This page features PDFs and links to some articles I’ve had published in a variety of regional and national magazines as well as global online outlets. If you’re an editor who’s interested in working with me or a reader who would like more information on any of these subjects, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
The Power of Parks — BlueRidgeOutdoors.com, April 6, 2017 — This article serves as a follow-up to “Celebrating the National Parks: The Next 100,” which ran in the April 2016 issue of Blue Ridge Outdoors. In this story, I dug deeper into the history of national parks in this country, explored some of the challenges facing national parks in the South, discussed critical programs and benefits provided by the parks, and shared a variety of viewpoints on the future of public lands like these in America.
What Lies Beneath — Blue Ridge Outdoors, April 2017 — I first learned about Mega Cavern perhaps two years before I made it to Louisville, and even though I had read lots about it, I still hadn’t completely grasped just how immense this place is before I arrived. This former limestone quarry spans roughly 100 acres under Louisville, and it houses everything from the city’s road salt reserves to high-security businesses to a worm farm. However, I hope this article gets more riders to learn about the underground mountain biking park in there. Definitely a memorable experience!
Piet Oudolf: Dutch Garden Designer Creates Nature-Inspired Escape on Manhattan’s High Line — Rails to Trails, Spring 2017 — Getting in touch with this source in the Netherlands posed a bit of a challenge, but once we did connect, I enjoyed learning about his inspiration for the gardens he designed along the New York rail-trail’s 1.45-mile route. In the years between its abandonment as a working rail line and its renovation into a recreation outlet, nature took over, and Oudolf retained many of the grasses and flowers that organically sprung up in the absence of human interference. Today, more than four million people visit the High Line each year.
10 Winning Rail-Trail Courses for Horses — Rails to Trails, Spring 2017 — Rail-trails are better known for walking, running and biking opportunities, but many welcome equestrians as well, and I had fun tracking down some of the most scenic horse-friendly trails in the country for this piece. As a child, I found manatees absolutely fascinating, so Florida’s Nature Coast State Trail particularly intrigued me. How cool would it be to cross this trail’s bridge over the Suwanee River trestle on horseback and watch manatees bob along the river underneath?
This Craftsman Has Made 145,000 Hammocks in 30 Years. Did We Mention He’s Blind? — RD.com/Country magazine, February/March 2017 — The editor of Country magazine contacted me to publish an updated version of this article, which ran in its original form in Country’s Best Cabins magazine in June 2012. Between my interviews for the two articles, this hammock maker completed roughly 15,000 more perfect hammocks, using only his fingers to guide his weaving. Seriously impressive.
Honoring the Legacy of African-American Cycling Legend Major Taylor — Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Blog, February 16, 2017 — Many outdoor recreation pursuits, particularly competitive ones, focus on the future and the dream of breaking records someday, but it’s good to reflect on the past and the path that led to where we are today. As an African-American athlete who dominated his sport around the turn of the 20th century, Major Taylor opened the cycling world to inclusive competition despite constant discrimination, physical violence and other threats to his well-being. I enjoyed learning about this stalwart pioneer as I researched this piece, and I’m honored to share his name.
Family Feud: The Annual Hatfield-McCoy Marathon — Blue Ridge Outdoors, February 2017 — The tourism industry is an interesting beast. One hundred and fifty years ago, a complex and violent feud between the Hatfield and McCoy clans threatened to tear apart the area from the easternmost tip of Kentucky to the adjacent corner of southwestern West Virginia, but today, this intriguing heritage keeps the local economy going. Descendants of the infamous Hatfields and McCoys now collaborate on annual events that capitalize on the area’s unique history, including a Hatfield vs. McCoy marathon and a tug-of-war competition between the two families, and area attractions include tours of significant feud sites and 300 miles of ATV trails that crisscross the historic landscape. I can’t help but wonder what Devil Anse Hatfield and Randolph McCoy would think about all this friendliness.
Defining the Landscape — Subaru Drive, Winter 2016 — Since I always knew I wanted to write about how people interact with their physical environments, I added a degree in human geography to my college studies in journalism and English, and it came in really handy for this article in particular. Artistic cartographer Dave Imus personifies complete dedication to a project, and while I sat in my Subaru behind a library in Minneapolis, we had a great map geek phone chat about different types of map projections, ways to visually represent 3D topography on a 2D surface, the million inscrutably minuscule decisions he makes each time he brings a new map to life, and how the field of cartography badly needs the artistry and detail found in medical and botanical illustrations. I loved his one offhand comment about how people run their fingers over the shaded hills portrayed on his paper maps and are surprised that they don’t feel bumps.
Monumental Momentum — The Appalachian Voice, October/November 2016 — The editor of The Appalachian Voice read the version of this article that ran in the July issue of Blue Ridge Outdoors (below) and reached out to see if she could republish it. My editor said yes, and a few weeks after I submitted some minor revisions, I stumbled across the issue containing this article at a restaurant in Kingsport, Tennessee. Pretty cool :).
Pathway to Prosperity — Rails to Trails, Fall 2016 — This cover story is the second article I’ve written based on my June travels to Missouri’s Katy Trail State Park (see “Destination Missouri: Katy Trail State Park” below), and it gave me some more flexibility to explore the economic impact of the trail and the benefits it has brought to users across the state. My editor included two of my photos (the cattle drive sculpture and the Wurst Haus sampling) — always a plus! If you visit the Katy Trail, please reach out and tell me what you think!
4 Challenges Facing America’s National Parks in 2016 (and What You Can Do) — MatadorNetwork.com, September 12, 2016 — While struggling with everything from severe budget shortfalls to climate change to relevancy, the National Park Service has a constant tall order to fill, and in my opinion, the agency does a remarkable job of creatively managing its limited resources to serve the American public. However, we have to show our support and our continuing interest in conserving these public lands if we want to keep them, and articles like this are my attempt to help spread that message.
