Marcella Prokop is a writer who works in communications in Sioux Falls and is involved with Dakota Rural Action, a grassroots and conservation group in South Dakota.
Name: Marcella Prokop
Where do you live now? Where do you call home?
Sioux Falls has been home off and on for 15 years. But I’m originally from Hay Springs, Nebraska.
How can we connect with you?
Who is your community?
This one is tough, as I have lots of communities. Recently, I’ve enjoyed spending time with other writers through the Blot Collective, which I’d describe as a multi-genre storytelling group. I’m Colombian-American, and I’m a board member for Emmaus Road Ministries, a nonprofit that supports leadership and education opportunities for people in Colombia. And I’m involved with my local chapter of Dakota Rural Action, Homegrown Sioux Empire. This grassroots, rural advocacy organization seeks to protect and enhance the special lifestyle we have in our state. The folks there feed my outdoorsy, farm girl side and inspire me to make a difference at the same time.
Give us a behind-the-scenes look at your average day.
By 8 a.m., I’m updating the Good Samaritan Society’s Linked In page as part of my role in communications. From there, I dive into interviews, research, articles or website updates. One of the best parts of my job with the Good Samaritan Society is that I get to talk to people about their lives and help them tell their stories. When I get home from that job, my dog and I check out what’s going on in the neighborhood on our evening walk. By 8-ish, I’m hanging out online with my creative writing students. Depending on how much grading I have to do, I read or work on my own writing for a little bit before crashing at 11 or so.
What projects are you currently working on, both in your career as well as hobbies or passions?
At work, I’m collaborating with others on an Alzheimer’s and dementia story package. Alzheimer’s awareness is really important to me because I watched my grandma struggle with the disease at the end of her life. Soon, I’ll be working on a children’s book about that topic with local artist Hector Curriel.
As part of the Homegrown Sioux Empire team, I’m working on fostering discussion about water quality in our region. The Big Sioux River is the 13th dirtiest river in the United States, but most people don’t know that. I’m sure you’ve seen the great new “Welcome to Sioux Falls” video on your Facebook feed…featured prominently is our river and all of the great activities that take place on and around it. People are talking about this video… but they’re not talking about the water itself. So one way the Homegrown team is starting that discussion is through our upcoming Wild and Scenic Film Festival, which takes place at Icon Lounge on Sept.8. If you liked that Welcome to Sioux Falls “short,” you should come by on Thursday for some other inspiring films.
What challenge in your life or work are you most interested in overcoming?
I’d like to make more time for my own creative writing. I suppose it’s clear I have a lot of interests, and I don’t always focus on my writing as one of them!
If you could do any job, what would you do and why?
I’d write for National Geographic. The idea of combining travel and intimate interaction with places and people in the name of meaningful storytelling sounds like the most beautiful, challenging gig in the world.
What is the most beneficial aspect of living in the OTA region when it comes to your career?
Opportunity. No matter what part of my career I’m trying to stoke, I have access to mentors, people who want to collaborate with me and experiences that make me a stronger, better professional and person.
At what intersection do you live your life?
My life is more of a cloverleaf freeway exchange: wound up with lots of layers.
Where do you think good ideas come from?
I believe it is through engaging with the world around us that we are inspired to try new things or act. I’m paraphrasing here, but the French writer Anais Nin said her ideas came to her as she was out living life, not sitting at her desk.
What’s one current trend you think will change the world?
Online education. I’m right there with those who say the online classroom is not always as rich a learning environment as the face-to-face classroom. But online access to knowledge can give people the opportunity to learn in ways they’ve never experienced.
What’s the best way to put inspiration into action?
Know what you want to get out of the action you’re putting in, develop a goal and a plan to achieve it, and move forward one step at a time. This can be really informal, like simply saying, “I want to get published, so I’m going to write every day,” or it can be more involved. For instance, with Homegrown and our water quality work, we’ve developed a set of objectives that we believe will help inform our communities and get people involved, and we’ve broken out small, specific steps to work on as we move toward our goal of improved water quality in the region.
What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken?
When I was 23, I moved to Chicago with no job and no networks in place there. I found rewarding work and developed a wonderful network I can still tap into.
What’s your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?
I have a hard time with the word failure because I want to view even my worst experiences as learning opportunities. So I guess my biggest failure is that I haven’t completed a book I’ve been working on for, oh…seven years. From that process, I’ve learned that writing projects of such magnitude take way more time and commitment than I have been able to put in.
Who do you hope to leave a legacy for?
Students who haven’t been as fortunate as I have, in terms of having access to education, mentoring or networking.
Who is the most connected person in your life, and what personal characteristics make him or her so well-connected?
My dad. If you need 100 pounds of salmon shipped to you from Alaska, he knows just the guy to do it. Want to know where the fish are biting and on what, anywhere in South Dakota, Nebraska or Wyoming? He can get you that info, too. He’s curious about people and places and how things work, he’s friendly, and he takes great notes. That worked for him as a farmer and businessman as well as it does now, in retirement.
Who is the most creative person in your life, and why?
My friend Leah Simmons. Whether she is illustrating roller derby fliers or Christmas cards, putting together an outfit or cracking a joke, she is tapped into some kind of creative flow I really admire.
Who is the most community-focused person in your life, and how do they impact their communities?
She’s going to shrug it off when she reads this, but I think immediately of my supervisor at work, Councilor Michelle Erpenbach. Whether she’s caring for the people in our work community by offering uninterrupted vent time or encouragement, or talking about how we can to help at-risk residents of Sioux Falls, she is passionate about finding ways to make the world a better place.
How are you focusing on community right now?
I’ll just reiterate one area here. As a member of Homegrown, I’m focusing on community by encouraging people to join us and learn more. Come to one of our potlucks and simply enjoy fellowship with like-minded people. Or come to one of our monthly meetings (third Monday of the month at Exposure Gallery, downtown), and see how your talents and ideas can make our region a better place. Or jump into our water quality project and really make a splash. I can’t promise “great” puns like that at every meeting, but we do have a lot of fun.