Arizona’s Carol Osman Brown continues to excel as state, national communicator

Posted October 21, 2014 by tlehre
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Carol Osman Brown teaching a workshop session.

She joined NFPW and her Arizona affiliate 52 years ago while she was in college and she has been a leading communicator ever since.  She excels in everything she does. She won sweepstakes honors in the NFPW communications contest. She has written for a large daily newspaper, many nationally known magazines, owned a communications company with her husband and has taught college-level communications classes. She played a key role in the 2012 NFPW conference in Arizona. She just continues to excel at everything she works on. Meet Carol Osman Brown, another unique and unbelievable NFPW member.

Name: Carol Osman Brown

Hometown: Payson, Arizona (about 100 miles north of Phoenix)

Affiliate: Arizona Professional Writers (formerly known as Arizona Press Women—name change in summer of 2014)

NFPW and Affiliate Leadership:

I am currently serving as Rim Country District Director. I was APW State President in 1993, and also served several terms as Central District Director when I lived in Phoenix.

NFPW and Affiliate Honors:

APW Communicator of Achievement award in 1991, Sweepstakes Award in Arizona Communications Contest in 1990 and the 1992 Sweepstakes Winner of the NFPW Communication Contest. Winner of numerous APW and NFPW awards for writing and photography over the years. APW hosted the NFPW National Convention in 2012 and it was both a challenge and an honor to help arrange speakers for a variety of professional development workshops and to share Arizona’s Centennial history with NFPW members.

I joined APW and NFPW in 1962 and have been a member for 52 years. I was honored for 50 years of membership in 2012. I was a senior at Arizona State University, majoring in Mass Communications at the time I joined APW, and was working 30 hours a week as a reporter for The Phoenix Gazette, a large daily newspaper.

Tell us a little about you:


Carol Osman Brown and husband Bing Brown in Costa Rica.

I was born in New York, and following the end of WWII, my parents moved to the West to find a climate that might help cure my asthma. As a child, books and magazines were my windows to the world. I’ve always loved travel, nature, art, museums and history. Bitten by the journalism bug early, I was editor of my high school newspaper in Phoenix and then the college paper at ASU. I married James C. Brown (Bing Brown) while still in college and we both were reporters at the Phoenix Gazette. I also freelanced for Associated Press and UPI wire services. I soon realized that newspapers offered limited story space and that I could write in-depth pieces for magazines. So I started freelancing articles and photos to a variety of regional and national publications. These included Arizona Highways, Sunset, Native People’s, AAA Highroads, Guidepost and various publications of the U.S. Information Agency. Always curious, I love journalism because it gives me a license to be nosy and ask questions. Every person has a story and like an anthropologist, I love to make new discoveries and unearth hidden facts.

I left the Gazette to become editor of Arizona Currents, a tabloid newspaper that covered news of rural electrical utilities in 14 Arizona counties.  This job was at a PR agency, where I also wrote news releases for a variety of clients and handled special event publicity for the annual Arabian Horse Show and other events.

A move to a larger agency allowed me to write press kits for Ice Follies and Ringling Brothers’ Circus. I also helped run the press room for the Arizona State Fair and the Arizona Livestock Show for several years.  Then I decided to start a family, but still continued to freelance magazine articles and photos with my husband. We  took our two little boys on many camping trips, and I wrote magazine stories about camping with kids, the value of early swim lessons and various articles about education. I did not know of any other moms who were freelance writers and I relied on my APW friends and NFPW networking for help with research and industry connections.  Then my husband and I formed our own firm, Carrington Communications, which focused on special event PR and publicity for small businesses, non-profit groups, artists and authors. I was an editor of several publications and I also spoke at several Reader’s Digest Writer Workshops and other writing conferences. That led to teaching writing courses at Rio Salado Community College and then journalism classes at the Walter Cronkite School of Mass Communications, Arizona State University.  I recently resigned from Rio Salado College, where I had been teaching a writing course for nearly 30 years; I taught it as an online class for the last decade. Now I am doing freelance editing, writing and working on some children’s book projects.

Any career advice you would give?

