TEACHING

I teach writing at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. In 2023 I’ll be speaking at Aspen Journalism, the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, Mountain Words Literary Festival (Crested Butte) Steamboat Springs Literary Sojourn, and Fort Garland Museum & Cultural Center.

My first book (Rolling Nowhere), began as research for a senior anthropology thesis. A transcendant moment occurred in a freight yard in Bakersfield, California, where, as I spoke with a guy my age named Enrique Jarra, it dawned on me that Mexican migrants were the true, modern-day incarnation of the classic American hobo. Coyotes, my second book, recounts a year of work and travel with these migrants.

A smart guy I met in New York introduced me at a party as a writer who “made a living sleeping on the ground,” which got me worried and led me to Aspen and Whiteout, a very different sort of first-person ethnography. Then I moved to New York and wrote Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing, an account of immersion in a world that is tough and dangerous and–if a person’s not careful–soul-shrinking. That research was my hardest ever, but also paid an enduring dividend.

In The Routes of Man, I link a series of challenging first-person passages down roads with reflections on how this most extensive man-made artifact changes us all, both intentionally and not. It’s a book about roads but I’m in it as well. Immersion: A Writer’s Guide to Going Deep is an attempt to share what I’ve learned about this sort of writing. My most recent book, Cheap Land Colorado: Off-Gridders at America’s Edge, recounts a passage into a landscape and community that in truth I haven’t left yet. It may be the closest I’ve come in any of my books to “going native.”

I admire writing where writers have something at stake; where they don’t just depend on experts but rather take time to think and research and participate, thereby transforming themselves into experts; where caring and the urgency of the subject transform the writing into something that matters.