Newsletter 2023-03

For ASJA members in
Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon and Washington
March 2023

In This Issue

From the Prez, M. Carolyn Miller, ASJA PNW President, returns soon
Netflix and Kill Sally, Valentine’s Day Murder Jogs Memory of Gory Days, Catherine Kolonko
ASJA Reboots Chapter Organizing Work, Michelle V. Rafter
Online Tools for Calendar, Numbers and Comparing Text, Bruce Miller
Member News and Announcements

Join Us At Our March Meeting!

Rosemary Keevil is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

ASJA PNW Monthly Meeting

Time: Wednesday, March 15, 2023: 01:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

To Join Zoom Meeting:

Meeting ID: 869 9937 6999

Passcode: 835472

From the President

by M. Carolyn Miller

ASJA PNW Chapter President

Carolyn will return soon.

M. Carolyn Miller, MA, spent her career designing narrative- and game-based learning. Today, she consults and writes about narrative in our lives and world, the inextricable link between the two, and the critical role of self-awareness in transforming both.

by Catherine Kolonko

Netflix and Kill Sally, Valentine’s Day Murder Jogs Memory of Gory Days

Something happened recently that took me back to the dawn of my journalism career, working the crime beat on the night shift. I dubbed it My Gory Days.

Many nights consumed me as I roamed Oceanside’s dark streets, police scanner full blast, chasing cops, victims and suspects to get the story first. Later, I hustled to the office to write in time for the morning paper.

If I got lucky I’d make the front page. Sometimes the night editor moved another article deeper inside to assign my scoop the coveted top of the fold position.

That first glance at the newspaper the next day never got old, especially when I beat the competition. That must be when I first heard that “a byline is worth its weight in gold.” We got paid next to nothing at the Blade Citizen, yet the work was its own reward.

If you want to last on the crime beat, develop a thick skin and cultivate compassion. There are guns and knives and fists and poison. People get hurt, kids or babies abused, banks robbed, fires started on purpose.

Cops accused me of turning dead teenage gang members into choir boys. I wanted to reveal their humanity; it might be their last chance at it.

Twenty-six years later, as I watched the second episode of “Killer Sally” on Netflix, my byline and a crime story I wrote in the 90s appeared on the screen. My ego burst awake and shouted humbly, “Hey, that’s me!”  

I reported the story from arrest until the first court appearance and scored the only jailhouse interview of Sally McNeil, a bodybuilder who, like the husband she fatally shot on Valentine’s Day, was a former Marine. I showed up at the jail at 5 am after working the night shift and was first on her visitor list.

Still, I had to negotiate with a muscular woman bodybuilder who arrived much later than I to visit her friend Sally. Crime reporting requires thinking quickly on your feet. We went in together, me seated in front facing Sally, her friend standing very close behind me.

Sally spoke softly and had a wide, sturdy neck. Her husband, Ray McNeil, had been physically abusive, she said, describing herself as a mama bear who would do anything to protect her children.

I could see her friend’s reflection off the thick plexiglass that separated us from Sally as she gave silent cues about how to answer my questions.

“Did you kill your husband?” I asked toward the end of the interview. The reflected head shifted right to left several times and Sally refused to answer. Not surprising so soon after the murder but I had to ask. 

Those Gory Days of my past stir memories tucked inside, waiting to unfurl. On Facebook, days after the series on Sally started streaming, colleagues from back then posted that they saw Catherine Kolonko’s byline on Netflix. That teeny bit of golden recognition born from finding and following my passion still thrills. 

Catherine Kolonko is a writer in Portland, Oregon, who has been a freelance journalist for 13 years.  She previously worked for a biotech company and began her career as a newspaper reporter covering crime and breaking news.

by Michelle V. Rafter

ASJA Reboots Chapter Organizing Work

ASJA is jumpstarting support for regional chapters after initial work to promote local groups was delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic when the national organization had to prioritize other activities.

About two dozen representatives of existing chapters and ASJA members interested in starting new chapters in their areas gathered online February 8 for a chapter organizing planning meeting. I represented the Pacific Northwest chapter at the request of chapter chair Carolyn Miller, who was not able to attend.

