Ever experience that awful moment when you suddenly realize how boring you are when someone asks what you like to do “in your free time”? Or at least how boring you might come off, depending on what you legitimately consider “fun” (apparently coffee-ing and watching “Jeopardy!” don’t count).
I’m lucky that I work in a job that is 75% comprised of what I enjoy doing anyway (because not ALL if it is actually writing). I guess in a sense my work is sort of a hobby.
It’s more than likely not the thing I’ll be doing for the rest of my life, lest I die from burnout. But what I do enjoy about my job is that I get to be a storyteller of sorts—perhaps not in the same way as fiction writer or filmmaker, but I’m always humbled and honored when I get to learn something unexpected from or about my subjects, and then piece together their stories in my own words.
Sometimes the result affects positive change. Sometimes it just brings awareness. Most of the time, it’s forgotten–but not always.
So when the person I’m talking to gets over the initial surprise of what counts as fun in my book, I’m usually asked what are some cool things I’ve gotten to write about.
Thus, purely out of boredom/my own self-interest/in an effort to not be all “Ummmm…” when prompted by the above question, I’ve narrowed down my top 5 favorite stories I’ve written in the last year or so. Bear in mind that the first few were written when I was new to the game and didn’t have as solid a grasp how to write as decently for print:
- Memoir Remembers “Cowboy Dad”: Melissa Broughton’s book reflects on life with an alcoholic father and learning to heal (06/16/15) http://www.independent.com/news/2015/jun/16/memoir-remembers-cowboy-dad/
A fresh college grad who quickly became aware of the lack of writing jobs out there, I decided to write whatever and whenever I could for the Santa Barbara Independent last summer. It actually didn’t end up being a whole lot, as I managed to snag a paying job just a few weeks later, but it was neat writing for an arts and culture-y newsweekly.
This was one of my first assignments, one that I actually sought out. I remember meeting Melissa in a Starbucks next to a little Italian Market on State Street and hearing her story. I usually budget about 45 minutes in my in-person interviews, but I think I was there for two hours, though it didn’t feel like that much time had gone by at all. As much as writing proved therapeutic for her in the aftermath of her father’s death, writing about her experiences did something for me too.
2. Ramadan: How Santa Barbara Muslims honor their month of fasting, prayer and spiritual reflection” (06/26/15) http://www.independent.com/news/2015/jun/26/ramadan-scorching-hot-holiday/
This story was one of particular interest to me because as someone who attended a Christian uni, I didn’t get as exposed to other faiths as I would’ve liked. Going back and forth with a local imam and other followers of Islam proved to be a pretty educational experience.
3. Memory of artistic, musical teen inspires college scholarship (08/28/15) http://www.mpacorn.com/news/2015-08-28/Community/Memory_of_artistic_musical_teen_inspires_college_s.html
This was my first experience interviewing individuals who’d recently experienced death. I was scared and had no idea how I’d approach the interview, but I look back on the experience fondly .
Rohith “Ro” Gopal was only 18 when he tragically died in a car crash in early 2015. From what I learned from his parents and many friends, he was a talented musician, singer/songwriter, artist and selfless person. He’d been accepted to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston—the letter, his parents received just days after he passed away.
Through my time spent at the Gopals’s home, I learned not only about their son’s life, but how short time truly can be. I only wish Ro had been allotted more of it.
4. Holocaust survivor shares story of escape and triumph (10/16/15) http://www.mpacorn.com/news/2015-10-16/Community/Holocaust_survivor_shares_story_of_escape_and_triu.html
Holocaust survivors are so few and far between these days, I consider myself lucky if I get the chance to hear from them the experiences they went through.
I believe Albert Rosa is about 91 now, but I would’ve guessed he was some years younger than that. At 15, his childhood in Salonika, Greece was ripped from him when the Nazis occupied his home country. He would be one of very few that survived the 10-day train journey to Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, a death march to Dachau in Germany, and would live to serve alongside the American soldiers who freed him, as well as hunt Nazis with an underground Jewish resistance group.
5. Jogger blazes a unique path (10/30/2015) http://www.mpacorn.com/news/2015-10-30/Community/Jogger_blazes_a_unique_path.html
Fun fact: This story actually earned me a California News Press Association award this year—in the Sports Feature category (if you know me at all, you’ll understand the irony in that).
Toni Smith is probably one of the most active people I’ve come across, but does all her hiking, camping, white-water rafting and most recently, running, without her sight. And I thought I was so cool for running 7 miles that one time without passing out.