Dena Ogden, Our Editor-in-Chief
Editor’s note: Throughout the brainstorming process for The Woodsy, we knew that we wanted to include profiles of amazing PNW women. However, just how they would take shape and what they would look like continued to evolve as we got further in our planning. We wanted women to share details that they were proud to share, insights that help other women, and anecdotes that readers can relate to. We also knew what we didn’t want; we didn’t want to ask women to go deeper than we were willing to go ourselves. We wanted them to feel like, to know, that we’re in this together. With that said, may I offer my own profile to kick us off. It’s a sample and a preview of what’s to come:
Name: Dena Ogden
Where did you grow up?: mostly Tacoma, WA
Where do you live now?: just outside of Spokane, WA
What do you consider home (if not the above)?: the Pacific Northwest, in general
What is your career path?: As of 2016, I’m the Founding Editor of The Woodsy. I’m also a freelance writer. Before that, I spent roughly seven years in higher education student affairs (admissions and career services), which allowed me to use some of my favorite high school camp counseling skills in a professional setting. Also, I really loved working “behind-the-scenes” in education. As a first-generation college student, I didn’t know how much I didn’t know, and seeing the inner workings of things like the admission process was way more exciting to me than it probably would be for most people (spoiler alert: there’s a lot of reading involved). But I’ve always kinda liked being “behind the scenes.” I love planning and making decisions and putting things together. I suppose it was only a matter of time before I blended that with writing, since launching The Woodsy has been a fabulous blend of both.
What other passions do you have?: I follow current events and web culture like it’s my job (technically, it is, but I would even if it wasn’t), 90s nostalgia, Harry Potter, the careers of Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, scarves, paper crafts (cards and paper flower bouquets), french fries, and I’m a huge planner nerd.
Favorite thing about the NW?: Gray skies
How do you take your coffee?: With a healthy pour of whole milk and some sugar
How do you take notes?: Anything work related is typed, usually on the computer but sometimes on my phone. Though, I use a binder as my personal planner and will never give up the colorful pens and colored pencils I use for that. Never.
Favorite season in the NW?: Fall
How do you protect yourself from the rain?: With a hood, or occasionally a hat, or sometimes even by hoping
What do you love talking about at parties?: 90s boybands. Writing. Parenting. My family. Reality TV conspiracy theories. Education.
What hidden talents do you have?: I can often predict the exact time that it is within a few minutes, even if I haven’t looked at a clock in hours. It comes especially in handy at theme parks and whenever my phone is deep in a pocket or at the bottom of my purse.
What’s the best decision you’ve made in the last year?: My spouse and I moved into a new home over the summer, in a small town outside of Spokane, Washington. It’s been a bigger adjustment than I originally expected, but it’s been really good for us. I thought it’d feel like we were just in another Spokane neighborhood, or a suburb (it is the second biggest city in the state, after all) but no, it actually feels like a different town. Though, I love the house itself. It’s not even that big, and it’s not perfect, but it’s a great fit for where we are in our family life and our careers and for our current lifestyle. We still have a lot of work ahead of us to get it updated and personalized the way we want to, so perhaps ask me again in a few months if I’m still feeling as enthusiastic…
How did you get to where you are in life?: I don’t think of myself as quite “there”, but I’m working on it. Mostly, I think I’m lucky in that there’s actually a market for my greatest passion, that people always want to read things that other people have written. Now it’s mostly on me to make sure I’m doing the best work I can, and doing my part to put it out into the world responsibly. That’s not to say I haven’t worked hard, because I absolutely have. Late nights, early mornings, rejections, negative reactions to my work; it all comes with the territory. But there are a lot of circumstances out of my control that have aligned to make writing a realistic pursuit for me and for other women writers, for which I’m thankful.
Any big “wish list” or “bucket list” items that you’re looking forward to accomplishing? Other than branching out into fiction writing? Yes. This is going to make me sound like I’m a full-on senior citizen, but I desperately want to road trip around the USA in an RV with my family. I’ve been to eleven states, but there are so many parts of the country that I haven’t seen that I’ve really started idealize this great, imaginary American road trip. I’ve never been to the South, and though I lived in California for four years, there’s a lot of the Southwest I still want to see, too, like the Grand Canyon, and various parts of New Mexico. Since my partner currently teaches, and my schedule’s fairly adaptable, I’ve been planting seeds that maybe we should spend a summer doing it when our kid(s) are old enough to understand it, and he’s slowly warming to the idea.
What’s your best advice for other women on career? Own whatever it is you want to do. It’s not an understatement to say that my life has changed for the better, in multiple ways, every time I got slightly more confident in my desire to write. And, every time I made the conscious choice to work toward it, my happiness meter ticked forward a little bit. Like, switching majors in college. Starting ambitious fiction projects on the side while working outside the house 50ish hours a week. Making the time and investment to attend writing conferences. Joining a critique group. Sending my work off for the first time. Surviving my first rejections (technically those didn’t make me happy, but they made all the subsequent rejections easier, so…still counts). Having my work accepted for the first time. Ordering my own business cards. Posting and sharing the first pieces I had go live on someone else’s website, and not a blog I started myself. Getting actual paychecks for words. I suppose I also started to pay attention to people around me (including my husband) pursuing creative careers, and I just thought, why not me? So, I’d say the same thing to any other woman who has an inkling of what she might want to do; just own it, just start. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of people who haven’t tried to stop me.
Has any specific woman or women in your life made a significant impact on you?: When I was younger, it was various young adult fiction writers, like Ann M. Martin (creator of The Baby-Sitters Club series, who responded to a letter I wrote her in fourth grade), and Judy Blume, because I’ve always wanted to write and fancy myself a real writer. As I got got older, it was a mix of peers and camp counselors that I aspired to be like (and eventually started working with when I became a camp counselor myself). Since I’ve become an adult, it’s other women writers, some of whom are bolder than me when it comes to sharing their views and standing up for their opinions, some of whom who write in a way I aspire to, and some of whom are both (including, but not limited to Curtis Sittenfeld, Jessica Knoll, Ann Friedman, and Lindy West). And, this week in particular, it’s Hillary Clinton. I’ve been voting since I was old enough, and tuning in for each presidential election, but this time was the first time I’ve felt so invested in an election, and took the results so personally. I think it’s clear that most, if not all, women in America are affected (or are going to be affected) by her loss in some way.
What are the most cherished parts of your day?: I’ve never called myself a morning person, but lately mornings are totally my thing. My toddler is just now starting to sleep in longer than I (probably by the time this runs, he’ll have stopped), so I usually get a few minutes to wake-up slowly, check my phone, make coffee, and start planning for the day. And then, once he wakes up, he gives the best sleepy snuggles and it’s impossible not to get warm fuzzies. I think one of the reasons I appreciate these mornings so much is that they’re re fairly slow-paced. I worked full-time out of the house for most of the first ten years of my career so to not have to get up, immediately shower, dress and leave is one of my favorite things about this current stage.