As a nine-year-old, I spent a Midwestern summer hula hooping under a large oak, trying to make the purple-and-white hoop travel from my forehead to my ankles and back up and down.
One afternoon my neighbor returned from the day shift at John Deere and unraveled a green hose. Shirtless, freshly showered at the factory, dark hair parted to one side, he watered his lawn. Over the next few weeks, he painted his house turquoise. He planted flowers in large wooden wagon wheels and snow-white crushed rock. Then, in a final act that caused me to stop hooping mid-rotation, he took out a brush and painted dark green vertical lines between the cinder blocks of his home’s foundation.
To some, my neighbor’s improvements were strange. To me, they were content! I picked up a pen and created my own homemade magazine based on the goings on of my working class neighborhood. My neighbor’s home makeover filled the feature well. Many years later I became a magazine journalist, fiction writer and author in Southern California. I still believe that the best stories come from the ground up, from paying close attention to the everyday. I’ve been published in national publications including The Atlantic, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times — and I’ve worked for some really cool “homemade” pubs too. I love to report on science, health and family. My fiction writing is almost always inspired by my eccentric family. I’ve written essays about them for Barrelhouse and Midwest Review. I’ve recently teamed up with friends to co-write scripts too.
My partner and I have two sons. In 2015 I completed a Master’s Degree through Missouri School of Journalism. My research focused on academic prose, audience inclusion and knowledge sharing. This piece for The Atlantic was inspired by my research.