Jack's Gym Part 1 | Part 2- This award-winning feature told the slice-of-life story of an octogenarian, who erected a makeshift gym alongside his modest home where he and a half a dozen peers met to swap stories and bench press.
Midwife - I recall being in the delivery room in the wee hours on Christmas Eve several years ago, awaiting the arrival of a newborn after spending several months following his mother’s pregnancy as she met with a midwife. It was my first experience of witnessing childbirth before my two sons were born several years later. I was rapt, awed and weepy. The male nurse came up to me afterward and expressed how he wished the camera’s lens had been on me as well, given my unabashed emotional response. This feature won third place in an area writing contest.
Breast Cancer Part 1 | Part 2 - Other writing opportunities also have hit close to home. I wrote this award-winning, two-part feature on women under age 40 who were being treated for breast cancer while raising young children. I connected with a few Bay Area women as I reviewed statistics and changes in treatment options over an historical period that included the time when my mother died of the disease at age 51 in 1989, after a long courageous struggle. She was the age that I am now.
I have been blessed to have a career spanning three decades, where each day I am paid to learn. It has been the ideal path for someone with an insatiable curiosity and a love of hearing people’s stories. I get the same rush today listening to sources sharing their lives as I did as a high school student when I interviewed the elderly sister of the founder of my preparatory high school. Each time I then relish the creative challenge of writing a story that conveys that individual’s life with authenticity.
I knew my eventual degree in psychology at the University of California at Santa Cruz (Go Banana Slugs!) was not meant to lead to social work or private practice, but instead would help foster my talents as an interviewer. I later became the unofficial morale officer at a weekly newspaper, as I would often enter the newsroom exclaiming that I had just had yet another "paid-to-learn" moment after doing an interview with a local scientist, theologian, artist or poet. This outburst would sometimes lift the spirits of my colleagues, reminding them of how fortunate we were to be pursuing this craft.
My gratitude for being able to pursue a writing career has rarely waned. I had an opportunity to interview Glenn Seaborg, a Nobel Laureate and former chancellor at the University of California at Berkeley after an element on the periodic table was named in his honor. The once member of President Kennedy’s Atomic Energy Commission and co-discoverer of plutonium stood up after our two-hour meeting and said with dry wit and candor, “Jennifer, you wore me out!”
I have managed to bring my own genuine curiosity, openness and heart to the experience, and yet maintain the necessary objectivity for this profession. You can count on me for your next creative endeavor.