In Notes on April 23, 2014 at 12:05 am

Work Stew is a collection of original essays and in-depth interviews. To learn more, please visit the FAQ.

New essays and interviews will be added regularly, so please check in often. Or you can sign up to receive email notifications of new contentlook for the button at the bottom right of the site.

Also, Work Stew now has its very own Facebook page; if you ‘like’ it, you’ll be able to see periodic updates in your news feed. You can also receive notices of new content via Twitter.


A brief history:

The site was launched in January 2011, when I published “Random Acts of Business,” an essay about extraordinarily long hot dogs, True Believers, and my lifelong quest for flow. Since then more than 70 other essays have been added to the mix.

You can view a complete list of contributors here. To date, the Top Ten Readers’ Favorites* are (in alphabetical order):

Molly Bishop Shadel A law professor writes about juggling her wide-ranging legal career with a personal life

Gerald Casale A founding member of the ground-breaking and enduring band Devo reflects on what constitutes “work.” 

Samantha Cole A prep school grad embraces her “inner laborer.” 

Ronald J. Granieri An historian pulls back the ivy to reveal what life in academia is really like.  

Tasha Huebner A self-employed Wharton grad takes a hammer to the old chestnut, “Do what you love, and the money will come.” 

Meg Heimovics Kumin A software developer reboots after three babies and two family crises and emerges as a photographer

Gopi Kallayil A Googler ponders the power of intention after an idea scribbled on a piece of paper almost immediately springs to life. 

Lindsay Moran Following the Abbottabad raid, an ex-spy reflects on her decision to leave the CIA

Rhino A soldier describes what it’s like to come home, including what goes through his mind when someone says to him, “Thank you for your service.” 

Terri Rowe A longtime factory worker reveals the secret identity that has sustained her since she was four years old. 

If you’re interested in submitting an essay of your own, please write to me at I’d love to hear your story.


Kate Gace Walton
Editor, Work Stew

*Note: ‘Readers’ Favorite’ is a pretty subjective designation based on page views, shares, comments, and the volume of love/hate mail each essay has so far inspired. So, read all the essays; as they say, your mileage may vary.

New Interview

In Notes on April 8, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Indira_NairToday I connected with Indira Nair, a friend and former colleague based in Kuala Lumpur. Indira is a seasoned communications professional who used to work for Malaysia Airlines.

Ever since Flight 370 went missing on March 8, I’ve found myself wanting to hear Indira’s perspective on this long, strange month—as a Malaysian, as a former employee of the airline, and as a veteran communications counselor. In Episode #78 of the podcast, Indira weighs in on all these fronts. I’m grateful to her for sharing her views.

Recently, I took a break from stewing about work to stew about parenthood instead, and the piece I wrote is now up at The Huffington Post. Now, it’s back to our regular programming….coming up on the podcast:

  • A woman who bought a 12,000-foot school that she plans to turn into an artists’ residency.
  • The car-crazed entrepreneur behind the hot start-up Chariotz.

About the podcast…

The first Work Stew interview was released in February 2011. I spoke with Gretchen Peters, an intrepid investigative reporter who explained how she went from a job on Rodeo Drive to a hut in Afghanistan. Since then more than 70 other interviews have been released; you can view a complete list here.

The ten most downloaded interviews to date are these:

former CIA spy does a reality check on the TV show ‘Homeland’—what rings true, what doesn’t, and the scene that made her tear up.

newspaper cartoonist explains what it takes to be funny seven days a week, for more than sixteen years.

A husband-and wife team who make their living as long-haul truckers describe their life on the road.

The voice in my GPS describes how she got there. Turns out she’s an accomplished singer and songwriter.

writer of closed captioning for adult films explains how he got into such an unusual line of work and how he feels about it. One listener commented, “See, there ARE jobs for English majors!”

particle physicist describes what it’s like to be focused on topics thatmost of the world knows nothing about.

certified mediator explains why he loves getting involved with other people’s disputes.

comedy writer on the path he travelled to arrive at his role on Comedy Central’s hit show Tosh.O.

A long-time flight attendant who recently retired from the airline industry to become…a gorilla caretaker. Seriously.

A marketer-turned-cook describes how hard she works, how little she earns—and how much she loves her new career.

Why a podcast? Work Stew is a place for people to share their thoughts and stories about their working lives. Essays are one way to do that, and in-depth interviews are another. The hope is to build, over time, a rich collection of distinctive voices, captured in both the written word and the spoken word.