As a freelancer, you are always juggling article deadlines, with client meetings, family needs, volunteer work and sometimes a job, such as teaching. I think that building a journalism career involves a cumulative process of adding new skills to your bag of communication tricks. Be ready to embrace new tools such as changing technology as well as employer, client or consumer needs. I was among the first people to buy the first IBM personal computer on the market, despite its high price, because I viewed it as a time-saving tool to help me grow my freelance business. Within the first year, I landed a job producing a national press kit for a new firm, Mail Boxes, Etc., which was used by all their franchise owners. That job paid half the cost of my computer purchase.  Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself as well your career. Take time to attend a writing workshop, upgrade your photo skills at a class or learn a new language before taking a trip to a foreign country. Stay curious and keep growing as an individual.

Try to do interviews in person because you pick up so much additional information about the person by watching body language, noticing awards on the walls and seeing how the person relates to staff or family members. We can do phone or email interviews to get facts, but only the face-to-face interview will yield the human interest elements that bring a story to life. Be a good listener and ask questions that are specifically designed to yield interesting answers. Trust your intuition and be willing to take some risks in order to get a good story.

Remember that words have power, so use them wisely.  Don’t cringe with fear when facing a looming “deadline” … just change it to a “finish line” and you’ll feel more motivated to succeed.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I would like to have a great singing voice so I could sing to a wide variety of music.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

I would like to live in Hawaii due to the climate, friendly people and rainbows. I love to chase rainbows and photograph them.

What book are you reading?

I am always dipping into several books at one time; favorites include self-help, fiction, non-fiction, history, travel and books about writing. Currently I am reading a historical mystery, The Romanov Prophesy by Steve Berry, as well as Breaking Night by Liz Murray, a memoir about a girl who travels from homelessness to Harvard, plus a spiritual book, the Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer.

What might surprise people?

People might be surprised to learn that I’ve traveled to 23 foreign countries. Also, I have a latent gene for silliness that pops

Carol Osman Brown

Carol Osman Brown

up occasionally. Once I donned a large pink rabbit costume and pretended to ice skate in front of TV cameras. The real skater was running late for an appearance on a kids’ TV show and the director was getting desperate. So I volunteered to glide across the stage and had some fun!

Why APW and NFPW are important to me?

As a young reporter, I was honored to be welcomed into APW, a group of established reporters and photographers.  I watched these dedicated women journalists do their work with great skill and dedication. Several became mentors and encouraged me through editing, as well as sharing ideas at APW workshops, meetings and state conferences. I found them to be feisty, funny, wicked smart and always helpful.  Later, as a mother struggling to find time to freelance, and maintain a career, I relied on their wisdom and support.

Networking with NFPW members proved helpful for story research, travel contacts and helpful advice. Later at NFPW conferences, I was able to expand my horizons with wider networking and seeing friends I had only talked to on the phone.  I believe in helping others and being of service to our organization. APW and NFPW exist to help others through continuing education in our broad communication field. We are dedicated to excellence in journalism and strong advocates for First Amendment rights. Yet we are like an extended family, honoring the wisdom of our mature members and relishing the energy and initiative of younger members for help us change with the times, yet keep our vision clear and fresh.   I still like to try new things.  APW hosted a weekend writer’s retreat in the cool pines of Payson for the past two summers. W plan to partner with Gila Community College present  the first Payson Book Festival on July 25, 2015.

Ways to connect with you:

I am on Linkedin, but admit that I do not check it often. Since hackers created havoc with personal information at my bank, doctor’s office, college and several department stores, I now prefer to keep a low profile. So if you wish to contact me, just use email: or the telephone number listed in the NFPW directory.

Alabama’s Elaine Hobson Miller keeps active writing for magazine and blog

Posted October 14, 2014 by tlehre
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Elaine Hobson Miller and the Alabama affiliate were outstanding ambassadors for Birmingham at our NFPW spring board

Elaine Hobson Miller

Elaine Hobson Miller

meeting. It was fun getting to know them better and see the region they call home. Elaine is a dedicated NFPW member you can count on seeing at NFPW meetings. She is outgoing and fun to be around. Meet my friend Elaine.

Name: Elaine Hobson Miller

City and State: Alabama

Affiliate and any leadership positions: Alabama Media Professionals

Years a member of NFPW: Not sure; joined in early 80s, I think.

Tell us a little about you.

