In her own words
“In spring of 2012, the Tribune was re-imagining our Sunday lifestyles section and one of the ideas was to have it open with a singular voice – a columnist who would welcome readers each week and keep up a running dialogue of sorts. My editor called me in his office one day and asked if I was interested in being that voice. At the time, I was a year into my divorce. My kids were 3 and 7. I was navigating a full-time job and my kids’ needs and what in the world I wanted my life to look like, now that it was nothing like I imagined it looking like. My editor said, “Just write about that mess.” (I don’t know if he actually used the word mess, but I think I heard it implied.)
I was a features reporter and, before that, an arts and entertainment editor, so I had written very little about my personal life. The idea of sharing more of myself in my writing was scary, but also exciting. I had written one essay a few months prior to my editor’s offer – about a pink Christmas tree my kids and I bought for our first divorced Christmas – and the reader reaction was really touching. It was my first taste of feeling like some of my stories might help other people feel less alone in whatever mess they’re going through at the time. So I told my editor yes.
Pretty quickly it found an audience. All sorts of people found themselves living lives that looked nothing like they imagined would write to me each week. Some shared their stories. Some just commented on mine. It felt like a dialogue, which I love.
About a year later my editor asked me to start writing the column 5 days a week. I knew, at that point, I was going to need to expand it beyond my little family and my little world. So I set out to tell other people’s stories alongside my own.
I try to tell the stories of all sorts of people, but I keep my eyes trained especially for the voices of girls and women, who we haven’t historically heard from enough. I want to hear and tell how they’re shaping the world and how the world is shaping them. Some of my favorites have been Indigo Monae, who turned an abandoned lot into an outdoor yoga studio; Ellen Smith, whose 95-year-old mom handed her a box of letters that revealed a lifetime of joy and sorrow; and Dinee Simspon, Chicago’s only black, female organ transplant surgeon.
The job is truly a joy and a gift.”
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*** Please follow along on instagram as well and learn more about Heidi. This year for my birthday, I am embarking on a weekly photo essay project highlighting 52 Phenomenal Women. This is week 27 of 52. Participants in this project will be supporting the efforts of Dress for Success Worldwide – Central. We are all stronger together and it is my sincere hope that we will be inspired by each other’s stories. Now is the time to celebrate as well as encourage one another. Tell your story!**