Compiled by Amy Rowley, Editor
The best part of my job is reading the positive comments submitted by readers after we publish a story. Parents are overjoyed to see their children featured in stories. Neighbors exclaim how they “never knew” some interesting fact about someone that has lived next door for years. A coach shares their appreciation for the coverage of their hardworking team. A school district expresses joy at seeing their kids honored. A new customer learns the story behind a local business and shares their gratitude.
And, it never gets old. Without a doubt, I promptly pass the appreciation along to the writer. (Seriously – this team of professional writers makes me look good as an Editor.) The writer was the one that generated the story idea, scheduled the interview, transposed notes, stressed over every word, and created an eloquent story about a passionate subject.
Here, in their own words, our ThurstonTalk writing team reflects on their favorite stories from 2013. Enjoy!
Kate Scriven, Associate Editor
Although I’ve written a lot of stories this year, there was only one that included a donkey, goats, chickens, piglets and two of the most likeable people you’ll ever meet. The Farmstead – a local farm growing food for Thurston County residents responsibly and with compassion – is owned by Rachael and Nick Taylor, two Air Force veterans who had a passion to grow their own food and teach others about sustainable agriculture. I took my children on this interview (a rarity) and they fed goats, were embraced by the Taylors, who welcomed their own baby daughter this fall, and we returned home with four Farmstead raised chickens to add to our own flock. Really, what could be better?
This past summer my family and I moved from a home that we loved, and thought we would live in forever, to a new home in the Oyster Bay neighborhood. Soon after our arrival, I had the opportunity to write this story about a historical home in this community. Talking to local residents, hearing their stories and their appreciation for this place reaffirmed our decision to relocate and left me delighted with Oyster Bay’s rich history and with the people who live here.
Here’s something that surprised me: Dave and Heather, of Whitewood Cider Company, telling me that there’s an apple shortage. In Washington. They didn’t mean Pink Lady or Golden Delicious but the cider varieties that are making a comeback as (hard) ciders shoot up in popularity. Even though I wrote a bunch of interesting profiles this year (on a local beekeeper, a downtown café, and kaleidoscope artists, for instance), writing about Whitewood Cider taught me the most about small-batch production and dedication to creating a truly local product. Plus, I had the perfect excuse to run out and buy their first blends.
My favorite story was my first for Thurston Talk. It involved interviewing two of my River Ridge High School students about their shared passion for music. As a teacher, I always enjoy learning about other aspects of my students’ lives. Getting to share their passion with others was a huge bonus!
Interviewing story teller and master basket weaver, Harvest Moon Howell, was one of the highlights of 2013 for me. Talking with Harvest was as interesting as listening to her tell a legend. Something I did not mention in my article was the experience I had when I held one of her baskets. I had a sense that I was holding something alive and perfect.
My favorite article this year was a recent article about the Bear Canyon Tree Farm. I interviewed Barb, who is the delightful, easy to laugh, owner. Her enthusiasm was infectious and it was a pleasure to spend some time with her. I was able to tour the farm, drive around the countryside, and see the harvest operation in action. I love the opportunity to peek into the lives of people in our community, and hear their stories.
My favorite article also happens to be my most recent one about the GRuB-Bear Program, in which Olympia High School and GRuB work together to create an alternative education for students who work better in a hands-on environment. The purpose and meaning that comes from the GRuB program is simply inspiring. I was thrilled to be writing about something that I am truly enthused about and that has such profound meaning in our community. What’s more, interviewing Blue Peetz, one of the main people involved in the program, and GRuB students was a writer’s dream: every conversation was quote-worthy, informative, and motivating.
While I’ve enjoyed every article I’ve written for ThurstonTalk this year, my favorite has to be the article about Olympia Rhythm and Dance (OlyRAD). I have a dance background and love learning about new types of music and dance, so this article was a lot of fun for me to write. OlyRAD is passionate about what they do and the group is upbeat and dynamic. It was great to interview the group leader, Laurie Peterson, and have a chance to share OlyRAD’s positive energy with the ThurstonTalk community.
We live in a caring community. While I have understood this notion, I actually felt the community support after having the privilege to write a story about Dr. Cobie Whitten, Psycho-Oncology Consultant and Michelle Cohen, cancer survivor, and the development of our community’s Cancer Survivorship Clinic. After the story was published, it seemed there was a buzz in the community about these two women and the opportunity to create a much needed Cancer Survivorship Clinic locally. Writing the story was intriguing but contributing something meaningful to our community and to those whose lives have been touched by cancer was beyond rewarding.
My favorite article was the one about Chef Rubi Goldstein Writing this article gave me the opportunity to meet someone I might never have met otherwise. I was struck by Rubi’s attitude and the joy she brings to her work. She really enjoys her job, and it made me think about how much I enjoy mine.