Celebrate the Holidays in these 7 National Parks — Alamo.com, September 1, 2016 — For years, my clogging group has performed as part of the Pageant of Peace at the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., but I’m not sure I knew it was in a national park for the first few years I participated. Turns out President’s Park is only one national park out of dozens that plan holiday events customized to their unique locations and the heritage they represent. Other national park holiday events not mentioned in this article include historical recreations of holidays spent during the Revolutionary War, memorial illuminations, Christmas candy workshops, sing-along events, folk plays of the nativity based on Latino traditions, and more.
Rising to the Challenge — Wonderful West Virginia, September 2016 — Twitter’s been getting a lot of attention this year as Donald Trump’s megaphone of choice, but I love it as a tool to connect with article sources. When I got the assignment to write an article on the 100-mile West Virginia State Parks Chief’s Challenge, I looked up #chiefschallenge on Twitter and came across one guy who posted an innocuous tweet about knocking off 1.1 miles toward the challenge one afternoon. I contacting him, not expecting much, but it turns out he’s a former wheelchair user who now hikes on public lands across West Virginia as a burgeoning long-distance walker. Also, as a leader with Active Southern West Virginia, a nonprofit dedicated to creating healthy local communities, he motivates others to do the same. He’s a remarkable human being. Twitter, man.
Where to Vacation in Wisconsin? The Delightful Dells — Alamo.com, August 19, 2016 — This assignment definitely represented a shift from my regular public lands beat, but I enjoyed visiting the area nonetheless! Wisconsin Dells got its start as a tourism destination based on its unusual rock formations alongside the Wisconsin River, including the meandering Witches Gulch pathway (pictured at left) that I saw on a boat tour, but it has since made a name for itself the Waterpark Capital of the World. I spent two days there checking out everything from an evening show featuring acrobatic water skiers and a stunt chihuahua to a serene adults-only spa lodge to a historical circus headquarters complete with live tigers and elephants.
12 Surprising Facts About America’s National Parks — MatadorNetwork.com, August 16, 2016 — I recycled many of these facts from the similar Alamo.com series linked below, but several are new. My editor asked me to send her some potential facts to include, and she was blown away to learn that the president lived in a national park and that she’d never heard of the largest one. Lots to learn in this Centennial year!
Network of Adventure — Wonderful West Virginia, August 2016 — I love when editors contact me out of the blue to offer work, especially when it’s something right up my alley! My friend Roxanne served as a great source for this piece on geocaching in West Virginia’s state parks, and I interviewed her by phone around 10 p.m. one night from a Walmart parking lot in St. Paul, then stayed up all night working on a different article in my passenger seat. Gotta love the freelance travel writer’s life!
Destination Missouri: Katy Trail State Park — Rails to Trails, Green Issue 2016/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Blog, July 11, 2016 — In June, I spent a week on Missouri’s Katy Trail, a rail-trail that runs nearly the full width of the state. My main assignment was a cover feature for the magazine’s upcoming fall issue, but as a precursor to that, my editor also had me do this online-only photo feature. I’m definitely still a student photographer, so it’s encouraging when my shots turn out well enough for editors to feature them prominently.
Monumental Momentum — Blue Ridge Outdoors, July 2016 — In President Obama’s second term, he has emerged as a significant friend to public lands, protecting more acres of public lands and waters than any of his predecessors. Before his term ends next January, a group of advocates in West Virginia hopes he will establish the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument they’ve proposed and protect 47,815 acres of the Mountain State from future development. The supporters I interviewed for this piece spoke passionately about the landscape they’re working feverishly to save, as there’s no guarantee the next administration will make public lands a priority.
Get Up Close at Gator Country — Beaumont, Texas, Convention and Visitors Bureau Blog, June 16, 2016 — While visiting Big Thicket National Preserve in east Texas, I ventured out to Gator Country as well and got a cute new Facebook picture with a baby alligator as well as the info needed for this assignment. The owners of this rescue operation capture nuisance alligators across Texas and bring them back to their Beaumont facility, and several times a day, they host educational programs to teach visitors about these reptiles and the other creatures they house onsite. Worth a visit if you’re ever in the area!
Finding Freedom in Nature — Blue Ridge Outdoors, June 2016 — In October 2015, I met a compelling Army veteran who had returned from war consumed by rage and bitterness, and he wound up addicted to cocaine and alcohol in his attempt to drown out the guilt of surviving when people he saw as more worthy did not. This spring, I met a Navy vet younger than me who came back from four tours of duty and overindulged in alcohol, women and violence while trying to outrun haunting memories of his service. But experiences in nature transformed both of them and helped both men turn their lives around. Their stories aren’t unique, and I was pleased to learn about several excellent programs that help struggling veterans find peace through wilderness experiences as I worked on this article.
Series: Fun Facts About U.S. National Parks — Alamo.com — Sometimes it’s surprising what will take off! Alamo Rent A Car commissioned me to gather and write up 100 interesting facts about America’s national parks, and they split the list up into these six installments. All of them performed beautifully on social media, garnering hundreds of comments and shares plus thousands of likes on each post.
The Basics, April 4, 2016
Geographic Curiosities, April 20, 2016
Where to Stay, What to Do, May 11, 2016
Natural Phenomena, May 25, 2016
Weird Facts, June 7, 2016
The People Behind the Parks, June 16, 2016
10 Adventures You Should Be Planning for the Summer of 2016 — MatadorNetwork.com, June 1, 2016 — I’ve explored most of the destinations noted in this article, and I love sharing word of places I really enjoy with different audiences. It’s exciting to help people learn new things, and I hope even light pieces like this bring others some fun in their lives.
5 Favorite Trailheads Accessible without a Vehicle — Blue Ridge Outdoors, May 2016 — One of the biggest hindrances urban dwellers face when trying to get out into nature is a lack of transportation to do so, as many city residents depend completely on metro and bus systems to get around. However, I didn’t realize just how severely limited options for accessing large public landscapes really are until I began digging into this article. If it seems like a stretch to include a park that requires a Greyhound or Amtrak ride, then a city bus ride, then an additional 20-minute walk, you’re right — except that’s seriously how difficult it was to find non-city parks that were remotely accessible. This situation makes programs like Ticket to Ride absolutely essential if we want the next generation to give a damn about the environment and the future health of our planet.
