Q & A with Mitzi Rapkin, RFL Academy 2013 Alumni:
You might recognize longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident, Mitzi Rapkin, from her podcast, First Draft, where she interviews authors about their writing — fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and essays. She’s also a former outdoor educator, guide, public radio reporter, and most recently, an entrepreneur. We chatted with Mitzi about starting a life-coaching business and the role RFL has played in her varied career path.
RFL: First off, how long have you lived in the valley?
Mitzi Rapkin: Twenty years. Back in the summer of 1992, I was an intern for ACES (Aspen Center for Environmental Studies). Then I landed back in the valley from Washington, D.C. where I was working for National Geographic. I moved here to work on a documentary about a guy who raised orphaned black bears.
RFL: Sounds like you’ve done a lot career-wise. Can you talk about that journey?
MR: I’ve had a very varied career path. My very first job was working as a journalist in Seattle. After that, I started teaching environmental education. Then I was a guide for outdoor trips, and then I worked in public radio. I got my master’s in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Here in the Roaring Fork Valley, I’ve mostly worked for Aspen Public Radio and the City of Aspen doing communications. I also have a podcast called First Draft, where I read a book and interview the author.
Most recently, I got my certification as an integral coach and have started a new business called Full Light Communications. I do communications work and transformational coaching for individuals and groups, and I also facilitate conversations about values, mission, vision, and strategic planning.
RFL: What inspired your career pivot?
MR: I think part of it was interviewing and really loving talking to people one-on-one. I’ve been doing my podcast for almost 10 years now. It’s this conversation about craft and the writing life, but there’s also a spiritual element — it has a little bit to do with spiritual growth as a writer. We talk so much about what it means to be human because all writing is about that. I studied religion in college and I realized I craved something more interpersonal than what I was doing in my communications work.
RFL: Why did you decide to participate in RFL Academy?
MR: RFL was pretty supported and loved by people in leadership at the City of Aspen, which is where I heard about it. I’m interested in personal growth — that’s my jam — and I wanted to keep growing, not just professionally, but as an individual. I saw it as a great opportunity to connect with new people, look at my own trajectory in life, and have moments of vulnerability.
RFL: How did you grow from the experience?
MR: It really opened up opportunities to connect and build relationships with other people. Wherever you work in this valley, you get into your own little world — it becomes your own subculture —and you can forget how many other things are happening. So, I really enjoyed the opportunity to branch out. I’m still connected with some of the people in my Academy cohort and I’m actually working with one of them right now. Personally, it had a lot of things I really enjoy, like inviting people to look at themselves through multiple lenses— not just a professional lens or a personal lens, but also an emotional lens, a spiritual lens and a relational (how you relate to others and to your world) lens.
RFL: How did RFL affect your leadership journey?
When you go through something like RFL, sometimes you don’t understand what it gives you until later. I appreciate the kinds of conversations that happened in that room; you feel like you’re part of something. It’s definitely a stepping stone in your own understanding of what leadership can mean.