Chasiti Kirkland Jackson, Editorial Director
Chasiti slept with tarantulas in Base Camp Ganadero when one of the deadliest hurricanes of the century leveled western Honduras. She followed the trail of a serial killer who murdered four women, one whom he abducted from a grocery store and ditched her toddler at a Georgia welcome center.
That was in another life as a news reporter, and yes, she’s older than she looks. She played crime detective, court reporter and tornado chaser. She explained how the school board spent tax dollars and how city ordinances affected people. She reported political visits to South Carolina by presidential cabinet members. She stood toe to toe with the first woman Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; soldier and statesman retired Gen. Colin Powell; and the late U.S. representative Henry J. Hyde, who tried to impeach President Clinton when the Monica Lewinsky scandal ended up before Hyde’s judiciary committee.
Chasiti knew the “The Godfather of Soul,” James Brown, on a first-name basis. It wasn’t hard, really. He was practically a neighbor whose stage moves — the quick shuffles, the knee-drops, the splits — were often overshadowed by his scrapes with the law.
In 2001, three months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, Chasiti accepted a job with the National Wild Turkey Federation. At first she fielded media calls and, through press releases, made the wild turkey seem glamorous. Later, she served as managing editor of Women in the Outdoors and Wheelin’ Sportsmen magazines and occasionally wrote for Turkey Call.
There’s really no reason why Chasiti fell in love with writing. Maybe as an only child she grew tired of one-sided conversations. She’s also bad at math, and her left brain sleeps a lot. Athletics were out of the question because she’s too graceful, and she’s the only one in her dad’s family who can’t play a musical instrument, despite her long fingers, which everyone said were meant for the piano.
Writing for a living is hard work, however. Rewarding, yes, but not always fun. Some days, the words just won’t come, “tweaks” turn into pages, and the rejection is disappointing. But a writer’s life is anything but predictable, and that’s part of the attraction — besides taking long walks to get creative.
Look for Chasiti on a roadside somewhere in New Holland, S.C., labeled Barefoot on the map. She enjoys bonfires and beer, loves her Mema’s tomato gravy, and collects eggs from her yard chickens, the Hippie Chicks.
Melissa Hudson, Creative Director
Melissa is one girl who can’t sleep because her mind is geared to go. The hum of her computer is no lullaby, and it sings constantly on those marathon nights when her right brain slips in overdrive.
But Melissa is comfortable with chaos. She likes it that way. Most creative types do, which explains why she ditched elementary education for a degree in graphic communications from Clemson University. One night, after way too many beers, Melissa let herself be persuaded to enroll in a summer graphics class. That’s been her passion ever since.
Sometimes it’s hard to wrap your mind around what Melissa does. Sitting at the computer is the most obvious part. After that, it gets really technical. The long and short is that Melissa does a lot of stuff, from taking photos and designing Web sites to creating logos and advertisements. Basically, she gives potentially boring stuff sex appeal so businesses have a better chance at getting to first base with clients. Or as she says, “If a picture is worth a thousand words, I talk a lot.”
Melissa’s talents exploded when she worked for the National Wild Turkey Federation, a hunting/conservation organization. Through brochures, magazine layouts, advertisements and T-shirt designs, she brought the group’s message to more than a half a million people all over the world. And when she convinced higher ups to let her redesign a lackluster Web site, even though she had no formal training in that area, she brought the NWTF’s awareness to a much higher level.
After awhile though, Melissa grew bored with the same routine. Tired of being stiffed creatively and more tired of sitting in a cube, she started Dirt Road Media with a coworker, Chasiti Kirkland Jackson.
Owning a business has a different kind of hectic that is anything but boring. “It means taking pride in what you do because your name is on the door,” Melissa says. “Owning a business means taking a big risk. You could lose everything or you could win big. It feels like Vegas, baby.
“Growing up, I dreamed of living in a city far away from Small Town USA. Now, I love that my roots are in South Carolina. But even little ol’ Walhalla is growing. Things never stay the same.”
Maybe Walhalla’s transformation in Melissa’s lifetime was training ground for the rapidly changing technology in her chosen field. There’s a lot to keep up with, and always something new to master.
Melissa does relax though. When she’s not pounding out deadlines on the computer, she likes to watch television and fix up her home in Lexington, S.C. If you need someone to paint or lay tile, she’s your girl. But it might be smart to catch her while you can. Her dad is building her a hot rod, and once it’s finished, she’s just like we said at the start, geared to go.