Find stories in the park service’s centennial celebration — Outdoors Unlimited, April/May 2016 — As a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, I sometimes contribute articles for the association’s magazine, and since I’m spending so much of this year writing about the National Park Service’s Centennial, I offered to write a piece sharing advice for other journalists doing the same. The NPS Centennial office’s public affairs representative has been an invaluable source for me so far this year, and I greatly appreciated her insight for all journalists looking to cover this significant milestone in America’s history.
The Next 100 — Blue Ridge Outdoors, April 2016 — My editor at Blue Ridge Outdoors gave me an undetermined assignment for a national parks feature nearly six months before this ran, and we spent some time brainstorming the best topic and angle for the article. Ultimately, we decided to focus on challenges the Park Service currently faces as well as looming threats on the horizon. I wanted to take the opportunity to not just give readers something pessimistic to read, but also to give them information they could use to help respond to the needs of their national parks. My editor loved the idea, and I hope the resulting article opens readers’ eyes to the challenges their favorite parks face and inspires them to pitch in.
Kayak the Big Thicket on the Cook’s Lake to Scatterman Paddling Trail — Beaumont, Texas, Convention and Visitors Bureau Blog, April 1, 2016 — In early March, I visited Beaumont, Texas, and the nearby Big Thicket National Preserve as part of my ongoing National Park Service road trip, and Gerald Cerda of Big Thicket Outfitters gave me an excellent tour of part of the preserve on the Neches River. I enjoyed a relaxing morning on the water chatting with Gerald, who has been paddling these waters for 50 years and helped establish this state paddling trail, and I highly recommend him and his company for an on-the-water trip in the Big Thicket. You won’t soon forget the intriguing collection of cypress knees poking up along your paddling route or the dozens of turtles you’ll see sunning themselves on logs near the water’s surface.
Travel Guide to the Best State Parks in North Carolina — MatadorNetwork.com, March 21, 2016 — The neighborhood where I grew up in North Raleigh, N.C., backs up to Falls Lake State Recreation Area, and I spent countless hours as a kid exploring its woods and waterways. North Carolina State Parks manages Falls Lake along with 40 other parks statewide, and I got to dig into a few more of them for this assignment. Did you know you can find five carnivorous plants in Carolina Beach State Park?
The Pioneers Project — BlueRidgeOutdoors.com, March 2016 — I worked on this project for a solid two months (basically it was 100 short articles), and I think the final word count came in just shy of 18,000 words. Whew! However, I really enjoy research on topics that interest me, and these 100 pioneers in outdoor recreation and conservation across the Southeast definitely qualified. I hope this served as a respectful tribute to these trailblazers who contributed so much to a landscape and field I love.
11 Reasons North Carolina is the Most Underrated State in the US — MatadorNetwork.com, February 12, 2016 — Although it’s not full of groundbreaking information or thoughtful insights, this article will always be special to me because a) I got to write a travel piece on the home of my childhood, a state I’ve grown to love more and more since I moved away more than a decade ago, and b) the editor (who I didn’t know beforehand) found and approached me out of the blue instead of the other way around, which helped affirm my faith that this freelance career can actually be successful :).
Seeing in the Dark — Blue Ridge Outdoors, January 2016 — For this article, I traveled to Staunton River State Park in southern Virginia for the October 2015 Staunton River Star Party, and no joke, the sky really was spectacular from this vantage point. Dark-sky parks have the rare opportunity to showcase the heavens to people who otherwise may never get to see them in their full glory, and the impact of this true view of the sky can cause even the chattiest person to fall quiet and take it all in. Click here for info about the next Star Party at Staunton River State Park — Jayme Hanzak, Adam Layman and all of the organizers really put together a top-notch event.
A View From… the Wild — Rails to Trails, Winter 2016 — The tough part of this assignment wasn’t finding information on rail-trails with interesting wildlife — those exist all over the place. However, tracking down correlating high-quality photos of the animals on them wasn’t as easy! Fortunately, several kind hobbyist photographers shared their images for publication, and I was particularly thrilled to get some great photos of the sea lions that bark at runners along Oregon’s coastal Astoria Riverwalk :).
Hall of Fame Trails — Rails to Trails, Winter 2016 — The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy inducted two trails into their 2015 Hall of Fame: the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the adjoining Heritage Rail Trail County Park in York County, Pennsylvania, and Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail in Baltimore County, Maryland. As I learned about them for “Symbolic Legacy” and “Midwest Masterpiece,” linked above, it struck me how well these trails unite the past and the future. If you aren’t familiar with rail-trails, visit RTC’s TrailLink resource and see if any exist in your area. They offer easygoing opportunities for recreation with beautiful views you won’t see along roadside paths, and they usually have some cool back stories to go along.
Game On — Blue Ridge Outdoors, November 2015 — Ever since I learned about Pocahontas County, West Virginia’s annual Roadkill Cook-Off while working on another article, I’ve wanted to go. In September 2015, I finally had my chance. Despite a cold drizzle, thousands of people showed up to taste-test bear, deer, chukar, pheasant and other wild game that, all right, wasn’t really made of animals scraped from the side of the road. It all tasted pretty good! I left with recipes for venison chili and biscuits that I can’t wait to make soon :).
A First-Timer’s Guide to Conference — Outdoors Unlimited, June/July 2015 — I attended my first Outdoor Writers Association of America conference in 2014, and a few months before the 2015 conference, OU Editor Kelsey Dayton reached out to ask me to write a how-to piece for “green ribbon” attendees. Of course, I was more than happy to do so. I had to miss the 2015 event due to a wedding, but I hope this article helped remove any confusion or apprehension first-time attendees might have otherwise experienced. Can’t wait for the 2016 event in Billings, Montana!
