This might be a long and zig-zag a bit, so bear with me. To sum up, I am many different things, and my work reflects attempting to stay true to what I am. It's not that I CAN write, or play music, or take photos, or anything, those are all just things I do. They're as natural to me as breathing and I don't think of them in the same way as "skill acquisition" or "intense training."
I left high school thinking I was going to be a musician, playing in school jazz ensembles all through college and doing some freelance stuff on the side. Looking back I'm glad none of that was recorded and I realize now I'm a better studio person than a live musician. Having said that, I do miss live performances - the joy of applause, the comraderie you feel with your bandmates and the immediacy of a job well done. One of these days I'll go back to that, but for now, I'll stick to what I know best.
As time went on, I discovered writing was one of those things I just did, and I might as well try doing stuff with it - writing fiction (which is also lost), and later journalism. Journalism's gotten me into some pretty amazing spots, but my favorite stories are the ones where I shared a connection with someone - shared the hope of an Airbnb entrepreneur in Englewood, or the anger at someone losing their home. One of my journalism professors at Roosevelt University was John W. Fountain, who placed an emphasis on the idea that journalism is about empathy and compassion, especially with those that don't have a mouthpiece to tell their story.
If you were to ask me what journalism is, it's diving into subjects I know nothing, or very little about, and coming out knowing as much as an expert and communicating what I know back to the wider public in a way that is clear and compelling (more on this later). The subjects I've gone after are the ones that interest me, which have included culture, history and unfamiliar places. For several months I wrote pieces about mostly American culture for the online magazines 3:AM and Spike Magazine - pieces about crime in the Twin Cities, Studs Terkel, Bob Dylan, Soma Records and Fawcett Publications.
That last one led to a great opportunity - the CEO and publisher of Odyssey Publications (who I'd been a fan of for many years) saw that piece and liked it so much I was brought on as a...you know, I don't think they ever gave me a title, but that's not important right now.
I first met Odyssey's folks on my first visit to Hong Kong, after an internship in Shanghai that was fun, but I learned I couldn't be a foreign correspondent. I was on my way to Nepal for another internship, which was also fun, but I learned I was more of a copy-editor than a full-on reporter. I also attempted to journey into Tibet with no practice. Next time, I'll go prepared.
In the time I spent with Odyssey I made a handful of things that never got made, like a Literary Map of Chicago, a Music Map of Chicago, and a series of cultural/commerce briefings on the Great Lakes states. They were never designed and I'm looking around for a way to start those up again.
What put a halt to it is something that at least so far is the height of my career: Writing/editing and helping design the book Hiroshima, Nagasaki: An Illustrated History, Anthology, and Guide, which I wrote without any prior knowledge of Japan, no prior visits, or anything. They just asked me to do it and I said yes. That part I said earlier about diving into subjects? I did that here, and came out conversant in Japanese history and I found myself really loving Japan. The project took about a year from conception to release (which I'm told is a really fast time for a book - I wouldn't know, it's my first time).
Since the book has ended I've been looking around for the next thing to do. Recently I've been diving into things I got interested in thanks to the book like design, especially editorial design, other neat history topics and Japanese film/tv. Towards the end of making the book I began pitching Odyssey various places to write guidebooks about, especially places I'd traveled to and worked in like Tibet, Nepal and India (did I mention I'd been to each of those places?). I wanted to dive back into them again.
If you were to ask me what my favorite places are, I couldn't tell you. I like going to new places and blending in as much as possible. When I interned at The New Indian Express in Chennai I wrote local articles for their "Expresso" supplement about happenings around town. I took public transportation and blended in like a local (even though nobody in Chennai looks like me). A year later I did the same in Dublin, when I interned for Hot Press, writing about local bands and other happenings. And now I've been in Chicago for a few years and I go about the place like I'm a local, even though I've lived here for a total of 5 of my 30 years.
As for this thing you're looking at now, this is the result of the Startup Institute, an eight-week program I took to shore up my web design skills and get more involved in the startup world in Chicago. Aside from this website I also made one for a local Indian restaurant, a local gift shop, started a podcasting program with a non-profit, designed the prototype of a card game, recorded a remix/mash-up, designed a classical music appreciation app, and did some banner ads for a gift startup.
Conclusions? I'm not ready to sum up, give a speech and make pronouncements. If you want more, send me an email or hit me up on social media. There's more to talk about, and let's make cool things together.