My name is Mary Ellen Chiles. I am a freelance writer and photographer based in the Ozarks. I was unschooled and the fifth of seven kids. I grew up with a twin brother and no TV.
My dad rode his bicycle to Alaska and built a raft for the Yukon, but I was a shy kid. Still, I got a job in AK by filling in for a housekeeper who broke her ankle while printing her boarding pass. I spent five summers working at fly-in fishing lodges in Alaska. In the spring of 2013 I picked up a month-long job at a lodge in a tiny village 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle. They needed help for aurora season.
I nudged myself to board each flight, finally landing on a mile-long iced-over runway. I picked up a hint of frostbite while grabbing my camera after cutting down trees along an ice road. The next time, though, I brought a better camera.
I finished a Master's of English (creative nonfiction writing) at Missouri State in 2018. I wrote a collection of essays about working in Alaska for my thesis.
I returned to tiny Bettles after graduation. The 2010 census stated 12 residents - and the lodge had 12 sled dogs. I spent 4 months working in hospitality at the lodge. I returned for another 4 months during the winter season, where I worked primarily as a northern lights guide.
Now I am building a writing and photography career. I write features and PR. I do photos for campaigns, families, and athletes. And, I am working on a novel based in Alaska.