Selling South Dakota — Parks & Recreation, May 2015 — I was privileged to interview South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard during a week-long trip to the Mount Rushmore State in September 2014, and his work conserving his state’s natural resources in the interest of long-term environmental and economic prosperity seems like a good model for other leaders to follow. Furthermore, he’s a genuinely nice guy with a cool background, and I enjoyed talking with him for a little bit during my visit to Custer State Park for the annual Buffalo Roundup. I look forward to visiting the state again in the future and getting to see some of its other hidden corners.
Hunger Games Hysteria — Parks & Recreation, March 2015 — Archery’s fun, but it’s a sport I hadn’t thought much about since I took it as an elective class in middle school. However, with archery playing a major role in several blockbuster movies over the past few years, it’s becoming majorly popular at parks nationwide. Interestingly, a significant proportion of those intrigued by the sport are young women and girls, driven by the take-charge examples set by heroines Katniss of The Hunger Games and Merida of Brave. The promising statistics and the confidence-boosting aspects of the sport really encouraged me as I researched and interviewed for this piece, and I hope archery continues to spark young girls long after Hollywood takes the spotlight away.
Sensory Sojourn — Parks & Recreation, December 2014 — As a member of the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals, I get a weekly email newsletter with updates from around the field, and one mentioned this all-sensory trail that a state park in Maryland built in cooperation with a local school for the blind. I was curious to learn more, so I called up the project manager, and he told me all about the fragrant herbs they planted for people to smell, the sound garden with musical instruments installed for kids to play and hear, the bluebird boxes they included to attract colorful and singing wildlife, and the lamb’s ear and other unique foliage they established for tactile interest. After the article came out, a park manager in South Dakota contacted me to say they loved the idea and were going to start planning a similar trail in their community. So cool!
Making Peace with the Serial Comma: Why One Editor Changed Her Style — Outdoors Unlimited, October/November 2014 — This article had been an idea I had been mulling over in my mind for awhile and had planned to write as a blog entry for this site. When I met OU Editor Kelsey Dayton at the 2014 Outdoor Writers Association of America conference, we talked about a few shared experiences we had as editors, and I confessed to her that I was slowly becoming a convert in favor of the serial comma. She got a kick out of the thought of my inner turmoil and asked me to write up my thoughts for the magazine instead. So I did. A few of my fellow OWAA members reached out after reading and let me know they also struggle with commas, so at least it’s nice to know I don’t wrestle with this alone!
A View From… Rail-Trail Art — Rails to Trails, Fall 2014 — After a former NRPA communications manager left the association, she continued writing for Parks & Recreation magazine as a freelancer, and we became professional friends over email. I was thrilled for her when she was hired as a content strategy manager for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and editor-in-chief of Rails to Trails magazine, and I was even more excited when she reached out to me with this article assignment on art found along trails and particularly rail-trails across the United States. In my research, I came across this quirky guy in Florida who started a fence-painting project along a rail-trail that has since become an artistic obsession. However, I was most intrigued by the anonymous but considerate graffiti artist in South Dakota who painted a tribute to Nelson Mandela on removable plastic wrap following the South African leader’s death.
Reaching New Heights — Parks & Recreation, July 2014 — For the third year in a row, I covered NRPA’s annual Parks Build Community project, which gathers partners to build or rebuild a park in the city that hosts our conference that year. While in Charlotte doing initial research for this article, I attended a community planning meeting where park planners invited local residents to weigh in on the plans and designs for their neighborhood park in Lincoln Heights. Mrs. Mary Jones attended the meeting as an advocate for her neighborhood, and she expressed her wish for a paved and well-lit access point to the park from the south side. The park designers had already worked this request into the plan, and I wrote a blog entry for NRPA about the importance of park access in this community and everywhere. When I returned for the reopening of the park in October, I was thrilled to run into Mrs. Jones again, and she consented to an off-the-cuff video interview where she showed me the improved access point to the park from her side of the neighborhood. She was such a sweetie, and I hope this park continues to be everything she dreamed it would be.
Parks for All — Parks & Recreation, July 2014 — One of my colleagues learned about the extensive work the Vancouver Parks Board did to welcome trans and gender-variant members of their community and make their programs and facilities more inclusive, and she passed it along as an idea for the magazine. When I began researching the group’s work, I was seriously impressed. They spent a year consulting members of Vancouver’s trans and gender-variant community to determine areas for improvement, evaluating facilities and programs for gender biases, and interviewing staff for points of concern. The team ultimately compiled their findings and recommendations in an exhaustive document that outlines challenges this community faces as they try to use their city’s park and recreation services, and it details recommendations for improving gender-sensitive situations. I’m hopeful that Vancouver will implement these suggestions to improve access for the city’s LGBT population, and it looks like they’re well on their way and operating with a truly welcoming mindset.
Trailblazers — Parks & Recreation, June 2014 — Over dinner one night, my former boyfriend, an enthusiastic and highly skilled downhill mountain biker, brought up the idea of an article on illegally vs. collaboratively built trail systems for the magazine. During his college years in Boulder, Colorado, he told me he had gotten chased by cops too many times to count, just because he was riding his bike. A little rueful of his lawless activity, I was prepared to get a lot of negative feedback about mountain bikers when I reached out to the park and recreation community for input, but instead, I got more than 50 responses from park and recreation professionals, the vast majority of whom spoke enthusiastically about positive experiences working with mountain biking advocates and volunteer chapters of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). Check out this blog entry for more backstory on the article. I really enjoyed working on this one.
Frosty Competition — Parks & Recreation, June 2014 — You never know when an idea for a story will come along, and this one arrived at a trivia night in a D.C. bar during NRPA’s annual Legislative Forum. A group of co-workers and I were planning to meet up, and one invited two NRPA members who had flown in from Alaska to meet their congressional representatives and advocate for parks and rec. Over beers, they told me that they had just finished hosting the Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, a competition that attracted two thousand athletes from northern regions all around the Arctic Circle. I had never heard about it, but I definitely wanted to learn more. Turns out it includes standard sports as well as traditional Arctic Sports and Dene Games, like snowsnake, knuckle hop and Alaskan high kick. I’d love to attend the next Games, held in Greenland in 2016, and am planning to pitch an article query to a few publications.
