I took a surreal trip Wednesday. I drove from my home in Darboy to Shawano – less than an hour away – to pick up the first edition of a new publication that I’m editing – Midwest Agriculture Almanac. What made the trip so bizarre was that my first newspaper job after college was at the paper in Shawano. From the time I got there until I left eight months later, I was looking for another job. Coming from Madison where I went to school and being single, I felt that the town was too small and I had big plans and dreams (New York Times anyone?)
But to phrase Steinbeck wrote, our best laid plans don’t always work out. I took a job in Manitowoc after Shawano and met my soon-to-be husband. We married and then I took a job at the Appleton newspaper and moved up the food chain there. Had two children in 15 months. Through a series of unfortunate events nearly eight years ago, I found myself without a newspaper job. I then started freelancing and was very fortunate to connect with several publications and organizations in Wisconsin. It’s been a great experience and opportunity since I’ve been able to set my own hours, which has been essential since my son was diagnosed with autism. I sometimes work on weekends and in the evenings so I can take him to various doctor appointments and I don’t have to explain to anyone when I have to leave work to go pick him up at school if he’s having a bad day.
In early January, a colleague from my time at the Appleton newspaper contacted me about taking over Midwest Agriculture Almanac. I had written for two issues last year. It’s a quarterly publication focused on ag issues in the Midwest – just like the name said. He couldn’t devote the time to it and was I interested? Of course! I’m not only the editor, but I also own the newspaper and formed my first LLC and get a business bank account so I can write checks to the printer and freelance writers and accept payments from advertisers and readers. I like the idea of getting to make my own decisions about what stories to run and being in control.
It’s been kind of crazy the past six weeks as I put together my first issue, including laying it out via InDesign – something I hadn’t done in a while. But it worked out well. The production guys in Shawano said it looked great and I’m now in the process of taking the website live before Monday, when it should arrive in the hands of subscribers.
And while I’ve done some writing on ag issues through the years as a business writer, I had no idea just how complex and interesting the ag industry is. There’s a lot of technology involved and ag plays a huge role in the economies of Wisconsin and other Midwestern states. I’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks and can’t wait to learn more in the months to come.
Since the paper is quarterly, I can still do all of my other freelance work as long as I stay disciplined and organized, which I think I can do. I recently lost two writing clients and Midwest Agriculture Almanac fills that monetary and time gap.
But what made the drive to Shawano interesting was my perspective. I never imagined 21 years ago that I would be a successful freelance writer and that I would still be in roughly the same area. I think that 21-year-old would have thought that to be a failure, but she was wrong. I may not have made it to the New York Times, but I am still able to do what I love – write – and spend plenty of time with my family.