I have been writing my entire life. When I was a kid, I wrote poetry. I wrote lengthy entries in my diary. I penned long notes to pass to friends in class. And I’ve always loved writing letters and continue to do so–yes, by longhand. I wrote articles for the newspaper in high school and college. And eventually for The New York Times and national magazines. And of course, I blog. Writing, then and now, has always been a part of my life–an opportunity to share, transmit, communicate and inform. I am so lucky to love what I do, and what I do is write.
A few weeks ago, writer and photographer Ellen Barone asked me to participate in a “Blog Hop,” in which writers share their views on the writing life. You can read Ellen’s thoughts and learn of her inspiring work here.
Below are my answers to the four questions that are hopping from blog to blog. I will be passing the torch to the three wonderful writers—Holly Rosen Fink, Jennifer Lang and Irene Lane—who will post their own responses to the four questions next week on their respective blogs. So, here goes.
1. What am I working on/writing?
Somehow, this is never a simple answer and I am rarely working on just one thing. Presently, I am working on a travel piece about Jerusalem for families for National Geographic Traveler. I am also in the early stages of a memoir, inspired by the variety of objects and treasures I discovered in my mother’s closet while cleaning out my childhood home (my mother is currently living in a nearby assisted living community). Just to have some more balls in the air, I am taking an 11-month course on Positive Psychology through the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. As a journalist by trade, I am always juggling ideas in my head, ones that I think would make a good, interesting and colorful story. Sometimes they make it onto the page in the form of a pitch letter and eventually an article or blog post. Sometimes not. That is the world of a freelancer.
This is a tougher question for answer. The ways in which I think my work and writing differ from others of its genre are based on my interests. A passionate adventure traveler, education-focused parent, wine-loving daughter of a problem drinker, and meditator who enjoys a healthy, yoga-filled lifestyle, my interests are what guide my work and writing. I attempt to bring my passion into my writing, and hope that on some level, it relates, inspires, helps or just interests those who are reading.
3. Why do I write what I do?
When I was a graduate student in journalism school at NYU, my mentor said the best thing for a journalist to do is find a niche. I struggled with that notion then, and still struggle with it. While I may have had greater success—whatever that actually means—if I’d stuck with one particular topic and nurtured just one specific niche, I chose to develop my writing in the areas that inspired and intrigued me over different phases of my career. I got pregnant with my first child while I was working at Rolling Stone magazine. When an editor approached me and told me her friend at at a national parenting magazine was looking for a pregnant writer to write a feature article about becoming a new mother, I knew that was a dream opportunity. I went on to write articles for a variety of parenting publications, covering topics from education and child development to sibling rivalry and the lost art of handwriting. Similarly, I was often traveling, which led to articles on family travel, culinary travel and adventure travel. Why? Because that’s what interests me. So I suppose the answer to “Why do I write what I do?” is best answered by simply saying, “I write what I’m living.”
4. How does my writing process work?
When it comes to writing, I tend to be a serious gatherer. I over-report, over-interview and over-read (if that’s possible) on whatever topic I’m covering. I’d rather have too much information than too little. I normally write an outline, pouring through notes, highlighting and marking as if I’m still a college student. Once I’m ready to put pen to paper—meaning fingers to keyboard—it’s almost as if I have turned on a jet engine that won’t stop until it gets to its destination. I plow through, putting the pieces of my written and mental puzzle together and hope that when I lift my head it’ll be coherent. There are always changes to be made, and often cutting to do, but that’s how I get it done.
When I’m blogging or working on first person pieces, my process is a lot more dependent on my mood and surroundings. I love to write outdoors, and if I can’t, then I need to look out doors. Sometimes though, sitting by a warm fire is inspiration for my thoughts. I’m just so blessed that I love what I do.
Now, learn a bit about my fellow Blog Hop writers…
Consumer travel journalist, Ellen Barone, has been creating and curating intriguing, trustworthy and engaging travel inspiration and advice since 1998. With her signature blend of narrative and service journalism, editorial photography and digital technology, Ellen is a notable example of a photojournalist fusing blogging, multimedia storytelling and social media to engage with a diverse and active following. Discover authentic experiences, travel advice, vacation tips, travel tech reviews, gear recommendations, ideas and inspiration for your next adventure in Ellen’s popular travel blogs published at TravelUpdatesbyEllenBarone.com.
Holly Rosen Fink is a Marketing, Communications, Public Relations, Branding and Social Media expert with over 15 years’ experience increasing brand awareness and sales at leading publishing houses and media companies. She blogs at TheHollyChronicles.com and TheCultureMom.com and is a current contributor to This Girl Travels, Ciao Bambino, Family Vacation Critic, Go Girlfriend, The Broad Side and Women & Hollywood. She is also currently producing the 3rd annual production of “Listen to Your Mother,” coming to Symphony Space on May 4th.
Mostly American, a little French and kind of Israeli, Jennifer Lang has spent decades jumping between continents. The question that has plagued her most is which way is home? For the past 10 years, she’s thrived on one constant: wherever she lives, she writes. Once upon a time, she was a magazine writer for Alternative Medicine, Parenting, Yoga for Natural Solutions, Yoga Journal and more. Until she decided to focus on writing her own stories as well as teaching Creative Non-Fiction writing classes. Her essays have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, the South Loop Review as well as on ducts.org, among others. In 2011, she and her family relocated–once again–from White Plains, New York to Raanana, Israel, where she continues to write and teach and push the boundaries. Connect with her through her blog, opentoisrael, her attempt to see the good in a place she never dreamed of calling home.
Irene Lane has written and spoken extensively about sustainable travel and how families can choose vacations that support communities socially, economically and environmentally. She is frequent contributor for the Huffington Post and her blog articles and short pieces also have been published in Green Living Magazine, The PlanetD, Your Life is a Trip and LadyAdventureramong others. In addition to being the founder of Greenloons, which provides sustainable travel tips and information as well as a carefully curated collection of green travel experiences for families, Irene is the only sustainable travel consultant in the United States who can certify a green destination under the internationally-accredited Biosphere certification.
About Caren Osten Gerszberg: A freelance writer, blogger, editor and frequent contributor to The New York Times, as well as many national magazines and websites, Caren Osten Gerszberg blogs for the Huffington Post and Psychology Today. She also blogs about travel for Embark, a blog focusing on family and adventure travel. She is the co-editor of “Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up” (Seal Press), and the blog of the same name. For two years, she wrote a bi-weekly column, Mom U, for the New York Times education blog, “The Choice,” about the parents’ perspective of the college admissions process.