Cindy Twiss

Hidden Talents at AdvantageCS

It’s easy to assume that technology companies are full of, well, techies. But here at AdvantageCS, we have a diverse group of employees with a wide variety of interests and in some cases, hidden talents. Case in point: we have not one, not two, but three published authors in the office! And we have a round-robin book-writers group, which writes collaboratively. Let us introduce you to them.

By day, he’s our documentation specialist, by night Tim Martin is a prolific poet. His second published book, "Drowning at the Pool Party for Lifeguards," is a chapbook (small collection of poetry) described by the publisher as one which “visits the intersection of the broadly historical and the deeply personal, and explores how each works to inform the other. Mingling with poems about the Nazi resistance, World War I, and Civil War burials are verses about personal relationships both successful and otherwise, and a number of other subjects.”

Drowning At The Pool Party For Lifeguards
Stealing Hymnals From the Choir

Tim’s previous book of poetry, "Stealing Hymnals from the Choir," was a 2010 FutureCycle Poetry Book Prize Winner. Amazon describes it as about “the outward pull of the forces of history, the inward tugging of the human heart, and the intersection of the two. Its subjects are some of the impersonal events that have swept us into the present day, and the precarious intimacies that try to steady us and give us strength to endure within that present. It is a book about mourning, meditation, and finally the inevitability of celebration.”

Tim received an MFA Fellowship from the University of Michigan. His poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in a number of journals, such as The Comstock Review, Slant, The Coe Review, and California Quarterly.

Our second author, Tim Zapawa, Vice President of Client Services, is the father of two young sons. As a toddler, his eldest son, Ben, loved anything to do with the alphabet. Tim thought it would be fun to combine his interest in investing with Ben’s interest in the alphabet, and over time, a song took shape. A few years later, the song was resurrected when Tim’s second son, Mason, also became a fan of the alphabet, and the family’s special song. Tim then came up with the idea of writing a book that both kids and adults could enjoy, complete with song lyrics for the kids and fun facts for the adults.

The One Letter Stock Ticker Alphabet, A to Z

“The One-Letter Stock Ticker Alphabet, A to Z” is described by Amazon as “a fun book on the history and key information of companies that hold a one letter stock ticker. Includes a song, quiz, and summary of companies with a one letter stock ticker. Engages young children with short and memorable sentences while simultaneously appealing to older children and adults with informational facts about each company. Children as young as four years old can rapidly learn and sing the one letter stock ticker song.”

This book is not Tim’s first to be published, although his two works couldn’t be much more different. His first book was on advanced report development in Excel 2007 (no song included).

Chef de Bataillon, Charless Barberot (1876-1915)

Our third published author is Paris-based Philippe van Mastrigt, AdvantageCS Director of European Operations. His books---written in French---explore his interest in history and his ancestry. The first book is the biography of Philippe’s granduncle, who was an officer during World War I and fell in 1915 in the East of France. Its title is “Major Charles Barberot (1876 – 1915): from the Plaisance district to the fights in the Vosges, a French officer’s career in the years preceding the Great War.”

The book was self-published and, with the help of his eldest brother, Philippe set up an eCommerce site ( ) and a blog. Philippe has nearly sold out all the copies he printed (a new edition is currently planned), and the blog has expanded. 

He has published more than 160 articles on numerous topics: events, analysis, travel stories on the battlefield, biographies of soldiers that were connected to his granduncle. Many of the people who contact him do so because they have connections with the topic through their own family. 

His second book found a publisher and is called “In Memory of a Son, Louis Chevrier de Corcelles (1896-1916)”. The subject is a young aristocrat and promising writer, who volunteered in 1914 and served in Philippe’s granduncle’s battalion. His story and the quality of his writing caught Philippe’s interest and prompted him to do more research. He took an existing book from 1921, and added an introduction, a biography, 400 comments and numerous illustrations.

Louis Chevrier de Corcelles (1895-1916)

We also have authors who enjoy creative writing just for the fun of it. Sean LeslieRachel Larson and Rob Elliott, all members of the AdvantageCS engineering division, are currently collaborating on a six-chapter short story in which one writes a chapter and then passes it to the next for the second chapter, and then to the third, etc. They call this method “The Three-headed Writer,” but it’s also known as Round Robin.

In this initial effort, which they see as a “proof-of-concept” for the methodology, they agreed ahead of time on the number of characters and the number of chapters and narrowed down possible genres. The first writer gets to choose the setting and introduce at least one main character. When a chapter is finished, the three meet and discuss it before the story is handed off to the next writer.

Sean explains that one goal of this method is to overcome the typical reluctance many writers have about sharing their creative writing with others. “And it’s great fun to be able to kill off each other’s characters,” he adds.

National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo

Sean, Rachel and fellow engineer Drew Pompa have also participated in National Novel Writing Month (often shortened to NaNoWriMo) an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. Participants attempt to write a 50,000-word manuscript between November 1 and November 30. Well-known authors write "pep-talks" to keep them motivated throughout the process. The website provides participants with tips for writer's block, information on where local participants are meeting, and an online community of support. No official prizes are awarded for length, quality, or speed. Anyone who reaches the 50,000-word mark is declared a winner. Both Sean and Drew were winners in 2014.

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