A conversation with two female veterans

When I first met Sara and Alicia, I got a sense of quiet strength and fierce confidence. The two thirty-something friends have both been through a lot in their lives, but refuse to let that stop them.

When I spoke to Sara and Alicia I was learning about a small, organic farm that they run together. It wasn’t until later that I learned the two young women are both veterans. It is that very humble and giving attitude that makes them both so special.

Sara, an air force veteran and military wife, lost her husband to cancer three years ago. It was during his sickness that Sara and her husband started looking in to a diet based in healthy foods- vegetables, fruits, meats, nuts and grains.

After her husband passed away, Sara purchased a farm, like the two of them had envisioned doing together. It was during this time that she began to realize the healing power of producing food. Working with her hands to grow food and take care of animals was beginning to help heal her physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Sara met Alicia during a conference for veterans learning how to farm. After the conference, Alicia packed her bags and moved states to work with Sara on the farm.

Both women have seen the struggles of veterans when returning from deployment. Alicia, a combat veteran, learned firsthand the transition to civilian life is tough. After losing military friends to suicide after deployment, she wanted to find a way to heal and eventually learned that agriculture was a way to do that, she said.

Today the operation is a small-scale sustainable farming business that has sheep, pastured chickens, turkeys, ducks, pigs, beehives, apples, pears, strawberries, peaches, a garden full of vegetables and more.

Sara and Alicia have grown the operation to become a place of healing for others as well. They offer education and training opportunities to veterans who want to get involved.

“Seeing veterans connect with the land and build relationships with animals is magic,” Alicia said. “So much about being in the military involves destruction, but in agriculture you get to heal things.”

A look at some of the questions:

What is a challenge you have faced?

The industry can feel male-dominated. However, there is a growing trend of women farmland owners and we’re happy to be a part of that. It’s pretty special.

Advice you have to others:

Band together. A lot of times there is sexism in farming, or in any industry for that matter. It’s OK to have a voice.

Goals for the future:

Continue to work with the land and hope that other veterans will be able to reconnect with themselves through farming like we have.

Click here for more conversations.


The future, as told by my fourth grade self


“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Mrs. Langley, my fourth grade teacher, asked the class.

Several hands shot up.

A lawyer. An interior decorator. A dirt bike champion. A space engineer. A teacher.

“What about you?” she asked me.

A story writer.

She asked the class to write a one-page essay about what our future would be and turned it in to a book-which I still have. (see the picture above)

I knew then, at age 10 that was what I wanted to do. I didn’t know the kind of writing I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to write.

I thought it was interesting when looking back that I didn’t write author or simply writer, I specifically wrote story writer.

The more I thought about it, I decided it was fitting to what I want to do 14 years later (now). With writing I want to tell stories, but I don’t just want to tell stories, I want to tell people’s stories. Heck, I want to tell my own stories.

That’s why I went in to journalism. There is something so satisfying about meeting someone, talking and finding out their “thing.” Everyone has a thing and most don’t even know it.

In the past year I have talked with a preacher who decided to start a hot sauce business, a woman who retraced the Trail of Death, the forced removal of Potawatomi Indians from north central Indiana to eastern Kansas in 1838 and a woman who opened a coffee shop that accepts only donations.

I got to find the story behind each person – I was able to learn the man who started the hot sauce business used his mother’s recipe for one of the flavors. His mother has Alzheimer’s, which makes his connection to the sauce an emotional one. I learned the trip for the woman was a “spiritual journey” and is still very much a part of her today. I was able to ask how a business that accepts only donations survives and found out the answer: community.

I was able to get a glimpse of the stories that make up each person and I was given the opportunity to describe that story for others.

That’s what I’m trying to do with this project. I am attempting to update my series, or conversations, on a more consistent basis and it’s a work in progress.

I recently tweaked my name to “Collecting Conversations.” I know, I know, it’s not that different from the former name. I tweaked it to fall in line with this thought of telling other people’s stories. I don’t really feel like I’m “chasing” them, but I do feel like I’m collecting them and in a small way, carrying them with me.

