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ALTITUDE ADJUSTMENT: Times Change

My small mountain town is always calling my name, especially as the snow starts to melt and the spring-time sun emerges from behind Gunnison Valley’s peaks. Sunny Gunni, as the locals call it, has an allure for everyone who pays rent or pitches their tent near the coveted Blue Mesa Reservoir.

While so much of my attraction to the town comes from the tight-knit community, my childhood home, gorgeous scenery, and the 360 (at least) days of sunshine in a year, one amenity stands apart from the rest: The Gunnison Country Times, the valley’s weekly newspaper.

I was shy, and boy was I scared.

With my dad’s business connections and my resolve to be a “practical” writer, I sought out an internship with The Times after my freshman year of college. It worked, and I began to compose my first pieces of journalism, at the command of the paper’s editor.

At this point in my life, I’d never opened the AP Style Guide, called someone for an interview, or had to pitch a story idea. I was brand new to photographer collaboration and column inch counts. My idea of writing had always been confined to sitting on my bed and snacking on chocolate, waiting for narrative inspiration to strike in doses of academic engagement.

I was shy, and boy was I scared. My first article was about a local man, in his eighties, who kept track of the weather every day for the past 25 years. I showed up to his front door, and nearly turned around when I saw his cat tied to a leash, thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?”

Somehow, I stuck it through. I wrote articles I’ll never forget: About the art center’s literary journal, a prairie dog crisis on the western slope, a Western State Colorado University alum starring in her own TV show, a high school basketball coach promoted to the varsity squad. All were small assignments, but they spoke to the strength of the community and its relationships.

With each passing article, I found my voice. I found my confidence. And, along the way, I found that The Gunnison Country Times was a starting point for me—there would be more to come.

—Savannah Nelson

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