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Let’s Hit the Highlights: 2015

It’s that time of year when sentimentality reigns. It’s OK to get all weepy at a Christmas movie or the thought of being “home” in a few days — or with thanks that I’ve made it through another year as a journalist.

Yes, that last one is a real thing. It was with great endurance that I kept writing and pitching while responding to a state tax audit that made me want to do anything but continue working for myself, luxurious as it may sound. It’s one thing to see the checks come in; it’s another to see them go out, to the state, and then to have them say you didn’t write one fat enough.

But then there are the days when I get to put the passions of incredible people to paper, or when a story I write resonates across the halls of Twitter and someone in California sends a note to say thanks for writing it. Any day in which someone takes the time to write out or say a word of, “Hey, I read that. Great job,” is an excellent day. I do not take for granted how easy it is to share and interact with people over the work I get to do. Or that so many of you interact back. So thank you.

It’s in the vein of clinging to the high points that I share some of them from this year with you. Not to brag (although, sure why not?) so much as remember the good things that filled this year and this “career” as a freelance journalist. Because I know there will be hard days again. There will be the ugly commenters and the traffic that leaves me 20 minutes late picking up my kid coming back from an assignment and the tax bill that’s still on its way.

So I’ll take a minute to remember the good…

In the category of most-important-things-I’ve-written about, Cora qualifies. This year, we raised her from 3 months to 15 (a.k.a. just over 1, for those of us who don’t like the baby-month math) — and I got to write about her a few times, too.

Dont sit baby in corner

The artist who did this illustration pegged my sock bun.

My first piece for The Washington Post‘s On Parenting was about The love-hate relationship with my breast pump and I also wrote a fun one for Northern Virginia Magazine, Don’t Sit Baby in the Corner, about dining out with le bebe. Can I just tell you how cathartic it is to write about these shared parenting experiences? I mean, we’re all going through them. We talk about them over coffee or lunch; but it’s quite therapeutic — and sometimes hilarious — to write about them. In the not-so-funny but very therapeutic category was this piece: For food writer, infant’s peanut allergy is particularly hard to swallow.

I enjoyed every piece I wrote for The Washington Post this year, a couple of them assignments that left me like, “Who, me?” For starters, it was an incredible honor to write about Julia Child and help The Post break the news that her foundation would be giving its first award in her honor with this story: How do you keep Julia Child’s legacy alive? Pay it forward. I also had the pleasure of traveling to Minneapolis to get to know the women behind your favorite food radio show for this story: What keeps ‘The Splendid Table’ cooking after 20 years. Earlier in the year, I finally listened to my food friends who’d been telling me Georgian food was a thing and got to pitch and write this one — Is Georgian cuisine the next big thing? These enthusiasts hope so. — which I’m told went a little viral over in the country I still want to visit. The real pleasure of writing pieces like these is when you don’t screw everything up and the people you wrote about still want to talk to you or even be friends with you afterward. That’s always a good thing.

2941 Veg Menu

On the food beat, I got to write about the hottest topic of the year: Food Waste (Why entrepreneurs are suddenly finding the beauty in ugly produce) and about Rallying for better food (policy) in the District for Edible DC. I even had the pleasure of appearing on The Kojo Nnamdi Show to talk about this story that I wrote for NPR: Urban Farmers Say It’s Time They Got Their Own Research Farms!

 

There were a lot of firsts this year, too (besides birthdays). I wrote my first piece for National Geographic‘s The Plate about Brass Tacks: How Seed Suppliers Pick Their Fields, a story that goes back to my Washington state reporting roots. I started writing for Smithsonian Magazine, my first about Michigan’s beloved bird (This Bird Didn’t Start the Fires, But It May Need Them to Survive), and for Arlington Magazine‘s food blogI also had my first piece in Civil Eats just this month, about how These $10 Vouchers are Changing the Face of D.C.’s Farmers’ Markets. Thanks to all those who’ve given the story such great feedback this month. The editor there edited my first national freelance piece for Grist three-plus years ago, so it was a pleasure to write for her again.

This wasn’t my first year writing for Virginia Living, but I did get to write my first home feature for the magazine, and a spot about aperitifs, a historic getaway mansion and others that aren’t yet online. The home story did give me a bit of house lust just after buying our first home, but other than that, I loved it.

 

 

IMG_3331

I also said goodbye to an online weekly magazine that’s been home to some of my favorite stories over the last two years, ElevationDC. Editor Rachel Kaufman steered that ship well and onto some great topics that were timely and important for this city. It will be missed.

And last but certainly not least, the Chesapeake Bay Journal, where I’m a part-time staff writer covering that story-rich estuary of ours. This year, I got to write a series about agroforestry, which includes this piece, Farmer’s plan to create shade for livestock to bear fruit in more ways than one, and this one, ‘Forester’s playground’ all business when it comes to silvopasture, among others. I wrote about West Virginia’s struggle to hold the line on runoff and sub-aquatic vegetation growing in the Anacostia River, among a hundred other things. Right now, we’re giving you 12 Days of Chesapeake Critters who made the news this year, and looking forward to a beefed up team in the New Year.

It’s been a good year. I’ve worked around plenty of interruptions and asides and, somehow, kept the ship afloat. I don’t really do resolutions, but I’d love to have a Pinterest-perfect home office to kick off the New Year, and to keep ticking off the dream publications for which I’d like to write. But, for now, I’ll just look back at the Old Year and take a minute. It deserves a big sigh of thanksgiving.

May your holidays be spent with those you love, remembering the good of the year with a similar sigh of satisfaction.

Merry Christmas!
W

 

 

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