Returning to what I love

A robin rests on a fence post at the Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds.

On October 28, 2013, Steve Frederick gave me the opportunity to prove I could write. As the editor of the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, he told me on my first day, “I can’t teach you how to write, you already know how to do that, but I can teach you to be a reporter.”

For nearly six years, that’s what I did. I learned about my adopted home of Scottsbluff and all of western Nebraska. I found cool stories to tell and suffered through countless boring meetings, so I could go out and tell more cool stories.

Circumstances in my life changed, which led to my resignation from the Star-Herald. I still don’t speak much publicly about all the reasons I left, but it is true my mental health and PTSD diagnosis had a bit to do with it. One day, I will tell the story.

For the past four years, I’ve been working at the CAPWN Youth Shelter. I worked overnight, 10 p.m., to 8 a.m. On my days off, I stuck to my nighttime schedule. It allowed me what I needed so I could live as normal a life as possible. At least for a while.

I did a little freelance work, but not enough to make a living because part of my trauma falls into the category of not being able to do all the things required of a freelancer as well as so many other things. So, it was a story here and there. I figured I would write here on my blog and still be trying to get my memoir published on the day I die somewhere in the distant future.

On May 22, 2023, I received a phone call from Jeff Fielder, co-owner of Nspire Today Magazine. He asked if I’d like to write for him. The following is an edited version of our 30-minute conversation.

“Sure,” I said. “What’s the pay?”

Jeff told what he pays, we talked a bit and I said, “yeah okay. I can do that.”

“So how many stories do you think you can write,” he said.

“One or two a month,” I said. “Maybe three.”

“Really,” he said. “Why?”

I explained how I stuck to a night schedule and had a podcast and a blog I’m trying to maintain, so I couldn’t commit to more than that.

“Let me ask you a question, Irene,” Jeff said. “What if you weren’t working at the shelter.”

“Well, Jeff, I could write a whole lot more,” I said.

There was a pause on the other end of the line before Jeff said, “How much do you need to make?”

We talked some more. I said I could probably get to one story a day, but it was going to take a little while to build up some contacts again so that I could hit that target. He said not to worry. He had a giant list that needed to be done to help get me started.

Jeff ran the numbers. I could hear him on the other end of the line figuring out the math.

“I think we can do that,” he said.

We hung up the phone and planned another call for later that night. He spoke to his co-owner, KC Heath, who I also worked with at the Star-Herald. He said “yes,” too. When I talked to Paul, he asked me why I didn’t just say yes. I didn’t need to talk to him, he said. He knows writing is what I love doing. It’s the one thing I’ve always been good at and get better at as time goes on.

I gave my two-week notice at the shelter. I walked out of the shelter at 8 a.m., June 4, and stepped back into writing the next day.

The pluses to this job is that I don’t work Wednesdays. I have therapy on Wednesday and the day is reserved for it. This is especially true when I do EMDR, which can cause extreme fatigue. I also have the flexibility of when I turn my stories in. I need to turn in five stories each week. So, if something happens, like last Friday (read my previous blog post) and I can’t work, that’s okay. There are still six other days in the week.

I can turn in all five stories at once. I can turn in three on Tuesday and two on Saturday. Whatever combination of five per week is fine. I have the flexibility I need for my mental health while writing at my pace. Basically, this job ticks all the boxes I need in employment and I get to write.

I didn’t think I’d ever get paid regularly again for writing. Hopefully, I don’t fuck it up. The past two weeks have been filled with multiple conversations with me thanking Jeff in a variety of ways. I’ll stress about deadlines later. Right now, I’m basking in the joy of doing what I love.

Nspire Today Magazine focuses on telling the stories of the many amazing people in the WyoBraska area. If you know of someone you think would be a good story and you live in the area, shoot me an email, text, or give me a ring. If you know me in person here in town, you know I’m going to hit you up for a story. You have to say yes. Someone will eventually approach you and I know you’d rather have me write your story than a stranger.


It never really goes away


One year later


  1. Steve

    Makes sense to me. 😎

  2. Mindy Baird

    I am so excited for you! Your writing skills are top notch! I know the community has missed your written word!
    Great job Irene!!!!


    Irene, I am so excited to be able to read your writings again!! Your stories in Inspire Today have been truly inspiring and I’ve loved every one of them!!! I just finished reading the entire August edition and your stories stand out above the rest!! Jeff is a good friend of mine and he really found a jewel when he asked you to write for Inspire!! KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!!

    P.S. For some reason I have not been receiving notice of your blogs for the past several years, so I’ve got a lot of reading to do to catch up. 🙂

    • Irene

      I’m glad you are enjoying the stories in Nspire Today. I’m also glad he asked me to come and write for him.

      I checked my email newsletter and I see you resubscribed, so let’s hope that fixes things and you start receiving emails again.

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