First Published in The Nugget
By Jim Cornelius
June 12, 2018
The people behind The Nugget… Katy Yoder
“That’s always been my outlet and my love,” she recalled. “And it started with my mom introducing me to all these great books.”
Yoder recalls that her mother, Mimi Graves of Sisters, would hold out books as milestones on the road to growing up. At a certain point, she would tell Katy that she was ready for a certain story.
“She made books so exciting,” Katy said.
For years she kept journals and wrote poetry – and found a way to keep her hand in the trade through freelance feature writing for The Nugget, which started about a decade ago. Feature writing is a congenial form of journalism for Yoder. She recalls studying journalism in college and being put off by a hard-bitten ethos that getting the story was not just the most important thing, but really the only thing that mattered. An empathetic soul, she couldn’t see herself shoving a notepad or a microphone in someone’s face in the midst of a crisis or tragedy.
“Getting the story is more important than (people’s) feelings,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t do that.”
Feature writing offers a different path.
“I love being able to introduce an interesting person to more people,” she said. “And I like telling positive stories. I really love highlighting interesting people and people who have used their lives to do good.” (See her most recent story on page 3.)
“It gives me an opportunity to ask questions I wouldn’t ordinarily ask,” she said. “I’m nosy – but I’m not comfortable being nosy without a reason.”
So Yoder ended up in the field she studied after all.
“It’s funny, because I ended up doing journalism – but I’m doing the kind of journalism that feels right to me,” she said.
The words come easily. The interviews are often so enjoyable and absorbing that the stories “write themselves,” Yoder said.
Over the past couple of years, Yoder has taken up a different challenge. Diagnosed with breast cancer while she was working as the development director for Sisters Folk Festival, she started writing a column about her medical struggle – and the accompanying emotional fallout, both good and bad.
“I started writing the columns because Nugget editor Jim Cornelius asked me to do that,” she said. “I would never have thought to do that, because I’ve always told other people’s stories, never my own.”
Writing the column caused Yoder to delve into areas she’d never opened up to before and explore dark topics – such as facing mortality.
“The reason I asked Katy to write those columns is that I knew she had the courage to be honest, real and authentic – and that she has the chops to communicate what it means to go through a life-changing confrontation with death and dying,” Cornelius said. “That kind of writing has a big impact on people because everyone is touched by cancer. They’ve either faced it themselves or had loved ones taken by it. This is one of those situations where delving deep into the personal communicates the universal – and I knew Katy could do that.”
Yoder found that facing a potentially terminal illness broke down psychological barriers, and her writing deepened and became more urgent. She has also been tapped to teach classes on death and dying.
“It opened up the teacher side of me, I guess, just because of the life experience I’ve had,” she said.
Facing mortality and pushing the boundaries of her writing has led Yoder to devote herself to being a full-time writer. She is grateful to her husband, Gary, for his full support of that ambition. She is currently working on a memoir. And she will continue to tell the stories of Sisters folks in the pages of The Nugget.
“I’m really excited to be a full-time writer,” she said. “To be what I’ve always wanted to be.”