If you’re looking for my short and sweet bio, check out that blurb over there on the right. However, if you are interested in the ridiculously long version of my life story (suitable mainly for members of my immediate family and those who might be cultivating an unhealthy obsession with me and my work), you’ve come to the right place.
I was born in Madison, Wisconsin. Nice place to grow up. Damn cold in the winter. In the seventh grade, my social studies teacher told my parents that I was an “enigma.” No one knew what he meant.
After 18 years in the Midwest, I headed East to Princeton for college. Nice place to go to school. Much less cold in the winter. I majored in East Asian Studies focusing on Japan. Didn’t really know why I chose that at the time, but it would pay off big time down the road. (More on that later.) Mainly, I spent a lot of time deeply disappointing my Japanese teachers. Gomen ne. Still, my academic career culminated in a thesis entitled The Rise of a Japanese New Religion: Okawa Ryuho’s Institute for Research in Human Happiness, which fulfilled the main criteria of having a colon in the title.
After graduating, I went to Tokyo through Princeton-in-Asia, landing a job as a copy editor at the Japan Times. Copy editors don’t make a lot of money, so I ended up living way out in the Japanese equivalent of Hoboken (which it turns out is one train stop away from Tokyo Disneyland). Remember how I said that my choice of major would pay off — well here it is. My future wife, who was teaching English and also being paid squat, lived in the apartment next to me. I went halfway around the world to meet a nice Jewish girl from New York.
We returned to the States and I landed a job at the Associated Press in DC as an editorial assistant. This was during the Clinton years, and one of my duties was to go to the White House press room for the 5:30 a.m. press pool in case he decided to go out jogging. In those pre-9/11 days, he used to go for a run around the Mall. I’d follow along with half a dozen other reporters just in case anything happened. Occasionally, the Secret Service would drive us up ahead on his route, so we could all hop out, yell questions at the President and be ignored. Sometimes something would happen, allowing me to write such classic wire copy as “Clinton Jogs With Astronauts” and “Clinton Trips Over Own Feet.” Other highlights of my time at AP include writing the Farm Scene column about Agriculture Department programs and realizing that I didn’t like to interview people, which is not ideal for a budding journalist.
Luckily my future wife gave me another opportunity to follow her around the world by getting into law school in Ann Arbor. So I picked up a course catalog and looked for a graduate program. I applied for a Masters in Southeast Asian Studies and got in. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that the program would only take a year and a half to complete; law school lasts for three years. Look, even for me, there’s only so much Comedy Central and SportsCenter that can fill the day. So, I tacked on a Masters in Public Policy with the Michigan Ford School.
Oh, did I mention Michigan was a nice place to go to grad school. Cold.
Three short years later — I highly recommend staying in school as long as possible in your life — we headed back to work in DC. Besides teaching me how to lie with statistics, my public policy degree helped me get a Presidential Management Internship (which was changed to a Fellowship a few years later after Clinton made it difficult to be taken seriously with the words “President” and “intern” in your title). For those of you who don’t know what a PMI (now PMF) does for someone (and I’m assuming that that means all of you), it helps you get a job in the Federal Government.
That’s right, folks. And that’s how I became a Bureaucrat.
My first job was as a Budget Analyst at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Turns out I’m not cut out to work budget issues, so I transferred over to the State Department. During my time there, I worked on export controls, India-Pakistan sanctions, MANPADS, UNSCR 1540 and WMD terrorism. I was also a member of the U.S. delegation to G-8 and U.S.-EU nonproliferation talks. It was interesting, fulfilling and worthwhile, and I had the chance to work with smart people who were dedicated to serving our country. Sorry to get all patriotic on you, but let me put in a plug for our government employees who for the most part do damn good work and make all our lives safer and better. State is a little acronym-happy though — my various offices were INR/EAP, NP/ECNP, NP/PPC, ISN/SPO and S/P (which doesn’t even include the internship I did in EAP/BCLTV). Needless to say, the more letters in your acronym, the less important you are — my Under Secretary was just T.
I left State in 2007 and took some time off to write full-time. That was fun. Also shuttled back and forth to L.A. trying to sell screenplays and TV pilots with my writing partner, Jon Phillips. We’ve written about a girl who goes on a road trip with her dead father, a time traveler who goes back to stop his father from killing his mother, a family of athletes and the business manager of a superhero. Sound interesting? Feel free to head over to the contact page and let me know if you’re interested.
Just a couple of more stops to the present. After my brief time off, I worked as the Associate Director for a non-profit called Partnership for a Secure America, which promotes bipartisanship in foreign policy and national security. Great organization. Check it out at www.psaonline.org. From there, I returned to the government as a Senior Advisor at the SBA Office of Advocacy, which is where I am now.
Oh, and I write novels and short stories.
See, told ya it was going to be long. Next time, do yourself a favor and take my word for it.