karina coombs

“Start writing and keep going until you’re done.”

After a lifetime of flirting with words, I began writing professionally when I graduated from Wellesley College at age 30 and got my first and last office job. As it happened, my interests in writing, research, technology, and software debugging turned me into a fairly decent technical writer. I could have been even better had I known there was an official term and career path for what I inadvertently ended up doing when my boss realized he needed someone to write up materials for our growing collection of software applications.

Marriage, family, and a desire to travel – cleverly disguised as cross country corporate relocations – took up the next decade before I found myself back in my native Massachusetts, ready to relaunch myself and pursue a career. After exhaustive research into the best options for a 40-something former Project Manager/Technical Writer, I ended up starting a blog. PurelyPixel was the first writing I’d ever sent out into the world that was just for me. And it was terrifying at first to think I’d forever be linked to rambling posts about diets and the discovery of electrified oven rodents. Turned out I shouldn’t have worried because nobody read anything anyway for a long time. Except for my mom, the comment fields remained empty.

I was being paid to write. Imagine that.

Blogging eventually produced a few decent essays, which I submitted to the local independent newspaper. My first beat was the Board of Health where I learned enough about septic systems and wells to eventually make myself a very informed (and financially mortified) home owner. Feature articles were harder because of their open ended nature and longer word count. I felt like I wasn’t reporting on a story as much as I was crafting a story to report. “How long should it be?” I asked the editor. “Here’s my advice,” she said. “Start writing and keep going until you’re done.”

Because I took her suggestion as more of a challenge, these didn’t end up being the crisp 1,000 word pieces found in a major paper, but several years in, and after teaching myself how to be a reporter and and doing a bit of freelance writing, I discovered that I’d ended up with a career of sorts. I had business cards. I rented a writing studio at an old mill building in Lowell. I was telling stories. I was pushing myself out of my introverted comfort zone and talking to people. I was paid to write. Imagine that. So, I did what any healthy and rational adult would do in this situation. I stopped.

[Insert something here about taking time off to deal with family/personal struggles…]

I’m beginning my second decade of calling myself a writer and I’ve discovered a few things: My kids are older. My struggles aren’t unique. We all have TOO MANY things we’re dealing with these days. But, if I’ve learned nothing else over the last 18 months, time continues to pass whether we make use of it or not. It’s not stopping to wait for me to feel better or for that perfect moment to write something. Writing may be the only thing I’ve ever been good at. And as hard as it is and as much as it makes me feel like an imposter most of the time, I’m going to stick with it by reminding myself that nothing else makes me feel this good when it’s over (except for maybe those first steps after taking off ice skates).

I’ll keep chasing that high as long as I can.



Jeff Bauman: A picture of resilience

As the world learned of the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013, a photo of Chelmsford native Jeff Bauman went viral. The graphic image—showing the 27-year-old in a wheelchair after the loss of his legs—served to document the day’s incomprehensible violence and the heroism of those who rushed in to help.

For those who recognized his face, however, it served as messenger. “That’s what gets me the most,” explains Bauman from his Carlisle home. “That’s how my younger brother found out. That’s how my dad found out. That’s how my mom found out. That’s how my best friends found out…”

Two years later, Bauman presents a different image—a resilient 29 year old, married and with an infant daughter, a public speaker, community volunteer and author of the New York Times and National bestseller, Stronger, written with Bret Witter and released last year. He is also walking.

A grand adventure with The Brass Sisters

“I dedicated my waist to the first cookbook. I dedicated my hips to the second cookbook and I added a chin from Baking with the Brass Sisters,” says Marilynn Brass of her newest cookbook co-authored with sister, Sheila Brass.

The Brass Sisters, as they are known, are the authors of three acclaimed cookbooks that incorporate their love of cooking, culinary antiquities and storytelling to explore the rich history of American home baking while immortalizing the individuals whose handwritten recipes they have thoughtfully preserved and updated. As featured speakers for the Friends of the Gleason Public Library’s annual meeting on November 17, the sisters will share delightful stories of food and culinary anthropology.

A drumroll for Jerome Deupree

“Hope you don’t mind me writing. I’m assuming you are the Jerome Deupree of Morphine,” read the fan letter. Jerry Deupree smiled, “The Jerome Deupree… When I used that on a buddy of mine he said, ‘Yeah, don’t you know who I think I am?’” Deupree has had a legendary career as a musician, but you will never catch him throwing that term around. “People tell me I’m a legend, [but] that’s the kind of stuff that has to come from other people. You can’t go around believing that,” he laughs. 

Fontaine Richardson honored for pioneering role in computer science

Fontaine Richardson was preparing to begin his thesis for a PhD in Mathematics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in the ’60s when asked to consider a new doctoral program. “Sure, sign me up,” he recalls answering, going on to earn, in 1968, the second PhD in Computer Science (CS) ever awarded by the institution. 

While the department was in its infancy during Richardson’s tenure, the College of Engineering’s CS Department at UIUC is consistently ranked in the top five for both its undergraduate and graduate programs by US News and World Report, and in the top 20 for the world’s best CS programs. A 2010 Wall Street Journal survey of public and private companies, as well as government agencies, also ranked the program ninth in terms of its students having the workplace skills needed at the time of graduation. 

Local podcast grows, an interview and download at a time

An ex-financial services executive and a physiatrist walk into a farm-to-table restaurant. They are followed by a rotating cast of Boston area musicians, singer-songwriters, producers, band managers, radio DJs, music bloggers and venue bookers. Wide-ranging conversation ensues, and, with a laptop and some microphones, a podcast is born. 

“I just love it when it’s a good conversation,” says Carlisle’s Chuck Clough of his podcast, “Above the Basement: Boston Music and Conversation,” launched in June 2016 with Ronnie Hirschberg of Acton. The show’s title is a nod to artists who have taken their work out of a literal or metaphorical basement or private space and made it public.

Inspired by the back and forth discussions heard on comedian Marc Maron’s popular podcast, “WTF with Mark Maron,” Clough’s podcast features a casual conversation style interview between the hosts and their guests.



Burial Hill, Plymouth, MA

The way back

Yesterday, I took my 13 year old daughter to Plymouth for a history visit. The plan to see Plimoth Plantation was mentally scrapped at the halfway point of our 75 minute drive south. After all, we’d been there only a year before and on the same exact day. I know this because I was standing in the dirt, just outside one of the thatched roof homes, the day I got a phone call that my brother had died in a Brazilian hospital room, thousands of miles away.

That the one perfect day in our schedules which could accommodate a field trip happened to fall on this precise date was not lost on anyone, let alone my two kids. In the end, with the younger one under the weather, my teenager took one for the team and encouraged us to go anyway.

Thank you, BTS

Music has never meant as much to me as it did when I was 14. Even in my 20s when I spent the bulk of my money and evenings watching my favorite bands perform throughout Boston, the connection was muffled. Alone in my room with headphones, record on repeat, and pouring over lyrics while sitting on the floor? That’s where the magic happened. I felt seen for the first time.

So when my favorite band came to Massachusetts and my parents said I was too young to go, my bedroom once again provided escape. The night of the concert arrived, and while my best friend was at the show watching our boys do their thing, I was alone in my room, listening to the saddest music I could find in my parents’ collection to match my mood Johnny Mathis, and sobbing. 

“If I ever have a daughter I swear I will never do this to her,” I told my cat more than once that night.

Let’s tell a story together.