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Writing Background

I have lots of different interests, which is why I love the craft of writing. It is a license to wander intellectually, and dig into any topic that catches your attention.

I began to get an inkling that writing might be the perfect career solution for a congenital dilettante following the completion of a Masters degree in “War Studies” at King’s College London. My thesis was a case study of “coercive diplomacy” and the bombing of Libya by the Reagan administration. It was published by the International Institute For Strategic Studies, and then in a book called “The Limits Of Coercive Diplomacy.” That led me to look for jobs in journalism, and I found my way to U.S. News & World Report, where ended up as a Senior Editor and Diplomatic Correspondent.

While at U.S. News I wrote about U.S. foreign policy and national security. The biggest story I did was an investigation of Russian nuclear materials following the fall of the Soviet Union (a project I did jointly with Steve Kroft and “60 Minutes”). It was called “The Russian Connection,” and won the Investigative Reporters and Editors “Thomas Renner Award” (For Outstanding Reporting On Organized Crime). Among many other things, I also wrote about fish wars and the propaganda power of TV, and famine in East Africa.

In 1998 I sailed a boat from the Chesapeake Bay to the Caribbean and had a run-in with a former hurricane called Mitch. When I arrived in Virgin Gorda I called up Cruising World and asked if they would like a story about the experience. They did, and that naturally led to the happy insight that I could write about something I love doing–sailing–and get paid for it. So naturally I turned to messing around in boats, and writing for Cruising World, Sailing World, SAIL, Sports Illustrated, Men’s Journal and Outside.

It was at Outside that I really settled in, becoming a Correspondent and having the time of my life traveling and writing about subjects from sailboat racing to cave diving. In 1999 I wrote about a crazy French round-the-world sailing race, that led to a book called “The Race,” which was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2002 and selected by Barnes & Noble for their Discover Great New Writers program.

I also started an extreme adventure blog called The Wetass Chronicles (it now survives on Twitter), which helped me dig up lots of incredible story ideas to write about in Outside.

One, the tragic tale of cave diver Dave Shaw, was a finalist for a National Magazine Award in the category of feature writing. I also wrote about diving with large and spooky squid in the Sea Of Cortez and how to survive on almost no sleep, got to ride along with Steve Fossett as he set a record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by sail (he kindly included me in the official world record; sadly it has since been broken), and went back in time to report on the emotional aftershocks of a 1969 tragedy in which six boys were killed by a flash flood in California.

Today, following a two-year digression into communications work to help start a movement-building nonprofit, I am back to writing and working on books.

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