As I sit here working on my first story for 2016, I am reflecting back on the work I did in 2015. It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’re a writer because you’re always focused on your current stories and then looking forward to what’s next. It’s nice to look back sometimes and what better time to do it than now as we get ready to jump into 2016.
To start off 2015, I did a story about 5 people making Pittsburgh a healthier city. It was one of the most personally inspiring pieces I did all year, and also one of the hardest to get right, requiring hours of work and revision. Ultimately, I was so happy with how it turned out.
I also continued my new Author Spotlight series with an interview of Christa Melnyk Hines. I have known Christa for many years now and it was a pleasure to highlight her great work.
This month I got one of those emails from an editor that makes you do a happy dance. I was offered the opportunity to do a monthly feature for NEXTpittsburgh about the top family adventures going on in the city. These stories take so many hours to put together but I enjoy them immensely because I think people really appreciate them and find them valuable. My first story was the Top Family Adventures in March feature which included events like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Maple Madness and Be My Neighbor Day.
Also this month, I launched my new author website at www.mandyyokim.com! It was a long-term project that finally saw the light of day. I had a wonderful designer to help me through the process – Cassie Brkich at Brkich Design Group. She also helped me with my Wonderaddo website and it’s always nice working with her.
This month I worked on the Top Family Adventures in April feature for NEXTpittsburgh and I did a feature for Kidsburgh about 11 Unique Summer Camps in Pittsburgh. That was a super cool story to write and it ended up being the 6th most popular Kidsburgh feature of the year. I was amazed to learn about the variety of opportunities for kids in the city. CSI Camp for budding forensic scientists or Wilderness Survival Camp, anyone?
I also wrote a story for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review which highlighted the high school newspaper at Baldwin High School. I like these kinds of community-interest stories plus I love shining a light on the positive efforts of teens.
I started a new Wonderaddo series this month: the Weekend Roundup, which listed a lot of the activities going on around the city that helped families learn about the world right here in Pittsburgh. What kinds of things were in my first Roundup? The 35th Annual Latin American and Caribbean Festival and the 14th Annual Brazil Festival. I continued this series until September when I accepted that few people seemed to be reading the posts which took me a lot of time to compile each week. Oh well, you live and learn. Not every idea is going to work out.
Lastly, I did three Author Spotlights this month and they were all different but equally interesting. Gene Natali Jr. wrote a book about financial literacy, Becky Morales focuses on cultural education for kids and Lara Krupicka likes to help families create bucket lists, which is a neat concept.
I did one of my favorite stories of the year this month – it was a feature for Kidsburgh about how to travel the world with your family right here in Pittsburgh. This story was also highlighted on the KDKA-TV Pittsburgh Today Live morning show.
This month I attended the Women’s Press Club Banquet and met so many wonderful people. We got to hear a talk by Terry Mutchler, attorney and former award-winning journalist who was appointed as Pennsylvania’s first Executive Director of the Office of Open Records. But my favorite memory from that night is getting to meet an editor I’d worked with at the Tribune-Review. For about five years we had worked together, all by email and phone. It was a pleasure – and pretty strange, honestly – to meet her in person after all those years.
I did an Author Spotlight on Valentine Brkich, a very clever guy who can make me laugh out loud and that is no small feat!
I finished off the month with a Top Family Adventures in May story. What were some of the top activities in May? The DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and Disney FANTASIA with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
I did a couple of interesting newspaper stories this month about a Financial Literacy Day at Ross Elementary and the North Hills Future Business Leaders of America team winning a National Championship. I rarely do interviews in person, mostly all of them are done via email or by phone. It was a nice treat to get into the classroom and talk with the students and teachers.
Have you read the All Souls Trilogy? This month I got to hear author Deborah Harkness speak at The Hillman Center for Performing Arts at Shady Side Academy. I found her to be very inspiring and interesting. It was cool to see all the fans of her work there and to be reminded that good writing and good stories matter to readers.
I wrote two blog posts this month about two of my favorite yearly events in Pittsburgh: the International Folk Festival and the EQT Children’s Theater Festival. I am always amazed at the dedication and hard work that it takes to put on these big events – it’s nice to know that there are so many passionate people in the city that care about sharing these opportunities with all of us.
I finished up the month with one of the two biggest Family Adventures articles I’ve done to date. The June feature was basically a summer guide to all kinds of family-friendly opportunities in the city. Some cool events I included were the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival and Slide the City.
This month I wrote a Summer Guide to Exploring the World in Pittsburgh for Wonderaddo. I also participated in the Read Around the World Summer Series on the Multicultural Kid Blogs website where I blogged about Learning about Roberto Clemente.
Women’s soccer was huge this month during the FIFA World Cup Canada and I wrote a blog post about Pittsburgh native, Meghan Klingenberg, who was on the USA team.
