My name is Mark Aiken. I'm a Vermont writer who specializes in outdoor topics but whose scope goes way beyond the outdoors. For example, countless articles about hiking, running, backpacking, and so forth. But I've also covered interior design, the Cuban healthcare system, and asparagus. Often, the topics outside my natural area of interest turn into the most fascinating, because I interact with folks whose paths don't usually intersect with my own.
I graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in English. Is it self-deprecating to say that, despite graduating from a four-year degree program in this field, it took years for me to realize that writing would (and should) be my career path? (If yes, then I'll add a little self-promotion to my self-deprecation -- this is, after all, my website: it took all those years despite the fact that I won the UVM English Department's Albee Award for the department's best piece of writing two of the four years I was there.)
The path I instead followed was the Take-A-Year-Off after graduating. That is, the pack my 1986 Chevy Cavalier with everything I owned (leaving it pretty much empty) and head West path.
That year off lasted about a decade, but during this time I discovered many of the interests I still cherish twenty years later. I grew up. I learned to survive on my own... without working in a traditional nine-to-five format. Before then I never knew there was an alternative to the nine-to-five format. I discovered hiking, biking, skiing, camping, river running, and the outdoors. I worked as a ski instructor, wilderness guide, environmental educator, and emergency medical technician (EMT). I worked in the outdoors in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado interrupted only when I spent a winter teaching skiing in the Bavarian Alps. I made great friends and had moments of self-discovery. I discovered the desert, mountains, canyons, and the West. I loved all of it.
I also worked part-time at a now-defunct corner bookstore in Flagstaff, Arizona called McGaugh's. The resulting contact with authors and writers sparked an interest in getting my own work published. I began freelance writing as a hobby. When I moved back East where my family is from. I kept writing. I made it a career. I fell in love and started a family. Kept writing.
And here I am, still writing. (And I'm still "award-winning"; I am a two-time finalist in the Ralph Nading Hill contest for Vermont writers; I was a semifinalist in the Amazon Breakthough Novel Award; and the Outdoor Writers Association of America recently recognized me with one of their Excellence in Craft awards.)
I live on the banks of the Winooski River in the shadow of the Green Mountains with my wife, two kids, two dogs, a cat, and five chickens. I manage the season-long Stowebuster program for the Stowe Ski & Ride School. And I'm a full-time freelance writer who has published hundreds of articles in local, regional, and national magazines. It's a privilege to ski and write for a living and to ski, hike, run, and explore on the side. And it's a joy and adventure growing up a second time with my young family. Welcome to my website, blog, and world.
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