We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelly Vaughn and we’ve shared our conversation below. We’re always happy to see independent, non-corporate media outlets thriving, so be sure to check out Arizona Highways.

Hi Kelly, what do you attribute your success to?
Personally, I’m not sure I can identify a single factor behind my success, but I think that it boils down to a few things: First, I grew up in a loving family that always encouraged me to pursue my interests, hobbies and passions. Those often revolved around writing. Second, I had tremendous teachers and professors who uplifted my work and offered creative feedback. Third, my editors have always believed in me. Finally, I know have a beautiful family of my own. My fiancé, Christian, and my children, Jack and Vera, give me the time and space and energy to create.

As it relates to Arizona Highways, I think we have quite a few things going for us. Arizona is absolutely stunning, right? So, people don’t often grow tired of seeing photographs that celebrate that beauty. Nor do they tire of reading stories about the characters and places that make Arizona unique. It’s also important to remember that Arizona Highways is almost 97 years old. It’s challenging as a writer and editor to help conceptualize stories about topics that have been covered before but that we want to address in a new light. Thankfully, we have a very supportive publisher who has given us the tools and the means to create a new website, expand our brand on social media, pursue innovative partnerships and grow the brand to an entirely new demographic.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Today, my title is “Senior Editor and Books Editor,” but really, the bulk of my time is spent being a writer who specializes in profiles and environmental features. Many journalists are relegated to a specific “beat,” but I have the opportunity to investigate and learn about new topics all the time — from tribal elders to issues related to our national forests to the strange habits of gray foxes and more. I think every writer struggles with block from time to time, but for me, that’s amplified by horrible procrastination. Often, I feel like I can’t do a story justice. I break through my just writing … letting everything go, then going back and editing.

Recently, I feel a new sense of passion for hosting Arizona Highways’ “Eat My Words” podcast, a twice monthly celebration of the state’s unique culinary culture.

Often, when I tell people that I work for Arizona Highways, they say, “Oh! My grandmother loved that magazine!” I want everyone to know that it’s still around, that there’s something in it for everyone and that we’re growing and expanding our online presence, as well as the content we publish in the magazine each month. Take a look on the newsstand, listen to our podcasts, check out our website or — better yet — order an annual subscription to the print edition! You won’t regret it.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Whoa. There are too many ways to answer this.

Attractions: Desert Botanical Garden, the Phoenix Art Museum, the Heard Museum, Piestewa Peak, the trails at South Mountain

Dining: Belly, Arizona Wilderness DTPHX, Taco Chelo, Greenwood Brewing, the Dirty Drummer … I could go on and on about great options in Phoenix

Other Stops: Frances, Linger Longer Lounge, Changing Hands Bookstore, Stinkweeds

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The entire staff of Arizona Highways deserves so much credit in my story, but particularly Editor Robert Stieve. Robert hired me for the first time when I was a journalism student at Arizona State University. Although I took a job in fundraising straight out of college, I stayed in touch and ultimately ended up working with him at Phoenix Magazine. When he made the move to Arizona Highways, there was a bit of a gap, but eventually, he found a place for me at the magazine. His mentorship and belief in my writing has been key in my career. And as I mentioned, my fiancé and children give me the motivation and support I need to continue to create. Writers can be a melancholy bunch at times, but I’m energized by the people in my office and in my home.

Website: www.arizonahighways.com

Instagram: @kellyannevaughn and @eatmywordsaz

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