Wednesday, March 20, 2013

10 years as a journalist

March 31 will mark my 10th anniversary of working for the Daily Citizen. It was supposed to be a temporary job, but the privilege of sharing people's stories and the flexibility in the work hours that allows me to do things like volunteer at a library and help coach middle school track have kept me here. 
Please keep sending me story ideas. 

Here's the column I wrote, introducing myself to readers.

New editor introduces herself
Neighbors came out in a new format last week, and with all the changes, you may have missed a change in the staff.
I'm the new Associate Editor for the Randolph/Cambria/Friesland office, replacing Paul Scharf who has transferred to the Columbus Journal.
I live in Beaver Dam, where my son is a first grader at Prairie View Elementary. When I'm not working, I enjoy reading, taking bike rides with my son, surfing the internet for spoilers to my favorite TV shows, and cooking.
I was born in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and spent my childhood living in small communities in the U.P. before my family moved to a western Colorado town in the early 80s. I learned to ski in the Rocky Mountains, and confess that the “mountains” in the Midwest would amuse me if it weren’t for the puddles that pass for lakes back in Colorado.
My family moved back to Ironwood, Michigan in 1991. After graduating from the same high school my parents and grandparents graduated from, I attended a local community college, and then transferred to Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan. I moved to Wisconsin in 1997.
Writing is not a new profession for me, though I am new to journalism. My previous jobs include working as a technical writer for Alliance Laundry Systems in Ripon and John Deere in Horicon. People often ask what a technical writer does. The simplest explanation is to pull out the owner's manual in a car, the programming guide for a VCR or the operating instructions for a tractor. A technical writer wrote those. Please don't blame me if you can't program your VCRs, as I still have trouble with mine.
I'm not the only member of my family to relocate to southern Wisconsin. My parents reside in Pardeeville, my sister lives in Madison, and one of my cousins is a senior at Beaver Dam High School.
I still visit family and friends in Upper Michigan, and if you run into me after I've spent a weekend up north, listen for my Yooper accent, which is similar to the Canadian accents heard in the great comedy classic "Strange Brew". For those unfamiliar with the term, "Yooper", it's the name given to natives of the U.P. If you know anyone from Lower Michigan, be sure to call them a troll, as they live below the bridge.
Having survived many a U.P. winter, the recent snap of snow and cold weather didn't faze me much. To learn more about the area, I've been flipping through back issues of the paper and found out there was a foot of snow on the ground at this time in 1973. A long weekend of cold and slush doesn't seem so bad. I hope this weekend's weather is more spring-like, as so many communities have Easter egg hunts scheduled.
I'm really looking forward to getting to know people in the community. Since I'm still relatively new to the area, I welcome ideas for stories.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My 2012 Reading Wrap-Up

I read 233 books in 2012, but do not let that number impress you. I read quickly, especially if the book is one I have read before or one written for the youth market.

By the Numbers:
Total Books Read: 233
Books I read again for the second (or third or more time): 29
Romance: 86
Mystery: 22
Young Adult/Juvenile Fiction: 50
Nonfiction: 16 (Nine were memoirs/autobiographies)
Paranormal: 29

Six of the books were novellas or anthologies. Many of the books I read could easily fall into more than one category, especially the paranormal fiction. I enjoy reading series, and 89 of the books I read were part of a series or trilogy.

Here are my 10 favorite books that I read for the first time in 2012, in no particular order.

“Paris in Love” by Eloisa James
I love James as a romance novelist, but she really knocked it out of the park sharing her story of the year she spent in Paris with her family. Someday, when I plan a visit to the City of Light, I will tuck this book into my carry-on bag as a travel guide.

“Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)” by Jenny Lawson
I laughed so hard I nearly pulled my abdominal muscles while reading this book written by the Texas woman also known as The Bloggess. Some chapters also punch you in the gut with their poignancy, as Lawson struggles with mental health and fertility issues. She makes one realize it is OK to not be “normal.” If you find yourself easily offended by foul language, don’t read it.  

“Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein
Part mystery and suspense, set in France during World War II about two friends, one a pilot, and what happens when they get caught behind enemy lines. I found it nearly impossible to put down and a bit heartbreaking.

“The Sky is Everywhere” by Jandy Nelson
Written for the young adult market, this book shares the story of a young woman grieving over the death of her sister. It shares how the loss affects her relationships with her grandmother, uncle, sister’s fiancĂ© and her friends. I especially loved the small notes and poems she scatters in her wake as she tries to cope with her grief.

“Bossypants” by Tina Fey
Another memoir that is hysterically funny yet poignant as Fey shares stories from her life and career and her adventures in motherhood. Brilliant.

“The Shoemaker’s Wife” by Adriana Trigiani
An epic story of family, love, sacrifice and loss that begins in the Italian Alps and moves to the United States, first in New York City and then Minnesota. It is loosely based on the love story of the author’s grandparents.

“The Winter Sea” by Susanna Kearsley
Part romance, part historical fiction and pure magic. The story follows two star-crossed lovers in Scotland several hundred years ago through the eyes of a woman tracking down their story in modern times while inexplicably drawn to her landlord’s son.

“Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” by Christopher McDougall
An excellent book following the story of a native tribe in Mexico that sets amazing strides running barefoot, and those who learned better techniques for running by following their examples.

“A Lady by Midnight” by Tessa Dare
The latest in Dare’s Spindle Cove series. While I loved the first two, “A Night to Surrender” and “A Week to Be Wicked,” this book is my favorite. It follows the story of a woman who discovers the truth about her family while falling for the man who holds a key to her past.

“Case Histories” by Kate Atkinson
The first in her Jackson Brodie mystery series, it shares the story of a former soldier and police officer turned private investigator in Scotland. Excellent books, and the mini-series starring Jason Isaacs is a great adaptation.

Other books I read and liked include Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” trilogy. I also loved Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” and look forward to reading more in that series in 2013. I look forward to watching the movie “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” because I loved Stephen Chbosky’s book. “The Flight of Gemma Hardy” was another excellent book. 
I rated the books I read on a six-point scale. Six books earned a six from me, and three of them are in my top 10 for the year (the other three were books I have read before.) I graded 42 books with a five, so it was a struggle to pick the remaining seven in the Top 10.
When I get hooked on an author, I tend to greedily inhale more books by them. I read at least five or more books by the following authors: Kate Atkinson, Lynn Kurland, Eloisa James, Eileen Wilks and Rachel Gibson. I highly recommend books by the first three.

So, what’s up for 2013? I set my reading goal as 200 books, even though that was my goal for 2012. I hope to find the discipline to read less this year, and instead take better care of myself and spend time with people I love. I already have three books in progress that I did not finish in 2012, and my list of books I want to read on is currently at 224. This does not include my reading wish list on or the endless list I keep in an Excel spreadsheet. To further my temptation to read, I now own an iPad with a Kindle app (thanks to the generosity of my sister.) I have stacks of books at home waiting for me to read them. I will need to set some priorities, and perhaps give up reading fiction for Lent again in an effort to slow myself down.