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Romance author learned to take chances, try new things at Ohio University, WOUB

A typical media career path tends to twist and turn in many different directions, but Dana Sulonen’s feels a little more like she missed a turn originally and had to go back the wrong way down a one-way road to get to the right place.

The broadcast journalist-turned-print journalist-turned-sports editor-turned-graduate student-turned-operations manager-turned romance novel author says no matter how she got to where she is today, she feels like she took the right path.

“Well, the pandemic got weird,” said Sulonen with a chuckle. “And I tried some different things.”

Sulonen’s story begins in high school in Champion, Ohio. Sulonen was interested in writing and journalism at a very young age.

“I knew I wanted to do journalism in middle school,” said Sulonen. “In high school, I heard from a family friend that Ohio University had a really good journalism program. Once I heard that I knew that was where I was going to college. Then, I visited a friend who was going to school at Ohio University, and I fell in love. I never went on another college visit.”

As a broadcast journalism major, Sulonen was interested in WOUB from the very beginning of her time on campus. She knew she wanted to focus on sports journalism, so she got involved with WOUB’s high school football TV program, “Gridiron Glory,” as soon as she could. Sulonen also worked her way into being a sports anchor on WOUB TV’s nightly news program, “NewsWatch.”

After she graduated in 2003, Sulonen got her first job writing obituaries at her hometown newspaper, the Warren Tribune Chronicle. But she was clear from day one that this position was an entry point. Sulonen’s goal was to move into the sports department. And she did just that.

“About a year and a half after I started, there was a sports opening. By 2006, I was a full-time sports reporter,” Sulonen said.

Sulonen eventually became sports editor at the Tribune Chronicle. Then in 2014, she received a job offer to go to Auburn, Alabama, and work at the Opelika-Auburn News as a sports editor. Sulonen knew this was her chance to cover big time college sports.

“It was a small newspaper in a college town with some decent size suburbs where we got to cover huge teams, like the Auburn Tigers and SEC College football,” said Sulonen. “During my time there I covered three Iron Bowls, the women’s college softball World Series twice and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. It was some really cool stuff. It was definitely big time because SEC football is national conversation every day. It was busy, crazy and super fun.”

After Auburn, Sulonen worked in newspaper sports editing and planning roles in Nashville, Tennessee and Detroit, Michigan before deciding to take some time off and go to graduate school. Then the pandemic happened.

“I was able to complete an online graduate program in journalism from the University of Alabama during the pandemic,” said Sulonen. “But I also did a few other things. I had always been a fan and reader of romance novels. And after a while, I had this brain worm that kept telling me that I could I do this. Then this author that I was a fan of opened up her world and characters to fan fiction. That meant I could use her characters to write a story and if she liked it, she would help publish you. She was accepting never published authors before. I thought, If I’m going to do it, now is the time.”  

That was the beginning and now Sulonen is getting ready to publish her 13th book in May under the pen name Chelle Sloan.

“It’s been so fun and amazing,” said Sulonen.

Sulonen also has more than a half a million followers on her “@chellewritesromance TikTok account.

“Once again during the pandemic, I decided to create funny reactions to guys who were taking off their shirts in videos on TikTok and apparently people think I’m funny,” said Sulonen. “It’s insane. I was at a wedding in Tennessee, and somebody came up to me and asked if I was the woman on TikTok who made the funny looks at guys taking off their shirts.” 

In addition to her work as an author and TikTok producer, Sulonen works for USA Today Network Ventures producing high school sports award events for newspapers across the country. 

“In all of these different phases of my career, what I took away from my WOUB days was teamwork, the networking, and learning how to be willing to try new things. We were young and dumb and in college, but we weren’t afraid. We had mentors and people who let us spread our wings and not be afraid to shoot the shot,” said Sulonen. “I still know how to record and edit videos which I learned at WOUB. I edit video for social media today. All these things that I never knew I would use can be traced back to the WOUB newsroom.”

April 18, 2024
Staff reports