I finished up the month with the Top Family Adventures in July feature, which included the Three Rivers Regatta and the Vintage Grand Prix.
During the heart of summer, I had several firsts. I took my kids to their first opera during Opera Theater of Pittsburgh’s Summerfest 2015. It was awesome! I also wrote a guest blog post for Multicultural Kid Blogs about how my kids and I were Learning about France in Pittsburgh.
This month I started a new blog series called Just Like You Were There, which was my way of sharing some of my photos while also spotlighting some of the really cool things to do around Pittsburgh. I kicked it off with a Sunday Drive through Harmony and Zelienople and then I did some Blueberry Picking at Soergel Orchards and took in some public art on the Northside at Randyland.
I closed out July with the Top Family Adventures in August feature.
One of my favorite stories of the year to research was the 10 Outings for Families in Pittsburgh feature I did for NEXTpittsburgh. This article gave families some fun ideas for getting out to explore the city, complete with suggestions for lunch or a sweet treat. Examples included kayaking at North Park and step climbing on the South Side Slopes.
I wrote a Family Guide to McKeesport’s International Village for Wonderaddo and continued the Just Like You Were There series with blog posts about Hiking at Laurel Hill State Park, Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kentuck Knob and Mansion Exploring at Hartwood Acres.
I transitioned out of summer into fall with my Top Family Adventures in September feature.
This month I did a cool Author Spotlight on Scott T. Barsotti, who wrote a sci-fi novel called Single Version. One of the interesting things about this story was that I learned about Inkshares, a relatively nontraditional way to get a book published. Although it was too early to know if Scott’s efforts through Inkshares would be successful, I’m happy to report now that he DID eventually get his book published. Congrats, Scott!
In addition to completing the Top Family Adventures in October feature, I was able to get out with the Women’s Press Club for a tour of the Toonseum and view its Political Cartoons and the First Amendment exhibit. We got to hear Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial cartoonist, Rob Rogers, tell us about the exhibit and I had a blast from the past when I saw work in the show from fellow University of Virginia alum, Jen Sorensen, who does awesome work and was one of just a few women featured in the exhibit.
This month was a good one for variety – I did my monthly Top Family Adventures in November feature as well as a cool story about Raising a Foodie, where I compiled a listing of different cooking opportunities for children. Examples included Valentine’s Day Tea-themed classes at Crate Cooking School and Tween Chef Fall Baking classes at Giant Eagle Market District.
I wrote an event preview for ‘The Nayika Project’ which celebrated heroines of Indian culture through a creative hip hop/Indian fusion. I was inspired to write a Just Like You Were There post about A Perfect Day in Oakland after spending time with a dear friend, who turns out is the perfect person to meander through Phipps Conservatory with on a blustery, fall day.
Finally, I did an Author Spotlight on Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan who recently self-published a children’s book and will soon be published in Highlights Magazine. I love seeing my writing pals do well, including my college friend who started a blog called Romance Debuts where she interviews romance authors about their books and the steps taken to get published.
Also this month I celebrated Youth Literature Day by hearing author Kate DiCamillo speak as part of the Pittsburgh Arts and Lecture series. I found her to be warm and funny and completely down-to-earth, despite being one of the most beloved children’s book authors writing today.
This month I attended my first writing conference, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Fall Conference in Pittsburgh. I learned some inside tips from editors and agents. It was a wonderful experience and here’s hoping I can take some of what I learned and get my own children’s book manuscript ready to submit soon!
I did an Author Spotlight on Leah Pileggi, an author I met at the SCBWI conference. I admired her for writing a middle-grade historical fiction novel – and the research she did for the book was fascinating. I love learning about history which brings me to one of my favorite writing-related events of the year, getting to speak at Duquesne University’s Graduate History Department. Every couple of years, one of my former professors assigns a paper I wrote about the Cold War and cultural diplomacy way back when I took his class. This is the second time I’ve had the chance to go into the classroom and talk with the students and it’s very rewarding. Do I feel a little old standing up there talking about my paper with those young college students? Yes. Do I still think it’s pretty cool? You bet.
Finally this month, I did my last Top Family Adventures in December feature of 2015 which was probably my biggest one yet. I finished it up over Thanksgiving weekend spent with family in Virginia. That’s one of the best aspects about being a freelance writer, you can work from just about anywhere.
And here we are in the last month of 2015 and I’ve written a news story on the Teen Zone at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in East Liberty and an Author Spotlight on Susan Sofayov, who wrote a compelling book about a young woman living with bipolar II disorder.
I’m looking ahead to 2016 now as I finish up my Top Family Adventures feature for January and start researching another story for Kidsburgh due next month.
Thank you for supporting my work throughout the year – cheers to a very happy 2016 for all of you!