How to listen? You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or you can listen to all of the episodes here: Show Notes and Audio Players

Suggestions? New episodes of the Work Stew podcast are released every two weeks. To suggest an interview subject for a future episode, please write to

Stewing About Town

In Essays on April 22, 2014 at 8:44 am

Today, over on Facebook, we’re talking about Aaron Hurst’s piece in The New York Times called, ‘Being Good Isn’t the Only Way to Go.’ Work Stew reader Matthew Taylor is not a fan of the piece. In the comments section, he wrote, “You can’t just re-imagine that your job has purpose. That is being out of touch with reality. Sure, we could wander around with a fantasy of purpose in our heads, but if it is not real, then we’re just deluding ourselves.”

I disagree. Here’s my response to Matthew: “Hi Matthew Taylor, thanks for weighing in. I agree with you that not all of his (Hurst’s) specific suggestions are strong but his main premisethat meaning *can* be found in the for-profit world and that non-profit jobs do not *always* provide for fulfilling workis one that I have really come to believe.

For me, the meaning in any role I perform is a function of three things: what I call (talking to myself usually, but I’m happy to talk to you, too): ‘Connection, Flow, and Wonder.’

Connection has do to with the interactions I have with other people: am I being myself and is my effect on other people (at least largely) positive?

Flow has to do with the tasks themselves: do I enjoy at least some of them to the point of being really absorbed by my work?

Wonder is perhaps the most complicated of my requirements to explain, but it has to do with preserving a sense of wonder about life and about the world. In jobs that have beaten me down for whatever reason, my sense of Wonder is shot, and I realize I have to leave. In jobs that I’ve enjoyed, my sense of Wonder stays intact, andin the best jobs I’ve ever hadI’ve felt like I’m working side by side with people who “get” the whole Wonder thing, who understand that we work for many reasons: to make a living, for the intrinsic value of labor, and also, ideally, to support a life of Wonderin my case, a chance to raise children, to see a bit of the world, to try new things.

What I’m *not* saying is that these elements are easy to find in the workplace. In fact, I think workplaces that support all three are incredibly rare. What I *do* feel is that these elements can be found in the for-profit world as much as in the not-for-profit world…so that’s the part of this article that really resonated with me.”

What about you? Where do you come out on Hurst’s piece? Please chime in. I’d love to have your voice in the mix.

Stewing on Stage: A Brief Story Slam Round-Up

july2013-slam-web1I love swapping stories here at Work Stew. I think of it as a virtual water cooler where someone is always around with a tale to tell.

But there’s also something to be said for telling a story live—on stage, with no notes, to a crowd of people whose faces you can see.

I’ve done that three times now, at the Bainbridge Island Story Slam, and it’s really, really fun. If your community is currently slam-free, perhaps you should get one going? Feel free to reach out via Facebook or email ( and I’ll explain the logistics, which are gloriously simple.

In the meantime, for a taste of the tales you might hear at such an event, here’s my latest from last month. The theme was ‘Dating: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’—but, as you’ll see, my story has a small connection to work as well.

My other slam tales, which focused more centrally on work, were about the summer job I had at Yellowstone National Park and my most memorable night shift.

The Stew in the News

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 5.30.04 PM“Random Acts of Business,” the essay I wrote to launch Work Stew back in 2011, was recently re-published in The Huffington Post. It’s located in a section called ‘The Third Metric,’ which focuses on “redefining success beyond money and power.”

nprAlso, Ashley Gross of KPLU (Seattle’s NPR station) talked to me about why I started the site, why I keep at it, and what I’ve learned.

Many Work Stew contributors came along for the ride: photographer Meg Heimovics Kumin and flight attendant-turned-gorilla caretaker John Safkow were featured in the radio version of the story (click the blue ‘listen’ button to hear it).

Devo founder Gerald Casale, python hunter Ruben Ramirez, high-rise window washer David Schmidt, lice remover Lisa Weisberg, former corporate lawyer Kevin McHargue, and carpenter Samantha Cole all made appearances in the accompanying print piece.

cof2014smaller-1Work Stew went to the woods: I was honored to present at Islandwood’s tenth annual Circle of Friends event, where Cheryl Strayed, best-selling author of WILD and TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS, served as the keynote speaker.

My session, which wrapped up a weekend-long retreat, focused on writing as a tool for personal development. In my talk, I got to highlight the essays of several Work Stew contributors. Thank you, as always, for letting me share your stories.


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