I’ve been writing since elementary school, when I did a piece for our little newsletter. While a senior journalism major at Samford University, I landed a part-time job as general assignment reporter for the now-defunct Birmingham Post-Herald. When I graduated, I moved right into a full-time position. A year or two later, I became the first female to cover the city hall beat for the P-H. I was with the paper four years, and returned for a couple of years in the early 1980s to work on the copy desk. Then I became food editor and features writer. When my second child was born in 1982, I quit to do freelancing. I’ve been published in numerous local, regional and national publications, and have two books under my belt. “Myths, Mysteries & Legends of Alabama” was published by Seacoast Publishing (Birmingham) in 1995, while “Nat King Cole: Unforgettable Musician”  (same publisher) came out two or three years ago.

When my husband died in 1996, I took over his drug store and put writing on the back burner. I sold the store in 2012 with the intention of doing more writing and riding. I consider myself semi-retired, but contribute regularly to “Discover the Essence of St. Clair” magazine and I’m having fun doing a weekly blog about farm life and life in general. My farm/ranch/whatever consists of a log house in the middle of 28 wooded acres, where I take care of three horses, two llamas, a goat and dogs and cats. I love to go trail riding and camping with my TWH mare, to travel and to spend time with my two grandsons, who are 2.5 and 7.5 years of age.

Any career advice you would give?

Nope, not really. Writing advice, yes.  Be sure to proofread your work carefully, and for goodness sake, learn the proper use of a comma. Buy a good book on grammar and word usage. Also, learn to write a good lead (lede?) That’s what draws a reader into your article. If the lead is boring, no one will want to read any further.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I wish I could play the fiddle.


Elaine Hobson Miller

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Right where I am!

What book are you reading?

Two that I picked up from The Hub bookstore at the recent Greenville conference: “I Love Me A Turkey Butt Samwich: Finding a Farm Life After Hollywood,” by Pam Stone, and “Stephen King On Writing,” by Stephen King.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Not much. I’m an open book. The few things that might surprise folks can’t be mentioned here!

Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

When I was doing more writing, AMP helped me stay connected with other freelancers and to hone my skills. Now, it’s more of a social outlet, although I really enjoy steering the communications contest. I value the friendships I’ve made and the travel experiences I’ve had through NFPW.

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc.

Go to to follow my blog…PLEASE!

New online NFPW communications contest becomes a labor of love for Katherine Ward

Posted October 7, 2014 by tlehre
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She is a visionary who is helping NFPW move to an online communications contest. It was a labor of blood, sweat and tears – and many all-nighters — to accomplish the task. She is a professional at everything she manages. Many members asked me what could be done to recognize Katherine Ward and all her efforts on behalf of an organization we love. I was honored to present her with the NFPW President’s Award at our September conference in South Carolina to recognize her efforts. She is the wonder woman who lead the way to our new online communications contest. Met unique and unbelievable Katherine Ward.


Katherine Ward accepts her NFPW President’s Award.

Name: Katherine Ward

Address: Wilmington, Delaware

Year joined NFPW: 1990

Affiliate: Delaware Press Association where she serves as executive director

Leadership positions: She has served on the NFPW board of directors as an adviser to several presidents and, together with Jane Lee (Kansas affiliate), created the NFPW membership brochure. She has held many DPA board positions, including newsletter editor and communications contest director, and two terms as president. Director of NFPW’s 2003 national communications conference, “Brave New Media World,” hosted by DPA and held in Wilmington, she was named DPA’s Communicator of Achievement in 2007.

Katherine received a B.A. in English and a secondary teaching certificate from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., and an M.A. in English and Irish literature from Simmons College in Boston. Writing and editing have been a constant in her life and early-on led to a job as newsletter editor and PR director for the Museum of the Confederacy, in Richmond, Va.

She is co-author/editor of two books on Delaware women and is a national award-winning editor of numerous books, including Write Home for Me (Random House Australia, 2006), a memoir by Australian journalist Jean Lamensdorf and the extraordinary year she spent working for the Australian Red Cross in the stifling field hospitals near the front lines of battle in South Vietnam from June of 1966 to June of 1967. Katherine says, “The author and I wore goofy smiles, to say the least, when we learned that by the second week of publication the book was number one on the bestseller list in South Australia – with The Da Vinci Code at number eight.” The author received first place in the 2007 NFPW Communications Contest for writing, and Katherine received the first place for book editing.

That same year Katherine also received a first for editing the DPA quarterly electronic newsletter, a first for a PR campaign for the 25th anniversary of the Hall of Fame of Delaware Women (HFDW), and a second for the PowerPoint presentation she created for the awards banquet for HFDW’s 25th anniversary, featuring each of the then 92 women, including her mother, inducted into HFDW since its inception in 1981. The PR campaign and The Legacy Endures, the accompanying book about the honorees that she edited, helped the Delaware Commission for Women, HFDW’s sponsoring organization, gain national recognition.


