Matthew Reilly Receives the 2014 Lindsay Sale-Tinney Award

August 2014 - Matthew Reilly of Palmyra, Va., is the 2014 recipient of the Lindsay Sale-Tinney Award for SEOPA conference attendance. With nearly 100 posts to his blog spot, and multiple essays and photograph honors to his credit, Matthew is quickly establishing himself as a serious outdoor communicator.

Matthew Reilly 2014Matthew is a non-discriminant outdoorsman. He likes fly fishing, fly tying, spin fishing, archery, clay target shooting, horseback riding, camping, camp cooking, hiking, orienteering, shooting, dog handling, reading water, boating, and anything else that entails being outdoors. In addition to being a versatile and skilled sportsman, Matthew is a talented young communicator who likes the research, travel and adventure parts of the job as much as the writing and photography itself.

At 15 he won an essay contest sponsored by the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association. He began writing a weekly outdoor column for the Daily Progress a few months later and has since been published in multiple outdoor magazines. He also is a special contributor to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Outdoor Report.

As one of four nationally honored winners of the Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development Essay Contest, Matthew traveled to Washington, D.C., per request of the Secretary of the Interior and several other national conservation leaders.  

Matthew graduated with honors from Fluvanna County High School this spring and will attend Emory & Henry College this fall. His weekly columns and photography updates can be seen at www.AdventuresAfield.blogspot.com. 

• Scholarship Application Essay •

By Matthew Reilly

When I was old enough to walk, I was my dad’s partner in crime. The blue lines of the Shenandoah Mountains, the hardwood forests of the valley—to each I was introduced through a sporting pretense. Perhaps the strongest stone in my foundation as a person and as a sportsman was my introduction to fly fishing at an early age. My dad took care not to force it on me, not to overburden me with the mission of catching fish, but to keep me intrigued basely by nature—by salamanders, frogs, insects, and fish. Skipping stones was another fishing activity, and it was in this periphery to the sports I now love that I learned to adore their interconnectedness with the ecological world, and recognize the divinity and grace thus endowed to them.

We did not spend as much time out as I would have liked, however. A busy work schedule had other plans. I, however, spent a large portion of my free time, as I grew older, reading outdoor magazines, books, and essays, and watching videos—daydreaming and anticipating my next opportunity to pursue fish or bushytails in my favorite arena.

I did not know it then, but the writers that I read on those glossy pages inspired me to have experiences worth writing about, to be more adventurous. As a result, my outings were run as magazine articles or nostalgic essay pieces in my mind on the return trip, and any experience lacking splendor was amplified by my romantic stream of consciousness. I began putting these stories to paper, adding photographs with my parent’s prosumer Fujifilm. I even wrote a query letter or two, most of which I can now look back on and chuckle—a young boy’s attempt at living the dream.

When I entered high school, perhaps one of the most (storied) anticipated detail was the qualification to enter the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association’s High School Essay Contest. I entered, and was chosen as the winner, and had to present my piece on my rite of passage as a young fly fisherman to a group of modest gentlemen and women who I can honestly characterize as my heroes.

There were three high school winners and three collegiate winners in attendance at the VOWA meeting where I read my essay, but when I returned as an active member the following year, after having made it as an outdoor columnist, I was the only returnee. The older members of the organization had instilled in me the year prior that I was the “next generation,” that “most of us are old and not many young folks are continuing the literary tradition these days.”  That was inspirational, and a large part of why I continued (at least in the beginning) to be social with the group that was much older than me. I wanted to represent the younger generation’s interest in the outdoors, and not let the sports’ rich literary traditions, which endeared the outdoors to my heart, disappear. For, then, how would future generations find and foster the same love I found?

Since that introduction to the world of outdoor communications, and my later joining of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, I have begun to see my “job” as a way to stand up for the sports I love so much, and a way in which to be a spokesperson, a welcome of new, young faces to the sport. I believe that my young age and professional status portrays the idea that the youth are very much a part of the tradition, and I hope that it encourages others to be a part too.

When I won an essay contest sponsored by the Sportsmen For Responsible Energy Development and traveled to Washington, D.C., with three other winners from different parts of the country, each had a strong passion for the outdoors, were great writers, and had genuine interests in conservation and stewardship. However, none of them had ever pursued outdoor communications seriously. When it came up that I had somehow finagled myself into a professional gig, I took the opportunity to encourage them to pursue the same road, and contact me with questions, support, etc. I made it my goal as an outdoor communicator then and there to recruit as many young writers to the scene as possible, and to pass on the opportunities that were given to me by a host of older writing mentors. As a secondary goal, I hope to one day be a “hero” to a young, budding outdoorsman or woman, who is hopefully a budding writer.

If I have learned anything over the past three years, it is that networking, connections, and who you know corresponds directly to the opportunities you will be given and the knowledge you will gain. For that reason I began searching out organizations like the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association—I wanted to learn as much as possible from the true idols of the business.

I applied for and was awarded the Madson Fellowship from OWAA, to be able to attend the annual conference in Knoxville, Tenn., and shortly thereafter stumbled upon the Lindsay Sale-Tinney Scholarship. I truly believe that by receiving this scholarship, the experience I will have at the annual SEOPA conference will be priceless and everlasting. My sole desire is to learn, and for that I yearn to surround myself with the masters and the artists. Moreover, just as I came upon professional opportunities through VOWA and OWAA, I believe the same potential is present within the SEOPA community. In short, I hope to be awarded this scholarship so that I might be blessed with the knowledge and generosity of the members of SEOPA.

It’s hard for me to write about how I am “deserving” of this scholarship. I have written an outdoor column for the Daily Progress since I was 15, I’ve worked as a contributing photographer and writer for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ newsletter without pay for two years, have assisted in founding a local magazine, have authored a monthly fly fishing magazine column, and have published several freelance articles. But the real reason I feel I should be awarded this scholarship, and the one I feel most comfortable giving, is that I am driven and resourceful. You can be sure that, if given the opportunity to attend the four-day SEOPA conference, I will make the absolute most out of it, make myself an active member of the community, and work closely with the group in hopes of learning and improving my craft, all while sparing the incredibly tight budget of a deferring, incoming college student.

It is my genuine wish that I be selected for this scholarship by the people of SEOPA, and I thank you for the opportunity to apply. Great things happen when a group of like-minded individuals who are passionate about the same thing come together to support one another, and I hope to be a part of that dynamic with SEOPA. Having already made the virtual acquaintance of Mr. Jim Casada, I am sure that those within the Association are similarly inclined and have the agenda of encouraging and assisting young outdoor communicators—it is evident everywhere you are represented.