For almost a year, I’ve had the chance to do some writing on the side — and I’m not talking about here on my blog. I mean crafting stories about people, giving me the opportunity to interview them, learn about them, and gather details about what they’ve been dealing with from a health standpoint.
My friend and former colleague Matt Peterson had left The Dallas Morning News in early 2020 just before the pandemic to become manager of publications and internal communications at Methodist Health System, one of North Texas’ larger hospital/health care chains. Last Jan. 19, I sent Matt a message on LinkedIn congratulating him on a year at Methodist, where he constantly juggles a multitude of projects, including a quarterly magazine that’s mailed to residents in the Dallas-Fort Worth area who live near Methodist facilities.
Three days later, Matt messaged me again, asking if I’d have any interest in writing a freelance story for him. His pitch was a piece about a Methodist patient with cerebral palsy who had lost 150 pounds (over 200, I’d soon find out in talking to him) after having bariatric surgery.
With my passion for writing, my love of engaging with people, and the prospect of making some extra money for my family, there was never a question of whether I’d do it. I just needed to check with my bosses at The News and make sure that freelancing for Methodist wouldn’t be a conflict of interest. It’s fairly unlikely the newspaper would be doing stories on the same subjects I’ve been writing about, so my supervisor and the managing editor told me to go for it.
What also helped sell it was Matt’s clear confidence in me as a writer. Although I rarely get a chance to write as a full-time copy editor at The News for almost 22 years (next month), he’d read my work and knew I had what it took.
“Seems like an awfully compelling story in the right hands,” he told me in his message.
So I took on that assignment and, in the months since, have written a total of six pieces for Methodist’s Shine: Your Healthy Living Magazine. The stories, which unfortunately don’t publish with a writer byline, also appear on the Shine website.
The stories focus on the successes of patients who receive treatment at Methodist’s hospitals throughout the D-FW area. I interview them and their physicians/surgeons, research their conditions and put together short narratives detailing what they’ve gone through, their treatment/surgery, and recovery — all in about 500-600 words.
Since I’ve always tended toward writing long, I’ve turned in most (all?) on the plus side. But Matt, who advanced after several years on our copy desk at The News to being one of our most reliable, respected news-side assigning editors on the Breaking News Desk, is a veteran at finding ways to nip and tuck — so he always gets the stories to the length needed for his magazine layouts.
I thought I’d share with you the digital versions of stories I’ve written. Two — including the first one I wrote — haven’t published for logistical reasons. But the other four have gone up online, and two have appeared in the quarterly magazine; the other two should be in the spring edition.
This first one, about a young couple who went through bariatric surgery together in late 2019, published this past week. Kelli and Jason Taylor were so much fun to talk to — the three of us visited for over an hour by phone two days before Thanksgiving. The Taylors have three adorable sons (as you’ll see in the photos), the youngest of whom was born with a heart defect, and they have a remarkable family story. One part that it was decided should be trimmed from the piece is that the Taylors’ middle son, Caden, has a twin sister, Caris, who sadly was lost at 34 weeks of pregnancy.
Thanks for reading … I’ll keep writing! 😊