Katherine Ward, left, accepts a first place award from Marsha Shuler for book editing in 2007.

Almost all of the books Katherine has edited — including memoirs, young adult fiction, a scholarly book on religion — have received a first in the NFPW contest. Other NFPW contest awards: a first for a speech (eulogy for Sally Rinard, a high school classmate and DPA/NFPW colleague), and a first for a media kit for “The Power of the Student Press: A First Amendment Workshop” that DPA held for Delaware High School journalism students and featured former NFPW President Marj Carpenter as the powerful and captivating keynote speaker.

She says: “My favorite writing project was ‘publishing’ a book for each of my granddaughters, who live near the Jersey Shore and stayed with me after Hurricane Sandy for two freezing cold weeks during which they had no power in their home. Kate (then 8) and Claire (then 6) wrote stories and poems (and even an essay, by Kate, on why cats make good pets) and produced charming illustrations. They chose the typefaces, colors, and design elements. ‘About the Author’ on the back cover of each ‘book’ has a color photo and a bio. My sweet little cat, Noëlle (then 15), was thrilled to be featured in both books.”

For several years she was president of the Prison Arts Advisory Board for the Delaware Department of Correction. A longtime board member of the Delaware Coalition for Open Government, she serves as director of membership and created and maintains their website.

Katherine relates a story for the “press” in all of us: “When in China in October 2011, on the morning the news of Moammar Gadhafi’s death was announced, all of the hundreds of television sets in our hotel suddenly stopped working, and, for some hours, many online news sources were blocked. Our guide in Shanghai, who unexpectedly spoke of the hardships his family suffered during Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, was not to be deterred. He pulled out his iPad and began searching until he came up with some bits of information. Those of us on the tour were glad we lived in the good old USA.”

Things you may be surprised to learn about her:

  • A native Texan, she has lived in 11 states, but called Delaware home throughout her childhood and has again for the last 25 years, living in the house in Wilmington in which she grew up.
  • She and her mother, Mary Sam Ward, a founding member of Delaware Press Association, co-authored (and Katherine edited) Delaware Women Remembered (Modern Press, 1977), a Bicentennial gift to the state of Delaware and the first book to chronicle the lives of Delaware women. Katherine was honored to name Mary Sam one of NFPW’s Women of the Millennium at the Alaska conference in 2000.
  • She missed the Arizona conference in 2012 because she was orchestrating two 50-year high school reunions, taking place within a few weeks of each other.
  • She got her favorite Christmas present ever when Santa brought her a radial arm saw. She says she was born to be a carpenter.
  • She gave up playing league softball at 40 even though her spikes still has some life left in them (too many opportunities to get hurt), but still plays golf occasionally.
  • Since 1993, she has made more than 3,000 bags of 10-Bean Soup for her church’s Green Show (a two-day Christmas bazaar that raises money entirely for outreach into the local community). She gives some bags to DPA for their annual holiday luncheon, and profits go toward professional development programs. A bag or two can be found in the NFPW Silent Auction every year. You can bid on one next year.
  • When need be, she can still pull 2 or 3 all-nighters a week and not be cranky.
  • She makes the best crab cakes in the state of Delaware.


    Katherine Ward

Over the last two years, Katherine has edited Flivverin With You, a collection of love letters written by Ken Slifer and Caryl Dutton from 1923 to 1928. The letters (nearly 400 survive), penned by the grandparents of one of Katherine’s DPA colleagues, Wendy Scott, and curated by her mother, author Diane Slifer Scott (three books on Habitat for Humanity), create a fascinating rear-view-mirror glimpse into the nature of life and love, as experienced by two extraordinary young people in the 1920s. The letters stopped when Ken and Caryl were wed in September of 1928, but the love affair continued for the next 63 years. The book, illustrated by Ken’s beautifully painted envelopes and endorsed by Jimmy Carter, will be published this month. See more of Ken’s artwork at

Katherine has two sons and two granddaughters. Her husband, Jim, often goes on the NFPW pre- and post-conference tours, has served as the photographer for several NFPW events over the years, and counts many NFPW members among his good friends.

