A few things about me: I have written three books on writing: The first is Wired Style, the second is Sin and Syntax, and the third is Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch. The latter is intended as a romp through the history of language and, in particular, English. It is filled with ideas to play with in your writing. Sin and Syntax is a subversive guide to grammar and good writing and contains “catechisms”—quirky grammar quizzes and writing prompts. The books have gotten me dubbed “Marion the Librarian on a Harley, or E. B. White on acid.” That works.
Poets & Writers has included both Sin and Syntax and Vex, Hex on its impressive list of Best Books for Writers.
If you are a writer or a lover of all things syntactical, you might also be interested in my eight-part series on sentences for “Draft,” in the Opinionator area of The New York Times. (And the essays there by other writers are awesome.) I also write articles on politics, culture, history, and travel, as well as essays on everything from the name I share with my grandmother and my odd taste in food.
I grew up in Hawaii, speaking “proper” English at home and Hawaiian creole (or “Pidgin”) with friends. This weird bilingualism explains my fascination with language, which didn’t stop there. I left the islands to get a bachelors degree in English Literature from Princeton, after which I spent a few years writing short stories and performing mediocre monologues in dim San Francisco coffeehouses. I can’t say I went straight after that, but I did earn a masters from the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, after which I worked as a reporter and editor at the Gilroy Dispatch, the Oakland Tribune, and the San Francisco Examiner. I really started dabbling in the idiosyncrasies of the mother tongue, though, while copy chief at Wired.
Freelance writing suits my personality, as I have eclectic interests. I’ve written about Latin plurals and Latino culture, Berkeley politics and Hawaiian sovereignty. My stories have appeared in newspapers from the Los Angeles Times to the Miami Herald, as well as in magazines like The Atlantic, National Geographic Adventure, Afar, Smithsonian, Health, and Honolulu. I love the travel essay as a form, and have been published in many anthologies including France, A Love Story (Seal Press) and Best Travel Writing 2006 (Travelers’ Tales).
I am as passionate about editing and teaching as I am about writing. I worked at Wired Books and today edit for Harvard Business Press. I have also directed conferences for midcareer journalists, including the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism in 2008 and 2009, and the East Meets West conference in 2012 and UC Berkeley’s Latest in Longform conference in 2014. I run two annual writers retreats (one in Hawaii in spring and one in Vermont in fall) and speak and teach all over the place. I am a founder of The Prose Doctors, an editors collective, and work one-on-one with many published writers. And, almost every day, I work at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto.
Oh, and if you’ve heard that I dance a damned good hula, I do.