I don’t know how much of my wanderlust and curiosity has to do with having been born in a hospital on a hill by the Panama Canal, where the jungle, two oceans and two cultures converged.
I do know I wanted to be a writer since I was 8 years old. Books filled me, lifted me, and helped me escape. I knew, though, that as much as books taught me about the world, and about writing, I wanted to see and experience as much as I could for myself. So I became a journalist. There were two reasons. One was to get a chance to travel (on someone else’s tab) and to be thrown into situations that would let me learn about people, and life. The other was that I figured I would meet one of those gruff, hard-boiled, cigar-chewing editors who I always imagined charged through the newsroom surrounded by clouds of smoke, shouting “Stop the presses!” That person, in my mind, would either take me roughly under his wing, or tell me I had absolutely no talent and even less of an excuse for befouling his newsroom with my worthless presence.
I never met him. But I did meet an incredible array of outstanding mentors who, I quickly became convinced, were trying to kill me. They sent me to war (albeit a very small and brief one), into hurricanes with instructions to get into the eye (so many times I lost count), and aboard a boat into the water off Havana where we were rammed by Cuban gunships.
They also gave me a chance to drive a race car, travel aboard just about every form of conveyance known to man except a blimp, and share a Pulitzer Prize with my colleagues at the Miami Herald. I only wrote about some of that.
I also only wrote about some of the things that happened to me as a television reporter at a local Miami station, or as a national and international correspondent for the Fox News Channel.
Contrary to what most newspaper reporters think about television reporters, TV taught me to be a better writer, I think. It reminded me of the importance of thinking visually, of writing tight, and of using my ears to listen for more than just words.
Together, all my time as a journalist offered me exactly what I hoped it would – a chance to hone my craft, to polish my writing and my powers of observation, and to witness how people behave when a tornado has taken everything they ever had, and how they act when they’ve won the lottery. Disasters and danger bring out the best and the worst in people; so does success.
So I write. About everything I can. Every chance I get. And, as an editor, I try to help others who love words discover how they might use them better.