A Moment of Reflection – WJI

Notes. Sweet notes.
Notes. Sweet notes.

After two weeks of reflection amidst the insanity of catching up on work, our week-long church camp, getting the house ready to sell, and buying tickets for Eastern Europe…WJI feels “like a far off dream.”

I am endlessly indebted to our instructors and to WORLD for putting us up and putting up with us. And for pouring their time and experience and patience into our lives. I’ve never experienced anything quite like that.

I’ve also never experienced sitting on the receiving end in a classroom (besides Sunday school). I can now add that to my resume… Only took me 24 years to get to this moment.

You should check out my former and still spiritwise brothers-in-arms articles getting posted on WORLD! The interns are now in DC, basically taking on the universe.

Now that I don’t have daily deadlines or get to write everyday, I feel like something is dead. I’m not sure which is the right vibe–that someone I spent time with died or that something inside me died. Either way I hope whatever is deadish, is just dormant and will be prodded and have time for resurrection sometime soon.

Although everything about WJI is deeply wondrous, the constant need to write and widdle and always accessible input and fresh eyes from others THRILLED MY SOUL. It’s what I’ve craved for all my 2.4 decades of existance.

This probably applies to all aspects of existence, but other people dedicated to the same vision as you, even at the expense of yourself/your feelings, is the bomb (priceless just sounded terrible there). It also creates an interpersonal vibe way more beautiful than just hanging out with cool people.

Where from here?

I don’t really know. I don’t think I’m cut out for the hard news world. I want to be because it seems like it is easier to live in an environment of constant challenge and urging onwardness. It is more plausible to have a steady paycheck than other writing options. There are deadlines. It’s important work. It means learning lots of weird things. It means meeting lots of interesting people.

But would it crush me? Probably.

Because I love to write minimalistically (although not on this blog, studies would suggest), I never thought of myself as being into dramatic writing. I thought of myself as writing novels (I have, they’re just afraid of the great outdoors) and stories (real and totally fake/realer than real?).

I want to (DESPERATELY) write about real people and places (namely and primarily Central/Eastern Europe) and also create fiction stories that fulfill everything wonderful and beautiful and soul-vibe-sh that fiction can do best. But, it means being more or less on your own, I guess?

This is my angst/disappointment. I’m lazy and I need help and kicks in the pants and time to invest like a real job…but also money. Also, it would be good if I knew how to write well and all.

Do I need an Ilene? It sounds wonderful. But I probably just need better discipline and less whininess.

For now, I have several wonderful but primarily none writing jobs, an amazing community I never want to leave,  stupid and erratic health, a house we need to pack up and sell, and a one way ticket to Ukraine.

The end? 


Great and never-ending thanks to WORLD Journalism Institute and especially to Edward Lee Pitts and the Olaskys. They are not only amazing at their job and communicating about how you too can be amazing at your job, they are examples of character and godliness and I was so privileged to meet them. I recommend WJI to every soul. Everything I learned will be applicable to whatever my future entails in the writing world and far beyond.

Thanks to all my comrades. You dealt with many things.

Thanks to Jill Nelson  who gave me the needed boost to go ahead and apply.

Deep thanks to Daniel, ye olde Mother Hubbard, Lauren, Susannah, Rachel, and all others who look/continue to look at my work and spur me on in the writing life. Especially for your assistance making it (emotionally and all) to WJI. And life generally.


Day 14 – WJI

Our last farewells.

After we worked on our videos until the hour the ghosts begin to walk, Kaylen and I walked down to the place that normally carried on all the ruckus while we tried to sleep. It was, after all, our last night. After the bar closed, we paced up and down the length of the block admiring the parking garage and talking of all things.

Crawled out of bed to pack a few hours later. And then…we made our last group foray to the WORLD News Office.

Friday night on the town with Kaylen. Good times.
Friday night on the town with Kaylen. Jesus! The world! Writing! Good times.

A playwright came and spoke to us on adding dramatic elements to our news stories. Really, we got knee deep the concept of story, Shakespeare, Robert McKee, and all things bright and beautiful.

There were a lot of big words. And there were no fresh, perky minds. But I think we all still learned a lot. I wrote notes wildly because I knew my brain’s advanced degeneration wouldn’t hold onto things very long. Most of the scribbles and diagrams still make sense and they’re exciting to review.

I think the fact that, despite all the other talks being on newer material and from people I knew better and loved more although in a from-a-far, deeply respectful manner, this was the talk that made my blood pressure and creative neurons spike the most wildly. This probably tells me something unpleasant and penniless about my true calling in life.
(Maybe more on this in a later reflective/retrospective post.)

Apologies to the playwright…I did not get the correct spelling of his name, so he is remaining anonymous in a deep and literary way none of us will ever fully understand.

Learning from the playwright. Maybe it should tell me something about the future when this session made me crazy to put pen to paper...
People misinterpreting Shakespeare! Rise up and say, no more! Learning from the playwright. Maybe it should tell me something about the future when this session made me crazy to put pen to paper… Our last session.

After another dose of caffeine, we watched everyone’s interview videos. We could have done a lot of things better, but I think we did pretty decently for being non-video gurus. Drew Belz encouraged us with his energetic chillness (it’s a thing) teaching us to understand what we wanted, get what we wanted, and edit/salvage anything useful…all in the same day.

Many videos were, I so-unbiasely think, genuinely good. There were some touching stories as well some random dudes meditating. Asheville. ❤

After the videos, Mr Pitts gave us one more gracious pep talk and Dr. Olasky prayed and Bethany wept.

Goodbye selfie with Mrs. Olasky!
Goodbye selfie with Mrs. Olasky!

Then we awkwardly milled around exchanging avocados, filling out paperwork, sort of saying “so long,” and, in the case of Thomas, singing emotional farewell songs.