Reporting about people sharing things they are passionate about and bringing joy to those around them are some of my favorite subjects to write about. This year, while I wrote a lot about the outdoors and fitness, the story I most enjoyed writing was The Kings of Karaoke Sing Around Olympia. It’s a story about two roommates–Al Buchanan and Jeremy Zimmer–who share their love of music by bringing karaoke out to local parks, parties or wherever they feel like. Neither of them have been trained in music, but they are passionate about singing and love to bring people together to sing. It’s just another example of positive news on ThurstonTalk.
My favorite article focuses on what to get your teens for Christmas. This was my favorite story because when I was interviewing people, I could be more relatable, not just acting as an interviewer. I loved how when my article was done and I reread it, I could hear my own voice and personality- it really sounded like me! In comparison to other journalistic experiences that I have had, this has been a fun assignment since it isn’t a hard-hitting topic, but could actually help a few adults wanting to impress their kids with gifts. I loved the fact that I could talk directly to our audience in Thurston County.
I don’t think my mom had ever seen her name in print before, let alone a story about her. She’s had a drastic turn for the worse health-wise since the story appeared. It was supposed to be the first in a series. I don’t know if there will be any more “pioneer” tales? I am happy to have been able to honor her in this way. She even said I was a “good writer” after reading the piece. Waited my entire life to hear those words from her.
The piece that touched me most this year was about Shari Aldrich. Here is this strong, capable, dedicated business owner who is clearly living her life’s dream. From the outside, she appears to be ‘all together’ in a finished way. And yet, I met her mid-story. Maybe even in the first chapter. She had just lost her pinky in a traumatic accident weeks earlier, and she was already knitting that event into her work, her vision, her understanding of clients, her personal story. It was incredibly inspiring.
I’m not ashamed of my thrifty tendencies, it’s just been a part of my life from day one. But Halloween is one time of year when those don’t matter. With a little ingenuity, even penny-pinchers like myself can look amazing, throw a kickin’ party, and enjoy the holiday along with the best of ’em! And showcasing photos of my family doesn’t hurt either! (Kathryn writes many of our Thrifty Thurston stories which is a weekly series focused on inexpensive family fun around Thurston County.
I actually have two favorite articles this year, and they bookend my 2013 submissions. The first was published on Valentines’ Day and features the love an Olympia business owner (Gabi Shephard) has for the community she has created in her unique store (Olympic Cards and Comics). The second is a favorite because I have wanted to visit and write about Wolf Haven for a long time, and it more than lived up to my expectations.
Jessica Peyton Roberts
Some stories are fun to write, but this story is the one that made me go home and resolve to be a better person. When I was interviewing Kayla Hill about managing her daughter’s condition, I was thinking, How can she discuss this without crying? I’m trying not to cry just hearing about it. A mother standing there and telling me matter-of-factly that she doesn’t know how much time her daughter has, but is committed to making the most of what life her daughter does have. Then it hit me – it’s not that she isn’t devastated, as any parent would be, but rather, knows she has to be brave for both of her daughters by overriding the inevitable anxiety and heartache with action. She has become an advocate for both her daughter and for all those families coping with SMA, a selfless act if I ever saw one.
Mary Ellen Psaltis
A harmonic convergence occurred the day I met entrepreneur Charlotte Cleary, one of the owners of Yelm-based Ice Chips. After devouring their website, I was a bit intimidated by their guts and wild success. But after our meeting, I was inspired and felt like I had spent time with a life-long friend. Thurston County abounds with talented people and fabulous food. In the Chips tells more of that story. Of course, I am also in love with this bicyclist.
As a craft beer enthusiast, I truly enjoyed doing the article about locally grown hops. It was so interesting to visit the Bush Homestead and get insight on a piece of our community’s history. I was even lucky enough to take some of the hops home with me to grow in my own yard!
The story about Tumwater football quarterback, Jayden Croft, was my favorite. It was his senior season and he was a hardworking player. There is so much history with the family and to know that he came up a few plays short in the state championship game is heartbreaking.
My favorite story was certainly the narrative piece I did covering the American Roulette play. I find that writing narratives is especially enjoyable because your voice as a writer can truly show through and you are permitted to express true feeling and emotion through the writing. Also, the play was powerful and moving and I feel so blessed to have been able to view and share my thoughts on the production.
For me, the satisfaction of writing is about getting the chance to share someone’s story. So, a highlight for me this year was sharing the heartwarming story about Dave Wilson, the friend and owner of Dirty Dave’s who died in September. I also enjoyed sharing stories about the goodhearted Northwest Christian Principal, Terry Ketchum, the kind-hearted Rodney O’Neill fulfilling his mother’s dream, the determined bike rider, Scott Whidden who rode from Seattle to Mexico and back, the spirited Three Amigos who rode the STP together, Steve Giesecke‘s remarkable climb of the seven highest peaks on seven continents, Ken Swarner‘s pledge to help the troops, George Coley bringing back Christmas Island and the aging seniors who said you’re never too old to bowl.