Radical Raconteur

To Matthew Goldberg, CLA ’21, stories have immense power—they can alter a reader’s perception and broaden their perspective, or just as easily win funding for a nonprofit or help the public sector better connect with stakeholders.

Photo credit: Joseph V. Labolito

A leap of faith

When Goldberg decided to pursue an MFA in creative writing, he already had a master’s degree in environmental policy along with four years as a grant writer and development manager for the clean energy startup BioLite under his belt. By then, he had set down some roots in Philadelphia, and he chose Temple because with the teaching assistantship he was offered, his tuition was fully funded. Still, going back to school at the age of 26 to pursue his dream of becoming a published author felt like a bit of a gamble.

The right decision

It turned out that attending the program imbued Goldberg with a sense of purpose. Working alongside other dedicated writers underscored both his talent and his drive to keep perfecting his craft.

“At Temple, I was able to tap into a really fantastic writing community, and I regularly keep in touch with a number of my former classmates today,” he said.

Having that community close at hand was meaningful for Goldberg, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the business of being a writer and graduate student could have been lonely and isolating. Working as a creative writing instructor for Temple undergraduates was also a fulfilling experience. As a first-time teacher, Goldberg honed his public-speaking skills so he could provide a meaningful learning environment for his students—not to mention hold their attention both in person and over Zoom. These experiences also prepared him for a particularly memorable moment: his first public reading.

“Having my friends and family members hear me read my story was a moment when I felt full of gratitude for the opportunity that I’d been given,” he said.

As he refined his voice as a writer and developed better revision strategies, Goldberg evolved as a storyteller and creative thinker.

Matthew at a Glance

Captivating audiences

Goldberg found that the MFA helped him crystallize his skills and understand how he wanted to use them. He was able to transition from the field of clean energy writing—supporting technology that helps address climate change—to a more expansive role in civic tech, whereby he helps build digital services that enhance the relationships between people and the government.

In March 2021, Goldberg accepted a position as a user experience (UX) content strategist with Skylight, a digital consulting firm that assists the federal government’s delivery of public services. Since then he has been working with clients like Veterans Affairs, the CDC and other agencies.

“I collaborate with UX researchers, designers and developers to make content more useful and accessible to different audiences,” he said. “One project that ties in well with my work at Temple is facilitating and building content for a higher education course that helps federal acquisition professionals learn how to deliver digital services that work better for the American public.” 

“I want to use my writing to make people’s lives better, whether that’s through transforming how they think via fiction, or by making life easier for people through the civic tech space,” he added. 

In the meantime, Goldberg has achieved success in the literary world, publishing eight stories in literary magazines, winning two contests and having his work selected for the Coolest American Stories anthology, out in January 2022. Most recently, his short story “Bees Wings” was named the winner of Uncharted Magazine’s SciFi/Fantasy Short Story Award. He is currently at work on a novel.

I had zero publications when I came to Temple; now I’m going on 12. When I decided to make a career change and focus on fiction for a couple of years, I had some self-doubt. And I’ve come out of the program realizing that this was the best decision,” he said. “Telling stories in various contexts is exciting and I’m just happy to be able to keep doing it.”