photo by Jim Cornelius
photo by Jim Cornelius

Tiffany Lee Brown -known to most as "T" - brings a varied background and a deep toolbox of talents to her work as a freelancer with The Nugget Newspaper.

Brown's work for The Nugget so far has focused on the arts and on the way in which local families are working to manage their digital lives. She will soon launch a column titled "In the Pines," and will edit a new monthly feature dedicated to content for - and by - children and families.

"I am very excited that The Nugget is going to have a new section called 'Kids In Print'," she said. "I'm super-excited to be the editor of that. It's a way we can feature the kids in the community."

She says that the content will be of interest to kids and families, but she will also teach children to create their own content and "how to work with their natural curiosity."

Working with her own natural curiosity is often the way Brown finds herself involved in projects - including writing for The Nugget. A story about declining school enrollment piqued that curiosity - she wanted to know more about why that might be happening, and she shared her research.

"I sent in an overly long letter to the editor that got run as a column," she recalled.

She wrote another op-ed regarding people's reactions to "In Our America" flag signs.

"I got a lot of response to that," she said with a smile.

The response included a call from Nugget editor Jim Cornelius, who invited her to contribute as a freelancer.

"That op-ed showed clearly that T can write - but more importantly that she approaches issues thoughtfully. And while she's got a very strong voice, she is careful to let other voices be heard, too," Cornelius said. "It seemed like she had a lot to offer. And, when you're an editor, when a writer has something to offer, you naturally ask them for more."

Journalism is in T Brown's blood.

"I can remember putting out my elementary school's first newspaper," she said.

She grew up on a farm in Lane County and attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied theater. She also wrote for the Daily Californian and for an alternative paper called The Agitator.

"I was a travel writer right out of college," she recalled. Despite the apparent glamor of such an occupation, she says, "it was a horrible gig."

She notes that there was always "a thread of marketing" in her work life, and as her career developed, "marketing, journalism and creative writing kind of swirled together for me. Marketing still supports my journalism habit, my arts habit, my poetry habit."

Poetry brought her to Sisters Country in 2004, to an arts residency at Caldera. While she'd visited Sisters many times before, she particularly connected with the area during this time.

"That was right after the B&B Fire," she recalled. "I spent three weeks stomping around in the melting snow over what used to be a forest there. And the magic, I guess, really spoke to me.

"I loved the library, I loved The Nugget, I loved the food co-op," she said. "I fell in love with this place."

Ten years later, in the midst of a health crisis related to toxic mold illness, she left her home in Portland and camped with friends at Cold Springs Campground.

"I started feeling better in a few days," she said.

She and her husband and family traveled for a few months, but ended up heading back to Sisters. Feeling what she described as a kind of spiritual pull, Brown landed here in 2016.

"Now we live a couple of miles from that campground and I'm in my pines and I'm really excited about it," she said.

Connection with nature is a critical part of Brown's life and her writing. She was an early adopter of Internet technology who has grown skeptical of its promise and determined to stay grounded in pine needles and soil. She has written several articles for The Nugget detailing how local people actively try to cultivate that balance (see story, page 3).

As usual, Brown's interest in efforts toward a "digital detox" stemmed out of curiosity about how things work - and concern about her own children.

"I have two kids who are of digital-native age," she said. "I see how destructive it is."

Brown noted, "When I started the research, I didn't know it was going to be so horrifically damning of the social media companies and the digital delivery systems. I feel responsible. I was part of that early group of people who were really excited about how the Internet could make our world better. That changed radically about 10 years ago, and most of us weren't paying attention."

Cornelius said he is most pleased to have Brown's unique background and voice contributing to a group of strong freelance writers.

"T is full of enthusiasm and ideas - and she's got the talent and work ethic to deliver on them," he said. "She's a real asset to the paper - and to Sisters."