The outtakes (in case you need a laugh):
Just in case you were wondering, in my future essay, my fourth grade self also said I would be married by 25 to a man named Casey, I would have twin girls and we would live in North Carolina. (None of which are true). My personal favorite though (and this is a direct quote from 10-year-old me): “My grandchildren were smart. They were all scientists.”

A conversation with a rapper

Hip hop and rap music gets a bad reputation. Most mainstream contemporary rap lyrics today have a reputation of having superficial lyrics about partying, drugs, money and love.

That is not what Clarence “T.A.G.” Garrett is about. In fact, “T.A.G.” – an acronym for “Totally Against the Grain” is exactly what Garrett is trying to be.

The Indiana rapper describes his lyrics as faith-based. His beliefs are a big part of his music.

“Faith is a part of my life,” Clarence said. “I’ve always gravitated toward positive and encouraging music.”

Some themes listeners will find in his music include life, struggles people face, relationships and even tough subject matter such as suicide.

Advice he has is to find a common ground. He dedicated his second album, “One Love,” to encourage others to bridge the gap between their differences.

“If we find some kind of common ground then maybe, just maybe, we can change the world.”

Additional advice he has is to keep with it and believe in yourself.

It hasn’t been easy for T.A.G. He has been rapping since 2000 but just recently  started recording music with the support of a friend who believed he could do it.

“I was ready to believe in myself as much as my friend believed in me,” he said.

His songs are upbeat jams with optimist lyrics. Although some of life’s struggles are mentioned on the tracks, the lyrics are friendly for all ages.

Song writing has come easy to him over the years.

“I gravitate toward the music where you stop listening and your life for that moment freezes,” he said. “I’m attracted to that kind of writing.”

T.A.G. pulls inspiration from all genres. Although he is a hip-hop writer, he pulls inspiration from pop, country, rock and others. His goal is not to be the best hip hop artist but to be a very good song writer.

Overall, some of the best  advice he has is to keep a balance.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself and how to balance life, work, music and family,” he said.

A look at some of the questions

What has the response been to your faith-based rap music?
It’s interesting because whenever people first hear the music they tend to think, ‘oh, it’s hip hop’ and then they realize it’s different. I think it encourages people.

What is something you’ve come to realize about the business?

People complain about the rap music that is out there in the market, but continue to buy it. You have to support music like this if you want it out there.

What have you enjoyed the most about making music? 
Meeting people. I’ve been able to travel and meet a lot of new fans.

Want to know more about T.A.G.? Visit his website here for more information.

Read other conversations here.

A conversation with a dietetic intern


Alex, a down-to-earth recent college graduate, is no stranger to working for what she wants. When she started college she was  in an athletic training program before she realized she was more interested in nutrition and using it as a way to  help others. 

Fast forward and the determined twenty something not only graduated with a BS in Applied Health Science from Indiana University but snagged a competitive internship through Andrews University.

Alex packed up her things, moved to a new state without knowing anyone and is working as a dietetic intern at Atrium Medical Center.

As if moving and starting an internship isn’t enough, Alex is also working on her Masters in public health and adopted a cat named Myrtle (pretty awesome, right?).

Here’s what an average day looks like for Alex.

During each day she sees patients, who may have nutritional deficits. She also does diet counseling if a patient needs to be on a specific diet when they go home.

On a normal day she will see and talk with 5-8 patients, document everything and work on projects or case studies.

The best part of her internship has been learning the ins and outs of being a registered dietician. She is completing the internship to be eligible for the registered dietitian board exam. Her ultimate goal is to become registered and become a dietitian. 

“There’s only so much you can learn in class, so it’s great to get some experience before actually having a job,” she said.

The internship has also helped confirm her interests in the field. She has found out she enjoys the clinical side of dietetics because it’s more hands-on.

How does she stay motivated? By knowing the internship is not only a great experience but also going to help with her career.

“I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m not going to be an unpaid intern forever, even though it feels like it sometimes…” she said.

Her proudest accomplishment is moving somewhere out of her comfort zone.

“I’m very much a creature of habit, so I was really nervous and anxious about moving to Ohio, but I’m so proud of myself for doing it,” she said.

