A shortened (and riveting) account of how I got where I am (existential as that is)
While I studied journalism and public relations at Asbury University in Kentucky, I didn’t immediately become a scribe upon graduation. I had long been interested in all things international (my dad trained bush pilots, so I grew up in East Tennessee hearing the stories of lots of people working in remote international locations). Pursuing that interest, I lived in Washington, DC, immediately after college, exploring possible careers on Capitol Hill or in international development. But my writing/journalism interests wouldn’t go away either. Eventually, I ended up in Nashville, Tenn., working at Starbucks and doing some music industry work….and talking journalism with Tennessean reporters who came for their daily coffee.
I gained my first freelance assignments for The Tennessean in 2003, and a freelance career was born. Still interested in all things international, in 2007 I organized a four-month reporting trip that took me to seven countries in Africa. I worked for nonprofits, magazines, and more while interviewing and meeting people ranging from a former Ugandan president to people living in the parking lot behind a Cape Town liquor store. This was my journalism grad school. It was also the junket that birthed the journalistic vision I’m now pursuing.
After that trip, I spent one- to three-month stints abroad and built a full-time freelancing career—while growing my professional skills through doing a wide range of communications, journalism, writing, and editing projects. Then in 2012 I moved to southern France to study French and be better placed for covering outside-the-U.S. stories. Et voilà!
If we ever meet over coffee, I’ll tell you a less-shortened version of the story—the one that includes all the hairpin turns and risky moves and this-life-has-no-map moments.
Integrity requires that my writing have the intentionality inherent in the rest of my life. Thus, at the root of my work is the real pursuit of stories that honor people who have the least opportunity, for myriad reasons, to tell their own stories. Already firmly established as a freelance writer, several years ago now, I was finally released to explore in earnest my long-standing interest in people and places outside the United States. For two initial years I traveled extensively as a writer, returning to Nashville between months-long stints abroad. These travels deeply inform both my domestic and international work. Since then I have continued traveling and now work from a base in southern France.
As I listen to the people I meet and to the whispered clues of cities and country-sides themselves, both at home and away, I am always looking for the story that isn’t normally told, the story that defies cliché and stereotype, the story one has to lean in close to hear. I seek to understand that story well and be the bridge that conveys that understanding to an audience lacking the time, opportunity or skill to discover the unexpected stories on their own.
When I tell stories, I love to discover new ways of weaving words together. Something pleasant dances inside me when words work themselves into the right rhythm for the story they’re telling. I am inspired by prose writers who are also poets, who write for the sake of beauty not only for the sake of information.