December is a month of reflection, for better or for worse. While I love Christmas, I don’t really love the “looking back and seeing how far you’ve come” stuff that typically happens a lot this time of year.
The year 2018 was… a trying one for me, to say the least. There were highs, most notably I covered my second Olympics, which was the highlight of my career ever since I covered my first Olympics two years ago.
But other than that, there were a lot (A LOT) of lows. As far as my career goes, it was a year of disappointments, anxiety attacks, rejections, and more unreturned emails, DMs, and phone calls than I would ever think I could handle.
Despite all of that, I did take steps in my career towards getting to where I want to be. Sometime early in the year I was watching an interview with Tiffany Haddish, who also suffered a lot of disappointments and setbacks on the way to becoming the superstar she is today. Haddish said when she was at her lowest Kevin Hart told her to write down the things she wanted to accomplish, and do nothing else except work towards making the list come true.
And since Tiffany Haddish is perfect and amazing and I’m obsessed with her, I thought “if it worked for my girl Tiff, it might work for me.” So I made my own list. Now, I have A LOT of things I want to accomplish, but I made my list short and sweet and started with the things I truly want, things I can work towards now, and then when I get closer I can add to it later. My list was three things:
- Go to the Olympics to cover them
- Have (and one day run full-time) my own website
- Have a screenplay I write turned into an actual movie
The third one is definitely the most far-fetched, but this year I actually took the script I wrote four years and submitted it to a contest!
I lost… but still that thing had been on my computer and only seen by me since 2014, so I think actually getting the balls to have some other person read it was a huge first step (PS – if you’re a movie person and also want to read it, call me 🙂 ).
The second thing on my list, having my own website, well where else would I post this story? It’s not much now, but the Huffington Post and Grantland had to start somewhere too, right?
As far as the Olympics go… well I don’t want to jinx it so let’s just say fingers crossed and prayers up!
While I may have had setbacks this year, I still did and wrote things I’m really proud of, and I want to share them here. These are my favorite stories I wrote in 2018:
This is truly a night I will never forget. For three straight weeks I had watched, like 8,400 curling games (I can’t even remember if that’s an exaggeration or not) as the curling writer for NBC Olympics. And on the final night, it was Team USA against Sweden in the men’s gold medal game. The game started at 1:30 a.m. on a Friday night, so I rolled up to the newsroom at like midnight, decked out in an American flag scarf. And as I walked through the office people would point and say “Team USA! Team Shuster!” and I was recognized as the curling girl. Which was super cool.
And then, improbably, USA won, and I got to write definitely the coolest game recap of my career so far. I finished right as the sun was coming up. The only time I would enjoy seeing a sunrise.
I wrote an actual curling column about an actual curling Olympic gold medal match. And I (hopefully) didn’t sound stupid and didn’t sound like I had never watched a curling game until finding one on YouTube the night before the Olympics began.
PS – curling is super awesome and I actually love it now a lot. I hope this isn’t the last time I write about rocks and hammer throws.
I actually got the idea to write this like midway through the PyeongChang games, but I was always like “I don’t know, will people think it’s weird? Is that something NBC is okay with? I don’t know, I don’t know.” But our final task when finishing up our sites was to make different lists of our best stories and videos and anything else we wanted to do to finish out the Olympics, so I figured why not? It was the last thing I wrote, and I think it was maybe the most read story I wrote the entire time (It was definitely the most shared and retweeted from NBC’s Twitter page). So, I guess like take changes, be confident in your ideas and write what you love and all that stuff, and sometime it’ll end up good.
Any story I write about racing where the guy I’m interviewing describes the track as “WWE on four wheels” is a story I’m going to love writing. A local racetrack celebrated 50 years, so I just sat down with the owner and had him tell me stories of debauchery and nonsense from the decades of racing he’d seen there. It was not my best-received story, but I loved it so, so much.
I don’t know why, but a lot of times my favorite stories are the ones where I just feel like it’s an idea no one else would come up with. This one, a local soccer player became famous around the area for his flip-throws, so I just wanted to talk with him about how he does it, and pretend to be an athlete who could also do that thing. It was silly, but was one of my favorite things I’ve ever written.
I’m all about writing stories about girls who play golf and win state championships by beating boys. I’ve written three or four stories about this girl, and each time I’m more and more impressed by what she does, and the poise she plays with. I would have never been as confident as her at that age.
I got a press release one day from a friend in NASCAR saying I needed to run it because a guy who worked at my newspaper in the 70s won NASCAR’s most prestigious awards for a reporter.
But me being who I am I didn’t run the release. Instead I searched all through the internet trying to get his contact info so I could write a story about him myself. We talked for like half an hour about his career as a journalist, how he got his start, and his love of racing and college basketball, among other things. This was already probably the story I was most proud of, but it was made more so when I got a call from an older lady a few days after it ran saying “I just wanted to let you know, I don’t care a whip about sports. I read the news section cover-to-cover every day, but when I saw this story on the front page of sports it caught my eye and I couldn’t quit reading it. You did a fantastic job, I loved it.”
I’m only including this because 1. I love bat flips and always will, and 2. I got to tell the story about how I used to wear my snow boots around my “no shoes” apartment in definitely the most petty thing I have ever done.
This is another story where it was just a dumb idea I had, asking cross country kids why the heck they run cross country, and turning it into four days of interviews and 1,300 words. But one of the reasons I love writing about high school sports is because I love getting to talk to kids about what they love and getting into their heads. It’s also really fun to interview runners because they don’t get much spotlight, but they love to talk about their sport.
The reason behind why I wrote the cross country story. I do NOT miss running.
Getting to cover racing is probably one of the coolest things about my job at the newspaper, and I got to cover an awesome late model race at Martinsville Speedway this fall. I was really angry about the backlash from that race, so I decided to write a column about it. I think I’m really proud of this though because someone really big in the racing world read it and said “wow, this was really good. Cara knows a lot about racing.” Which means I must be a good writer if I can fool people that well 🙂
I know this is lame, but I don’t really have a reason for why this is on the list, I just really like it.
Look, in October I hung out with NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Brett Moffitt at a brewery, and a month later he won a Truck Series championship. Coincidence???
I went into the office this day a nervous wreck because we had just had a blizzard, there were no games going on, and I knew I needed to come up with a story idea for something to write that night. And then, like a gift, I see an email about people who ran 5Ks while it was snowing an inch and hour over the weekend. It was super fun to write and report, but more importantly, it got down to the end of the night, I knew I had only about an hour to write it, and I said “I’m going to see how many snow puns I can get in this.” The final tally was nine.
This was super important to me 1. because it was the first piece I wrote solely for my new website!! And 2. it’s the first time I’ve ever written about my anxiety issues for other people to read. It was also just good for me personally to write something where I acknowledge my brain hates me sometimes, while also celebrating something I’m proud of.