Blog

Get the story behind the story and outtakes from the road in my blogs which cover everything from the craft of journalism to weird things that happen on the road.
Washington Post: Dylan Thomas’s Wales

Washington Post: Dylan Thomas’s Wales

I've long felt a kinship with Wales, perhaps because it's where one of my favorite writers, Jan Morris, lives. Recently I had the chance to stay overnight and tour Dylan Thomas's boyhood home in Swansea. Then I visited his other homes in...

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Portland: A food tour, Virtuoso, April 2018

Portland: A food tour, Virtuoso, April 2018

There's nothing better than an editor asking you to go to a city you love and find the best places for food, wine, beer and chocolate. I traveled there last year, stopped briefly (for 2 hours, which is fast) at Powell's City of Books,...

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Nat Geo: Top 10 Secrets of the Maya

Nat Geo: Top 10 Secrets of the Maya

People often ask me what my favorite destination is - I don't have just one but I always include Guatemala, the hub of the Maya world, in my top 5. When National Geographic asked me to share some secrets I leapt at the opportunity. Here's...

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Napa Valley’s most unlikely grape spirit

Napa Valley’s most unlikely grape spirit

In Napa's Oxbow Public Market, near the Napa River, we came upon the tasting room for the Napa Valley Distillery. I'd heard good things about their spirits, but what first caught my eye was the table crowded with hundred of little bottles...

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Tracking elusive pumas in Patagonia, Summer 2016

Tracking elusive pumas in Patagonia, Summer 2016

Typically when traveling overseas I like to stay a while. But when an editor emailed and asked if I'd be willilng to travel to Patagonia to track pumas for a week in the dead of the southern hemisphere's winter, I leapt at the chance even...

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Kauai still a Dream Trip, Islands

Kauai still a Dream Trip, Islands

Islands magazine sent me to the Garden Isle of Kauai to write a feature for its Dream Trips issue which marked the magazine's 25th anniversary. I was honored to have my essay appear among stories written by Pico Iyer, Don George, Patricia...

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

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

Easy Listening: The Interviewer’s Art By Michael Shapiro   Introduction: Interviewing is something most writers do, yet doing it well is challenging. A successful interview combines thoughtful questions, rapt attention, and deft...

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Paul Theroux’s Cape Cod, Inspirato, Summer 2015

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...

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NY Times: Vineyards with Vistas

NY Times: Vineyards with Vistas

My first New York Times story was a piece about Wine Country real estate:   Destination Guide | Napa and Sonoma Vineyards With Vistas   By MICHAEL P. SHAPIRO Published: July 26, 2006 An hour to 90 minutes north of San Francisco,...

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Islands magazine: Last of the Moken, June 2014

Islands magazine: Last of the Moken, June 2014

En route to Thailand last year, I saw a short video about the Moken, a Polynesian who traditionally have drifted among the islands and coasts of Thailand and Burma. Inspired to see them, we found a group that arranged visits and provided...

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Pete Seeger: 3 stories you’ve never heard

Pete Seeger: 3 stories you’ve never heard

By Michael Shapiro Was sad to hear about the death of folk legend Pete Seeger today - here are three stories you won't read in his obits. 1. Decades ago, Warren Hellman, then a NY investment banker (he was head of Lehman Bros.), asked...

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Adriena Daunt Leaving Single Malt Curlers

Adriena Daunt Leaving Single Malt Curlers

NEW ZEALAND HERALD STAFF REPORT AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- On the eve of the Single Malt Curlers sold-out show this Sunday at Auckland's Vector Arena, singer and tambourine player Adriena Daunt announced she's leaving the band. Daunt gave...

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Gambling column: NBA title futures

Gambling column: NBA title futures

Here's my latest Gambling column from the San Francisco Chronicle, on odds to win the NBA title. As expected, Miami is the favorite, but Golden State has it's best odds in more than a decade. Read it on sfgate.com using the link above or...

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Making a living as a freelancer

Making a living as a freelancer

Every June, I mark the anniversary of leaving my last full-time job, at CNET in SF. It's been 15 years with lots of highs and lows, but I've never regretted the decision to walk away from the rigidity of full-time work and hang my virtual...

