I got my start in journalism, writing and editing feature stories for daily papers in Fairbanks and Anchorage. Over the years, I wrote dozens and dozens of stories about Alaskans, who they are and what they care about. I don’t think I could ever go back to a daily deadline, but there’s something about that newspaper byline that still thrills me. I wrote one of my favorite freelance stories in 1988, when I pitched the idea to study and write about Irene Sherman, a well-known “bag lady” with a badly scarred face and hands. She had been born and raised in Fairbanks, and her presence on the city streets was common, but few knew the true story of Irene’s tragic life. Many passed around their own colorful stories, and it was a challenge to find truth when interviewing a slightly off-kilter woman who lived in an old house barricaded by refrigerators, broken pallets, and an assortment of junk. Photographer Erik Hill brilliantly captured images of her everyday life. Here’s the story as it appeared in the Sunday magazine of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:
Writing books involves this thing called “delayed gratification.” You grind out the best book you can write, revise endlessly, submit it to a publisher, and pray for a contract. All of which takes months, and sometimes a year or more. Then there are the steps of editing, designing, and manufacturing the book—again, months go by. Eventually, the pub date arrives and your “baby” is delivered. Several years ago, I returned to some freelance newspapering in my spare time. For me, writing travel features is the best way to taste some instant gratification. It’s days or weeks instead of months and years. Here are some travel pieces that I wrote for The Oregonian, Portland’s daily newspaper. Click on the TITLES to link to the online story.
Greenhorn Gets Ride of a Lifetime on Alaska Wilderness Trek Sunday Oregonian,Â May 17, 2009 Cowboy Todd Stearns rides along Braye Lake inside Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. Study a map of Alaska, and you won’t find a dot for Horsfeld. It lies inside Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, a 13.2-million-acre parcel that became America’s biggest national park in 1980. Located within the preserve area, Horsfeld is one of the rare places in Alaska where you can book a stay at a remote horse camp. I’d lived in Alaska for 21 years but never taken up this kind of adventure. When one of my best friends proclaimed a week in the bush (on horseback!?) our next gal-pal rendezvous, I agreed. Maybe it was because I’d recently reached the windward side of 50.
CHRISTMAS IN NORTH POLE, ALASKA Sunday Oregonian, December 21, 2008 Dear Santa, I sometimes don’t believe in you, but now I’ve changed my mind. I believe in you, now, and if I get these toys for Christmas I’ll be the most believing kid in the world. Yes, Santa, we still believe.
AN ECO-TREK CONNECTS FIVE SISTERS-AREA LODGES Sunday Oregonian, November 9, 2008 Normally you wouldn’t dream of coupling the words “hiking” and “luxury accommodations.” A day on the trail might conclude at a dusty, oven-baked car, or maybe at a campsite, where you fire up the single-burner camp stove. Rehydrated Beef Stroganoff, anyone? Perhaps some delectable gorp?