Longform Content: Creative Nonfiction / Text-Image Essay

Map Inset: Kansas – A Video Essay

A woman, a dog, the open road, and the things we carry to the middle of nowhere

A video essay? A photo essay in video form? A lyric essay in filmstrip form? Whichever way, we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.

How Did We Get Here? Notes on Craft & Process

Once upon a bleak set of years, I did nothing but drive back and forth across the country. I had no job, no house, no partner, no plan, and, in the wake of various concurrent losses, I no longer had faith in my own desires.

On one of these junkets, I pulled over at a roadside rest stop in Kansas. The landscape reminded me of Andrew Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World, and so I tied the dog to a picnic bench, set up a timer shot, and somehow spent hours trying to reenact the painting. At some point later on, I tweaked the color on a single shot, posted it to Facebook, and promptly forgot that this particularly lonesome day (and its attendant series of photos) had ever happened.

Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth

When I first sat down to write about these dog days of roaming, I went poking around an old back-up drive and discovered the forsaken photos I’d taken that day.

The images are poorly lit and lackluster, and they certainly don’t get into the logistical grit of the drama going on in my life at the time, but, true to the old creative-writing adage show-don’t-tell, the photos manage to conjure the emotional truth of the story without explicitly stating a thing.

The isolation is clear in the landscape. The repeated attempts to get the perfect shot reveal a mounting desperation. The light changes; the sun fades. The sheer number of shots belies the fact that I had nowhere to go and no burning desire to get anywhere.

I wrote a brief essay-ish sort of piece, almost as if captioning a contact sheet, but it was difficult to read on a small screen, so I tried to find a form that would function in service of both image and text.

Video essay? Slideshow narrative? Lyric filmstrip? I’m not sure what to call it, but even with the rudimentary skills I was able to work up in the crash course of a 14-day software trial, as is often the case with revision, this exercise in form furthered my own understanding of the story at hand.

Some shots were taken in such rapid succession that by setting them in video sequence, it’s almost as if I’m reset in motion. This animated humanity and my voice on the audio track, bring to the project an intimacy that I find both strange and pleasing. This pit stop in Kansas marks what I can only hope is the loneliest I’ll ever be; the dog was the only one to hear my voice not just for those hours in the field, but for days. By offering a belated chance to both speak and move, the multi-media form seems to do more than just capture the experience I had with the dog the day we got stuck in that field; it somehow seems to release us from it.

Finance, Science + My Secret Math Life

I worked at BusinessWeek Magazine for just shy of a decade, proofreading articles under deadline pressure for grammar, style, and consistency of content.

Believe it or not, I was also the person who checked the math on BW’s corporate scoreboards, compiling and cross-checking data for quarterly rankings using Bloomberg terminals, a pocket calculator, and my own personal brain. I was also entrusted to compile data and copyedit the magazine’s monthly round-up of top-selling business books.

As you’d imagine, poring over BW for so many years rendered me fluent in biz-speak, equipped to write and edit business content—and to help brand a variety of financial institutions, products, and services (work I often took on as a consultant for Joe Viverito and BrandmakerExpress in New York).

That said, my business savvy is difficult to flog on my website because— even after nine years as a magazine proofreader/copyeditor—you don’t leave a copydesk with portfolio clips.

But here’s what my BusinessWeek boss, Larry Dark, had to say about me on LinkedIn:

Similarly, I’ve been deep in the trenches of editing in the sciences, but I never thought to hold onto the marked manuscripts for future use in a portfolio slideshow. Fortunately,  Google has revealed that some of the ICIMOD scientists I’ve edited have credited me in their published research—Thanks, scientists!—and many of these articles engaged issues of economics and financial development.

The Development of REDD+ Safeguards in the Hindu Kush Himalaya,  International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal May 2017.

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A Multi-dimensional Assessment of Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services at Inle Lake, Myanmar, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, Nepal and Forest Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, Myanmar, July 2017.

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And, as far as presenting complex material in laymen’s terms, I wish everyone everywhere could come take my creative-writing workshop, The Mechanical Physics of Narrative. Physics for poets—for real!