When the most imminent goodbyes had been fulfilled, those who remained went out to lunch and talked a little about what we learned and where we want to go, and quite a lot about how incredible Mr. Pitts is and always will be.

We also ate eggs for the first time in two weeks. I didn’t even think I liked eggs. Now, it’s all I think about.

Heather. And our hostel.
Heather. And our hostel.
Jae. <3
Jae. ❤
Some comrades in arms.  Post-lunch, pre-goodbyes.
Some comrades in arms. Bad picture, but captures some vibes.
Post-lunch, pre-goodbyes.
Bad lighting, but favorite
Bad lighting, but favorite “action portrait.”
Onize's wonderful hair takes center stage.
Onize’s wonderful hair takes center stage.
Last in the series.
Last in the series. Jae, Evan, Abby, Thomas, Heather, Onize.

Abby, Onize, Thomas, and I got ourselves lost while we tried to find the bus station (our navigator was singing a farewell lullaby), said goodbye to Thomas, and headed to the airport. Onize and Abby are the best for driving me in. ❤

I left my last comrades and went into the little, baby airport. There were no lines, just elderly couples on their way to European cruises.

It looked like I would zip through the security line, but, despite not setting off any alarms, I gave the TSA staff 20 minutes of labor.

They swabbed and/or took apart all my precious belongings, including my Hector (my most esteemed laptop). Then this lady had to pat me down in a big way and she had an accent and I could tell it was Eastern European. When the worst was over, she was handing me back my bag and asked what the blue and yellow ribbon were about. I said they were Ukrainian. And then she said she was from Donetsk so we had a little moment. It would have been a much better, more informative moment if I hadn’t been so selfish feeling and zombiefied.

Later I was thinking….wow, that woman was really astute to notice the little ribbon and then I remembered that I was wearing hair ribbons, had a book about the EuroMaidan in my backpack, a Ukrainian purse, and a decal of Ukraine (pre-Russian invasion) on my computer–every object of which they swabbed for bomb particles. No detective work there. I guess she had to ask about something she would see in normal decency.
(How do you like all the passiveness in that paragraph? Getting your life thrown out on a metal table while you stand by and watch is, by nature, a passive activity.)

I got on and off my reportedly broken plane a few times while my connection in Chicago came and went. I could barely stay awake just sitting there and talking on the phone with Ma and airlines.

After saying goodbye to people I always just feel this desperate need to be home. And I was so not happy about the possibility of missing another Sunday at my home church. But I tried to stay Christian.

Finally getting to read this without feeling guilty... Also. An avocado, but no utensil.
Finally getting to read this without feeling guilty… Also. An avocado, but no utensil.

The day’s saga ended with a ragged, two-braided, mascara smeared, be-backpacked homeless person walking into a fancy Chicago hotel only to be turned away….Then reconsidered after she produced an airline voucher. She walked through the gilded hallways cold and alone, drenched in rain and the filth of the streets, close to despair, and…then…then there appeared Charlie LeDuff’s  visage on a lobby TV.

She went to her room, reposed on her massive bed, forgot to remove the smile from her face, and slept like a wee child.

Drive by Profiling (pt 3) – WJI

Our last students…

Sarah is long-suffering. She endured much of my angst and my blithering methods of stress relief (there may have been a lot of random explosions into Shakespearean verse and talk of spirit animals. In her own words, Sarah is a horse.).

She always knows the right series of questions to pursue and actually has the guts to pursue it. Even with police officers.

Sarah should do grand at her broadcast internship as she is curious and brave and beautiful.

It wasn’t until the second week that I learned Onize is actually a Jupiterian. So many things make sense now.

Onize and I arrived a day early, wandered the streets, ate breakfast as it grew dark, and began to speak of the world (chiefly my little town, Ukraine, and Nigeria, the country Onize uses as a cover story for her origins).

Onize is, simply, grand. I already miss her exceedingly. She works hard, she lets you eat almost all the almonds, she lets you come to Mass with her (and then walks to a Presbyterian church with you), has an uncanny talent for living off poptarts, and a humility/willingness to give others encouragement/credit that deserves many pulls of her extraordinary hair (actually, probably deserves something more like $$$$$ and a Nobel Peace Prize, but I am intrigued by the elasticity of her hair).

She will also humor you while you spar with monopods. 

God will use Onize. ❤

Sandy is already a fulltime employee at WORLD, but wanted to improve her writing skills, so joined us unruly children in the trenches. Besides being kind and good, she endeared herself to us eternally and renewed our spirits by the constant application of nuts, sour patch kids, hard candy, popcorn, hot lunches, chips, and emergency medicine runs…

But she did not write a blog, so you are left with many questions about her personality and template choices.

Jae. Jae is undauntable, gloriously grit-filled, and eye-brighteningly propelled by Jesus love. She also originates from a town a few hours south of me and understands all things Portland and west coastian.

Jae is one of those writers who gets in the zone. What do I mean, you ask? While, common symptoms include falling into a state of trembles, tearing of the hair, impulsive ordering of library books, cries of anguish, narrowing of the eyes, clutching of the head or nose, and, in acute cases, temporary death. If you see these signs, lean back. You can be sure something brilliant is coming to fruition.

I think Jae had the most honed, clear cut goal and future in her mind when she came to WJI. In her best moments, she continues with eyes forward, equipment on her back as she stretches onward, taking every seeming brick wall in her path, one step/ax whack at a time.

Such intensity will, no doubt, aid her as she becomes a first-class investigative reporter. After a life bringing down the sex-trade, much like a more petite, laudanum-less, more illustriously be-ponytailed William Wilberforce, she will retire to the relaxed life of a professional soccer player.

My respek to you all, fellow comrades. And deep thanks for being patient with me in close and diverse circumstances.