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Local Creative Highlight - Bret Hauff, Writer and Journalist

Alpena, MI - February 2024


This month, we're excited to feature Bret Hauff as our first Local Creative Highlight of 2024.


Bret's love for telling the stories of others, alongside his natural curiosity and desire for positive change, has resulted in a successful journalism career with publications across the United States. Having returned home to Alpena in pursuit of other passions, Bret continues to find inspiration in the creative communities of Northeast Michigan and beyond.


Read below for more about Bret, his experiences, and his perspective on creativity in Northeast Michigan.


 

I'm Bret Hauff. I'm 28, and I live and teach in Alpena, Michigan.

My creative journey began soon after I graduated from Alpena High School. I write, but I never liked it. A professor of mine noticed I had a knack for it, though, so I followed his advice and that led me to journalism. I fell in love with it.


It wasn't writing that caught my interest. That was hard. But I loved talking to people, learning from them and the world around me. Journalism was an avenue for me to express that. I followed that passion, and it took me all over the country – Massachusetts, Florida, Colorado, and Montana. I've since left the career, but my appetite for storytelling remains.


It's the people around me who inspire me to be creative. It's the sailors who load cargo ships and ferry research charters. It's the dust-covered laborers fresh out of the quarries, knocking their limestone-covered work boots on the welcome mats at Perches. It's the one-legged old man at Island Mill Park who shares about his life as a circus worker caring for elephants. It's the young families whose children stare in wonder at the neon lights glowing around Dairy Queen. Or are they just captivated by the ice cream?


My most proud moments in my creative career have come from sharing the stories that I saw and heard with others who may not think or care to consider them. In Colorado, where I worked as a staff writer at The Durango Herald, I found myself telling the stories of those to whom many did not listen: homeless people.

Residents and businesses complained about people sleeping and living outdoors, and police consistently shooed those with nowhere to go off city sidewalks and out of neighborhood parks. So I went and talked to those people whom most others seemed to disregard as a nuisance.


Almost everyone had become homeless for a different reason. But they all had the same question: If I'm not allowed to be here or there, where am I allowed to be? And so I listened. I heard the sorrow people felt for leaving garbage in parks, which they did simply because they had nowhere else to put it. People felt scared

sleeping under trees. Almost nobody wanted to poop in the woods. So I uplifted their voices and asked their questions to the people in power who had not cared to listen. With that, I wrote. On a later reporting trip, a man stopped me and showed me a newspaper in which I wrote about where homeless people were allowed to sleep. That's how he knew where he could be safe for the night, he told me. In that moment, I made a difference.


It's hard to feel like we're making an impact in a town in which progress moves slowly. But I'm constantly inspired by the work of other creative people in Alpena who have sought and claimed our public space as an outlet for their expression. Any opportunities for grants, partnerships or permits to encourage creative

expression offers our community a medium through which we can express ourselves in full.


We work best when we work together, and that requires effort from those in positions of power and privilege to see each and everyone for our ability to contribute and communicate in the way that we do best. Creating and designating space for creativity validates our need to be seen and to be heard. Providing a medium for genuine communication creates opportunities for us all to feel more comfortable with being vulnerable. This is not easy. It takes work. But we as a community are better for the benefit of the individuals who make us who we are.


Expressing ourselves is hard work. It took me years to find my voice, and I still work to discover myself and my place in our community. Progress is not linear. We have control over only our energy to learn, grow and improve. Seek. Listen. Engage. Opportunities arise from what we contribute.


 

Photo Courtesy of Iriving Entertainment


To read more of Bret's journalism work, visit his Muck Rack page by clicking the button below or by visiting muckrack.com/bret-hauff/articles



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