There’s a new writer (not) in town

By Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
enguyen@fortfrances.com

I walk down only one flight of stairs to get to my workplace. Hunched over my computer and sitting cross-legged in my desk chair, I cruise through Fort Frances with a click of my mouse. Welcome to the life of a remote worker.

From the Google maps street-view, the Fort Frances Times looks like it’s located in a concrete building shaped like the top of a medieval castle, a five-minute walk from the Ontario-Minnesota border. The town of Fort Frances has a population of around 7,500. People here enjoy hockey, fishing, and hopping over to Minnesota to watch movies. Maybe that’s why, in many ways, Fort Frances feels like home.

I live in a small town called King City, in Ontario, where my brother and I spend our winters playing backyard ice hockey with friends, singing throwback songs, and searching for lost pucks in snow. As kids, we often wondered about our future jobs. I never expected to work in journalism for two reasons: 1) I thought my spelling skills needed work (thank goodness for autocorrect!), and 2) I didn’t discover my love for writing until I was in my second year of undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto.

An elective course first introduced me to creative non-fiction writing. In intimate classes of around 30 students, all from different programs and walks of life, I wrote about memories I hadn’t explored before. My classmates and I provided each other with feedback on how to improve our work. We listened to each other’s vulnerabilities in a judgment-free environment. The experience was liberating, and stirred deep within me words from American writer Joan Didion: I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.

After graduating in the spring of 2021 with a degree in Psychology and Professional Writing & Communication, I worked as Managing Editor at The Medium, the student newspaper. The latest pop culture, student politics, global affairs and updates on the university’s research were at the forefront of our reporting. The mission was to keep our community informed, and to be a medium that amplifies student voices. We, the staff, were determined to dive into issues that mattered to the campus (and had fun while we were at it). Journalism was like the heart of the community, and that’s where I wanted to be.

I was not born and raised in Fort Frances. I have not shopped at your local markets nor participated in annual fairs. In many ways, I’m an outsider. Maybe I’ll always be. Nevertheless, I’m excited to hear your stories, to celebrate the history and culture of your town, and to write for you.

It’s only been about a week and a half on the job for me, but I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. Based on the few people I’ve spoken to so far, Fort Frances seems to be filled with people who are protective and proud of their home. I bet I’ll learn a thing or two about life and community from you, reader. Write to me at enguyen@fortfrances.com with stories about the town.

To the team at Fort Frances Times, thank you for your warm welcome. To the people of Fort Frances, don’t be surprised if you see me in your “Rant & Rave” Facebook groups, in town council meetings, or somewhere in the weekly papers.