Meet the Mayor: Jacksonville, Florida’s Alvin Brown — Parks & Recreation, April 2014 — Kayaking is one of my favorite things to do, so I LOVED that the mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, makes it and other forms of outdoor recreation major priorities for his city.
Park Champion — Parks & Recreation, March 2014 — NRPA’s CEO conducted this interview with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, but I wrote the intro, which the DOI’s press secretary shared with Secretary Jewell. Apparently she loved it :). I have high hopes for her future as senior manager of our country’s natural resources.
Out of the Shadows — Parks & Recreation, January 2014 — For a long time, I had been wanting to write an article on successful park programs for the homeless, and I wish I had been able to include more examples in this article. You can read more about the background on this article in my blog entry found here.
Steadfast Survivor — Parks & Recreation, September 2013 — I don’t remember how I learned about this callery pear tree’s story, but given that it was the last living thing pulled from the rubble at Ground Zero following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and that dedicated nurturing by the NYC parks department helped restore it to health, I knew I wanted to cover it as a small memorial in honor of the victims. It has been replanted at its original home and is, last I checked, flourishing beautifully.
Little Guy, Big Dreams — Parks & Recreation, September 2013 — I’m a sucker for a disaster story with a happy ending, and this one was a doozy. A few months after the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people, I got a Google Alert about Parker Pustejovsky, a 4-year-old boy who lost his father in the catastrophe. He raised more than $100,000 by press time selling hot dogs in order to rebuild the destroyed park across the street in memory of his dad and the other first responders lost that day. I spoke with Parker’s grandparents, some of the organizers who helped coordinate the fundraising efforts and the mayor, and it was clearly an incredibly personal project for all of them. At last check, fundraising was still going strong, and the city council had approved the park concept, so I hope to do a follow-up piece once it’s all said and done.
Restoring Moore by Storm — Parks & Recreation, June 2013 — The tornado that destroyed much of Moore, Oklahoma, had been the top news story for a few days when my phone rang at the office. When the caller identified himself as the director of parks and recreation in Moore, my eyes went wide, and my editor was happy to bump an already-written article to accommodate this last-minute one on the support Moore’s parks got starting immediately after the tornado hit. At the end, we included a link to a Coke contest that Moore had entered for $100,000 in grant money to restore its parks and facilities. I was thrilled to learn a few months later that it had won.
Breaking Ground — Parks & Recreation, June 2013 — Like the “Community Investment” article published in October 2012, this feature was on one of NRPA’s Parks Build Community projects, which is the association’s annual initiative that helps showcase the transformative power of a park on its community. I visited Houston’s Shady Lane Park in May 2013 before they broke ground and met with at least a dozen groups that would be pitching in on the project. To me, the most significant part of the story was the fact that it had been overrun with enough seedy characters that parents didn’t feel safe letting their kids go there, but the community took it back, and lots of people were walking the trails and using the playground on the first day I visited. It was completely transformed by the time I came back in October for the grand reopening, though — all of those concept drawings came true!
Under Fire — Parks & Recreation, April 2013 — Our production process got extremely backed up in 2013, and we were actually just about to send this issue to the printer when the Boston Marathon bombings occurred. I quickly had to broaden the focus of this story from just preparing for active-shooter situations to preparing for any kind of human threat. I hope the article was seen in a positive light following the events of the day.
Power to the Kids — Parks & Recreation, February 2013 — Normally, Parks & Recreation just focuses on domestic information relevant to the field, so I particularly enjoyed branching out and looking overseas for some examples of energy-generating play equipment. I love how in some areas, if kids want light to do their homework, they’ll need to go out and play to bank up the juice to power their lamps. Very innovative thinking!
Keeping History Alive — Parks & Recreation, October 2012 — I visited Nashville on the same trip in which I visited Chattanooga and Franklin, Tennessee, (see “ZIP 37402” and “Immersed in History” below), and I loved all of the cool state history features included in the state’s Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, they’re hosting tons of history interpreters who run participatory living history exhibits and programs, so there’s a lot going on!
Community Investment — Parks & Recreation, October 2012 — I didn’t have a chance to visit this Los Angeles park until after this article was published, but when I did see it in person, I was thrilled to see dozens of kids playing on the playground, testing out the exercise equipment and waiting patiently for their turn on the whirl. NRPA helped coordinate this park build to provide a safe place for play in an area where thousands of kids had nowhere else to be kids.
Hometown Homage — Parks & Recreation, October 2012 — Parks & Recreation has a long history of profiling mayors who are big supporters of parks and recreation, and for my section of a three-part feature on top mayors in 2012, I spoke with Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. He was a great interview subject and spoke a lot more about the city he clearly loved than about his own accomplishments there, but I particularly liked his very successful “This City is Going on a Diet” campaign that resulted in more than one million pounds lost by the residents of OKC.
L.A. Parks Gang Up for Kids — Parks & Recreation, October 2012 — It’s been awhile since I wrote this article on a highly effective gang prevention program run by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, but part of the story still sticks with me. A nine-year-old boy who was already heavily involved in drugs, drinking and crime got involved in this program and (last I heard) had really turned things around and was doing well in school and contributing to his community. This story inspired me to propose an education session at our annual member conference on Marketing the Park and Recreation Story to help members show elected officials and budget makers the impact that parks and recreation can have on their communities, and although we haven’t been able to pull this off just yet, we hope to do so at one of our future conferences.
Playing to the Crowd — Parks & Recreation, September 2012 — Although I generally prefer features and articles with some human interest angles, it’s nice to mix things up with logistical pieces every once in awhile, like this one on planning successful park events.