Ways to contact Katherine:

Call 302-655-2175 or email

Nancy Wright Beasley shares passion for learning while writing career continues to expand

Posted October 1, 2014 by tlehre
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Nancy Wright Beasley

She is an award-winning writer. I enjoyed reading her books and her long-time column in Richmond Magazine. It is always great catching up with her at NPFW conferences and the pre and post tours. Meet my wonderful friend, Nancy Wright Beasley.

Name: Nancy Wright Beasley

City and State: Richmond, Virginia

Affiliate and any leadership positions: Virginia Press Women (now known as Virginia Professional Communicators) previously served as secretary. I am currently a board member and have served for several years. COA Nominee for VPW – 2006, recipient of multiple communication contest awards.

Years as member of NFPW: 32

Tell us a little about you.

My father was illiterate and my mother only had a 6th education, but they instilled such a love for education that I initially entered college at 17. I married the third boy I dated at Chowan Junior College the following year and took a break to raise two wonderful boys. At 39, I completed a bachelor’s degree and at 46 I became a widow, however, at 60 I completed a graduate degree at the School of Mass Communications, Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. At the time, the late George Crutchfield, one of five men who originally joined VPW, was the director of the school and was instrumental in encouraging me to pursue my degree.  His widow, Francine, and daughter, Lisa, are members of VPW and dear friends of mine. At 66, I received a Master of Fine Arts in Children’s Literature from Hollins University in 2011. At 69, I think I’ve finally finished formal schooling, unless you count summer school at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and at the University of Pittsburgh, where I studied Lithuanian. And, oh yes, I have three perfect grandchildren.

Any career advice you would give?

Never give up and don’t let age limit or affect your dreams. My stalwart parents were the best example of simply putting one foot in front of the other and never looking back. In his lifetime, I don’t recall my late father ever missing work but three days, when he had the flu. Also, my dear late mother’s advice always rings in my ears when I get weary: “Nothing beats a failure but a try.” Another one of her sage pieces of advice: “Sleep on it. Things always look better in the morning.”

Which talent would you most like to have?

I’ve always wanted to paint and play the piano.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Beside the ocean so I could hear the surf.

What book are you reading?

“The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Most people consider me an extrovert. While I immensely enjoy interacting with folks, especially at NFPW conferences, I prefer to live and work alone and need lots of quiet time.


Nancy and her prized VPW sign

Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

I joined Virginia Press Women in 1982, at the invitation of Katherine Calos, who remains a good friend, as well as a current member. At the time I was a state correspondent for The Richmond News Leader and Katherine was a travel writer. Over the last 30+ years, I have branched out to economic development, public relations, newspapers and various publications of all sizes, each time meeting new VPW members and gaining from those associations. Some of my closest and dearest friends are members of VPW. My longest tenure, 16 years and three months as a personal columnist and contributing editor for Richmond magazine, has just drawn to a close. VPW members have been there to support me through that in a very significant way. Also, I have lost count of the wonderful friends I’ve made through NFPW, many of whom I’ve visited in their homes in other states.

In 2005, I published “Izzy’s Fire: Finding Humanity in the Holocaust,” a story of how a Catholic farm family risked their lives to save 13 Jews from certain death during the Holocaust in Lithuania. It won a 1st place in VPW and NFPW competition and is now being used in schools and universities in many states, as well as in Lithuania. A second book, “Reflections of a Purple Zebra,” a compilation of my columns was published in 2007. “The Little Lion,” a young adult historical novel about a Jewish teenage boy who gave his life to save other Jews in Lithuania is being shopped at this time.

How can we keep in touch with you?

I have an active personal Facebook page and also welcome visits to my book website:

Special note: VPW recently change its name to Virginia Professional Communicators. I didn’t want to change the name, so I was gifted with the VPW logo at our spring conference, which is now proudly displayed in my office. It was the end of a 56-year era. We might have changed our name, but our devotion to each other and to our craft hasn’t wavered.

Potter shares writing and photography talents, wins NFPW sweepstakes honor for third time

Posted September 22, 2014 by tlehre
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Mary Pat Finn-Hoag takes a picture of Lori Potter and Potter’s NFPW contest sweepstakes award at the NFPW conference in South Carolina.

Lori Potter is a talented writer and photographer who has captured sweepstakes honors three times in the NFPW Communications Contest including 2014 in South Carolina. She is the immediate past president of NFPW and now leads the NFPW Education Fund. She spends countless hours supporting NFPW. This spring I was able to spend time with her in her hometown of Kearney, Nebraska, visiting the newspaper where Lori and fellow NFPW member Mary Jane Skala work. One of the best parts of being an NFPW member is the friendships we form all over the country. Meet my friend, Lori Potter.

