When and how did you first get into journalism?
I have been writing professionally for newspapers and magazines since I was 11 years old. I used to take my little brother and I would have him stand in a pothole and take a picture of him. And then I would write an angry paragraph about this pothole –– how big it was and how badly it needed to be fixed.
And then the local newspaper would print this. It was called the Brooklyn Heights Crosstown Courier. And then they would fix the pothole.
And then I would get my brother out there again, squatting next to where the pothole used to be, smiling: ‘Look they fixed it.’
In general, how do you go about writing humor pieces?
I think that it can happen different ways. It can happen when you’re having a conversation with friends, and someone says something, and you go ‘Oh yeah, that would be hilarious!’
So then it sort of just pops up in your mind. Another way –– and I think this is a process common to fiction writers as well –– [is] asking yourself ‘What if?’ If this happened, what would be the logical outcome?
For example, I’m not sure if you’ve heard about it, but some people believe in toilet training their babies as early as possible. As early as when they’re 3 months old. They take the baby, they hold the baby over the toilet, they do this many times a day and watch the baby to see if looks like it might have to go. So anyway, I wanted to point out what I saw as the ridiculousness of this trend. Rather than taking it head on, I came at it sideways. I wrote a piece called “Teach Your Baby to Drive.” And the premise was, well, all these people are getting rid of this cumbersome parental duty, why not get them all over with as soon as possible? So, how teach your baby to drive, how to watch for signals that they’re ready to drive, and, of course, they’re bound to have accidents.
Is there one specific story that you think is your best piece?
My book about traveling with my mom. That was a great experience. It came out awhile back and I’ve heard from lots of people who read that book that it inspired them to take trips with their own mother or daughter, so that feels good. It’s mostly a humorous book. We discovered that we’re both too much of a control freak to hop in a double kayak together, so we won’t do that again. We also went dog sledding, we went sea kayaking. It was pretty cool. But that was before my own children were born. Of course, it would be pretty hard to jump in a double kayak with a baby.