In 1989 Idaho hosted the first of three NFPW conferences I helped organize. One of the unique and unbelievable women I met at that conference in Coeur d’Alene was Barbara Nilson. She was the national high school communications contest director and I organized Idaho’s contest. It was wonderful getting to know her better at the conference. I made black lamb table decorations for the conference with an inscription “NFPW, we believe in ewe.” Can you believe that 25 years later she still has the lamb I gave her? Barbara, you are one of the reasons NFPW friendships last a lifetime. Meet Barbara Nilson, a shining example of our unique, unbelievable members.
Name: Barbara Nilson
City and State: Seattle area
Years a member of NFPW: 58
Tell us about you:
In the fall of 2004 Meg Hunt called and asked if I would organize the 2005 NFPW conference in Seattle. I called some of the “oldtimer” members and a newly moved to Washington NFPW member I had met at the previous conference and we decided the five of us could do it. Thus I was the conference director for “Sound bytes in Seattle”, Sept, 8-10, 2005. Meg’s final words during the phone conversation were: “And you’ll take us around the peninsula again,” so I did.
I joined NFPW in 1956 when my ex-husband and I owned, published, reported, typeset, photographed etc. as a staff of two for the Quincy Valley Post-Register. I set all the copy on a typewriter that justified the lines by pulling a string AFTER EVERY LINE. I wish I still had that machine because nobody believes me. My column was called “Barb’s Wire.” I divorced him and took my four children and went back to college to get my teaching degree. I then was hired at Franklin High School in Seattle as yearbook adviser and soon became adviser to the award-winning newspaper. During this time, I also became Youth Director for NFPW and expanded the contest for high school students.
I was instrumental in building a strong student contest in Washington State both for NFPW and the Journalism Education Association. Some of the awards I received were WPA Communicator of Achievement, 1981; Carl Towley Award from the national Journalism Education Assn, 1984; JEA program director, spring 1985; and WPA Torchbearer 1984.
After retiring from teaching, I wrote for a local newspaper about 15 years focusing on travel and historical pieces.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
I have visited all 50 states, all the continents, all the Provinces in Canada including the Northwest Territories and Antarctica. If I had to pick one place to live (besides Seattle) it would be New Zealand, it has it all from Fjords to English towns, Scottish tows, Yellowstone park; majestic Mt. Cook etc.
Any career advice you would give?
As for career advice, just follow what you love to do, where your heart is.
What talent would you most like to have?
Besides writing, it would be to play rinky-tink piano and entertain people, with raunchy songs, make them laugh. I guess that’s also what would surprise people about me.
What are you reading?
Since leaving our five-acre woods (just for the winters) for an apartment in Seattle I have read a couple of books each week; I love history and “Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker” was a favorite, as was Corky Roberts’ “Founding Mother’s.” In addition to reading, I’m doing two interviews a month for the newsletter here and working on a novel disguised as my memoirs of 85 years.
I love history and small towns; I have written several books and two of them received first place from the King County Association of Historical Organizations. One “Uncle Sam Wants You” is about the veterans who served in WWII from the small town of Maple Valley; the second one is “Ravensdale Reflections” about a small mining town in our area. This past year I completed the “100th Centennial of Renton High School.”
In June our family will be gathering at the ocean at Kalaloch (the spot where busloads of Press Women spent time on both of the NFPW trips around the Olympic Peninsula that I led) to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.
I hope to attend the NFPW conference in 2016 to celebrate 60 years with a truly fantastic organization.
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