Name: Lori Potter

City and State: Kearney, Neb.

Affiliate and any leadership positions:

I’m currently the Nebraska Press Women legislative/First Amendment director and serve on the finance committee, but I’m the only candidate for treasurer in our Oct. 4 fall convention election. That will be my third term. I’ve also served two terms as president in the early 1990s and have been contest director numerous times, COA director, conference co-host several times, planned the 2011 NFPW Conference pre-tour, and helped judge state high school contests and select scholarship winners.

NFPW: I’m NFPW’s immediate past president and Education Fund director, having come up the ranks from second vice-president. In past years, I also chaired or served on several contest review committees, was an Education Fund board member and was a president’s adviser a time or two.

Years a member of NFPW:

I received my 35-year-certificate the 2014 NFPW Conference in Greenville, S.C. I joined in the fall of 1978, but was credited for those few months as part of my membership starting in January 1979. I don’t think I’ve ever missed an NPW convention and I’ve attended 25 NFPW conferences, starting with the 50th anniversary celebration in Williamsburg, Va., in 1987. Since then, I missed only 1988 and 2001, when the 9/11 terrorist attacks grounded flights for several days.

Tell us a little about you.

I grew up on a Franklin County farm in south-central Nebraska, 11 miles south of Wilcox, population 350. I graduated from Wilcox High School in 1974 in a class of 17, including my fraternal twin sister, Lisa, and received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Kearney State College in December 1977.

My higher education has come on the job, at NPW and NFPW conferences, and as a member of the 2000-2002 LEAD XX class. LEAD is a two year leadership and learning program for Nebraskans in agriculture and related fields that includes monthly seminars at college campuses across the state and a second-year overseas travel seminar. My class went to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

I’ve been a Nebraska daily newspaper writer, photographer and columnist (Potter’s Wheel) my entire career, first in the Panhandle at the Alliance Times-Herald for one year, the York News-Times for nearly eight years and the Kearney Hub for 28 years, with a focus on agriculture and natural resources.

Any career advice you would give?

Understand who you work for. We all have bosses, but my goal is to inform and entertain readers, especially rural Nebraskans whose lives and livelihoods as food producers depend on news about agriculture and our natural resources.

Also, getting better at something may be as simple as practice, practice, practice. If you are a writer, write and also read work by talented writers. If you’re a photographer, take lots of photos and practice using different angles and points of view to tell stories visually in more interesting ways. Take pride in your work, but consider ways to do it better the next time.

Count your blessings if you look forward to doing your job on most days and can’t imagine doing anything else.


Lori Potter, top right, joined other NFPW board members in a trip to Yellowstone National Park following a spring board meeting in Idaho Falls. Participating in the trip are from left: Cathy Koon, Barb Micek, Teri Ehresman, Katherine Keniston, Potter and Cynthia Price.

Which talent would you most like to have?

That’s a long list. I often say my knowledge and talents are like the Platte River of pioneer days, a mile wide and an inch deep. I would like to be handy in a MacGyver sort of way. I cannot fix anything that is broken, torn, worn, leaking, dripping, hanging down or that makes a funny noise. The range of my fix-it skills is limited pretty much to sewing on buttons and restarting locked-up electronic devices. It also would be nice to have a great memory with a retrievable archive for people, faces, names and events.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

For me, like most NFPW members who have responded to this question, home is home. I’m a rural Nebraska girl who loves country roads and the people who live and work along them. I need a 360-degree view of the sky, enjoy the changing seasons if they aren’t too severe and get excited when I hear the first call from one of the hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes that stop in the Central Platte Valley each March. I enjoy visiting places with mountains, forests, coastlines and other natural beauty. So the best answer might be to have my permanent home in south-central Nebraska and somehow find the financial means to travel as much as I want and/or own a vacation home in each of the other 49 states.

What book are you reading?

I don’t read many books, but I always have a newspaper or magazine with me, including TIME, National Geographic, Smithsonian, Nebraska History Quarterly (which my oldest brother edits) and Nebraska Life.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Although speaking in public doesn’t bother me, I’m an introvert who avoids social events that require small talk with people I don’t know well. I have a fourth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do that took me 10 years to complete, from ages 46 to 56. It was a bucket list thing, or more like a do-it-or-forget-it thing. I can whistle really loud hands-free, which is a skill my late farmer brother taught me, and like many NFPW members, I’m mentored at home by two shelter-adopted cats, Thai and Tas.

Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

I honestly don’t know if I would have stayed in journalism without the support I felt from Nebraska members from the moment I joined. I was amazed as a 22-year-old rookie journalist that a professional organization wanted me as a member. I love what I do, but the pressure of deadlines and a lack of appreciation (monetarily and otherwise) at work sometimes can seem overwhelming. No one understands those issues better than people in the same or similar professions. Many of the best friends I’ll ever have are NPW and NFPW members. I see a few regularly, but I wish I could be with all the others more often than our twice-a-year state and annual NFPW conferences that are like family reunions.

Ways to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc.

I am not social media literate, mostly because that’s not the way I need to or prefer to communicate on the job or personally. I look at Facebook from time to time to see what NFPW members post, especially during and after conferences. Email ( or is my friend, and I write a blog for which there is a link on the website. My Hub stories, photos, columns and occasional videos are posted at

Successful writer and editor Sandy Graham says good writing remains an essential skill

Posted September 15, 2014 by tlehre
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She has worked for several prominent publications during her career as a reporter and editor. She credits NFPW for helping her land a job with the Wall Street Journal. She is an outstanding writer, a talent that helped her transform to an extremely successful grants writing career. She was one of the outstanding affiliate Communicators of Achievement honored at the recent National Federation of Press Women conference. Meet another of our outstanding members, Sandy Graham.

Sandy Graham and her husband, Blair Johnson, earlier this year.

Name: Sandy Graham
Hometown: Columbine Valley, Colorado (Denver burb)
Affiliate: Colorado Press Women, currently serving as Communicator of Achievement Chair
Years in NFPW:
I joined New Mexico Press Women in the mid 1970’s. My first convention was San Antonio in 1978.
Tell us a little about you:
During the first half of my career, I worked for publications that one colleague recently told me have become known as “legacy media:” Albuquerque Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Rocky Mountain News, Gannett News Service, USA TODAY and USA WEEKEND. The second half, beginning in 1993, revolved around my own writing/editing business and gradually incorporated more electronic and social media. I’ve freelanced for or contracted with a wide range of entities including the National Safety Council, Coors Brewing Co. (managing the employee publication Silver Bulletin), Colorado Biz magazine, National Jewish Health and Good Housekeeping. In that work, I am most proud of helping found and managing Health Elevations, an award-winning quarterly journal of the Colorado Health Foundation, one of the state’s largest and most influential foundations.
When the Great Recession decimated my freelance business, I took a part-time staff job as grants specialist for the Children’s Museum of Denver, raising roughly $2 million in 5 years. I just learned today that one of my last grant applications received $150,000 in funding for the museum’s capital campaign. I retired June 11, 2014.
I’ve been married since 1986 to the wonderful Blair Johnson, also a recovering newspaper reporter who retired a few years ago after a successful public relations career for communications, cable, financial services and environmental organizations. We have two children, Jaime Graham Johnson, a K-8 music teacher, and Reed Murphy Johnson, a sales analyst for an international beverage company, both in the Denver area. Emmy the golden retriever, rounds out the family. I enjoy hiking, bicycling, traveling, yoga, reading and just hangin’ out with Blair. I am chair of our town’s Planning & Zoning Commission, which is almost a full-time job in itself these days since we expect to receive a proposal to develop 105 acres of farmland in the next few months.

The family at son Reed’s 2012 graduation at Cornell University. They are (left to right) Blair Johnson, Sandy Graham, Jaime Johnson and Reed Johnson.

What career advice would you share:
Regardless of whether one tweets or posts or blogs these days, good writing remains an essential skill. If you can write well, your potential is unlimited. I’m an example: My journalistic skills of knowing how to research a topic, understand my audience and write clearly and concisely for that audience allowed me to transition easily to grant-writing in 2009. Hone your writing skills whatever you do!
What talent would you like to have:
I want to fly like Superman! Or tap-dance …
Where would you live if you could live anywhere?
If I could live anywhere, I might move back to the Land of Enchantment and have a little adobe casita somewhere in northern New Mexico, but I’ll probably stay right here. Colorado is a great place.
What are you currently reading?
For the book club I’ve been in since 1993, I just finished The Goldfinch (marvelous!) and started Stars Go Blue. For me, I’m on Book 5 of A Song of Ice and Fire, better known as the Game of Thrones series.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I got my job at the Wall Street Journal because of NFPW. WSJ reporter Meg Cox, a speaker to NFPW’s Indianapolis convention in 1979, announced the Chicago bureau had a job opening for a reporter and I was the only person from an entire roomful of communicators who applied.
Why is your affiliate important to you?
CPW provides great professional growth opportunities – and great friendships.
Ways to follow you:
I really don’t have a “following” so let’s skip FB, Twitter and all that. FB is just for friends and I’ve never used my Twitter account.

