In Notes on October 9, 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.

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.

The Plan Going Forward

In Notes on May 6, 2015 at 11:02 pm

A note from Work Stew editor Kate Gace Walton:

“The plan going forward” is of course a silly phrase. (After all, you can’t make a plan going backward; you can’t plan the past. If you could, I’m sure we’d all have done a whole lot better.) But I digress.

What I want to discuss here is the plan for Work Stew. As many of you know, this site sprung from a mid-life crisis of sorts: back in 2011, I knew I needed a career change, but I had—in the form of an essay I’d written one night—only the fuzziest notions of what to seek (“flow?”).

However, simply by putting that essay out into the world, good things started to happen: the discipline of having to pin my swirling thoughts into sentences, and the small but robust community that developed as others chose to do the same, helped guide me towards a better fit.

But even as I settled happily into a new career, I realized: with a subject as complicated as work, the stewing never stops. It just evolves. Both at a personal level and at a societal level, there are always difficult questions to ponder, thorny issues to tackle.

So, I pressed on with Work Stew: posting work-related stories on Facebook and Twitter, editing essays at night, producing podcasts on weekends. And I loved it—all of it. For the first time in 20 years, I felt again what I was lucky enough to experience in college: a community of kindred spirits, drawing on a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences, to discuss ideas…and to help each other find our way. Truly, it has been both comforting and exhilarating—which is a weird but wonderful combination.

Lately, though, the stirring of the Stew has been increasingly tough to pull off. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, and (TMI alert) I’m really, really tired. So for some time now, I’ve stopped soliciting new essays to publish and, a few months back, I put the podcast on pause. However, I can’t bear to stop Work Stew all together: I’m too attached to the daily ritual not just of working but of thinking about work. I’m also too attached to all of you. So here’s my plan:

  • The posts and chats (on Facebook and Twitter) will continue. These aren’t terribly time-consuming for me, and I figure social media breaks are a better idea than, say, smoking breaks. Especially for a non-smoker.
  • I will continue to hold off on the podcast for now. If I run across someone I feel compelled to interview, I may record a new episode, but going forward I won’t be adhering to a regular (every two weeks) distribution schedule.
  • I will gladly accept essays if anyone feels moved to write one and to send it to me, but I won’t be actively soliciting them.
  • What I will be doing—to encourage a steady stream of original writing about work—is hosting four writing contests per year. Each contest will have a work-related prompt, a word limit (600 words), and a prize ($200 for the winner). After each round, I will publish the winner’s entry and possibly a few other finalists. So that you can plan ahead (humor me, people!), here are the dates for the next four rounds:
Prompt announced: April 15, 2015
Deadline: May 15, 2015
Prompt announced: July 15, 2015
Deadline: August 15, 2015
Prompt announced: October 15, 2015
Deadline: November 15, 2015
Prompt announced: January 15, 2016
Deadline: February 15, 2016
Work Stew Essay Contest copy

I hope this approach appeals to at least some of you. Let me know: And if any of you have other ideas—suggestions on how the Stew might evolve over time without requiring me to pull all-nighters—please throw those thoughts into the mix as well. As always, thank you for reading, and thank you for chiming in.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 118 other followers