WHAT I DO NOW
I'm senior editor of
, a terrifically cool live event that puts writers, radio people, photographers, filmmakers, animators and all sorts of other artists on stage to perform compelling reported nonfiction stories. I also write for national magazines and make radio stories. Until this month, I was a staff producer at NPR's
WHAT I DID BEFORE
The West: 2014-
A few months ago, I had dinner with Doug McGray, head honcho of
, the live magazine I made the freediver mini-film for a couple years ago. If you were around me when I made that piece, you know how much fun I had doing it – even though I got stuck doing the interviews over the phone from a crappy motel room in Alabama while a super outbreak of tornados raged outside. So when he told me he had a super-top-secret plan to expand on
by launching a print + digital magazine, too, and that he was looking for someone to help him run
alongside it, I wanted to know more. The plan's not a secret anymore.
The California Sunday Magazine
is really happening; it's gonna be awesome; and I'm gonna head west to help Doug and the rest of his disturbingly smart, dynamic, forward-thinking team keep
the most inventive outlet in journalism today. The decision to leave Radiolab, my creative home and second family (really, truly) these past four years, was one of the hardest I've ever had to make. I'm in debt to Jad, Robert and the rest of the team forever -- and I'm gonna miss working and hanging out with them like hell -- but I'm also very psyched to start this new chapter. I hope you'll help me! Send me ideas. Advice. Suggestions. And if you're a talented, ambitious, adventurous nonfiction storyteller, or an artist who likes the idea of teaming up with such people, and you want to work on something with us, please drop me a line, especially if you live in the Bay Area. I arrive at the beginning of March.
New York City: 2010-2014
Arrived in the city just as Becka's book (
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
) rocketed to the top of the NYT best-seller list. Bought her a drink and gave her a high-five. Produced my first Radiolab story as a staffer, about the man who accidentally killed the world's oldest living thing. Finished my MFA. Produced a story about a man who didn't acquire language until he was 27, for an hour called "Words," which won a Peabody award. Reported and narrated on-air 20 stories, many of which covered subjects that were delightfully ... kinda strange. Such as: A town that's had a fire burning beneath it for decades but refuses to die A mentally ill man whose parrot protects him from himself A basketball game where, in overtime, two players came back to beat five A man called Little Houdini, the world's greatest living jail-break artist A woman who paid drug-addicted women to not have babies Henry Heimlich, inventor of (yes) the Heimlich manuever A man whose brain surgery led to his arrest for downloading child porn Produced a short film for Pop-Up Magazine (the world's only live magazine) on a professional freediver's near-tragic final dive. Interviewed a bunch of totally bad-ass explorers for the 125th anniversary of
National Geographic Magazine
. Helped some strangers from all over the country get together and make a magazine and a radio show in 48 hours. Lectured at Penn; Harvard; Univs of Miami, Virginia and Delaware (go Blue Hens); Mt. Sinai Medical School and twice at The Power of Storytelling, a narrative journalism conference in Romania. And a radio journalism instructor interviewed me about using the first-person pronoun.
The South: 2006-2010
After college (go Blue Hens), moved to Florida and spent a year working at The Poynter Institute. Learned the difference between an article and a story. Published my first one (for the
St. Pete Times
), about a train engineer who couldn't stop hitting cars and trucks. Convinced to stop applying to jobs at newspapers and go to creative writing school in Memphis by the oh-so prescient Rebecca Skloot. Helped her finish a book she'd been working on for 10 years, then learned how to be a fact-checker and checked all the facts in the book. Wrote some more stories. Got a grant from National Geographic to canoe from Chicago to St. Louis and write about a crazy, invasive high-flying fish -- never got my story published, but Ian Frazier wrote a lovely version of it for the NYer a couple years later. Published my first magazine story (in the
magazine), about a bullet-proof schoolbag for kids, and reported my first radio story (for Radiolab), about an allergy-stricken fella who cured his allergies with hookworms, then decided to sell them to other allergy-stricken fellas. Realized I like stories that are kinda strange. Felt okay about it, because Radiolab liked my story, and
This American Life
picked it up, too, and then Radiolab told me I should come to NY and make more stories for them. Told them, really, seriously, you mean it? They said, yeah, totally. Put my canoe on the roof and drove to New York.