Since college her schedule has changed. She said she finds she needs to study a lot more now, not just cram. She also goes to bed and wakes up earlier than she used to, even on weekends.

With the whirlwind of change adjustment, the twenty something has plenty of good advice for those experiencing something similar.

Something that keeps her going is knowing she made someone’s life better. Helping patients makes Alex feel like she is making a difference.

Advice she would give to others who want to get in to a similar field is to not freak out about internships. Although they’re competitive, decent grades, a genuine personal statement and some experiences raises someone’s chances of getting one.

Career advice she would give to twenty somethings is to “find something you like, and do that.”

“How can you do something you don’t like everyday for the next 40-50 years and still be a decent human being,” she said. “I don’t think that’s possible, at least for me. I’d end up being a hermit or troll that lives under the bridge.”

A look at some of the questions

How do you stick with it?

I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m not going to be an unpaid intern forever, even though it feels like it sometimes. Eventually, I will get paid. (Hopefully!)

Best advice you’ve ever received on your major or your area of interest?

This counts towards dietetics and also life in general, but my dad has told me countless times “The world doesn’t revolve around you, Aggie.” I get so caught up in working and learning and thinking about the menu I need to write later I forget people don’t go to the hospital because they were bored that day and thought they’d come visit. They’re there because of a severe illness, and they need help recovering. That kind of puts things in perspective. The first priority should be helping patients, and that’s something I have to remind myself often. (Sidenote: I don’t know why my dad calls my Aggie, but he’s called my that since I was born. It’s a weird nickname). 

What is your dream job?

As of right now, my dream job would be working with individuals struggling with eating disorders. I have a minor in psychology, and I really enjoyed those classes, so pairing psychology and nutrition would be a great asset when working with eating disorders.

Scariest thing you’ve ever done?

I accidentally walked into a tuberculosis patient’s room without a mask! (TB is contagious.) But probably moving to Ohio by myself. Before this year, I’d never lived anywhere where I didn’t know a single person, so that was a big deal for me. I’m only about three hours away from my family and friends, but I’m in a different state, so it definitely feels farther away.

Hardest part of your internship?

Getting up at the crack of dawn, and medications. I can never remember all the medications.

 What will you be doing after your internship?

After the internship, I’ll take a board exam to become registered, and hopefully find a job somewhere. I’d take a job anywhere at this point, as long as it pays me. 

Where do you see yourself in two years?

I should be an RD by then, if all goes according to plan, and hope to have a job in an area of dietetics I enjoy. I’ll also be finishing my master’s, which is exciting.

Read other conversations in the series here.

A conversation with an event planner


This week I talked with Ashley, a 24 year-old event planner from Valparaiso, Ind. Ashley  recently moved 2300 miles away from home to the Bay Area in California and started her own company, Elizabeth Ashley events. Check out her Facebook page (and like it) here.

Her favorite thing about the area is the endless activities she can choose from.

“As a tourism major, I’m so thrilled to be able to go out and explore where I’m living and see something new everyday,” Ashley said. “The views are gorgeous and endless.”

Ashley majored in tourism management: event planning and resort management and minored in ecotourism and park and recreation administration. She said she didn’t start as an event planner in college. She first began in elementary education.

“I’m really creative and educators run in my family so like any indecisive teenager, I settled with education,” she said. “I always knew deep down I wasn’t happy with it. I justified that I could be creative in the classroom, but it wasn’t my type of creative.”

She knew she wanted to get in to event planning when she dropped off a bride’s wedding invitations she had created.

“She just started crying. I was so shocked and touched,” she said. “I know this might sound cheesy, but I knew at that moment this is why I’m an event planner. I want to be part of these memories people will live with for the rest of their lives.”

Ashley is also working for her grandfather’s company. They train people to be bankers in casinos. She said California has a different law for casinos, where people can’t play against the house, so they need the third-party (Ashley and others) to come in and ‘bank’ the different tables. ‘So basically we’re professional gamblers,’ Ashley said laughing.

