July 26, 2017

Ultimate Tequila Tour with Julio Bermejo, American Way (American Airlines)

Over the course of two whirlwind days in Tequila and one in the highlands town of Arandas, I visit eight distilleries with Julio Bermejo.

Science writing tips for California Academy of Sciences workshop

Think like a journalist: Consider what’s unique, surprising or compelling about your topic. Think about what you’d tell a friend about it – what makes you say wow?

Kayaking to see bears at Alaska’s Pack Creek, Alaska magazine, Aug. 2015

Our guide had us check every pocket to make sure we weren’t carrying any food that might attract bears. Yet the grizzlies seem to be running through the drizzly afternoon straight at us.

Winged Wonders: Great migrations of sandhill cranes, Horizons, March 2014

With an assist from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, crane populations have rebounded dramatically, though habitat loss and hunting continue to imperil these graceful birds.

Yosemite with Ansel Adams, Press Democrat (Aug. 2015)

With Yosemite preparing to celebrate its 125th anniversary (Oct. 1, 2015), my wife and I spent four days there in midsummer seeking new perspectives on the park.

The Art of the Interview, Book Passage, Aug. 2016

Have a script but be spontaneous too: Write questions in a narrative order to give the interview flow, but be spontaneous too. Let new questions be triggered by what the interviewee says.

Avoid judgment. This is crucial. If a subject feels judged in any way, he or she will almost certainly shut down.

Listen! This is one of the most important, most obvious and most overlooked interviewing skills. It’s easy to think about what you’ll ask next, but some of the most illuminating segments of my interviews come from spontaneous interaction. Stay with your subject and follow him or her into unexplored territory. My interview with Pico Iyer is an example of this. As they say in Vegas: “you must be present to win.”

Paul Theroux’s Cape Cod, Inspirato, Summer 2015

I first interviewed Paul Theroux in 2004 for my book, A Sense of Place, a collection of interviews with the world’s leading travel writers. Though some consider him brusque, blunt and — this irritates him the most — curmudgeonly, I found him to be engaging and genuinely interested in me when we met in San Francisco a couple of weeks after the interview. We spoke again in 2015 for this story on Cape Cod and how his adopted home has become so important not just for his personal happiness but for his writing life.

Here’s an excerpt from the story: Theroux said the potential dangers of paddling around the Cape tuned his senses to hazards while traveling abroad. “This complex landscape has taught me ways of measuring the world of risk,” he writes in “The True Size of Cape Cod,” an essay in Fresh Air Fiend. “But the word ‘landscape’ presents a problem on the Cape. I find it hard to separate the land from the water, or the water from the winds.”

In our interview Theroux noted that the “Cape waters, and Nantucket Sound especially, can be dangerous in a small boat – even in a big boat.” The ocean liner Queen Elizabeth II ran aground 10 miles west of Martha’s Vineyard in August 1992, forcing the evacuation of more than 1,800 passengers, according to the New York Times, and knocking the ship out of commission for a year.

Sweet home Chicago: Blues, baseball and barbecue, Inspirato, Summer 2015

Sometimes, if you’ve worked with an editor for a while, she approaches you with an assignment. And occasionally she opens the door to your dream story. When my editor at Inspirato suddenly had an opening for a feature and asked me to pitch a story about Chicago, I sent in essence a three-word reply: “Blues, baseball, barbecue.” Ultimately I got the assignmet and wrote about my favorite aspects of the City of Big Shoulders.
Here’s an excerpt from the story: Wrigley Field has been showing its age, but that’s part of its charm, and a new Jumbotron installed this year adds 21st-century technology to the creaky yard. Mark Gonzales, who covers the Cubs for the Chicago Tribune notes that baseball is “deep-rooted” in Chicago and that loyalty is passed down through the generations. “You can always sell hope, and hope remains strong with the Cubs.”
That hope is captured in Norman Rockwell’s 1948 painting The Dugout. It focuses on a slump-shouldered bat boy with dejected Cubs players sitting in the dugout behind him. Above are several jeering fans, but there’s one smiling kid, thrilled just to be at the game. That’s the symbol of the true Cubs fan.

Grateful Dead documentary: North Bay has starring role (May 2015)

“It will come out when it’s ready,” said Kreutzmann, 45, the son of Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann. “It would be nice to hit the 50th anniversary, but making a better film is more important.”

Boz Scaggs still smooth after all these years (May 2015)

The classics remain fun because “I never play a song the same way twice,” Scaggs said. “It’s different every night.”