The Roots of My Editorial Content…
My journalism career began as a summer intern cub reporter for the Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey, the day after I graduated college. I had had no newspaper education or training, but took to it like the proverbial fish to water. I did so well, in fact, that when it came time to attend graduate journalism school at Boston University, everyone in the newsroom convinced me this was the job I would die to have once I graduated. So I talked the editor into keeping me on fulltime; I never went to grad school. Though the letters after my name would come in handy sometimes, I have never regretted the decision.
My nature is to be endlessly curious about how things work, why people behave the way they do and how I (and you) fit into the greater scheme of things. I remain that way, approaching whatever I examine with the Beginner’s Mind. This enables me to see things others may not, revealing insights new even to experts in their own field.
My expertise is translating even the most complicated and esoteric material into prose comprehensible to anyone. Whether in the areas of health and science, psychology and spirituality, airline and hotel marketing doublespeak, cuisine or travel, I write for the Everyman, yet with a level of sophistication and authority recognized by leaders in their profession.
The Versatile Consultant
I have adapted this skill, developed as a reporter who questions everything, to media consultancies for companies and non-profits, looking for the story that needs to be told but hasn’t been yet. I think from both sides of the desk; my view is 360 degrees.
Versatility is also one of my strong suits. I’ve written for print and television. I blog and develop website content. I write speeches for CEOs and fundraising materials for non-profits. I’ve authored three books under my own byline, co-authored four and ghost written three. I develop book proposals, several of which have been sold to leading publishers.
The Making of a Travel Writer
After my first trip to India, it dawned on me that since I wrote features, it would not be a quantum leap to write features about my travels. Who knew there was a whole genre called travel writing? I wrote my first travel piece while recovering from India on the island of Menora, one of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean off Spain. After many rejections, eventually I sold it. I have filed stories from Mexico, Australia, England, Austria, India, Thailand and elsewhere.
My first freelance piece was a profile of the teacher who taught me to play tabla, the drums of India. I sold it to a little publication called East West Journal. Another little light went on; I could write about my spiritual journeys. That launched my entry into the world of so-called new age journalism. I helped start a magazine called New Age Journal, in fact. It became my mission to share some of that expedition, and more importantly some of the insights I gained, in major mass media. The crowning glory of that commitment surely was the story I wrote about Buddhism for National Geographic Magazine, accompanied by the photography of the great Steve McCurry. It was the cover of 24 international editions and led to my book, “Buddha or Bust,” which was a national bestseller (for a New York minute).
Enter The New York Times
A contributor to the New York Times since 1986, I started writing for the paper’s then Living Section on food trends from the San Francisco Bay Area at a time when the city was emerging as the epicenter of new cuisine. It was also when the Times was looking for new voices and lots of copy to generate circulation sales in that region. I happened to have the perspective they were seeking at the time: an East Coaster who knew the West Coast well enough, but had not drunk the California Kool-Aid so that I could maintain a questioning mind.
From food, I began contributing to Sunday Business in 1994, specializing in hotel and other trends. Since then, I have written for Sunday Styles, E-Commerce, Escapes, Education Life, Home, Sunday Arts & Leisure, Business Day, Science Times, and the Sunday Magazine. Writing for The Times keeps my chops sharp, and has opened doors to fascinating people, cutting-edge ideas and other writing and consulting projects.
I Got Rhythm
On a personal note, I have been a percussionist my whole life. I believe that rhythmic sensibility informs the cadence of my writing style. My mother claims I was beating out syncopated rhythms while in utero. I started taking lessons at the age of six when the drumsticks were longer than my arm. I was a New Jersey All-State Orchestra snare drummer as a high school senior and captain of the West Orange High School marching band drum section. I played in a rock ‘n’ roll band called Bucky and the Beavers, which my father persisted in calling Perry and His Problems. I played in so many musical organizations at Rutgers College – the marching band, pep band, wind ensemble, orchestra – that I went on academic probation for a semester. But I recovered, mainly so that I could play again – in a jazz trio on weekends, in the Catskills in the summer, and at the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena with the Rutgers Marching Band. After college I played in a blues band that hit the chitlin’ circuits of Newark; I was the only white person in the band. Later I studied tabla, the drums of India. I still play with trios, quartets and anyone else when duty – or a solid beat – calls.
In the 6th century Seng-ts’an, the Third Chinese Patriarch, wrote:
The Way is beyond language,
For in it there is no yesterday,
Today Rene Descartes would probably say,
“I have a website, therefore I am.”
Marshall McLuhan would suggest,
“The microchip is the message.”
I say: Welcome to my corner of the wide-webbed world.