In Notes on August 29, 2015 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.

More from the ‘Oops!’ Files

In Contests on August 22, 2015 at 9:30 pm

I wanted to share a few more of the entries that were submitted to the latest Work Stew writing contest. Even though Sharmyn McGraw’s “Dilly of a Typo” has already been published as this round’s winner, several other entrants have kindly given me permission to share their stories as well. First up is Iris Madelyn’s “Spider Drop.”

–Kate Gace Walton, Work Stew Editor

Spider Drop

By Iris Madelyn 

IMG_0965“I told you it was too high.”

That’s all I could manage to say before the ambulance arrived. My right ankle lay limp next to my elbow and I could see the awkward bend of my broken shinbone. The sergeant was looking down at me from the roof of the building. Even from here, I could see the oh, shit in his eyes.

I’ve always had a problem keeping my mouth shut. So when I was told that the only way to succeed in the Marine Corps was to run fast and keep my mouth shut, I knew I only had a 50% chance of making it.

It was 1999, before war changed the way we trained and the way we entertained ourselves. We were going to perform a Spider Drop, a tactical technique used to safely jump from about three meters high. But on this occasion, it was sold to us as an ego-charged maneuver whereby a young and strapped marine attempts to scale down the side of a building – pretending it’s under siege – before plummeting to the ground with a tuck-and-roll…from two-stories up.

In hindsight, I can see the value of such an exercise. And as a career military woman, I understand all the rah-rah of jumping from buildings for training. But this January morning, it was just for fun. When Sergeant Tough Guy showed up looking for volunteers to go to the Urban Terrain Training Center on base, I raised my hand. The other option was to stay at my work station and monitor the colonel’s internet speed for the next ten hours.

“Um, I think we’ll use this building,” the sergeant said pointing at an empty cinderblock shell of walls and doorways at the training center. Then there were private meetings with other sergeants and medics. There was more pointing and looking up and returning to the leadership huddle.

“Do they even know what the hell they’re doing?” I asked the young medic standing next to me. He’d been excluded from the planning huddle because of his low rank.

“Don’t start,” he said.

I waited in line with the medic and everyone else pending further instructions. Further instructions never came. We were all just shepherded up to the roof of the two-story structure. One by one, we were told how to Spider Drop then made to jump.

I voiced my concerns more than once but didn’t get much support. I wasn’t known for my blind obedience to orders.

“Sergeant, this building is too high.”

“Devil-dawg! Do you think you’re smarter than me? Always running your mouth. Get back in line.” The sergeant’s voice dissipated over the top of the building as he shook his head and walked away.

After four other marines had been injured during their attempts, I looked to the young medic again for support.

“Doc. For real, though. Doesn’t this shit seem too high? I mean, is this building made for jumping like this? It doesn’t make sense.”

“You expect things to make sense. That’s your real problem,” he chuckled. “You’ll be fine. Besides, sergeant’s not gonna be happy ’til we’ve all jumped and he’s got his kicks in for the day.”

I looked over at the sergeant and watched his wicked smiled as he yelled at the most recent victim over the building’s ledge. “Awe, c’mon! It’s just a little sprained ankle, devil-dawg. Rub some dirt on it.”

I knew for certain that he was insane. I wanted him to ask me again if I thought I was smarter than him.

And the winner is…

In Contests on August 21, 2015 at 10:04 pm

Thank you for a particularly entertaining batch of contest entries. Your tales of mistakes made on the job made for good reading, and I hope to share (with each writer’s permission) a few more of them in the coming days. In the meantime, though, here’s the winning entry, which the writer says is “all true” and which I chose largely because it delivered a much-needed laugh. Congratulations, Sharmyn McGraw, and thank you for the chuckle!

–Kate Gace Walton, Work Stew Editor

A Dilly of a Typo

By Sharmyn McGraw

Me at Pams 1It was time for me to write and publish our bi-monthly newsletter for our Pituitary Brain Tumor Support Group. Nine hundred fliers were printed and snail-mailed to our patients. Plus, a copy of the newsletter was posted on all of our social media sites and patient advocates’ websites. The biggest news in the flier was the invitation to our patients to join us for a fancy awards dinner for one of the leading neurosurgeons in his field: Daniel F. Kelly. Dr. Kelly was being honored with the “Gentle Giant” award at a dinner where his family, colleagues, and patients would join him.

Just moments after the newsletter was posted on the internet, and all nine hundred fliers were mailed, I got an email from a patient who had just read the flier posted on Facebook: “Please tell Dr. Kelly congrats. I wasn’t aware they gave out such an award, so bravo, Dr. Kelly.” I thought, Hmm? Wonder what he meant by that. But it wasn’t until I got a voicemail from one of Dr. Kelly’s colleagues that I started to panic. “Sharmyn, I just wanted to make sure you caught the typo before your fliers go out in the mail.” Again, I was not sure what she was referring to but that’s when I noticed in the flier that I had written, Please Join Us To Honor Dr. Daniel Kelly with the “Genital Giant” award…I almost threw up. There was no way I could break into nine hundred people’s mail boxes to retrieve them…but I had to get it off the internet ASAP, and hope no one actually reads the newsletter. Well, the good news is, people do read the newsletter. The bad news is, the flier soon spread like wildfire.

I knew I needed protection when I broke the news of my mistake, so I emailed Dr. Kelly and I included a few of the other docs he works closely with because I knew they would think the typo was hilarious. “Dear Dr. Kelly, I mailed out the fliers to all of our patients and invited them to the awards dinner. However, instead of you getting the Gentle Giant award, I announced you were getting the Genital Giant award…so, you’re welcome.” Howard, one of the other docs, asked, “Where would one purchase such a plaque? I’d sure like to see the trophy…” There started the endless commentary from the peanut gallery. Everyone was laughing, even Dr. Kelly. But I couldn’t laugh quite yet; I still felt sick to my stomach.

Dr. Kelly said, “Oh, now that makes sense. A patient sent me an email and said, “I hope you get a standing ovation but I didn’t know what she meant so I wrote back, Thank You.

I’m still not sure the bigwigs at the hospital found it funny, but the night of the gala, I proudly stood at the podium before the crowd and talked about this great man, who I have worked side-by-side with for the past 15 years helping patients with pituitary brain tumors. I let the crowd know, he may only be receiving the Gentle Giant award this evening but there was always next year for the Genital Giant award…the crowd laughed and applauded and as I presented Dr. Kelly with his award, I could finally laugh with him as he graciously accepted his honor.


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