“It gets pretty crazy and we’ll be in charge of $20,000 + per shift,” she said.

Ashley said she is not nervous to be in charge of that much money because the training is thorough.

“I love that because they used to just throw people out there,” Ashley said. “We have to know the ins and outs of every game; the strategies, house way and all that.”

Ashley said the hardest part is getting used to distractions. They’ve been training in an office so when they actually get on the floor people are constantly going to try to distract them so they can have an advantage.

“I mean I’m in a casino right?” Ashley said. “Bright lights and loud music everywhere, but oh wait, I have about $35,000 in front of me right now. I need to pay attention.”

The best part has been networking. She has been able to meet a lot of people.

“There’s just a ton of opportunity for someone in my position who is trying to start a career out here on my own,” she said.

Since moving to California, Ashley recently started event planning for a non-profit organization, http://lifegoesonproject.org.

Her roommate’s son, who is a local rapper, was shot and paralyzed in 2007. He was standing outside a night club in San Francisco.

“It could happen to anyone,” she said. “He wasn’t in a bad area or anything.”

Ashley said they’re trying to reach out and make it known that gun violence isn’t just gang/street issue anymore, guns are affecting the suburbs too.

“It’s no longer a race issue, but an education problem and that’s what they want to get out there,” she said.

In the fall they want to do a back to school tour and educate youth. At the end of it, they’re going to throw a concert.

“I’m really excited to be in charge of a project like this and it’s really great because we have the support of local pro-athletes that these kids already look up to,” she said.

In event planning, she doesn’t have a specific market but would love to do everything.

“Why limit your talents to only weddings or specialty parties?” she said. “Everyone should be able to use your talents if they want, no matter the occasion.”

Advice she would have to for other twenty somethings is to go for it.

“The unknown is scary and we’re from an area where most of our parents grew up and the aunts and uncles and grandparents are all still there; not many people move away,” she said. “I knew for a while I was never going to settle down there. I’ve been to enough places and learned enough in the classroom to know there’s so much more out there.”

Ashley plans to stay in California for a while.

“Unless something amazing comes along, and I mean amazing; I’m here for the long haul,” she said.

A look at some of the questions:

Were you scared to move?

I’ve always seen myself living out here, and have said I would one day; I just didn’t think it would happen this fast. I was a little freaked out at first, but my grandma said it right, you can always come home. Which is so true. Most people would never try something like this. you have no friends here, your family is 2300 miles away. It’s scary, really scary. but a plane ride is only 4.5 hours away so I know if I really needed something family is still close

Have you met/seen anyone famous since moving?

Visiting LA, I’ve met Nick Swardson twice. He’s hilarious and seemed annoyed with us, but here’s my official apology to him, Nick we’re so sorry but you’re funny and IU had just won; so can you forgive us? 

Also, Frank Ocean skated past us and Gerard Butler came into Dope right after we left. Which sucks, but the fact I was even in the same place as him rocks 

and he supported Dope Couture.

When did you decide to move?
The move idea kinda just happened over night. I was talking to my friend the night before about any possible jobs in LA. there weren’t any and I was bummed. Well, the next day I was talking to my grandma, and she was like why don’t you go out and work for GFG? Next thing I knew I had a job. They stress to us in college it’s all about who you know, right? biggest over-sight of my life.

Had you visited California before you moved?

I’ve been flying out here since I was 5 to visit my grandpa. I was absolutely devastated when I found out he was moving back to San Francisco, but now I know why he did it. The opportunities out here are endless


What is your dream job?
Dream job? easily would be to work for David Tutera or become the David Tutera of the west coast.  He’s creative and brilliant and I love his style he brings to each of his weddings. He is personable and you can tell he cares. We’re in the business where it’s all about the customer, and they need to know that you care. this is the most important day of their lives and they’re relying on you to make it special.

Read other conversations from the series here.

A conversation with CTM


Have you ever wanted to take off work, travel and do something really fun but work, daily obligations got in the way? Well now you can; sort of.

