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 next story comes from Social Media Content and Account Lead Katie Norris, one of several new storytellers on our Pioneer Social team.
How Ghost Stories and Co-op Roots Created a Spirited Storyteller
“What was that,” I whispered, wide eyes peering at the lanky boy next to me. “I don’t know,” he muttered. I was 16 years old, sitting next to my then-boyfriend on the couch in his living room.
He always referenced “the man in the basement,” but I thought of it as a running joke. Moments before at the basement door stood a translucent black figure. Its head reached higher than the doorway and, despite its human shape, it had no discernible face. After a few moments, it turned and walked through the closed basement door. It dawned on me that we’d just seen an apparition. Questions flooded my head. Even though I didn’t (and still don’t) know exactly what happened or why, my world started expanding.
My experience prompted me to reach out to a metro-Atlanta paranormal investigation group, which I joined in 2011. I worked with people with similar experiences to mine, and through that work I also met people whose lives were upended by phenomena they couldn’t explain.
A year later I also started my first job as a storyteller and guide for a ghost tour company. My script detailed the history of spirits whose apparitions had been spotted at several locations. To me these weren’t just ghost stories; they were personal stories that transcended their time periods.
In my opinion as a writer and content creator, a good story does something similar. It transcends the page and connects — or clashes — with the reader, plunging them into another reality.
Roots of a Storyteller
It’s cliche, but I’ve loved storytelling for as long as I can remember. As a child I used to make up narrative songs to sing for my family. My grandmother wondered why I wasn’t singing songs like “I’m a Little Teapot,” and my default answer was, “I’m singin’ the blues!”
When I applied for college, I knew I wanted to study creative writing to hone my craft. I worked as a writing tutor during the week and a ghost tour guide on the weekends throughout most of my time at Georgia State University. When I graduated with a degree in creative writing, I decided to take time to develop some marketable skills before choosing a career.
I loved connecting with others, whether it was through tutoring, my paranormal investigations or speaking to tour participants, and I also wanted to serve my community. I applied for AmeriCorps positions and landed in West Virginia. (AmeriCorps is similar to Peace Corps but based in the United States.)
Among all the work I did as an AmeriCorps member with three nonprofit organizations, my favorite was writing a newsletter. I interviewed community members and wrote about their lives and goals, giving them a platform in the small town I temporarily called home. It was a preview of where my career would take me, and I still write freelance pieces about small businesses and non-profit organizations around the country.
Co-op Service Paired with Social Stories
When I came back to Georgia, I wanted to continue working for a nonprofit organization. My mother told me I should work for an electric cooperative. (Both my mother and grandmother spent careers at electric co-ops, after all.) I took her advice and applied to be a communicator at Coweta-Fayette EMC, based just outside of Atlanta in Palmetto, Georgia.
I spent an amazing two and a half years at the co-op, sharing ideas with my coworkers, meeting the public and creating educational and entertaining content for members. I didn’t want to leave.
When my husband got a dream job offer in New Mexico in 2020, however, we decided to make the move. My heart prompted me to continue serving cooperatives. When my position as Social Media Content and Account Lead at Pioneer Utility Resources opened in 2021, I jumped at the opportunity.
In my role on the Pioneer Social team, I work with electric cooperative clients in New Mexico and Georgia. Additionally, I create unique broadband content which other folks on our team can customize for Pioneer members.
I am thrilled to create content in such a dynamic and punchy medium as social media. People might wonder how an organization’s story can be told through a format so short and ephemeral, but I look at social media as an ongoing conversation.
Together your posts tell your story, much like an epistolary novel.
In an epistolary novel, a character tells their perspective in the form of a letter. The character who receives that letter contributes to the overall narrative by sending another letter in response. It’s the same with social media.
Each post garners a response from the public, and their response also contributes to the story of the cooperative. When communicators continue the conversation through a personalized response or follow-up content, it is like turning the page and writing another line.
Building a Spirited Career
Ghosts sparked a new direction for my storytelling, but I enjoy life on the earthly plane, too. I nourish my creative passions like drawing and painting, journaling and sewing (badly, I might add). My husband and I love to see live music and go out to afternoon tea whenever we can. At home I love to cuddle with our two cats, tend to my garden, read and listen to records.
But I still love scary, spine-tingling experiences. This November I will be singing in a local sung-through musical, “Horror Channel.” Outside of my membership with a tour choir as a child, this will be my first time performing on a stage as an adult. If you live near Socorro, New Mexico, I’d love to see you there!
Whether I am speaking to communicators about their needs or creating a post about smart devices, I am honored to be part of telling our members’ stories.
Katie’s story is one of many staff stories from across our communications co-op. Want to join our team of utility storytellers? Our co-op is growing. Check our careers page, and set an alert for future job posts.