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A Year in Review: 10 Reframing Rural highlights from 2020

The last day of every year I sit down with my journal and remember highlights from the past year and things I look forward to exploring in the new year. While 2020 may have been different in many ways, I'm still holding on to this practice.

Now this exercise is not just about patting myself on the back for the accolades and events I celebrated. It's also about reflecting back honestly about challenges I learned from and things I hope to do better. As my dear professor and advisor Roxy Hornbeck always reminds me, it's about the process not the product. In the context of Reframing Rural's podcast episodes, for me the process is really the highlight - all the stories I learn from along the way, the conversations I have with folks, the active listening I practice while interviewing and editing, the farm work I get to do beside my family.

So in the spirit of reflection and celebration, I dedicate this newsletter to the ups and downs of 2020 in hopes that I can continue growing and learning, that I can become a better storyteller and hopefully help bridge geographic, cultural, class and racial divides. I also can not thank enough Kim Rudnigen, Margaret Hoven, David Anderson, Eddie Hentges and Ralph Summers, whose episodes I published this year. You've taught me more than you could ever know.

Yours,

Megan Torgerson

Reframing Rural Founder & Producer

Highlight 1: Lesson on expectations

Season One: Coming Home is my first ever podcast season and this year I learned that publishing episodes takes waaay longer than I originally thought. Other than help with composing and recording music from my now fiancé (another highlight of 2020!) Andrew Drinnan, I write, record, produce, host and edit all the episodes by myself. This takes a long time, longer than you might expect, and I've had to temper my expectations of finishing season one this year due to my altering availability as a grant writer, copywriter and PR consultant. In 2021 I'd like to learn how to more sustainability integrate a podcast publishing schedule into my other freelance work.


Highlight 2: GHCCRes Fellowship

In February I was awarded a fellowship and residency from the Guest House Cultural Capital Residency in Richland, WA. I met the founder Peter Christenson at the Cultural Congress conference on the Yakama Reservation in 2019 and am immensely grateful for the recognition, exposure and mentorship.


Highlight 3: Reconnecting

Reframing Rural has helped me reconnect to my roots. I grew up in Dagmar, MT and finished high school in Williston, ND. And this first season has been a great excuse to stay in touch with folks like my endlessly wise high school friend Eddie (episode 3) and my neighbor Ralph (episode 4) who has the biggest heart. It's given me the opportunity to ask people questions and get to know them better. It's also a reason to go home, to sit in the field and record the sound of hawks flying above me in the pasture for sound effects, and to help with harvest for a month so that I and my work are grounded in the community I am telling stories about.


Highlight 4: MFA in Arts Leadership

Reframing Rural was born out of my time working towards my MFA in Arts Leadership at Seattle University. I finished the program in June, but regularly revisit my thesis and final presentation Reframing Rural: Rewriting the Narrative on Rural America through Oral Storytelling, when I'm writing and thinking about urban-rural and intra-rural divides, how storytelling has the power to unite people across geography, culture and class differences, and my responsibility as a storyteller. My time at SU was life changing. I owe so much to my professors and cohort members and miss you all dearly!

Here's a link to my presentation video.


Highlight 5: Williston Herald

Before I thought of myself as a storyteller, I was a volleyball player (I even had a dream about playing volleyball last night!). So to be featured in the Williston Herald a decade after I made the paper for my prowess for spiking and blocking volleyballs, was quite the trip. It was really fun to be interviewed by the local paper and talk about my vision for changing the hearts and minds of urban folks who don't yet know how important and special rural communities are!

Here is a link to the article.


Highlight 6: Keeping on thanks to art

My journey to considering myself a storyteller or an artist has been circuitous, but if this year has taught me anything, it is that for the sake of my mental health, I can't just crank out copy for clients, I need to carve out creative time for myself and I need to keep up my creative writing practice. Reframing Rural is not just an effort to reframe the narrative on rural America. It's not just a gift to my rural home community. It's also my creative home. Similar to how it gives me an excuse to ask questions and interview people with compelling rural life stories, it's also a reason to stay creatively curious, to experiment with bones and wildflowers, to play with photography, practice prose and make music!

Here's a song for you.


Highlight 7: smART Ventures grant

This fall I was awarded a smART Ventures grant from the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture for the production of my forthcoming episode on the industrialization of agriculture and its effects on farm families and rural communities! I mostly write grants for other artists, so to be awarded a grant for my own work was really exciting.

Part of my goal to make Reframing Rural more sustainable, is to be better about fundraising for my own work. I pushed pause on a Kickstarter campaign I started earlier this year as 2020 has been financially difficult for so many people, but in order to keep making podcast episodes, I need to let go of my fear of fundraising for my own work. It's something I look forward to working on in 2021.


Highlight 8: 1,815 total podcast listens

A podcast needs listeners and I'm honored that so many people tuned in this year to listen to the four episodes I published: 1: Preservation and Motherhood on the Northern Great Plains, 2: The Scary Prairie Will Not Get the Best of Me, 3: Unearthing the Indigenous Narrative in NE Montana and 4: Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed. These episodes totaled 1,815 podcast listens! In 2021 I will work to publish episodes on a more regular schedule and continue promoting the episodes I've published so far and the new ones to come.I also have plans in the works for a second season that will feature artists, scholars and rural folks from across the country who share a passion for studying and working on rural issues.

Visit reframingrural.org/episodes to listen to all episodes and view the transcripts


Highlight 9: WSU Dept. of Fine Arts lecture

As part of my GHCCRes fellowship and residency I gave a 1.5 hour-long artist talk in November. This is the longest lecture I've ever given and I was very nervous, so apologies if I talk fast. Despite the nerves, it was a great opportunity and learning experience! I just uploaded the video today, if you're curious to learn more about my process editing episodes, and what drove me to create Reframing Rural and advocate for the rural among us.

Here is a link to the video.


Highlight 10: Making new connections

One of my greatest joys during this long year of quarantine has been networking with people who are passionate about all things rural. By attending the Rural Assembly, Springboard for the Arts's Rural Arts Anti-Racist Meetup and Rural Arts & Cultural Workers Digital Happy Hours I have met the most wonderful people (many of them from Minnesota)! I also had the tremendous pleasure of conducting a few listener surveys with folks who shared with me how Reframing Rural either changed their perspective or confirmed their experience. I am sooooo grateful to the people who reached out to me and told me they learned something from my podcast or that it resonated with their life.