When someone asks me about my career, I frequently use a canned response: I’ve been a professional writer for more than 20 years. I’ve had my own business since 2004. I write magazine and newspaper articles, I provide website content, and I serve as a public relations specialist for a variety of clients. While most of my work involved marine journalism in the early years, it has evolved to include outdoor adventure, travel, health and wellness, and stories from Indian country.
My career trajectory most certainly did not move in a straight line (to the consternation of my parents), and who I am today as a writer is not who I was when I started all those years ago, as an eager and completely naive journalism student at the University of Wisconsin. It’s been quite a ride.
I spent a few years as an account executive with an ad agency that specialized in the marine industry. It was a good fit, as it was a family business, and I’d grown up on boats and around the water. Advertising was never my dream, though. I’d always wanted to be a writer, but I just didn’t know how to get there.
One evening, in a coffeeshop on Milwaukee’s East Side, a friend of mine handed me a classified ad for an assistant editor position at Sailing, a nationally circulated magazine based in Port Washington, Wisconsin. My advertising career ended in a heartbeat. I contacted the editor the very next day.
I quickly learned that my writing life and living my life were inexorably tied together. While I was working for Sailing, a job I’d earned as a budding journalist, I actually learned how to sail. Later, I got certified to handle cruising boats and to charter as well.
When my personal life threw me a curve ball, I packed up and moved to central Florida, where I got a job as an associate editor with Winter Park-based Sport Diver. My senior editor, a professional instructor, convinced me I could face my fears and have a good time doing it; I earned my PADI Open Water certification in Florida’s Blue Grotto and later got my PADI Advanced Open Water in Cozumel, Mexico.
Then I relocated again, this time to Wisconsin’s sublime Door County peninsula. With a growing body of work behind me and a handful of regular writing and editing gigs on my calendar, I took the leap of faith and went full-time freelance in April 2004.
I’m sure there are easier ways to make a living, but I doubt they’re as rewarding. I can honestly say I’ve never looked back.
My assignments have taken me all over the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean to Europe and the South Pacific. I’ve not only learned to sail and scuba dive, I’ve learned to sea kayak and drive powerboats as well. I’ve helped deliver a cruising boat from the United Kingdom to Germany; snorkeled with humpback whales in the Kingdom of Tonga; tried my hand at sportfishing off Ensenada; and camped on a desert island in the Sea of Cortez. My husband, Richard Steinberger, is a professional photographer. He’s been at my side for many of these adventures, and since our daughter Johanna was born in 2009, she frequently joins us as well.
The adventurous stuff doesn’t always pay the bills, and a substantial portion of my business falls on the public relations spectrum. As it turns out, that’s been a good thing. That line of work has allowed me to connect with so many talented people, from winemakers, artists and historians to travel experts, public servants and youth workers.
There are common threads here, which become more apparent the longer I do this. When I write for magazines and websites, I seek to educate and to entertain. When I assist businesses, not-for-profit groups or individuals with PR writing and strategy, I want to help them find their own voices and share their own unique gifts.
As the line from “Rent” goes, “The opposite of war isn’t peace. It’s creation.” And it may be a cheesy idea, but I really believe that sharing our creativity is a surefire way to making the world a better place.
More changes are afoot. In early 2011, my husband, young daughter and I moved to Bailey, Colorado, a friendly, almost impossibly lovely mountain town about 50 miles southwest of Denver. So my business, my writing and my life have continued to evolve, and I’ve discovered a deep passion for the American West. But a few things remain constant: I love to have new adventures, travel to new places and learn new things.
Most of all, I love to meet new people. That’s perhaps the driving force behind the whole journey… in one way or another, sharing our human experience.