing for my mock cadet with Lieutenant Commander Shayne as the XO, where Shayne and my mock were trapped in a station room with a spider thing that was definitely out for eating them. The scene was eerie, the real cadet loved it and really got into it. It’s now a running joke that every class I do with Shayne or Commander Thoran becomes a Lovecraft homage.
What advice would give to those who are coming up through the ranks and headed toward the Training Team?
If you’re not quite at the point where you can volunteer for the training team, you can still start to put together those skills that you’ll need. Start thinking about facilitating the plot for your fellow crew members, how do you make it interesting and push the story forward, and observe how others around you write. It’s often said that writers improve by reading, practice and feedback, so don’t be afraid to ask for input from your mentor on how you can start preparing for the training team.
If you’re in two minds now whether to volunteer, think back to how your academy training went. Remember how you felt during that first week. Did your team make you feel welcome? Did you enjoy writing with them? Did you make friends? You can do that all over again on a monthly basis. Your time, effort and dedication to the team will be absolutely invaluable and so very appreciated. It’s one of the most important teams we have in the group — bringing in new members into the fold — and if you’ve got the experience and time to do so, you won’t regret it. As a team, we work well together, we volunteer when we can, and we have a laugh. It’s always fun, it’s incredibly rewarding…
…and you can wrestle a nine-foot tribble into the path of a xenomorph maw if you really want to.
Thank you so much for your time — we’ll let you get back to training!