As our utility member needs grow, our communications co-op has grown, too. Since we love building a community of utility communicators, we asked some of our new recruits to share their stories with you. Our first story comes from Associate Editor Valeri Pearon, one of several new storytellers on our electric magazine team.

I’ve always loved to write.

I began writing at a young age after coming across a notebook of my mom’s poetry. I remember how it made me feel, and I loved how she could tell a story in just a few lines. I started playing with words and, by the time I was going off to college, I’d filled a notebook with poetry.

I found myself wanting others to feel what I had felt while sitting on the floor as a child, reading my mom’s poetry. I leaned into journalism as a way to tell the story of the world.

Studying never came easy to me, but my journalism classes were a breeze. I enjoyed every minute, looking forward to class. That’s what really made me realize this is what I wanted to do.

I graduated in 2009 from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, with my bachelor’s degree in journalism. I started my storytelling career at a weekly newspaper in Versailles, a little town in mid-Missouri, where I took on the role of reporter and ad salesperson. I enjoyed attending meetings and writing about all the things happening in the little towns around me.

After nine months, I wanted to see what else there was within the journalism field, so I took a job at another small town in northern Missouri. I was reporting for another weekly, but I was also taking photographs, editing copy and designing. I learned I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes work (copy editing and design) even more than the writing.

I struggled with this because I’d only ever thought of journalism as reporting. News was the focus in college. But after assembling all the pieces for a story about a person who’d participated in the Iditarod, I realized something I should’ve seen long ago.

Storytelling includes a lot of moving parts. It’s not just the words.

I still find it funny that it took me so long to realize this because I’m also an artist. I paint and sketch and enjoy all the things that tell a story in those mediums, but for some reason the word “journalism” had only meant “words” to me until that day of the Iditarod interview.

My next push was to go further into the design and editing path.

I started at the Jefferson City News Tribune in 2011 as a designer and copy editor. I spent 11 years sharing stories of local, national and international news in the Tribune’s daily paper. During those 11 years, I made my way to assistant design editor and, eventually, to design editor.

I feel like I learned more at the Tribune than I did in college. My mentors there were essential to my being able to tell the stories I get to tell through design today.

My job at Pioneer offers exactly the creative ways of storytelling I wanted to explore. There’s a strong difference between newspaper design and magazine design, and I was anxious to get my feet wet in the magazine world. During my first couple of months, I’ve been able to tap into parts of design that I’ve yet to do in my newspaper world. Some of it I didn’t even know I was capable of, and I’ve enjoyed surprising myself a little more each day.

While bringing the stories to life on the page, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the writers and the electric co-ops I work with in California and Idaho. I hope to get to know them even more as time goes on, and I can’t wait to represent their communities more through all the different ways of storytelling.

What I’ve enjoyed about what I’ve seen in the magazines is that everyone has a story to tell and experiences to share. I love living through others’ adventures, and it gives me ideas for my own future explorations.

Personal Note

I’m an artist. I sketch and paint as much as I possibly can. I’ve been creating since I was 14, and I’m always looking for new mediums.

During #Inktober, Valeri shared a series of flowers on her Instagram account, @rory_clancy.

For example, in the past few years, I’ve taken up carving … specifically pumpkin carving. The Tribune began a pumpkin carving contest in 2016, and I was “volun-told” to be the person to carve a pumpkin for the newsroom.

I never do simple, so I chose to carve the face of one of the newsroom staff. I fell in love with the carving process so much that I’ve carved a different coworker every October since. I hope to continue that tradition of mine at Pioneer this year!

Each October Valeri carves a coworker’s picture onto a pumpkin. Yes, we think this is amazing, too!

I also enjoy traveling and the outdoors, which go hand in hand. I have an adventure list, and I can’t wait to cross off more destinations. A dream of mine is to someday travel for an entire year; working during the day and exploring in the evening and on weekends. Spending a few weeks in one spot, and then a few weeks in another and so on. It’s a little something to work toward.

Meet more Pioneer storytellers