International | Health | Food | Other

Writing is fun for me. It is sitting down by myself and beginning that is hard.

But I know, that once I do discipline myself to shut the door, and sit down at my outdated little Mac, I will enjoy the intellectual exercise that works out how to best communicate complex, multi-layered stories about business, science, lifestyle, hearts and souls. I want my reader to absorb my message without effort. I don't need to show off my erudition (or the double digit years of higher education that that contributed to my status as a world-class generalist). I just want to tell the story, and have my readers want to stay with the story that I tell.

When I started to write professionally, I felt like a monkey who suddenly learned how to talk. I couldn't believe that someone would pay me real dollars to do what I'd always done for free. After I sold my first feature, I assumed that I could write about anything and anywhere. I quickly learned that my ebullient optimism was unfounded. Although I could write about anything, anywhere—and fast too—not all of it was worth reading. So, I learned to slow down, do my research, and literally measure my words. I still write fluidly and faster than most, but I have trained myself to leave the work overnight (at least), and return to it with eyes and heart able to excise cute but uneccessary words and phrases. My writing has gotten better, cleaner, and more of it has found its way into print.

I find most topics riveting. A natural student, I like learning new things, collecting new fact-lets, and meeting new people in new places. Sometimes it is a problem for me, because like a child with a new toy, when I am working on a new topic, I get obsessed, and whatever I am working on right now elbows its way into every conversation and random musing. I like to write about almost anything. Exotic places, the deli at the corner, mean people, important people, good people on missions to save the world, business, breakthrough science, new restaurants,trends, and to my shame, I often write about my ridiculously funny family and friends. I am not particularly interested in sports scores, hard science or accounting (although in a pinch I can read and analyze a financial statement).

I am always writing from the time I wake up, I am always playing with a real or imagined lead for a story—a first paragraph or sentence—that is both arresting and entertaining. Any stupid, humdrum experience can spiral into mini-anecdote in my mind. I can be in line at the drugstore, standing next to a woman wearing a down jacket, and I wonder, "I'll bet she is buying sleeping pills, ant-depressants, and a third refill of Zithromax." Before I know it, I've constructed a whole human predicament with a rebellious teenager at home, twins with the flu, and a dog that's gone missing, while waiting for my own prescription. But more often, as a professional writer, I stick to what I see or am told.

My creative process begins with close observation. I notice how the bartender folds the cloth before he wipes the table, or I listen to the interview tape I've made and count the number of times the physician uses the word "patient" versus the word "case". I watch where a person eyes point when he or she speaks to me. I read my research materials and notes closely, and more than once.

After I've steeped myself in the topic, the person, the environment, then I begin to write in the voice that feels most appropriate to the topic. Often I write in the first person if channeling the experience or person through me as everywoman works. Otherwise, I'll report in the third person like a normal journalist.

I write short pieces, long pieces, features, columns, magazine captions, headlines, corporate letters, brochures, and annual reports that people will actually read. I write about travel, lifestyle, food, and health most often. And I have written many substantial magazine profiles, Q & A's, press releases and more. I've ghosted several features and a book or two.

I write in American English, but I can write in Canadian/British English or in French.

I write fast, and edit for a long time. Even when I read one of my pieces is in print, I wish I could edit it again before anybody sees the awkward phrase in the middle of the third paragraph. I think I was born to be a writer and I intend to spend the rest of my life honing my craft.