Susan Mulvihill had her heart set on working at The Spokesman-Review for some time when she landed a job in the classified and advertising department in 1982. It was a great way to get her foot in the door, she said, but it was never her endgame.
From there, Mulvihill moved up to editorial, where she supervised the reference library. Then in 1994, Chris Peck, the editor at the time, asked her to join the team in charge of developing the paper’s first website.
During those years, she wrote articles for a local gardening club newsletter on the side. She hadn’t thought much of her writing, but, little known to her, it had caught the eye of the paper’s features editor.
In 2001, after former garden columnist Phyllis Stephens decided to retire, the features editor immediately reached out to Mulvihill.
“It was so out of the blue,” she said. But gardening had always been a passion of hers, so she knew she’d have no shortage of material to work with for writing.
From there, she wrote gardening columns and plant profiles for Voices and the A&E section until 2003, when a bicycling injury forced her to step back for a couple of years. Then in 2007, she ran into the home and garden editor at a concert and quickly found herself being invited to write again.
“I asked, ‘What do you want me to write?’ and she just said, ‘Anything gardening,’ ” Mulvihill said. And today, 16 years later, she’s still doing exactly that. Many might expect to run out of topics after so many years. “But every year, I always come up with all kinds of new things to talk about,” she said.
Horticulture, it seems, is an endless wellspring of inspiration, and, as a Spokane County master gardener, Mulvihill is always answering questions. In the past few years, she has even started a YouTube channel dedicated to her work.
Mulvihill had never intended to become a writer, but, in the end, she just couldn’t avoid it. “Opportunities just kept falling into my lap,” she said, explaining that she really only started to feel like a writer after co-authoring “The Northwest Gardener’s Handbook” with fellow columnist Pat Munts.
“I think it was that first book … because it was something that was actually published as a book,” she said. “That was the the turning point, but I felt even more like a writer when I started this new book.”
Mulvihill’s latest work, “The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook,” a gardener’s guide to identifying and solving common pest problems with respect to edible plants, has already sold out its first printing, and the second won’t be too far behind.
To aspiring columnists, Mulvihill offered the following advice:
“Do your research and be authentic. Write with your authentic voice because readers will relate much better to you. Don’t try to be someone you’re not!”
“The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook” is available at Auntie’s Bookstore.
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