Website URL: www.asja.org
You’re a journalist. What kind of work do you currently do in this field?
I’m a full-time freelance journalist and write for a variety of publications. My specialties include health/medicine, politics, books, and the odd and unusual.
You’re also president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA). Can you talk about issues facing freelance writers and non-fiction book authors?
The biggest challenge facing independent writers is the ongoing struggle to survive and thrive. Despite what people may assume, it IS possible to make a good and worthwhile living as an independent writer. One of ASJA’s top jobs is to give writers the know-how they need to find work and protect their rights.
How did you come to do what you’re doing today?
I fell in love with journalism in college while working at the UC San Diego newspaper as a reporter. A bunch of big stories came my way: a fraternity scandal, a serial murderer. Then came a job at a weekly newspaper and a daily newspaper, followed by freelancing for the past 16 years.
Can you describe your writing process?
After all these years, writing comes naturally to me. I just slump on the couch or sit in an easy chair at a coffeehouse and start typing. The main struggle is when I try to write a story without having done enough reporting. If a story isn’t coming together, the problem is usually that I need to get more information.
Can you describe a typical day in your life?
I’m one of the most severe night owls you will ever meet. On weekdays, I like to go to bed at 3 a.m. I’ll typically wake up around 9 a.m. to check email, go back to sleep, then I’ll start my day an hour or so later. This is hardly an ideal schedule, especially since I live on the West Coast, but my body prefers it.
What do you most enjoy about what you do?
At its best, writing concentrates the mind and keeps it from wandering into worries and anxiety.
Are there any people and/or books that have inspired you along your journey?
I’m inspired by the 1,200 members of ASJA. Every member is a professional writer who’s managed to make money as an independent journalist. That’s not easy to do.
Can you share something that people may be surprised to learn about you?
I won honorable mention in a Raymond Chandler write-alike contest at the tender age of 23. My favorite line: “She walked into his office with two long legs and two shapely ankles. He did some quick addition and came up with a figure he liked.”
What’s next for you?
My next goal is to write a historical true-crime book like The Devil in the White City. I just need to find a historical true crime, and I’ll have it made!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
The ASJA serves as a voice and resource for independent writers. Accomplished independent writers—freelance journalists and non-fiction authors—are eligible for membership. Check us out at asja.org and find details about ASJA conferences across the country at asjaconferences.org. As a non-profit run by volunteers, we’re all about helping independent writers succeed.