What kinds of writing do you do?
Professionally I’m a freelance journalist. I write a lot about parenting and education, sports, New York City and people for publications and websites including The New York Times, New York Magazine, Mom365 and many other publications and websites, but I’m also moving into book writing. I broke into books with a whimsical twist on the baby memory journal called When We Became Three: A Memory Book for the Modern Family because I saw that as a big gap in baby memory books. So I wrote one that parents would have fun filling out, that told their story as well as baby’s with all that great stuff that the baby is going to want to know when he or she is a little older. The book’s getting great reviews from Family Circle, Huffington Post. etc. Carpool Goddess just said it was “the most clever and creative baby journal I’ve ever seen.” I hope everyone gives it as gifts for the holiday or baby showers, everything. Now, I am currently writing a book proposal about a former drug kingpin. I wrote about him for the New York Times and it’s just a fascinating redemption story. Yes, it’s a lot different than a baby book but I’m really excited about it, too.
My mom was a teacher; a reading specialist but she taught every level from K to college, so she brought academia home to my family. Books filled our apartment, my dad was constantly building book cases for them, and I think I fell in love with the sounds of words before I even really knew how to talk. My mom constantly quoted poetry–Rudyard Kipling, William Wordsworth, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Shakespeare–and I’d wake up with and go to sleep with Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Versus. Those poems opened up my world and added depth and perspective to my thinking; I gained a real love of and feel for language. She also told the greatest stories; every character had a backstory and conflicts, and so many of those stories were bittersweet.
In what ways has life outside of academia shaped your writing?
Everything shaped my writing: playing sports, watching movies, where I lived and everyone in my life. I grew up in the Wild West of Brooklyn in an apartment at least two rooms too small. There were so many contradictions at home and in the neighborhood; safety and love, yet chaos and danger; so many ironies, so many stories, so much fun and optimism yet heartbreaking sadness and danger lurking everywhere. I was the youngest and so many things just didn’t make sense. We broke rules; we followed rules.. All that made me both confident and insecure; it forced me to try to make sense of the world, which is very challenging and in a lot of ways what writing is about. Writing was a safe place where I could hide or try to make sense of the world on the page. Though the apartment, the buildings and the neighborhood were crowded; people always watching you or ignoring you, writing brought me to a private place; there was always plenty of room on the page.
I grew up writing and it was often a sense of pride for me. I guess when my first big investigative piece ran on the cover of the Metropolitan Section in the Village Voice that was really exciting. The research and the words came together on the page and it felt important. (Although there was a layout error so my byline was hard to read against the black and white photo). Then my first essay in the New York Times made me really proud. That piece was an essay I sent in cold and I knew I was the only person in the world who could write that particular piece that way. It was funny and showed how talented and knowledgeable women could be in sports including football yet men would still think that women couldn’t really play. It was about playing co-ed football and what it takes to catch the game-winning touchdown. It ran on Super Bowl Sunday and there was a big illustration to go with it. My friends and I played football in Central Park that day before watching the Super Bowl together and it was really fun to share the piece with them.
How do your friends and family respond to your writing?
My friends and family are generally really supportive people. My mom is involved in a lot of my writing. I bounce ideas off of her, she’s a wonderful editor, advisor, listener. My husband and kids tolerate all my writing questions and come up with their own suggestions too. Which is fun. Of course the stories of support aren’t as interesting as the others. I have a few of those, too, but they’re for another time.