Google your topic and my name, and I’ve covered it, from crooks to cavities to carpenters to colons. My colorful career has made me the versatile, non-fiction writer I am today. Here’s how I got where I am, minus my barrel-racing, skeet-shooting youth:
After collecting a degree in journalism from Drake University, I became a traveling “Burson Person” (account executive at Burson-Marsteller). Then I ran General Electric’s Midwest News Bureau, which allowed me to see nearly every state I had not yet seen, except Alaska and Hawaii.
For four years, I ran an animal shelter, where I learned how to keep a small business in the black and how to “sex” a guinea pig so the girls stayed with the girls and didn’t make more guinea pigs. I won the National Dog Writers’ Association Award for a column I wrote then, but the sponsors didn’t pay my plane ticket to the awards banquet, so I got the plaque in the mail.
When I had kids, I settled into my treehouse-office as a self-employed writer so I could be home after school to make sure the kids didn’t smoke weed or get pregnant. When they left the nest, I was unwilling to trade my treehouse for a cubicle.
I’ve written for dozens of consumer and B2B magazines, websites, college alumni publications and dailies from the Hartford Courant to the Baltimore Sun. I’ve filed stories for every section of the Chicago Tribune except sports. (I don’t get football.) My solo Trib columns have included Ask the Expert, Builder Profile, Housing Quiz, On the Job, Street Views and Trade Secrets. And, I have written columns for the Trib’s Community Profiles, Remarkable Woman and Love Notes columns.
I’ve covered beats including arts/entertainment, automotive, business, entertainment, finance, health, family, lifestyle, metro, news, real estate and religion. (See Clips, Clips, Clips.)
I can translate medical, legal and financial lingo into language the reader understands. And, I can locate sources for the touchiest of topics, from lubricants (not the automotive kind) to checkbook balances. I inject humor into topics that are not so funny.
Although I’ve interviewed celebrities including Jane Seymour, Mariel Hemingway and nearly every HGTV host (the Property Brothers really are sweethearts), I prefer writing about the Average Joe. Everyone is fascinating if you ask enough questions, and I ask a lot of questions.
The interviews that have triggered the most e-mails are those with subjects who are fictional (including Barbie and Ken) or dead (including the Great Dane who doubled as the mayor of Itasca, Ill.) or, of course, include that magic word, “sex.”
I love to edit like other people love to eat pistachios; I can’t help myself. I’ve never met a press release, website or letter that doesn’t need a re-write. Yes, I do edit existing copy, while some writers balk at this work.
Between paragraphs, I walk my dogs, dog-sit, clear brush, read mysteries, embroider with beads, volunteer and keep trying to persuade the other Leslie Mann (the actress) to buy the rights to my name for big bucks.