After A Year At Harvard, Columnist Is Challenged, Renewed And Ready For Conversation

By Dawn M. Turner
Chicago Tribune.

CHICAGO

My two-bedroom apartment in Cambridge, Mass., was simple. Barely 1,000 square feet, it was on the raised first floor of a courtyard building and had white walls, modest furniture and lovely hardwood floors. From my living room window, I could see a sliver of the Charles River.

When I opened the front door for the first time last August, I knew it was exactly what I needed and where I belonged.

People will tell you that a year away at Harvard University as a Nieman Foundation for Journalism fellow is transformative.

What that means depends on the fellow’s personal ground zero and how much she needs to transform.

This fellow arrived on campus pretty broken.

I was uncertain about my place in our seismically shifting world of journalism. I questioned whether my voice was being heard over the rants and bombast. I wondered what impact I was having on this city I love dearly.

On the personal front, I had decided to end a marriage that spanned more than two decades to a man who in many ways is a wonderful human being. (Hence, the name change.)

My year away was one of the greatest gifts of my life. (My daughter, born on Christmas Day, cuts her eyes at me when I say this. So, I emphasize, “one of.”)

I learned so much about my profession, my place in it and myself.

I spent the bulk of my class time at Harvard Law School and in nonfiction and fiction writing courses, including one in screenwriting.

I wrote like crazy. I finished a book proposal with several completed chapters and sent 85 pages to my literary agent. I completed two short stories. And a Hollywood producer is waiting to take a look at a screenplay I’m close to wrapping up.

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