Adam Hoffmeister and Madelyn Hille, two awesome twenty somethings, are quitting their jobs, and taking a 70+ day trip to canoe the entire Mississippi. Along the way, Madelyn will be documenting the trip by taking photographs, which will end up being published in a photographic journal depicting life along the Mississippi River. The photo book, titled Capturing the Mississippi (CTM) will allow others to see and experience the trip every step of the way.

On June 8, Hoffmeister and Hille will begin the 2,300-mile journey in their 18-foot Nova Craft Canoe. They will begin paddling in South Clearwater, Minn., at Lake Itasca and travel all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico in New Orleans, La.

Hille will choose a photograph at the end of each day that best sums up each day. It might be a group shot of people they meet along the way or a glimpse of a gorgeous sunset. The photographs will tell the complete story, quite literally, capturing the Mississippi.

“A year ago, I was going through a time when I was deciding what I wanted to do the rest of my life,” Hille said. “I’ve always loved photography, and Adam and I have both wanted to canoe the Mississippi. It’s an awesome opportunity.”

For Hoffmeister, the timing was right. Hoffmeister said they began talking about canoeing the Mississippi two years ago, but took a mission trip to Zimbabwe in 2011 instead.

“Mostly the timing is right and we’ve had this in the works for years,” Hoffmeister said. “Our lease is up in June, we don’t have plans for the summer, Madelyn just finished school and we both have jobs that are expendable. It’s all about the timing.”

Both Hille and Hoffmeister, who are in their 20s, are quitting their jobs to canoe the Mississippi. After the trip, they will be moving to Miami, Fla.

Hille said the 20-something concept is one of the reasons they decided to go through with the trip. She said she is obsessed with her generation because they are different.

“I’ve always been a little bit ashamed of our generation because we’ve been told we’re spoiled and our grandparents, parents worked harder than us,” Hille said. “But people our age are trying to go outside the conventional mold we used to fit into and try to do something unique, different to make ourselves happy.”


What began as an idea to canoe the entire Mississippi became a decision to create the daily photo book and while they’re on the river, they will also be raising money for the Flat Rock River YMCA Camp, a summer camp in St Paul, Ind., which teaches outdoor education among other things.

“We would have gone on the trip regardless but now we’re able to raise money for a good cause,” Hoffmeister said.

On May 2, they began a Kickstarter, an online pledge system for funding creative projects. They have until June 2 to reach their goal of $3,000 and if they don’t reach the goal, they don’t receive any of the money.

They will take the trip whether or not they reach their goal. The funding raised will go toward producing the photo book and excess be used for food, toiletry costs and travel expenses.

People who want to donate can visit Kickstarter.com and type “Capturing the Mississippi” in the search bar. They can then click on the project, watch the video to learn more and donate. As people donate, they can receive really cool prizes based on money donated. Some of those prizes are post cards with a personal message, copies of photographs or a hardback copy of the photo book.

“Everyone has been amazingly generous,” Hille said. “Our canoe, paddles and life jackets were donated to us.”

Besides those items, they will be taking basic necessities like light-weight clothes, camping equipment and food, Hille said.

Both Hille and Hoffmeister have planned for risks they might face, such as weather. If there is a large rainstorm, they plan to seek shelter for those days then resume paddling.

“The main thing through this entire project is it is fun,” Hille said. “Adam and I are taking the opportunity we have now and trying to make our lives fun and adventurous. By producing the book and documenting the experience, we are bringing along others with us.”

Learn more and donate:


Read other conversations from the series here.

A conversation with a national service volunteer


After selling her computer and car, Samantha packed everything she could fit in to an AmeriCorps-issued bag and boarded a flight to California.

Samantha is a 23-year-old who went to Indiana University and is now doing a program for a national service, AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps. She is a project specialist.

While trying to narrow down a choice of major, she decided to join AmeriCorps and jumped in to the decision without hesitation. She had thought a lot about joining the Peace Corps when she was in high school, but AmeriCorps was an option that had a shorter commitment and seemed more lax.

“I couldn’t decide what I wanted out of life,” she said. “It was difficult for me to narrow down an area of interest for a major and I knew I didn’t want to work as a receptionist forever; service seemed like a viable option in the meantime, while I figured out what I wanted.”

