There has been no slowing down for Tracy Simmons during this pandemic. This WSU journalism instructor, editor of non-sectarian religion news and commentary website SpokaneFāVS.com (FāVS is short for “faith and values”), and executive director of the FāVS Center (Washington’s only interfaith community center) has added excellent storytelling to her list of bona fides.
This month, Simmons joined 28 storytellers in submitting their tales to Pivot Spokane’s “Fish out of Water” virtual storytelling contest. On May 21, Pivot announced that Simmons won the coveted first place for her story of “coming out” to her students when she was a teacher at Gonzaga on a study abroad trip to Israel, specifically when they were on a bus on their way to spend the day celebrating Israel’s Pride Festival in Tel Aviv.
“When I thought of theme ‘fish out of water,’ I didn’t think about being different from everyone else, I thought of literally not being able to breathe,” Simmons said. “There have been many times when I’ve had that feeling, but this one was so impactful because without this moment, I think I’d still be closeted with my students.”
Simmons was very surprised to find out she won. She also believes her work with FāVS prodded her to make herself vulnerable for others, so they, too, will continue to share their stories with others.
“My work with SpokaneFāVS has prompted me to tell my story more. I feel like journalists ask their sources to be vulnerable and transparent with them all the time, and we can give a little of that back,” Simmons said. “I hope it inspires others to take risks, to tell their vulnerable stories to others, because you never know who it can have a positive impact on.”
Other winners of the contest include Alyssa Bashor (2nd place), FāVS guest columnist Ben Faulkner (3rd place), and Eamonn Neff (also 3rd place).
“All of the stories were great, but in the end, we had to pick our top three … and we couldn’t do it, so we picked four again,” according to Pivot’s website announcement of the winners. “It has been an honor and a pleasure hearing our community’s stories and seeing how hungry we are to hear them.”
You can help Simmons in her interfaith efforts by becoming a FāVS member today! All new members get a free SpokaneFāVS t-shirt.
Cassy (pronounced like Cassie but spelled with a ‘y’) Benefield is a wife and mother, a writer and photographer and a huge fan of non-fiction. She has traveled all her life, first as an Army brat. She is a returned Peace Corps volunteer (2004-2006) to Romania where she mainly taught Conversational English. She received her bachelor’s in journalism from Cal Poly Technical University in San Luis Obispo, California. She finds much comfort in her Savior, Jesus Christ, and considers herself a religion nerd who is prone to buy more books, on nearly any topic, than she is ever able to read. She is the associate editor of FāVS.News.