Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

MEET OUR STAFF: Asking questions, talking about interests and events

Posted on 08 November 2019 by Tesha Christensen

by Jan Willms

I have been a writer for the Monitor and Messenger since around 2003. From the time I edited my high school newspaper, I have loved to write. My undergraduate degree is in journalism, and I worked as a staffer for the Fargo Forum, where I met my husband.
We later started and operated a weekly in Montana. The newspaper was our life. When our first son was born, after my water broke, I went in and did a few things on the paper and then drove myself to the hospital. It was print day, and we had to get the paper out, so my husband met the deadline and then came in to meet our son. A few days later, we put Liberty in a blanket in a drawer at our office, and he observed firsthand how newspaper production works. When our second son was born six years later, he too nestled in a drawer in the office with a colorful mobile above his head.
Running a weekly, we did it all – wrote the features, news articles and commentary; sold the ads; did the layout; wrote the headlines; took the photos; covered sports and entertainment. We were never caught up on sleep, and our social life consisted of covering stories, but it was the happiest time in our lives. After my husband died prematurely, and I entered the human services profession I have still always tried to keep a link to newspaper writing.
Community newspapers like the Messenger and Monitor are perfect, because I can still work full-time and continue to do interviews after work or on weekends. Although I have written about everything from elections to neighborhood meetings to conversations with authors and filmmakers, I love doing feature articles. Exploring what spurs a person’s creativity, what challenges him or her, or what stirs up the passion within is what I like most to do.
What sets off the creative spark in an author’s quest to complete a novel? What drives someone to start a nonprofit and help others less fortunate? Who are the mentors a musician looks up to? These are all questions that I like to find the answers to and share them with our readership.
I also like to write about the events that have shaped a person’s life. A young man once wanted to talk to us about his brother’s murder, and how it affected the family. We agreed to meet on three different occasions, but he never showed up. But the fourth time he did, and we talked for hours, and his story about his brother got told.
Perhaps most of all, writing for these papers has given me the opportunity to meet so many different people from all walks of life.
It is said that writing can be a lonely profession, but not when you are sharing a part of someone else’s world.
Meeting different persons, talking with them about what interests them, and putting it down on paper is a challenging but fulfilling task. I find that just the physical act of writing is therapeutic, and if you can make a story interesting enough to catch a reader’s eye, it makes journalism a very rewarding profession.

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