Kansas journalist honored for career of dedicated efforts to support affiliate and NFPW

Posted September 8, 2014 by tlehre
Categories: Uncategorized

She is a long-time NFPW member who has served her Kansas affiliate in many capacities. At the NFPW conference in South Carolina this month, she was honored as 2014 Communicator of Achievement, the highest honor awarded annually to a NFPW member. The honor is based on service to NFPW and her affiliate, service in the communication field and for her volunteer work to her community. Meet outstanding NFPW member Becky Funke.

Name:  Becky FunkebeckyFunke

City and State:  Goddard, Kansas

Affiliate and any leadership positions:  Kansas, second vice president for by-laws right now, held nearly every other elected and/or appointed office.  Conference co-chair for the 2016 NFPW conference in Kansas.

Years a member of NFPW:  31

In a couple of paragraphs, tell us a little about you.

Oh, what a challenge

I guess the place to start is with my life-changing last year. I just recently returned to work after a 9-month leave while I was treated for leukemia.  I was diagnosed with Acute Myleod Leukemia on October 1 — my 57th birthday; did two rounds of chemo in Wichita, then went to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City in December for a third round of chemotherapy and on December 20, 2013 received a double cord blood (stem cell) transplant.  I spent the next three and a half months (with my husband) at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge in Kansas City, Mo (nearly 300 miles from home) for treatment and recovery from the transplant.  I’m in remission, all of my numbers are good, but with essentially no immune system, I stay pretty much in my routine of going to work and going home.

I’m a Kansas girl through and through. While I was in elementary school, my family moved from Kansas to Delaware, back to Kansas, then to Louisiana and Florida (my father worked in aviation and aerospace and followed contracts). We moved back to Kansas and stayed put when I was in sixth grade.  I like to say I started my career in high school. I was on the staff my high school newspaper, which was a page of the community’s weekly newspaper, for two years; editor my senior year.  The teacher, who was also publisher of the community newspaper, set high standards for us.  I’ve never looked back and with the exception of my first semester of college, have worked on a newspaper ever since.

I have a degree in communications and have worked for 36 years at small publications: weekly newspapers, a small five-day a week daily and for the past 24 years at Active Aging, a monthly publication for the 55+ market in the Wichita area.

Any career advice you would give?

Never stop learning, never stop honing your skills. You can always improve and in today’s digital world,  you have to keep up with technology.  And network, network, network!


Which talent would you most like to have?

I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, as the old saying goes…and I love music.  So I would wish for some musical talent.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Kansas is really a great place to live (except for the politics, but hope springs eternal every election) and I really can’t imagine living anywhere else.

What book are you reading? 

The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons.  I love southern fiction, I suppose from the almost five years I lived in the deep south as a child.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

My favorite story: my husband proposed to me via an ad he bought in the newspaper where I was editor.  The publisher and production staff managed to hide the ad from me, sent me out of the printing plant before the paper came off the press and I didn’t see the ad until I picked up the office copies of the papers from the post office (the printing plant was in a town 40+ miles from where I worked). That yellowed ad is a part of my pile of things to be included in scrapbooks someday.

Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

First, the many friends I have made through press women; I had some wonderful mentors in Kansas Press Women back when I first joined and I continue to meet and make new friends.

Second, I have always worked at small publications where I was often the only communications professional on the staff. I joined what was then Kansas Press Women and NFPW for the educational opportunities.  The state organization conferences always offer top-notch speakers and even after 30 years of attending I always come away with new ideas, new perspective. I started entering the contest, got hooked with a few certificates and the comments from judges.   I’ve been to several NFPW conferences (wish I was able to attend this year, but my immune system isn’t ready for air travel and being around a lot of people) and always come home re-charged and with new ideas.

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc.

I’m on Facebook as Becky Funke


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