Posted by: Mark | May 16, 2011

What is Mark doing with his life?

We’ve been home a month. I’ve mostly let this blog sit and gather dust since we’ve been home. But there are still, at times, things worth writing about here.

For example. I wrote this email to my family this morning. I’ve done a bit of editing, but for the most sake I’m leaving it as is. You might remember back when I was in Indonesia, I wrote about trying to find the middle in life. Well, I think this is kind of my answer, for now.

date Mon, May 16, 2011 at 2:49 PM
subject What is Mark doing with his life?
mailed-by gmail.com
hide details 2:49 PM (5 hours ago)

Hey guys

So you might be wondering the answer to the question in the subject here. Now that Mark and Giulia are home, and now that Giulia is working, what the hell is Mark doing with his life?

That’s a question I’ve been pondering for a long time, I think even before Giulia got sick, but it was pressed to the forefront of my consciousness in the many months of Giulia’s recovery, when I went through some of the predictable shifts in priorities and interests that arise in such circumstances. So don’t mind this somewhat self-indulgent, maybe even rambling, offer of an answer to the question.

I think everyone has known that I’ve had an increasing interest in writing. I have written a complete first draft for our memoir Where The Road Meets The Sun. It’s obviously far from perfect, but I have a complete book at around 85,000 words, and hope to get it into the hands of an interested literary agent or publisher. At the bare minimum, we will likely go with self-publishing so that our friends, family, and interested readers can get a super cheap copy for their iPad or Kindle.

But beyond the memoir, I really think that I want to explore writing as a more formal career. I have several friends in the profession who are supportive of my efforts and believe in my abilities, and have helped me consider the various pathways into a writing career. There are, of course, many options of how to “be a writer,” from newspaper reporter to magazine writer to novelist to whatever, but I’m pretty certain that the type of writing that appeals to me most is longform journalism, meaning mostly magazine work.

In light of all of this, I have been pursuing summer internships with various magazines, and today I am happy to announce that I got one! I will be an editorial intern with a new online magazine called MYOO. Weird name, right? It’s an eco-adventure magazine, inspired by environmentally conscious adverturers throughout the world. If you go to their Contributor page, you’ll see that MYOO is hooked up with some pretty incredible people–Kelly Slater, one of the Cousteau grandchildren, Blake from TOMS shoes, Susan Casey, and the list goes on for a very long time. The name of the magazine itself, “MYOO,” is derived from the middle of the word “Community,” which is a concept that I believe in wholeheartedly.

So in short, for the next few months I’ll be working remotely (their main offices are in London) to help fact-check, pitch stories, participate in the editorial process, and hopefully even do a little writing of my own. I hope to learn as much as I can from this experience, and hopefully segue into something more permanent in the world of magazine journalism, but in truth, I’m just excited to be a part of a team working on things that I find very, very meaningful.

The internship is only a few days a week, and so I am simultaneously pursuing other writing gigs–ones that pay, if not much, at least a little bit. For example, I was hired as a freelance contractor to contribute to Shmoop.com, which is an online network of lesson plans for high school students. I’ll spend time this summer working on helping to develop their AP World History curriculum. It’ll be a great chance to try my hand as an education writer, something that blends my past with my present. I am also trying to finalize another part-time writing gig with an outdoors company, working on their blog and writing product reviews for them. This would allow even more diversity, as I could try copywriting.

In short, I’m entering the 21st century world that I’ve read about in Thomas Friedman articles and in David Pink’s books, and I’m finally going to experience it for real: freelance work. I’ll need to be self-directed, and will be juggling several projects simultaneously. Some will pay little to nothing, others might luckily hit the jackpot (fingers crossed on the book), but either way I will get to dabble in a lifestyle that has tremendous appeal to me right now, which is the freedom to work at my pace and on my hours, while still sticking to rigorous demands and expectations.

Of course having several projects also entails various other things. I will still have the time and flexibility to train for the upcoming Ironman, a process which so far has been extremely rewarding to me. I also plan to stay very much involved in the Ocean Beach Bulletin and The Scuttlefish. These two gigs helped nurture my interest in writing in the first place, and I love the work I do for them, and the people I work with on them. I have been very inspired recently by a commencement address given by Robert Krulwich (of the podcast Radiolab) in which he talks about journalism in the 21st century. It’s a long read but very, very, very good, and basically says that the only things you can truly count on when pursuing a career in writing in this era are 1) your passion, and 2) your friends who share those passions. OBB and Scuttlefish sum those two facets up perfectly, and so I’m sticking with them, until either they become huge or else they wither out and die. Either way, I will have felt fulfilled by the writing I have been able to do for them.

Needless to say in all of this, I’m extremely excited. I’m of course nervous and intimidated. I’ve been teaching high school since I graduated college, and so a shift this substantial is not an easy thing to actually pursue, more just a fun thing to talk about. In many ways, I feel like I’ve been standing at the base of a mountain, looking up, and talking about how much I’d love to try and climb the mountain. In getting the gigs with MYOO and Shmoop, and continuing with OBBulletin and Scuttlefish, I feel like I’m finally starting to climb the mountain.

It’s been a huge blessing to have the support of Giulia through all of this, who understands that working in a more creative industry has tremendous risk and takes time and patience. Thankfully her new work seems steady and has tremendous appeal to what she wants right now from a career, so I think we’ve found a pretty good balance for everything.

So anyway, I wanted to send out this update because I’ve been working on these different ideas and projects for a few months, even while we were traveling, and it’s exciting to be on the brink of actually jumping into them. I have no idea how fully I will pursue them, or where they will take me, all I know is that this approach feels very right for me right now, and I’ve got the support of my wife behind me, and so what more could I ask for?

Thanks for taking the time to sort through all of this. I hope you all become regular readers of MYOO, Scuttlefish, and the Ocean Beach Bulletin, if you aren’t already. If anyone is planning on taking the AP World History exam any time soon, I am an excellent resource on those matters, and could be of help.

Otherwise, you’ll find me somewhere in my apartment, banging away at my laptop, a Pandora station keeping me company alongside the snores of Goose, and taking the occasional break to bike 80 miles, cook dinner for Giulia, and be happy.

Love you guys,

Mark

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Responses

  1. My sophomore year English teacher told me this:
    “Words written are your purest thoughts. They go from your head, through your heart, to the page”.

    I’ll gladly purchase your memoir whenever it is available, and I look forward to your writing career, wherever it may take you.

    All the best, and all the luck in the world on your new path.
    Christian

  2. Major Kudos! Love this – sounds so molded to your passions. Outreach, education, and intellect are becoming so vital in our world. Glad to know your perspective, insight, and zeal for life and our Earth will be reaching greater masses. I’m eager to see how this goes – I just officially changed my major from music, to a Biology major with an emphasis in Natural History – it is designed to be paired in a double major for students interested in becoming science writers, educators, science illustrators, wildlife journalists and filmmakers.

    Stoked to have the opportunity to watch a teacher that I greatly admire venture on a similarly paved path!!

    -Maia Thielen

  3. This is amazing. I am so impressed and proud of you. I know how difficult consistent writing can be from first hand experience and this is a great commitment. Good luck and keep us posted. While I love the classroom, I could see myself someday doing something similar.

    The only thing I like more than teaching is writing.

  4. Awesome dude Awesome…. You are an inspiration my friend. Jamie


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