Samantha said it has become clear what she wants and what she doesn’t want. Her goals are clear and she has decided on a major moving forward with her education.

Although she will be all over the United States for the next several months, Samantha is currently located in Queens, N.Y. She said a lot of what she is doing is paperwork.  She is doing paperwork to prepare the road system affected from hurricane Sandy. Even though it’s six months out from the disaster, there are a lot of things that need to be done.

“It’s hard to stay motivated sometimes, but this work still needs to be done,” she said.

Samantha said there have been mixed public views on what they are doing. She said a lot of people along the way to New York didn’t know how to take them.

“They would ask us what we’re doing and not really understand,” she said. “It’s been amazing because the second we got near the coast and mentioned we would be doing Sandy (hurricane) relief, people on street corners and Starbuck’s baristas would tell us thank you. They have been genuinely grateful.”

The best part of her job, she said, has been learning so much about herself. She said she didn’t expect it to be as hard as it has turned out to be.

“I’ve learned how I work with a team and how to define myself,” she said. “You’re in a situation when you’re in a uniform all day, everyday. You don’t define yourself by what you’re wearing or what you have.”

Along those lines, Samantha said the people she has met along the way have surprised her.

“You don’t have those defining characteristics, like an iPad or your Sperry’s, so you have to get to know people on a very basic level of being in the same program,” she said. “My best friend on my team was homeless for a period of time and I don’t think I would have been friends with him without this opportunity. The friendships I’ve made have been great.”

She described the hardest part has been being around the same group of people 24/7 saying, “The same four people share a room, beds, drive to work together, share a desk at work and do physical training together.”

She describes the scariest things she has ever done is volunteering for AmeriCorps.

“Volunteering for something and not really having any idea what it was going to be like was scary,” she said. “I had to leave all the comforts of home.  Even when I moved away from home before, I had a plan, freedom and my things. The not knowing of this program and jumping right in is scary.”

In her time off she has been writing, traveling. She said she has visited Central Park, the Museum of Natural History and more.

Best advice she has received while preparing AmeriCorps was from her father, who she described as her inspiration.

“Before I left, my dad told me ‘this is the time of your life. You’re going to make memories and meet friends you’ll keep the rest of your life,’” she said. “It’s true and I try to keep that in mind when I’m having a hard time.”

After Samantha finishes her time working for the service, she hopes to finish her degree and is thinking about focusing on pre-law, international studies or policy analysis. She said she started at Indiana University and would like to finish there, saying, ‘It has been fun to tell people I am from Indiana and went to IU, especially during basketball season.’

Advice Samantha has for those hesitant and scared to do something is not to overthink it.  She said it’s unnerving to take a leap of faith, but the feeling is liberating

“I went to somewhat of an extreme, gave up my job, apartment, relationships and sold my car, all to join a program I knew very little about,” she said. “I had hesitations and was scared but more than anything I felt relieved. Don’t overthink it, just jump.”

Advice she would give twenty somethings following their dreams is to go for it.

“What’s the worst that could happen? You could fail. Good. Fail. Fail hard, be miserable. Then get up, wipe your tears and do it again,” she said. “What’s the best that could happen? You could succeed and get everything you ever wanted. How will you know if you don’t do what you want to do and follow that dream? It’s worth it.”

Samantha also said people should be decisive and direct about what they want. She said making your own decisions and being as open and clear about things you want out of life will eliminate all the other clutter.

“How will anyone – a friend, your parents, your boyfriend, your coworkers, how will they know what you want if you don’t tell them?” she said. “People will recognize you know what you want and you go out and get it.”

A look in to a few of questions:
1.) Where do you get your inspiration? My dad. He’s always proud of me and works so hard. He is a great father who gives great advice. He is my mentor, friend and greatest inspiration.”

2.) Do you feel like a badass? (after laughing) I kind of do. A lot of what I’m actually doing is paperwork. It’s six months out of the disaster. These are a lot of the things that need to be done. I’m doing paperwork to repair the road system.

