For Dwain Hebda, president of Ya!Mule Wordsmiths, journalism is in his blood.

His father ran their hometown’s weekly newspaper, the Nance County Journal, and Hebda has fond memories of spending his childhood days in the small town of Fullerton, Nebraska, learning the newspaper business. 

“I grew up in that business. I was like any other child of an entrepreneur,” he said. “My dad happened to be a publisher and an editor. From my earliest memory, I was around newspapering and loved it for as long as I remembered.”

Now with more than 40 years of experience in journalism and writing, Hebda added a new honor to his resume this year as he took the Arkansas Press Women Communications Contest by storm, earning the top honor of the Sweepstakes Award

“This was my first year joining Arkansas Press Women, and I was taken aback by winning the Sweepstakes Award,” he said. “I felt a little self conscious about not being at the award ceremony to accept the award, but my father died about the same time the event was going on, and I was occupied by that. I was extremely gratified by the award. I know how deep the talent level is in Arkansas.” 

Hebda would also go on to win two first place awards, a third place, and an honorable mention in the National Federation of Press Women national communications contest. 

After working for Alltel Wireless for about a decade, Hebda went after his dream of starting his own business in 2009. He incorporated as Ya!Mule, which provides writing, editing, and storytelling services, in 2015, but he credits his recent success to his wife, Darlene, joining the team. His partner in life and now in business, Darlene Hebda, who has spent most of her career in administration and human resources, takes on the scheduling, transcription, and management duties, while Dwain takes care of the interviewing, writing, and business side of things. 

“We’ve always worked really well together, but we’ve never been in business together before,” Hebda said. “We’re coming up on one year that we’ve been working together exclusively.  She brought a really great sense of structure to the business, and it’s been a very good partnership. She’s a great sounding board, and she’s a good proofreader. It’s worked out really well, and it’s given us some freedom to do some different things.”

Hebda is looking forward to a spirited competition in 2023 for the opportunity to defend his Arkansas Press Women title against the many talented communicators in Arkansas.

“I am so thankful to be able to do this work every day, and I can only do that because people have invested in me,” Hebda said. “I really enjoy being a part of this organization, and I look forward to additional ways to develop myself professionally and future competitions and being able to carry the banner for Arkansas, where many professionals have been great mentors for me.”