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backstory | Katie Arnold



I’m a freelance writer and editor who writes frequently on adventure, travel, sports, health, and the environment. My stories have appeared in OutsideThe New York Times, Men’s JournalESPN the MagazineMarie ClaireRunner’s WorldElle, and Sunset, among others. My profiles have been named runner-up in The Best American Sports Writing 2008 and nominated for a Western Publishing Association magazine award, and my essays have been anthologized in Woman’s Best Friend and P.S. What I Didn’t Tell you. I write a weekly adventure parenting blog called Raising Rippers on Outside Online. I also occasionally edit articles and books, including the recently published Rio Grande: An Eagle’s View.


I live in Santa Fe with my husband, a landscape designer, my two young daughters, and assorted animals. In my spare time, I like to write fiction, run, ski, go on river trips, and play outside as much as possible.


How I got to Santa Fe is a longer story: I was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in New Jersey, where I rode my royal blue, Raleigh three-speed around our suburban neighborhood, pretending to be Harriet the Spy. I had permanently skinned knees and two holes where my front teeth ought to be (I knocked them out on a homemade trapeze). My father once bet me $5 that I wouldn’t jump into a half-frozen stream in November. I did.


After graduating magna cum laude from Middlebury College, I worked as a book publicist at Little, Brown Publishers in New York, cold-calling TV producers in Cleveland by day and chaperoning authors to book signings by night—tasks that still terrify me. (On the bright side, I once spent a very silly weekend in Miami with David Sedaris.) In 1995, I moved to Santa Fe to work for the summer as an editorial intern and fact-checker at Outside magazine. I had never been to New Mexico and knew no one, but it was not the barren, inhospitable desert I’d been expecting. One of my early assignments was talking to shell-shocked survivors in the aftermath of the 1996 Everest climbing disaster—riveting and terrible at the same time. The summer ended, and I stayed on, eventually becoming Outside’s managing editor. In late 2006, I left the magazine to write full time.


My favorite  kinds of stories to report are the ones in which I  get to immerse myself in the day-to-day lives—and single-minded obsessions—of my subjects. Their passion and eccentricity inspire me, and I’ve been known to get a little carried away. Once I accidentally climbed Half Dome, while writing a profile about a prominent Yosemite free climber. For another assignment, a profile of an ultra runner, I ran a marathon without really meaning to. Sometimes common sense reins me in, like the time I did not to try to paddle Class V whitewater at the World Freestyle Kayak Championships on the Ottawa River. Still, in writing and life, I try to always follow my curiosity and tell stories with truth, texture, and heart, wherever they take me.

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