For the latest in our community profile series, What Gets Me Going, we turned to the irresistible Tammy Swift. You probably know Tammy from her 20 years as a reporter for the Forum, where her warmly quirky sense of humor shone through in her frequent columns and commentary. A year ago, Tammy made “a pretty dramatic career change,” heading over to Kilbourne Group (“it’s never called THE Kilbourne Group. That’s one of the first lessons I learned!”) where she became the social media marketing manager and, in addition to learning the ins and outs of marketing and real estate, continues to sparkle through Kilbourne’s blog posts and Facebook.
Recently, Tammy tied for first in the feature-writing category in a North Dakota Newspaper Association contest for a piece she wrote at the Forum last spring about a local family whose grandfather perished on the Titanic. “I was thrilled that the win was for a long, meaty, historical story instead of some BuzzFeed-type blurb on a baby squirrel who has learned to ride a cat. It gave me hope that research and reporting still matter,” she said. With an attitude like that, we’re more than thrilled to get to know Tammy through the books, movies, and music she loves best.
What book, music, movie, or artwork really gets you going? Why?
Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood always impressed me. It was my first exposure to creative non-fiction and I loved how he made an all-too-true story come alive. Each page is packed with observational detail, background and amazing characterization. That was the first time it occurred to me that I could break away from the dry, rigid “quote/transition” approach of traditional journalism.
My favorite movies are classics. I love The Graduate not only because it still seems smart and funny, but also because it is like a perfect time capsule of an upper-middle-class family in 1967.
And I would put an appendectomy on hold if they were showing Sunset Boulevard in my hospital room. It’s so sly and cynical and deftly written. And Gloria Swanson is unbelievable. I love any movie that showcases an over-the-top, all-uppercase STAR like Bette Davis. I recently watched Three Comrades, starring Margaret Sullavan. She wore full glamour makeup the entire time that she was supposedly dying of tuberculosis. It was awesome. Even Lifetime movies are more realistic than that.
What artist, musician, etc., inspires you the most? Why?
I love Nina Simone. Something in her voice just transports me. Back in the ’90s, my former Forum co-worker, Ross Raihala, made me a mix tape – that’s right, a cassette tape – of torch songs, which prominently featured Nina. I listened to that tape until it disintegrated.
As a former humor columnist, I am inspired by all sorts of funny writers, including David Sedaris, Erma Bombeck and Tina Fey.
What’s something you saw or heard recently that you would recommend to others?
Crazy Love. It’s a documentary about a deranged young lawyer who became obsessed with a beautiful young woman in the 1950s and eventually decided to do something horrific to her. Believe it or not, that’s not the crazy part. The REALLY insane part happens years later.
I just finished reading Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer. It’s about truly listening to your inner self when choosing a vocation. Too often, we become what we THINK we should be, or what our parents or peers want us to be.
What local artist, musician, writer, etc., do you admire, and why?
I like Post Traumatic Funk Syndrome a lot, partly because they have a clever name but also because they are awesome musicians. I’ve always felt like John Lamb at The Forum is a really underrated writer. Yes, I’m biased because we are old friends, but I also like how he tries to look at things in the freshest, most creative, least-hackneyed way. He covers a beat where you essentially have to write the same story over and over – now we’ll write about the Spring Gala, now we’ll write about Concordia’s Christmas concert – yet he somehow finds a way to tell it with a fresh angle.
Oh, and that Kris Kerzman? Brilliant! (Damn right. -ed.)
Any guilty pleasures you’d like to share?
My whole life is a guilty pleasure. I always want to act like I’m reading Tolstoy and will only watch Downton Abbey, when in fact I spend a lot of time watching Project Runway and reading biographies on people like David Lee Roth.
Image: Tammy Swift on the roof of Kilbourne Group HQ in downtown Fargo. Photo by Kris Kerzman.
Tim Gunn gif via Mad Mad Ruckus.