Katy Vine, Texas Monthly and Loving What You Do
Plus a race you'll love running in Italy + Robert Caro's Big Dig
Back in the early to mid-2000’s, I was a freelance magazine writer for a number of Atlanta-based publications (and a few national ones); I had recently been laid off from a job in technology and so I decided to return to my first love, journalism — knowing, of course, how precarious the life of a freelancer can be. This didn’t matter much to me at the time, though; the dream of being a writer very much did.
Among the magazines I wrote for was one that began with a lot of excitement, at least in the Atlanta market: Worthwhile, founded by Anita Sharpe and Kevin Salwen, a pair of Wall Street Journal writers who were itching to find the stories of people who had found in their work the kind of purpose and calling that is elusive for far too many of us.
I pitched several story ideas to them and ended up writing two: one, on the legendary gospel group the Blind Boys of Alabama and their seven decades in music together, and another on Bob Oschack, a comedian whose star was on the rise back then thanks to stints at ESPN’s Best Damn Sports Show and even an appearance on Oprah; he now writes for Bill Maher’s Real Time. (Another I wrote, on the artist Grainger McKoy, ended up not running, as the magazine later folded — so I shared it with you here.)
Anyway, all of that was in the back of my mind as I listened to an interview this weekend that delighted me so much I’ve listened to it several times now: Texas Monthly writer Katy Vine, on the great Longform podcast. (I never would have discovered the interview, by the way, had the wonderfulnot shared it in his newsletter, which I also love.)
I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’m in my fifties now, or just where I am in life plus the pandemic we’ve all lived through, but there is something I am loving right now about stories in which nothing, or very little happens. Lately, I’ve been drawn to shows like Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy, Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and others which put conversation, not action, at the center — you get a front-row seat at two or three people talking, and that’s really all that happens.
Right now, that’s what I’m enjoying. So much. And this podcast falls in that vein for me, an interview in which we get to hear two people talk about something they simply love to do — longform journalism. They talk about the joy that comes from reporting on and writing stories, the trade-offs that come with working in a creative profession (when asked if she worries about money, Vine replies, “this is journalism, you know… it’s not Wall Street!”), and the experience of working for just one employer for your entire career, as Vine got her first job with Texas Monthly back in 1997 and has never worked anywhere else.
What I love about this so much is the feeling, the vibe you get from listening to Vine’s voice as she talks — you can hear the joy, the delight she takes in her work. She acknowledges it’s not the kind of work that gets celebrated much in our world; talking about how titles mean little to nothing at the magazine, she says “they always gave you a new title when the money ran out.” But she has no desire for the optionality many other people seek in their careers; she’s not always looking for other outlets to work for, where the grass might be greener. She’s happy where she is.
She also loves, loves, loves Texas. “What I’ve found in Texas is… I want to say ego but I don’t mean it in a bad way. I think it’s good, where a lot of folks are like, ‘yeah, what I do is a big deal. And it’s important, and it’s critical that the world hear what I do when I’m making boots, or whatever it is. I think there’s something that’s in a lot of people [here] that they want people to know that what they do is a big deal.”
I hope you love the interview as much as I did — her enthusiasm, her love, her spirit around life in general is so catching, I imagine you might listen to it again (and again) just like I have.