University of Connecticut University of UC Title Fallback Connecticut

Random stack of books that grew spontaneously during bibliographic editing of "Beyond Walden: The Hidden History in America's Kettle Lakes and Ponds."

My Writing Life


For twenty years I was an typical science professor at a Tier 1 (Carnegie) research institution running a research lab with grants, graduate students, post-docs, meetings, and was cranking out peer-reviewed journal articles. My writing focus was technical writing for the “in-group” cloister of scientists with similar special expertise.

Beginning with the 1999-2000 academic year, the language side of my brain lit up, probably as a result of neuro-plasticity, in turn the consequence of having immersed myself in another language to the point of thinking, dreaming and speaking in it. I had become fluent in Spanish –albeit with terrible grammar and pronunciation– when on a full-year senior Fulbright leave to coastal Chile.  Back at UConn, this transition was accompanied by internal departmental difficulties that made research work difficult, and which led to closure of the department.

One unanticipated consequence of this career left-turn was my being invited to become an essayist and regular opinion columnist for the Hartford Courant, Connecticut’s flagship daily. Only recently have I retired retired from this gig after 15 years and more than 500 copyrighted publications. Henceforth, I’ll be emphasizing more high-profile freelanced feature writing.

Another consequence of this brain-change was a commitment to write books to help share my experience with  general readers and humanities scholars.  My seven published books range from a Smithsonian award-winning illustrated children’s book to a critically acclaimed 421-page book of  literary criticism by Harvard University Press (2014), both reissued and still in print in softcover editions.

My most recent book is  The Guide to Walden Pond was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in March 2018 to honor the bicentennial birthday of Henry David Thoreau. It’s the first guide to a place visited by over half a million people per year.

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Photo:  Random stack of books that grew spontaneously during bibliographic editing of  “Beyond Walden: The Hidden History in America’s Kettle Lakes and Ponds.”