Freelance Columnist Awarded for Her Passion On and Off the Slopes
May 05, 2016 11:38AM
● By Bryan Scott
By Rachel Hall | [email protected]
Cottonwood Heights - When it came time for gym class in high school, Harriet Wallis was always picked last for team sports.
“I was ‘Harriet, go with that team,’” Wallis said. “I’m an outdoor girl, but I never figured I was athletic until I was in my 30s.”
Now sports are an essential part of her lifestyle and career, and she is no longer chosen last. On April 1, Wallis was honored as the first-place recipient for the Local Media Member Award by Ski Utah.
The annual award is given to the individual that shares his or her passion for winter sports in Utah through their work. This was the second year Wallis received the award — the first time was for the 2010–2011 ski season.
“I do a consistent, solid job, and so it’s really wonderful to be rewarded for it,” she said.
Nominated as the only freelance writer, along with five other media members from various reporting outlets, was an honor before she even found out she had won for the 2015–2016 ski season.
“I was ecstatic, because I am a freelancer. I am on my own. I don’t have a staff,” she said. “Other people who were nominated are with magazines, newspapers and television. It’s pretty neat to be the lone wolf.”
Wallis never plans to retire from reporting or from skiing, even though she has undergone knee-replacement surgeries for both knees and also had both hips replaced. Her passion and energy keep her motivated every day.
“I just have a different attitude. I feel like I’m picking up ahead of steam as far as motivation,” Wallis said. “I’m avid about being out in the yard for the exercise and fresh air.”
She is no stranger to getting a little dirt on her clothes when it comes to working in the yard, or even during her former career as a potter.
“In my former life, I was a full-time potter. I made things out of clay,” Wallis said. “I got tired of wearing clay, dusty blue jeans and firing kilns three nights a week.”
With experience under her belt in the fine arts field, which included writing for craft publications, Wallis approached her local newspaper in Connecticut after reading an article about energy conservation in the ’80s.
“I approached the newspaper and said, ‘Hey, that’s great having those articles about people who are doing things to conserve their energy, but how about some articles for people who are low income — like the elderly or single?’ And they said, ‘Nah, we don’t hire freelancers, but if you want to write a story you can.’”
Wallis wrote four stories about what a woman can do to conserve energy and the newspaper used all four in its publication. A month later, they asked if she could write for a special section and she agreed. She continued writing for the special section on topics such as car mechanics and a historical look at weddings until one day she was offered a job.
“The editor did not hire people with a journalism background. He wanted to hire people with diverse backgrounds, and mine was in fine arts,” Wallis said.
The leap of faith it took to change gears from firing kilns and working with clay to seeing a need for articles on energy and writing them has turned into a bit of a “zig zag, but a great career,” according to Wallis.
“Unless you change directions, you’ll end up where you started out to go. I started out as a full-time artist and ended up as a full-time writer,” she said. “To me, it’s all the same thing — making sense out of a ball of clay or making sense out of a ball of words. It’s all very creative and fun.”
She and her husband also changed directions 25 years ago when their children married and moved away from home. The Wallises decided it was time to move closer to a city that offered skiing nearby, and so they both quit their jobs with the intention of finding jobs elsewhere closer to the slopes.
“We had to have jobs, because it supports our habit of eating,” Wallis said jokingly. “We lived in Connecticut at that time, but that’s not ski country. We wanted a real city and real skiing and so we chose Salt Lake City.”
With additional experience as a ski instructor, mountain host and many years in a career as a ski columnist under her belt, Wallis has found that her passion has turned into a paycheck. She has one piece of advice for young girls, women, seniors and anyone else contemplating their path in life.
“Keep going. The road ahead is wonderful,” Wallis said.