Here's a 2-minute video that gives a little of my bio.
Ok, Not the Typical Path to Becoming a Writer
My education and engineering background gave me a great foundation. It started my writing career, helps when writing about complex topics, and gives me insight into how and why the world works.
I was born in Miami, Florida, and grew up in Long Island, New York. For college, I earned an AS in electrical engineering from Suffolk County Community College and a BS in physics from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, which had a top-ranked program in physics.
Next, I attended Purdue University in Indiana, where I received a full research assistantship. This was like a full scholarship but also paid me as a research and teaching assistant. Purdue was also a top engineering school. I received an MS in materials engineering, having made it into both the national engineering and materials engineering honor societies. My research was published in several scientific journals.
From there, I took a position working for Integrated Device Technology, a company based in Silicon Valley. I worked as a microchip engineer in a cleanroom—wearing a “bunny suit”—for five years and specialized in chemical processes and contamination control. My job was to ensure things ran smoothly and to continually improve quality and productivity. I received engineering awards for reducing water usage and chemical waste and was granted a US patent.
I also began writing about environmental issues and soon felt that I could make a bigger difference in changing the world for the better by being a writer. Not an easy task. I came up with a strategy to use popular forms of writing to accomplish this.
Translating Engineer into Writer
My serious interest in writing actually began as a graduate student while writing my master’s thesis. Once I became an engineer, I took as many writing classes as I possibly could, from creative writing to journalism to poetry to technical writing to screenwriting. I began publishing. But what most inspired me to become a writer was The X-Files. Hey, what can I say? I was obviously a science nerd. My first major work was writing a spec episode of The X-Files, which I later turned into my own feature-length spec screenplay.
Photo by Martin Flohr
I quit my engineering job in 2000 and have been a fulltime, freelance writer and editor ever since. To get things rolling as a new writer, I followed the writing advice, “write what you know.” So, I started this new direction by turning my screenplay into my first novel called Crash Pattern.
They say that you need a book in the drawer before your first book gets published. This was certainly true for me. It would be the second book I wrote that would be first published, SpaceShipOne: An Illustrated History (Zenith Press 2008) with a foreword by sci-fi legend Arthur C. Clarke and cover blurb by Cosmos host Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Ever since 2001, I’ve been working on projects for educational publishing companies, like McGraw-Hill and HMHCO, mainly as a science writer and editor. This work has taken me all over the US and even on seven trips to the Middle East. It has been my major source of funding throughout the years and helps offset the terrible—or nonexistent—pay of my other writing gigs.
From Poetry and Journalism to Antarctica and Spaceships
I have explored deep down into many modes of writing not only to improve my abilities, become more well-rounded, and advance my writing career, but because I simply enjoyed them. I juggle a lot of writing and also actively participate in environmental outreach programs. So, I end up often working on overlapping and interconnected projects.
A big jump came after writing about the California International Airshow (all its proceeds go back to community programs) in 2001 and 2002 for local newspapers. The next year I joined the Airshow as a volunteer writing for its event program and became lead writer then editor then publisher—all in about the first month. In 2004, the event program received honorable mention for the best event program of the year. In 2005, it took 3rd place out of all air shows worldwide.
My poem "Sea Otter" appeared in Oil Addiction: The World in Peril by Pierre Chomat with a foreword by Jean-Michel Cousteau, and "Sardine Fisherman" was included in The Anthology of Monterey Bay Poets. I've won awards for poetry and screenwriting. My stories have covered MGM's lion, Clint Eastwood's film Bird, a NFL head coach, a Lord of the Rings animator, a trashy romance letter made of plastic, a Star Trek captain, and the list goes boldly on.
However, my defining moment as a writer came from a NASA report in 2002 about the Larsen B Ice Shelf in Antarctica. At 1,255 square miles, which is larger than the state of Rhode Island, Larsen B had disintegrated in a mere 35 days. This catastrophe redefined my path and reprioritized my writing to focus more on wildlife and environmental issues. Still, easier said than done.
From the Airshow experience and the success of my self-published chapbook, Spindrifting through Ocean Archways: Poetry of Monterey (2004), I was then able to start my own little independent press. I published a very prominent poet connected to the Beats (Passing Through by David Gitin, Linehan Press, 2005). This book got noticed, and I was then asked to be the managing editor to help start Ping•Pong, an international art and literary journal of the Henry Miller Memorial Library (2006-2008).
Around this time was when I felt that I had built up my writing skills enough to properly cover the subjects that I was most passionate about, such as saving the environment and wildlife. I self-funded an expedition to Antarctica to study climate change in 2006/07 and started my novel The Princess of the Bottom of the World. I had carefully determined that fiction was a better way to tell the story compared to nonfiction.
Based on my previous work with the Airshow, I was recommended as a potential author for SpaceShipOne. This happened in summer 2006 after already having arranged my expedition to Antarctica. Due in part to my poetry, I was selected as the author. So, I worked on space books for several years. Afterwards, I moved onto two big film-related projects, Rocketeers and Otter 501.
Giving back and paying forward through volunteerism plays a significant role in my work over the years. The outreach I do on behalf of wildlife and the environment for TeamOCEAN, Marine Debris Community Outreach Program, Climate Reality Project, and others is unpaid. Many substantial writing projects have also been unpaid, such as my work for the Airshow and Ping•Pong.
Funding to write what needs to be said is still a challenge. Now I’m hoping to publish The Princess of the Bottom of the World.