3.) What do you wish you had more time for?  It might be selfish, but I wish I had time to myself. I would like to have time to read a book, paint my nails, and take a little bit longer shower. I also hope to read a book I just ordered, “Frozen in Time,” a non-fiction book about WWII.

4.) What is your dream job or what are you interested in doing? I am very interested in law and policy analysis.

5.What is your proudest accomplishment? It will be finishing school. It’s something I’m passionate and thrilled I will be able to do. I’m dedicated, driven and looking forward to that moment. 

Check out other conversations in the series here.

A conversation with a fly-fisherman


This week I had the pleasure of talking to Eric, a 26-year-old guy who wants to open up his own fly-fishing guide service in Jackson, Wyoming or New Orleans.

Eric isn’t a stranger to twenty something life-altering changes. He packed up his blazer and moved 1800 miles away from home when he was  21 years old. He hasn’t let anything stop him from following his dreams and he plans to continue working to make them come true.

Eric, an Ind. native, who has lived in Jackson, Tucson, Ariz., and  Baton Rouge, La., is taking classes to complete a business degree so he can learn everything he needs to open his business.

He said accounting has been the most helpful and he plans to focus on small-business classes before wrapping up his degree.

He first got in to fly-fishing when he was 17 years old.

“I saw ‘A River Runs Through It’ and liked it,” he said. “I decided to try it before a big fishing trip to Michigan and have been ever since.”

He said his favorite part of having the business would be being able to be outside all day.

When asked what the hardest thing about fly-fishing was, he said ‘All of it. The patience is the hardest, but it’s probably the best thing about it too.’

He admits he sticks with it because it’s addicting.

The best advice he ever received was from a coworker, Dan Sowers, who helped show him all the spots to fish and how to read the water in Jackson.

The worst piece of advice he received was when he was in a drift boat in a river in Jackson and even though it looked like there was a complete log jam across the river he was told there was a wide enough gap to get through. He dropped everyone out on the bank and went through it by himself, without a life jacket, and said the drift boat was ‘like a pin ball machine going through the gap and I screamed like a girl,’ he said.

Eric said the scariest thing he has ever done is move to Jackson alone when he was 21. He said moving west is also his proudest accomplishment.

In Jackson he worked as a fly-fish guide, camp jack at hunting camp, snow mobile guide in Yellowstone during the winter and participated in activities at a ranch as well.

“What I remember the most is the campfires, hanging out with people and fishing with my friends Myles, Dan, Todd and Zach,” he said.

He said he fished every day in the summer and every once in awhile in the winter.

August or September is his favorite time to fish because it’s hopper (grass hopper) season.

“You use big flies and big fish go dumb for big hoppers,” he said.

Since moving west, he has developed more of an environmental viewpoint.

“I like stories about helping the environment, dam removal and more,” he said.

Although he said  fisherman don’t share their favorite fishing spots, he said he has fly-fished in Jackson, Louisiana, New Zealand, Michigan, Idaho and Indiana.

“The spots I fish rarely are fished, so I usually have the river to myself,” he said. “I don’t want to give my spots away.”

Advice he has for other twenty-somethings is to do what they have a passion for.

“Stick with it and don’t be afraid to go against what other people think is normal,” he said.

A look at some of the questions: 
Favorite fish you’ve caught?
A Red fish in Louisiana. it took us five days to catch it because the conditions were so bad
Biggest fish?
Also a red fish. It was probably 12 pounds.  
Do you have a favorite fish?
Cutthroat trout
What is something you had while fishing in Jackson? 
I always carried bear spray. I never had to use it, but I tested it to see what it would do one time and it was an orange plume that shot 30 feet out.
What is your dream job?
CEO of Patagonia
When did you first know you wanted to be able to fly-fish daily?
My first day in Jackson in 2007
Where do you get your inspiration ?
I really like Yvon Chouinard’s story (he founded Patagonia)
What is something scary that happened while fishing? 
I was walking along the edge once and didn’t realize the ground was brittle. I slid 30 feet down the side of a hill and landed in the water. 


