Pulp Non-Fiction: A Music Journalism Journey

Tim Van Schmidt conducts his first rock and roll interview at the Whisky A Go Go with band Pot Liquor 1972

Tim Van Schmidt


Thank you, Mrs. Lewis.

Mrs. Lewis was my journalism teacher in junior high. She was also a girls’ gym teacher. There were no frills about her.

I had just moved to California and on being enrolled at the local school, it was decided that I should try a journalism course.

When it came time to produce the first school newspaper — “The C Breeze” — Mrs. Lewis told me to write an article. When I asked about what, she simply replied, “What are you interested in?

Courtesy Tim Van Schmidt

That did it. I wrote a review of a Grand Funk Railroad/Black Sabbath concert I had just seen at the “Fabulous Forum” in Los Angeles. “Funk at the Forum” became my first published article in March 1971. Music was the thing for me from the very start.

First article by Tim Van Schmidt 1971

But that wasn’t all. Mrs. Lewis’ freewheeling attitude toward school newspaper content became a creative well-spring for me and I contributed artwork, drew a comic strip, wrote articles, and published poems. Once I saw my stuff turned into ink on paper, I was hooked.

First article by Tim Van Schmidt 1971

OK, you could say that’s just junior high. But I say that was a significant launching point for the creative energy that has propelled me for many years. I’m grateful for it.

Mrs Lewis’ Journalism class circa 1971; Photo provided by Tim Van Schmidt

Now I’d like to thank Mr. Wiener. He was my high school journalism teacher. After the initial introductory course, my classmates and I were then given staff assignments on the school paper — “The Hunter’s Call.” When he came to me, Mr. Wiener said that I was going to be a “freelance writer” and that I could work on anything I wanted.

Right on, Mr. Wiener. You don’t know how right you were.

I pretty much went the “young poet” route in college — after finding out I had to take a typing test to get into the journalism department — and published original work in the small press throughout the country.

But once I settled into Fort Collins in 1980, the writing bug kept biting me. It is said that you should write about what you know, so I wrote about music, and wrote about it, and wrote some more until local papers and magazines noticed — and then I became really busy.

There’s a John Lennon song where he explains that “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I thought I was going to be a big author and travel the world doing readings, lectures, and book signings.

Instead, I became a Rocky Mountain newspaper writer, photographer, editor, and publisher.

I haven’t published books residing in the libraries of the world. Instead, I have filled reams of newsprint that mostly have ended up either being recycled or layered throughout the county landfill.

I have helped create a lot of pulp.

Doing so involved experiencing some of the most exciting and interesting events and people in my life. What I wrote about was real life and I hope I entertained and informed readers with my stories.

When the last newspaper I wrote for in the area closed in 2008, I didn’t mind. In fact, I celebrated a release from “the tyranny of print.” I went all-in on publishing, especially my photography, on the Internet.

I counted more than a million visitors to my websites until I just stopped counting. Those big, anonymous numbers were impressive, but honestly, they just were not as satisfying as holding a real, non-digital product in your hand. Maybe I just love the smell of ink on newsprint.

So now, I want to thank the North Forty News. They started publishing my articles last year and getting back into print — after years in the electronic forest — feels great.

But more, I have realized that ink on paper is a commitment above and beyond the electronic blips on my computer screen. I like going the extra step and making my writing and photos, for however short a time as it may last, “real.”

I want to thank Angelina for opening the door to these opportunities. Thanks also to Matt for encouragement. But above all, I’d like to thank Blaine for keeping the whole show going. The basic lessons Mrs. Lewis and Mr. Wiener taught me so long ago are still coming in handy today because of them.

Here’s a list of area publications that I have published stuff in as a freelancer and I include it because it acts as kind of a street-level history of Noco publishing:

North Forty News/The New Weekly Scene, RM Parent, Everybody Eats, Triangle Review, The Front, The Front Ranger, Fort Collins’ Forum, Fort Collins Coloradoan, Ticket, Xplore, Mason Street Oracle, Beat News and Music, The Scene, Rocky Mountain Brews, Inside Fort Collins, On Stage, Rocky Mountain Bullhorn, Spectrum, Riff, Johnstown Breeze, Changing Woman, Style, Travel Host, Rocky Mountain Spirit, Locally Owner Retailer, Business World, Healing Path, The Source, Poudre Magazine, Business Report, Mishawaka News, Rocky Mountain Collegian, Fort Collins Now, and Art Linc.

I am very satisfied with the first fifty years of my career — but I’m already thinking about next week’s paper.

Tim Van Schmidt is a writer and photographer based in Fort Collins. Read “Funk at the Forum” on his YouTube channel at “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt.”

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