ASJA has about 10 active chapters, including in the PNW, northern and southern California, Texas, and Washington D.C., according to a poll the organization conducted in 2019. Another three former chapters have lapsed. A handful of ASJA members at the Feb. 8 meeting are interested in launching chapters in currently unserved areas.

In addition to connecting ASJA members who live in the same vicinity, chapters offer support in the form of in-person or virtual meetings and newsletters. Some chapters host guest speakers, and in the past, have sponsored regional conferences open to all ASJA members.

The group on the planning call responded positively to my description of the PNW chapter’s activities, especially for Carolyn’s steady and inviting leadership since founding the chapter in 2018; the newsletter (thanks to Maxine); and the website (thanks to Bruce). Anyone interested can listen to a recording of the approx. 80-minute meeting here.

ASJA is looking for volunteers to serve on a chapter chair task force, with the goal of holding an initial meeting in March. If you’re interested, complete this volunteer form after logging onto the ASJA website.

If you have ASJA friends in areas where there isn’t currently a chapter who would be interested in starting one, or you’ve moved out of the PNW area and would consider chairing a new chapter, the organization has a few guidelines that potential chapters must follow. New chapters have to be approved by the ASJA board; the chair must be an active ASJA member; and chapters must have at least 10 members. Chapters also have to follow ASJA strategic objectives, goals for diversity and inclusion, and provide a consistent experience, but otherwise have flexibility in programming and governance.

Michelle V. Rafter is a Portland business reporter and ghostwriter and long-time ASJA member.

by Bruce Miller

Online Tools for Calendar, Numbers and Comparing Text

Need to generate a list of dates? Or create sequential numbers without typing them all one by one? Or compare two versions of a list to see what is different?

For one or any of the above – and more – there are really fantastic free tools available for doing all sorts of things.

Generating a list of calendar dates is easy with Catonmat. Go to this web page:

You will probably find more options than you need, but when you need 52 successive weeks on a Sunday, this can help.

The same site also has many tools for generating all kinds of numbers. Go here:

Here’s another number site that allows you to include text:

Comparing two lists of items or file names to see how they differ can be a pain if inspecting them manually. This is especially so when the lists are long. Head to the Web for a tool that compares and points out the differences. Here are a few sites that do just that. Just copy and paste.

Text compare sites are easily found on Google and Bing with this phrase: compare text files.

Bruce Miller lives in Seattle and likes all these cool sites that turn mundane tasks into a fast solution.

Black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus) buck, Gold Hill, SW Oregon © Maxine Cass

Member News

and Announcements

From Michelle Rafter:

June 13-15 ASJA National (Virtual) Writers Conference. The 2023 ASJA annual writers conference takes place June 13-15, with all activities happening online. As in years past, the 2023 conference will feature keynote speakers, and be divided into three tracks that match ASJA members’ writing specialties – books, content marketing writing, and journalism. The conference will feature sessions on the craft, business, and marketing sides of making a living writing, along with informal “snack chat” sessions on timely writing topics and trends. Watch the ASJA website for more information on sessions and registration, which is open to members and nonmembers. If you can’t attend in person, sessions will be recorded and will be available to stream for anyone who registers for the event. Michelle Rafter is chairing this year’s conference and would love to hear from PNW chapter members who are willing to volunteer in any capacity, including participating on the conference planning committee, helping with social media promotion, or acting as an emcee for a session speaker. Reach her at

Joanna Nesbit’s latest article for Money Magazine4 Myths About College Scholarships That Could Cost You, was published in February. Joanna, in Bellingham, WA, writes regularly about financial aid, student loans, and other college topics for Money Magazine and other publications.

L.M. Archer wrote Oregon Wine Symposium Recap for Wine Business Monthly and interviewed Pauline Bartel for the Gotham Ghostwriters GG Craft Interview series. For SOMM TV Magazine, she wrote “What Is Carbon Sequestration and Why Is It Important for the Wine Industry?” including two Oregon wineries.


EDITOR: Maxine Cass
ASJA PNW monthly meeting coverage: Darlene West

*All stories are copyright by their respective writers.
*All photographs and illustrations are copyright by their creative makers.
*All rights are reserved to each of them for their own material.