A conversation with a writer


I’m happy to introduce my first interview of the series Collecting Conversations. First up to the plate is Andrea, a 25-year-old freelance technical writer who writes textbooks on Microsoft Office software. She has a writing degree from the University of Tampa and hopes to be successful at creative writing one day.

The best part of her job is she gets to work from home and doesn’t have to deal with office politics. Also, Andrea’s name can be found on Microsoft Office software textbooks. Cool, right?

After years of writing before, during and after college, Andrea has a lot of knowledge to share on the subject.

Andrea doesn’t remember the exact moment she began writing, but she remembers being young.

“I’ve always been a reader. As a kid I would carry books with me everywhere I went (and I still do),” she said. “I guess one day I decided I wanted to try writing.”

She enjoys both fiction and poetry. Ultimately she wants to write fiction but she loves poetry and doesn’t want to stop writing it.

Her proudest writing accomplishment has been having poems published in an online journal.

“To me having my own work published is a much bigger accomplishment than getting my name on a book I wrote for someone else,” she said. “I will always remember the first time my own words were published.”

She has learned she can survive writing boot camp.

Andrea finds it harder to start writing than keep writing. She recalls her first year of college as a writing major and refers to it as boot camp, saying it was hard to be vulnerable.

“You spend a lot of time writing your deepest most intimate thoughts and then listen to everyone bash it to pieces,” she said. “If you can take that criticism and weed out the crap and let the rest of it help you then I think you’ll have a much easier time to keep writing.”

She doesn’t keep a writing schedule but wishes she did saying, “I’m just not to the point where I can sit down and say ‘I will write now.’ It doesn’t work that way for me.”

She has learned it’s hard to make time for writing.

“Life gets in the way of most things, but I think if you really have a passion for it, you will make the time,” she said.

Her childhood has been her biggest inspiration. She said she remembers random, insignificant moments from being a child and turns those moments into a story or poem.

She learned not to give up.

There comes a point when most people who have dipped their feet in to writing want to give up. Andrea said she almost gives up everyday, but by sticking with it, her writing improves.

“I’m a perfectionist who could spend an entire day rewriting a sentence,” she said. “I stick with it because nothing makes me happier than that moment when I find the right words to express what I’m trying to say.”

We ended the conversation with advice she would tell other writers or aspiring writers.

“I think you can’t be afraid to write in a medium or genre that you don’t like. I never thought I would ever become a technical writer but I actually enjoy it and it helps my other writing,” she said. “I would also say to really get into poetry. So many writers seem to want to write fiction but never get in to poetry. Learning how to write poems help make your fiction stronger, they go hand-in-hand.”

A look at a few of the questions:
What is the best advice you’ve ever received on writing?
I had a professor tell me that words fail and that once you get over that it becomes a lot easier. I didn’t get it at first but now that I do I’ve had a much easier time writing.
and the worst piece of advice you’ve received?
I think most advice is bad when it comes to art. I’ve been told to not write offensive things, which to me is ridiculous. Life is offensive.
What is your favorite book, short story and poem?
My favorite book of all time is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I read it all of the time and each time I find something new to love. My favorite short story is a tie between White Angel by Michael Cunningham and Dance in America by Lorrie Moore. And my favorite poem is This Hour and What Is Dead by Li-Young Lee (honestly I love anything by him).
Best movie you’ve seen lately that was adapted from a book?
Stand by Me is my favorite movie of all time. It was adapted from a Stephen King story. I did just see The Perks of Being a Wallflower and thought it was an amazing adaptation. I love both the book and the movie.


Collecting conversations

I’m starting a series in my blog. The series will involve once-a-week interviews with some pretty awesome people.

The interviews or “conversations” will be with young writers, students, entrepreneurs, aspiring doctors, travelers, fishermen and more. You name it,  I’ll be interviewing them.

My first interview of the series is A conversation with a writer. I spoke with a 25-year-old technical writer who has a writing degree from the University of Tampa and hopes to one day be successful at creative writing.
I’m excited to share their stories with others. Here’s to collecting conversations.

Editor’s note: if you would like to be interviewed, feel free to leave a comment or ask how you can email me.