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Cowboy Junkies keep it fresh

Cowboy Junkies keep it fresh

In the early 1990s, Cowboy Junkies lead vocalist Margo Timmins performed just for me. I sat about 30 feet away from her and she sang one of her favorites, "Misguided Angel" to an audience of one. But I'm not sure she even noticed me. I...

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Riding the Rails in Wales, American Way

One of the best ways to see a country is on a slow train. Perhaps the most enjoyable of these are the 19th-century railways of Wales. In 1996, I came across a site called The Great Little Trains of Wales as I was researching my first book...

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New gay-friendly Vegas resort to be called Fellahtio

New gay-friendly Vegas resort to be called Fellahtio

LAS VEGAS -- MGM's newest mega-resort, a gay-friendly hotel which starts construction this spring and will open in late 2015, will be called the Fellahtio, said spokesman Richard Johnson. The building will be a high arcing tower he said,...

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Abolish the one-game playoff in baseball

Abolish the one-game playoff in baseball

Well the playoffs worked out beautifully for our SF Giants, but I still think a one-game playoff cheapens the season - here's my comment for The Press Democrat - it's short, a 2-minute read. October 3, 2012 These are golden times for Bay...

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Fed ruling may clear path for legal poker

Fed ruling may clear path for legal poker

A bunch of guys in a big room playing poker: a typical scene but one that could have led to jail time for its operator. Until a federal judge said game on - here's the story I wrote for the SF Chronicle. -- By Michael Shapiro, Sept. 6,...

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Review of Sarah Vowell’s “Unfamiliar Fishes”

Review of Sarah Vowell’s “Unfamiliar Fishes”

Last year I reviewed Sarah Vowell's book "Unfamiliar Fishes" for the San Francisco Chronicle. It's an uneven book, but recently I've learned of a book by Julia Flynn Siler that appears much more promising: Lost Kingdom. I look forward to...

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Rejection slip, rejection slip

Rejection slip, rejection slip

A friend passed this on to me years ago, still as appropriate as ever: Dear Editor, Thank you for your recent rejection slip. As it does not quite fit my present requirements, I am returning it. This in no way reflects upon its merits....

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Self-publishing tips

Self-publishing tips

I'm on a panel at Book Passage today on self-publishing. The two main ways to go about this are: produce a print book or publishing an e-book. Both have their advantages. For an art or photography book, there's no substitute for print....

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Amazon cruising: A Ride in the Wild

Amazon cruising: A Ride in the Wild

I always thought if I ever floated down the Amazon it'd be in a dugout canoe on a shoestring adventure. But when the editor of a magazine for country club members asked me to join a luxe cruise, of course I went and had a fabulous time....

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Lily Tomlin rocks the house

Lily Tomlin rocks the house

These days Lily Tomlin’s character Ernestine, the gossipy telephone operator who used to parody the AT&T monopoly, works for an insurance firm, “denying health care to everybody.” She told me this during a phone interview in March,...

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Was Pat Tillman murdered? SF Chron.

Was Pat Tillman murdered? SF Chron.

Ballistics evidence suggests the bullets that killed NFL-player-turned-soldier Pat Tillman were fired from just 10 yards away. We know it was friendly fire -- his mother believes it may not have been an accident. Here's a review I wrote...

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Sumptuous cuisine in Lima, Peru

Sumptuous cuisine in Lima, Peru

Sometimes dream assignments get even dreamier. After asking "if I'd be willing" to go to Peru and take a cruise down the Amazon, my editor said something like: As long as you'll be in Lima, try a few top restaurants and we'll run a...

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Leo Kottke: How the guitar saved my life

Leo Kottke: How the guitar saved my life

  Leo Kottke is a quirky and genuine as you'd guess from his music - here's an excerpt from our interview which ends with him talking about music being a type of home for him: Renowned acoustic guitarist Leo Kottke says the guitar...

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Interview with Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson

Interview with Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson

I spoke with the genius behind the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, in August 2011. The man who penned hits such as "California Girls" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" has suffered terribly from mental illness but is back on the road and performing...

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Ballad of Pat Tillman, Metro newspapers

Ballad of Pat Tillman, Metro newspapers

The football star–turned–soldier became the Pentagon's poster boy, and when he was shot dead by U.S. Army Rangers, the military said he was killed by enemy fire. The deception, it turns out, was not an isolated incident, but part of a...

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