Cunningham Park — Parks & Recreation, August 2012 — In this article, the first one I worked on after starting at the National Recreation and Park Association, I focused on the recovery of a park in Joplin, Missouri, that was essentially the worst-hit section of town during the May 2011 tornado that took the lives of 161 people. The park honors them as well as the 170,000 volunteers who arrived after the storm to help rebuild. I was really moved by the way so many locals rallied around the rebuilding of this park as a key symbol of the rebuilding of their hometown, particularly one young woman whose brother died during the storm on the drive home from his high school graduation.
Hammocks by Haddock — Country’s Best Cabins, June 2012 — Some journalists are annoyed by PR people, but I get some great stuff completely out of the blue through press releases and the like. The inspiration for this story came in the mail one day in an informational packet that mentioned this blind hammock maker in North Carolina who has never dropped a stitch. My editors loved the idea of a profile for our outdoor living issue, so I called him up and wrote this piece. Afterward, I mentioned it to my mom, who told me that she actually owns a hammock that he wove. Small world!
How To: Stain and Maintain Your Wooden Deck — Country’s Best Cabins, June 2012 — For another article that draws on my real life, this guide to keeping your deck in working condition also stemmed from lessons learned the hard way. I grew up with a deck made of pine boards, and I think the builder got a deal on some knotted planks, because there were a few spots where the sap would ooze out of old burls on hot summer days. To further highlight the point, my brother went out and took several photos of the well-worn deck, two of which we used in the article (the gray decks shown on pages 13 and 16). I’m sure my parents were so pleased to have their home featured in a national magazine this way!
ZIP 71901 — Timber Home Living, June 2012 — Normally, “Talk of the Town” pieces run just one page long, but after a five-day press tour to Hot Springs, Arkansas, in September 2011, I had so much good information and so many photos that my editor allowed this to run to two pages. Even so, I didn’t have room to include a lot of the more intriguing details about the town’s history… like the fact that Al Capone used it as a hideout during the town’s gangsta days. I stayed in the room one floor above his suite at the Arlington Hotel :).
Savvy Shopper — Timber Home Living, June 2012 — As I did with Getaway Gear in Country’s Best Cabins, I used to gather useful product ideas for Timber Home Living and present them in this column. Sometimes, that had its perks! I contacted the Bialetti folks about their pasta pot and espresso maker shown in this review, and they agreed to send along some samples for our online giveaways. They also sent an extra pasta pot and espresso maker for me :). I’ll tell you, that pasta pot is a godsend, and I use it just about every night to cook!
Seasonal Safeguards — Country’s Best Cabins, Cozy Cabins 2012 — My family inherited my dad’s childhood home in rural western Pennsylvania, and although we visit it frequently when we’re in town to visit family, it does sometimes sit empty for a month or two at a time. So we’ve learned the hard way about things like closing toilet lids so the water won’t evaporate and let noxious septic gases in the house! For this article about opening up and closing down your vacation home, I drew on this experience for a lot of the points mentioned :).
Attention to Details — Log Home Living, May 2012 — I would love to live in some of the homes featured in the magazines I worked on at Home Buyer Publications, such as this 3,800-square-foot stunner in Breckenridge, Colorado. The homeowners and I talked for about an hour about all of the ins and outs of their home, and it was clear they’re very passionate about the masterpiece they created. It’s available as a rental, so if you’re ever in the area and need a gorgeous three-bedroom, it’s worth checking out.
Homeward Bound — Log Home Living, May 2012 — This short piece about the log cabins of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood spurred a friendly debate with one of my editors. I posted something about it on Facebook, and several people responded, so I wrote up a little blog entry about the small but mighty battle over grammar and style. Oh, the trials and tribulations of an editor…
Appalachian Artistry — Country’s Best Cabins, April 2012 — One of my favorite parts of my April 2011 trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee (see “Goin’ to the Chapel” and “Cabin Capital, USA” below) was the afternoon where we explored the Arts & Crafts Trail, and I was blown away by the collection of talent and heritage gathered in this eight-mile loop. It’s home to more than 120 artists and galleries, and I visited only a few, but it was very inspiring to see so many people keeping their traditions alive. If you need a handmade, old-fashioned broom for your cabin or a whimsical carving of a cute woodland creature, look no further.
Getaway Gear — Country’s Best Cabins, April 2012 — Home Buyer Publications often features product reviews in its magazines (this one covers spring cleaning products, garden gadgets, outdoor rec gear and bird attractions) and product giveaways on its websites, but before this article, the two hadn’t really coincided. Starting with this feature, I began gathering product samples of featured items to use as giveaways, and it turned into an extremely popular initiative so far! I checked the response on this first contest the day after the magazine hit newsstands, and by that point, it had already garnered nearly 2,100 entries, 300+ tweets and 100+ Facebook likes. Not bad.
Antique Accents — Country’s Best Cabins, April 2012 — Before we planned out this issue, a friend asked what articles I had coming up, and I mentioned that I needed some ideas for affordable finishing touches for your cabin. She suggested antique accessories and showed me her friend’s blog that included a really cool photo of skeleton locks. My editor loved the idea, and we actually ended up using the photo that inspired the whole thing. Aside from press tours, my work life at Home Buyer Publications rarely coincided with my personal life, but this was a fun little adventure that ended up working out great for everyone.
Goin’ To The Chapel — Log Home Living, February 2012 — When I went on the aforementioned trip to Gatlinburg, I knew there would be at least one log wedding chapel in the area, and I figured it would be a lot like the Elvis-run quick-stop shops you hear about in Las Vegas. Little did I know how many log chapels there are scattered across the country, or that they generally provide a really beautiful, touching service. One of our summer interns found out that I’d be working on this story and thought the idea of a log wedding chapel was so cool, she decided to get married in one.
Cabin Capital, USA — Log Home Living, December 2011 — If you want a cabin vacation, the Smokies is the place to be. Aside from thousands of vacation cabins dotting the hills, there are log-cabin wedding chapels, log-cabin spas and log-cabin pancake houses, not to mention the historic log cabins left over from a simpler time. I traveled to the area in April 2011 and have also published two additional articles based on the trip.
