Bio

sin_001_672x471A few things about me... I have written six books altogether, with several of them on writing (including Wired Style,  Sin and Syntax, and Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch). These are intended as romps through the wonders of English and subversive guides to grammar and good writing. The books have gotten me dubbed “Marian the Librarian on a Harley, or E. B. White on acid.” That works. If you are 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. (The essays there by other writers are awesome.) If you want to dig into what I think is the most important aspect of the craft, you might want to check out Writing Character, a primer chock-full of prompts, for which I wrote the introductory essay. My other books are an intellectual coffee-table book on hula titled The Natives Are Restless and a picture book for children, set in Hawaii‘i, called ‘Iwalani's Tree. 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 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 fascination with character has led to dozens of profiles. 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 Review. I have also directed conferences for midcareer journalists, including the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism in 2008 and 2009, and UC Berkeley's Latest in Longform conference in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016. I run an annual writers retreats in Hawaii in spring  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. I am a member of  the Writers' Grotto. Oh, and if you've heard that I dance a damned good hula, I do.