Where Writing Has Taken Me Since
After graduating from Columbia University in 2005, I packed up everything I owned and headedWest on a hunch that writing was what I wanted to pursue professionally. What that meant or where it would take me was unclear. Thirteen years, three continents, six homes and a much-enriched world view later, I can safely say that writing has provided every bit of the adventure, challenge, and reward I once hoped it would. Here's a quick break down of where I've gone and what I've done there.
Summit County, Colorado
I arrived in Summit County the day after a freak summer snowstorm. I still remember driving down Frisco Main Street, a simple two-lane road hammocked between the most spectacular mountains I had ever seen. I launched into my new job at The Summit Daily News the next day and began to tackle subjects like teenage drinking and drug abuse in the mountains and the persistence of trailer parks in the shadow of luxury resorts. The latter won me an award with the Colorado Press Association. As a freelancer in Colorado, I also wrote stories for the Summit Magazine and Vail Magazine and served as a research assistant for Benoit Denizet-Lewis of the New York Times Magazine, whose book about addiction in America is now published by Simon and Schuster as America Anonymous. Most of all, I learned about life in the mountains and solidified a passion for nature and writing that remains with me to this day.
San Francisco, California
Post-Colorado, I returned to the San Francisco Bay Area, where I grew up, and started writing for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. I covered stories about malfeasance and wonky policies around the city, from hotels to universities to the mayor's department. On the side, I worked as a server at the Cheesecake Factory at Union Square, where on foggy nights I often heard a local band playing street music that filled the entire square like a boombox. The band and urban music would be the subjects of my first story for the San Francisco Chronicle. In the following months, I would write several more pieces for my editor David Wiegand, a long-time bedrock of the Chronicle and now a good personal friend and frequent fiction sounding board. I also placed my first story in Slate Magazine, an investigative piece about the surprising technology that fuels the Masters Golf Tournament.
When my wife returned for a second year of a Masters degree at Sciences-Po in Paris, I went with her, setting up shop on a narrow street tucked between the fountains of Place Saint-Michel and the bookshelves of Shakespeare and Co. I don't have a single journalism piece to point to from those days. All I did was write, and write and write and read and walk and lose myself in the spiraling cobbles of the 5th arrondissement, which had a magical power to lure one onward, ever curious about what hidden gem might lie around the next corner. In the process, I started to find my own voice in fiction and discovered a communion with writers who had loved this city long before me and who would continue to love it long after I left.
It was 2008, we were just back from France, and the economy had tanked. Our solution: Move to Ecuador. Neither of us had ever been to South America, nor could we speak Spanish, nor could we come up with a compelling reason to stay versus go. Our apartment sat in the Old City, where the western face of a volcano came down and the blue and yellow and white of the city's cinderblock homes pressed up against it. My wife got a job teaching Ecuadorian street children English and French at the Working Boys Center, while I locked myself away for eight hours a day working on fiction. In my free time I studied Spanish, hand-washed laundry on the roof of our building and explored the city and surrounding country. I wrote a story about eco-adventure for Ode Magazine and about an Ecuadorian mountain climber determined to climb K2 without toes for National Geographic Adventure.
In three months we went from being vagabonds with two suitcases to our names to a settled couple with a couch, a car, and an adopted dog: our sweet snaggle-toothed Lula. We also had a new city to call our home, Atlanta, which after the wilds of Ecuador felt sublimely comfortable (who doesn't love big porches, fine bourbons, and nice people?). In Atlanta I branched out into content strategy, working with a Fortune 100 company on a website overhaul for green initiatives (non-disclaimer required). I also became a regular contributor to Telematics Update and FirstWord for executive reports and a columnist for The Good Men Project. In 2010 I placed a story in the New York Times Magazine; in 2011, in Men's Journal. That same year, after dozens of cities and cultures explored side by side, my wife and I were married in Highlands, North Carolina.
Brooklyn, New York
People think I'm exaggerating when I call Brooklyn the Paris of the 1920s. I stand by it. Jonathan Safran Foer lives up the street from me here in Park Slope. Paul Auster writes out of a brownstone a couple blocks in the other direction. Colum McCann, Nathan Englander, Jhumpa Lahiri ... I was walking down the street one day and was amazed to see my favorite lit mag, One Story, sitting hot on the presses in the local Copy Center. I'm proud to be a writer living in this city in this day and age. I'm currently at work on a novel. On the non-fiction front, I continue to freelance and contribute regularly to The Optimist and Telematics Update, and I serve as Content Strategist for Micro-Documentaries. My wife and I have two beautiful children and a very stubborn dog named Tallulah.