Rising from the Ashes — Country’s Best Cabins, December 2011 — I had so much fun researching this article… The college crew that built the cabin featured in the story had an awesome sense of humor and a hilarious blog, and I wrote a little more about some of the details I couldn’t fit in the story here.
Appalachian Getaway — Country’s Best Cabins, December 2011 — My former boyfriend took me to West Virginia one weekend to teach me how to downhill mountain bike (i.e., painfully sacrifice my palms to the mountain gods), and in the process, I learned a little about this awesome county that’s got a lot going on. In September 2015, I went back to cover their annual roadkill cook-off for Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine… yum!
Traditional Furniture — Timber Home Living, December 2011 — In college, I took a graduate-level Literary Journalism course with two-time Pulitzer Prizewinner Jon Franklin, and I wish I could have written this story in more of the narrative form he taught. The featured furniture maker has been handcrafting traditional furniture for 40 years, and shortly before I contacted him for this article, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I can’t imagine a more crushing blow for someone who depends on his hands so much. He’s made the best of it, though, leaning on his fellow craftsmen to carry on the business. It’s quite a story, and I hope I did it justice in the space available.
Grieving During The Holidays — Touched by Cancer, November/December 2011 — Although I don’t normally turn to friends and family to be sources for articles I write, my mom’s co-worker and close friend served as my main non-clinical source for this piece, and she was absolutely wonderful. We talked about a lot of really personal, emotional things that a lot of people might not want to open up about, but her honesty helped me create something that I hope others can relate to.
Immersed In History — Country’s Best Cabins, October 2011 — After reading The Widow of the South several times over the past few years, meeting New York Times bestselling author Robert Hicks while on a press tour to Tennessee was this book nerd’s dream come true, and our interview for this article on his 18th-century cabin really capped that off. If you’re at all interested in Civil War history or just good historical fiction with compelling characters and engaging story lines, go buy Widow or his second novel, A Separate Country. Both will keep you captivated, I promise.
Getaway Gear — Country’s Best Cabins, October 2011 — Starting in this issue, CBC began running a new lifestyle section, and one included feature will highlight several products that might be of interest to the cabin-minded consumer. Too bad my editor never went for the inflatable moose head I once got as a Christmas gift for my cousin…
Putting Cancer On Trial — Touched by Cancer, September/October 2011 — OK, so maybe I do sometimes use friends and family as sources :). My college boss at UMD’s Writing Center was the perfect person to speak to for this article. This was a pretty technical article about clinical trials, AKA something I know nothing about, but I did a ton of research, and it was for a lay audience, so I think I did OK.
Cabin of Grandeur — Log Home Living, September 2011 — This article’s based on another Wikipedia find, though my editor has known about it for years. Quebec’s Le Chateau Montebello is believed to be the largest log structure in the world, and although it was built in the midst of the Great Depression, the luxury it offers is unparalleled. I spoke at length with the director of maintenance, who has quite the job with 10,000 logs to care for! It’s a very beautiful place and would definitely be worth the trip if you’re traveling to Montreal.
Live In Harmony — Country’s Best Cabins, Floor Plans 2011 — Country’s Best Cabins’ annual Floor Plans issue is generally devoted to a design contest, advice on modifying stock plans, floor plan software, etc., but I approached my editor with an idea for an article on feng shui for log homes, and she went for it. I’ve since applied some of the concepts I learned to my home and office spaces, and while I can’t say with certainty that these modifications have added positive qi, the fact that people can’t sneak up and scare the living daylights out of me while I’m working is a definite improvement!
ZIP 37402 — Timber Home Living, August 2011 — I visited Chattanooga in November 2010 (the photos you see in this article are mine) and absolutely loved it — I could easily see myself making a home here. We had to cut the entire section of the article that detailed some of the outdoor recreation opportunities in the area, but you can easily go hiking, rock climbing, hang gliding, kayaking and more without going more than a few minutes from downtown.
Jersey Shores — Country’s Best Cabins, August 2011 — Who says Wikipedia isn’t a good source? I randomly searched “cabin” one day and learned that this small town is home to the largest concentration of log cabins in the world. New Jersey always seemed way too loud and crowded for me, but after talking with some of the folks here, it definitely sounds like it has its perks.
Turning Dust Into Green — Country’s Best Cabins, June 2011 — I’m not normally interested in the details of technological innovations, but this one’s kind of cool. The president of a log-home company created a custom kiln system that operates on burning sawdust, which is obviously a plentiful byproduct at their mill. He’s saved well over a million gallons of fuel oil in the process. Not bad.
What’s New In Log Homes? — Country’s Best Cabins, June 2011 — This article required an obscene amount of research, most of which was spent eliminating the dozens of possibilities I didn’t include. The material’s a bit dry, but I got several emails from readers thanking me for the information, so I guess it was well received.
Historic Host — Log Home Living, June 2011 — Of course, since this article was for a log-home magazine, I had to focus on the “oldest cabins in the National Park Service still used for lodging” angle, but to me, the coolest part was the hike to get there. I first visited Tennessee’s Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area in summer 2008 with some study abroad friends, and on the hike in to the cabins, we came across the Twin Arches. These natural phenomena are much like Virginia’s Natural Bridge, but there are two of them, and they’re not easily accessible by just pulling off of a major road. I was absolutely taken aback, especially since my friends who had already been there hadn’t told us what we’d be coming across!
The Word Worse Than Cancer: Recurrence — Touched by Cancer, May/June 2011 — This was a touchy subject to write about, because I needed to balance reassurance with reality, and it took a lot longer to write than most articles of this length. I hope I handled the topic well.
Timeless Renewal — Timber Home Living, April 2011 — During my time with Home Buyer Publications, I mainly dabbled in the different departments and service story areas of the magazines, but every once in awhile, I got to do one of the big home tour features. This one was a lot of fun to work on — I loved how the builder has an entire business of finding old, rundown structures and salvaging them for new life in people’s homes.
