The New Yorker
Contributing Writer at The New Yorker
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I write for The New Yorker and teach longform narrative and other courses at the Missouri School of Journalism, by way of Harvard (where I was a Nieman Fellow and later taught and edited Nieman Storyboard, a digital storytelling site), M.I.T. (where I taught longform in the Knight Science Journalism program), NYU, Emory, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Mississippi. I worked in newspapers for more than a decade (the Washington Post, the Charlotte Observer, and later as a features freelancer for the New York Times and others) before moving into magazines and online. Honors include: the National Magazine Award for feature writing (2008); National Magazine Award finalist (2009, shared; and 2011); Nieman Fellow, Harvard. Anthologies: five volumes of the Best American series, including twice in The Best American Magazine Writing and twice in The Best American Crime Writing. Author of The Dinosaur Artist, a narrative nonfiction book, based on a New Yorker story, to be published by Hachette in Fall 2016. MFA: Columbia.
Longform narrative journalism
Features have appeared in publications including the New Yorker, the New York Times, the New York Times magazine, the Financial Times magazine, GQ, Men's Journal, Atlanta magazine, Wired.com, PINK magazine, More magazine, Playboy, The Oxford American and O magazine, and have been anthologized in five volumes of the Best American series: The Best American Magazine Writing (2009, 2011), The Best American Crime Writing (2003, 2006), The Best American Legal Commentary (2005) and The User's Guide to College Writing, 2nd edition. Nice nod also in Next Wave: America's New Generation of Great Literary Journalists (2012).
Editor of the narrative journalism publication of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.
Our class runs on five main cylinders: (1) Intensive analytical reading across platforms; (2) Weekly writing assignments on various elements of narrative including voice, point of view, structure, ethics, and reporting for Story; (3) Workshopping works in progress; (4) A dedicated members-only class website for narrative exercises/assignments, supplemental reading, Q&As with authors and craft tips; (5) Distinguished guest speakers from the world of long-form and features journalism.
Taught narrative writing in the Knight Science Journalism program.
Topics in Nonfiction: Publishing in the Information Age (in the college) + Readings in Contemporary Nonfiction (MFA program), courses exploring the intersection between narrative and digital.
As a freelancer you're a reporter/writer/creative while at the same time a small-business manager—an overall enterprise that requires organization, focus and motivation. Topics include finding original ideas; reporting for pitch; identifying pitch targets; making the pitch; negotiating contracts; developing relationships with editors; drafts, deadlines and revision; coping with rejection; juggling projects (time management); and the efficient home office.
Assigned/edited features, mentored staff, reviewed monthly galleys of entire book, recruited freelancers, entertained inspiring stories about the olden days of meaningful magazine publishing, usually went home depressed.
For the newspaper and the Sunday magazine, have written about architecture and design; the historic move of The Paris Review; the renovation of William Faulkner's Rowan Oak; young soldiers mobilizing for war; a mother's killing of her two terminally ill sons; an immigration lawyer's angst, and Vic Braden's tennis camp, plus book reviews.
Oversaw overall editorial composition and direction of this young general-interest magazine. Managed a pre-layoffs staff of about 20 and an annual editorial budget of. Successfully and creatively planned and managed the balance of narrative with service, as well as the overall makeup and texture of the magazine, despite an unusually challenging and restricting budgetary model. Green-lit projects that got picked up by The Atlantic Monthly and elsewhere. Mentored young staffers and recruited freelance writers. Quickly reordered a dysfunctional copy flow and editing system. Managed each piece of the magazine all the way through production, ultimately acting as both EIC and managing editor, because of layoffs. Hired a creative director to redesign the book--the initial changes took the magazine from sleepy and dated to a vibrant and more urgent, newsier publication as we moved toward a large-scale redesign blueprint. Helped build out and strategize for the re-launched website and liaised with Sales and Marketing to extend the company brand.
Edited, wrote, and helped plan major features and packages, including the 2008 Water issue (about the historic drought facing metro Atlanta), the issue commemorating the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (the package was nominated for a 2009 National Magazine Award), and a narrative on a young Burundian asylum seeker (the story won the National Magazine Award for feature writing). Edited all book criticism and managed the literary page. Worked closely with an altogether stellar staff of experienced, dedicated and talented journalists led by EIC Rebecca Burns, and served on an executive-level interdepartmental strategic planning team charged with extending the brand of the magazine and seeking out new revenue streams.
Contributed features and random bits regularly and singularly to a range of magazines and newspapers over the years, including to GQ, Men's Journal, the Financial Times magazine (FT), The New York Times, the New York Times magazine, Play magazine (the sports mag of the NYT), More, PINK, The Oxford American, Playboy, Salon.com, etc.
Have written about topics including DNA paternity testing, key characters in the Iraq war, the NASCAR driver Leilani Munter, North American emerald mining, and a man's lifelong search for the brother who vanished in a Mount Adams blizzard and whose body was found decades later.
Taught The Literature of Journalism; Critical Writing; The Feature Article and Writing & Reporting I and II in the graduate school of journalism and to undergraduates. Brought in a range of distinguished journalists for private classroom visits and department-wide brown-bag luncheons.
Taught undergraduate news reporting and writing and a master's class on investigative reporting
As a general assignment and projects reporter, wrote on a range of topics but specialized in narrative storytelling. Two investigative series documented abuse and neglect in North Carolina's nursing home and foster care systems. A long-form narrative on the double life of CBS newsman Charles Kuralt introduced his fans to a secret side of his storied life. A summer travel series took readers to some of the loveliest and most bizarre locations in the Carolinas. A piece on the second-largest armored truck heist in US history was optioned for film by Miramax, and another, on a small town's care for a mentally disabled man, was optioned by Paramount. These and other stories won the national Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism from the Journalism Center on Children and Families (funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation); the national Darrell Sifford Memorial Prize for feature writing from the University of Missouri; a National Headliner Award, feature writing; numerous N.C. Press Association awards for investigative reporting, feature writing and sports writing; the Walter Spearman Award for the state’s top beginning journalist; and the Thomas Wolfe Award for feature writing. Other honors while at the Observer: a Nieman fellowship to Harvard
Metro desk reporter covering Alexandria and Arlington, Virginia. Story topics included gentrification, juvenile crime, cicadas, and the first trial in Virginia using DNA as evidence.
General assignment reporter.
General assignment reporter
Studied fiction under David Gates, Mark Slouka, Sigrid Nuñez, Ben Marcus, and Victoria Redel, and nonfiction under Lis Harris and Nicholas Christopher, among others. Led a fiction workshop in the undergraduate honors writing program, and taught a writing workshop in the summer high school writing program.
>National Magazine Award finalist (Personal Service), 2011
>National Magazine Award (Feature Writing), 2008
>National Magazine Award nomination (shared, for single-topic issue), 2009
>Anthologized in The Best American Magazine Writing (2009, 2011)
>Gold Medal (Reporting), City & Regional Magazine Association 2008
>Nieman Fellow, Harvard, 1996-97
>The Best American Crime Writing 2003, Pantheon
>The Best American Crime Writing 2006, Harper Perennial
>Robert Laxalt Distinguished Writer in Residence, Reynolds School of Journalism, University of Nevada-Reno, April 2005
>Newspapers: numerous, including the Casey Medal for investigative reporting; a National Headliner Award, feature writing; first place, feature writing, American Association of Sunday & Features Editors; the national Darrell Sifford
Memorial Prize for feature writing from the University of Missouri; the Thomas Wolfe Award (N.C.) for feature writing.
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Nieman Fellow, 2015 at 2015 Nieman Fellow, Harvard University
Editorial Staff at The New Yorker