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Twin sisters Annalise and Cailynn Klingbeil were two months old when their parents took them hiking the gentle Heart Creek Trail near Canmore, Alberta. The great outdoors has been an obsession ever since.
In time, writing became one too. Cailynn, a freelancer with bylines in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, is a self-defined “generalist.” Annalise, a former daily news reporter, is the co-founder of Champion Communications & PR, which helps people, organizations and causes that make Alberta a better place to live, including, naturally, conservation.
Given their parallel passions, it was only a matter of time before they created Go Outside, a popular weekly newsletter that aims to make the great outdoors accessible for the average reader. It’s full of tips and insight, like their must-have outdoor gear and how to plan for a busy summer in national parks. The timing couldn’t be better (because, you know, pandemic).
If you want help finding your “natural” voice, you couldn’t ask for better teachers than Annalise and Cailynn.
Their May 11th webinar, Writing on Nature with Authority, Authenticity and Personality, is part of Pandemic U’s collaboration with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, a free series of five masterclasses called Writing Is Your Nature.
We asked the Calgary sisters a few questions ahead of their class, like whether exploring nature as a duo makes the experience better, and how they bring unique perspectives to their work together. Here’s what they had to say.
What made you decide to start your newsletter, Go Outside?
Last spring and summer, COVID-19 restrictions led more people than ever before to explore their own backyards. At daily press conferences in the pandemic’s early days, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health explained that going outside was safe and encouraged.
We’ve both been hiking, biking and skiing near Calgary since childhood, and so we had a lot of friends asking us for advice on where to go.
At the same time that we became aware of Substack, a new platform for email newsletters. We thought, maybe we could start a newsletter to help more Albertans explore their own backyards, and so we decided to start Go Outside.
Nature has a way of bonding people together.Annalise and Cailynn Klingbeil
Does exploring nature as a duo change the way you experience it? That is, do you think that community and friendship in general change our experiences of the land?
This is an interesting question for us because nature and adventure are at the core of our friendship. We’ve been exploring together outside since we were babies; we were just two months old when our parents took us on our first hiking trip. We continue to take camping and ski trips together, sometimes just the two of us, sometimes with our outdoor-loving partners.
Nature has a way of bonding people together. Even after so many years of shared trips, we still find this to be the case on both big and small outings outdoors. In late November, for example, we took a bike ride out to the Blue Ring, a controversial piece of public art in Calgary. We wrote about it here; long story short, Annalise was miserable due to the cold weather. But just a week later, she was willing to give winter biking with Cailynn another try, albeit with warmer footwear. Being outside on a brisk day with good company still beats staying inside.
Cailynn, what has drawn you to reporting on environmental stories, and how do you try to infuse this news reporting with your love for nature?
Cailynn: Early on in my journalism career, I kept my love of the outdoors quite separate from my work. Going hiking or skiing — ideally in places with no cell reception — was what I did to get away from the demands of working in daily journalism.
It’s only been in the last few years that I have started to feel comfortable writing more about what I know and love, and that’s being outside. That has led to some fun stories, like a magazine piece in Swerve on Boler travel trailers.
Annalise, as a communications and PR expert, how do you convey authenticity in your work?
Annalise: So much of good communications is about trust and authenticity. My company is dedicated to championing causes, organizations and people that make our community a better place, so authenticity is at the very core of what we do.
Interestingly, I’ve found since moving from daily news to PR, I’ve been able to be more authentic in public because I’m actually allowed to have opinions now!
For example, when Alberta’s government announced massive changes to our parks system in 2020, I was able to share my opinion about these cuts on Twitter, on radio, and in a Globe and Mail editorial. If I was still reporting daily news, I would not have been able to share my personal opinions on this matter.I remember leaving daily news journalism thinking I’d never see my byline again. That hasn’t been the case. I wrote about a spectacular backcountry trip in Yukon’s Tombstone Territorial Park for the Globe, that again, would not have been possible if I was staffed in a newsroom.
Since moving from daily news to PR, I’ve been able to be more authentic in public because I’m actually allowed to have opinions now!Annalise Klingbeil
What is each of your favourite places in nature?
Annalise: That is a difficult question! Part of what makes nature so great is its diversity. I think my favourite place in nature would be somewhere that’s a challenge to hike/bike/ski into, remote and stunningly beautiful. Thankfully, Alberta is home to hundreds of places like this.
Cailynn: For me, it’s anywhere in the mountains on a sunny day, no matter the season.
The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.