Foods That Soothe — Touched by Cancer, March/April 2011 — In the past few years, both my mother and a good friend (who’s my age) have kicked breast cancer’s ass, and I found that no matter how much you try to help, you always feel at a loss for how to make it better. When my former National Fire & Rescue editor let me know he was working for a regional magazine on cancer and needed freelancers, I jumped at the chance. Articles like this one, which offers culinary and nutritional tips for people with cancer-affected diets, aren’t the most interesting things I’ve ever written, but they’re rewarding to me because, for once, I feel like I might actually have a chance to make things a little easier for someone who needs a break.
Home Sweet Home — Country’s Best Cabins, March 2011 — Most of our readers are either planning, building or just dreaming about a cabin of their own, and since custom projects take a lot of decision-making, I figured it might be nice if we interviewed a few “been there, done that” couples. They gave a lot of great advice, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to speak with a few of our readers.
Yosemite’s Splendor — Log Home Living, January 2011 — The cabin featured in this article was built on an interesting slice of privately owned land surrounded on three sides by Yosemite National Park. The owner contacted me out of the blue and offered to fly me out there and stay at his expense, which I would have absolutely loved to do, but it didn’t end up working out. The owner specifically made sure that many of the cabin’s best features weren’t shown in the photographs, so guests will be pleasantly surprised when they walk in the door.
A Revered Route — Country’s Best Cabins, December 2010 — My editor sent me on one day of a press tour in the Manassas, Virginia, area to check out a historic cabin, and although the proposed article she had in mind didn’t pan out, I did learn about this unique heritage project. Many of the most pivotal events in American history happened in the 180-mile stretch between Gettysburg and Charlottesville, and the congressionally-recognized Journey Through Hallowed Ground helps keep their significance relevant. Could make for a cool summer vacation on the road.
Pining for Beauty — Country’s Best Cabins, December 2010 — After the issue including this article about a pine cone wreath maker hit newsstands, I received an enormous package at the office. The artist sent me a gorgeous wreath dotted with all sorts of natural tidbits, and it hung on my bedroom door for a year before I finally took it down to grace my family’s house in Pennsylvania. Beautiful work — I highly recommend his wreaths.
Rustic Flair for Urgent Care — Country’s Best Cabins, October 2010 — I used to get a lot of updates from log-home sales reps about the latest events happening at their model home, but this one was a little different. The salesman had to sell his model home, and a local hospital bought it to use as an urgent care. Apparently it’s been a big hit! Gotta love a feel-good community togetherness story from time to time :).
ZIP 97031 — Timber Home Living, October 2010 — I’ll admit it, I’ve never been to Hood River, Oregon, but like Chattanooga (see “ZIP 37402” above), it seems like the kind of place where I’d really fit in. With the multitudes of different outdoor recreation opportunities and all the history of preserving the area for exactly that purpose (I think the CCC is one of the coolest things our government has ever done), it’s an outdoors nerd’s paradise!
Harvesting Water, Lifestyle Kitchen Design — Timber Home Living, October 2010 — In most issues of Timber Home Living during my time with the publication, I wrote the Tip and Q&A columns. The topics here aren’t the most interesting things I’ve ever written about, but they demonstrate a different form of writing than the longer articles.
Outdoor Style — Timber Home Living, August 2010 — This article about a timber-framed gazebo was a unique “tour-ette” with elements of a home tour and a service story combined, so the challenge was balancing the way that you write both of those kinds of articles and getting it to work in something kind of new. And it always helps to have excellent photography to go along with your article — the images are gorgeous.
Patchwork Practicality — Country’s Best Cabins, July 2010 — It’s not every day that I get to talk with someone in French Polynesia, but I spoke (well, by email, at least) with craftspeople all over the world for this article on incorporating quilts into your home’s decor. If you have a chance to Google some of the international quilting styles noted in the sidebar, do it — they’re so creative, and gorgeous.
Historic Inspiration — Country’s Best Cabins, Cozy Cabins 2010 — I really enjoyed speaking with the director of the living history museum profiled in this article. One of the cabins on the site shared her surname, and a line that got cut from the final version of the article was her answer to my question about whether there was a family connection. She told me she wasn’t sure, but it was exciting to imagine that there might be, which I think nicely summed up the whole point of the museum.
History & Traditions – The San Francisco Fire of 1906 — National Fire & Rescue, March/April 2008 — I wrote this article between countries while I was doing my Semester at Sea, and let me tell you, trying to gather research on a violently bobbing and swaying ship with extremely slow Internet access was not easy! However, I spoke with one of the ship’s history professors while I was working on this, and she asked what new information I was including in my article. The story of this devastating disaster has been told many times in many different ways, and with this article, I pretty much just pulled previously reported information and pulled it together into a story with a focus on the fire service that fought the flames. Since then, however, I’ve always tried to find new information to bring to the table so I’m not simply regurgitating old content.
History & Traditions – The Station Dalmatian — National Fire & Rescue, September/October 2007 — With this, my second foray into the history of the fire service, I explored the tradition of the Dalmatian as its everlasting emblem. Turns out it’s mostly because they work well with horses (from back in the day when horsepower was a literal term) and can get kind of nasty with people they don’t know, making them a good force for keeping the crowds back on a fireground. Kind of quirky, but useful information to know!
History & Traditions – The Patron Saint of Firefighting — National Fire & Rescue, July/August 2007 — A year after completing my internship with NF&R, I pitched an idea to my editor about St. Florian, who I knew was the patron saint of firefighters but I didn’t know why. He loved it so much, he suggested I write a regular column about history and traditions in the fire service, and I did so for a year and a half until the magazine unfortunately folded.
Expanding Your Horizons — National Fire & Rescue, July/August 2006 — It’s been several years since I wrote this article about the benefits of becoming a paramedic, and it remains one of my favorite articles I’ve ever written. By weaving real-life snapshots from a day in the life of a firefighter/paramedic with plenty of information about the pros, cons and controversies of working in both fields, I really enjoyed blending narrative and informative writing styles, and I hope I gave a realistic picture of what it’s like to work in this dual role.
Please visit this page again soon — there’s much more to come!