I didn’t come from a family of dreamers or visionaries. I was raised in a working class neighborhood in San Francisco that felt like a small village. I went to the same elementary school as my mom and I had some of her same teachers. Many of the kids I knew had parents who knew my family. This neighborhood of laborers, cops and firemen read about the city’s luxuries in the newspaper. When we took the streetcar downtown, the mothers chose our outfits carefully, making sure that the girls wore gloves and carried little handbags. Although we didn’t feel comfortable in those clothes or in those stores, we never wanted anyone to think we didn’t belong there. In my little handbag I always carried a notebook and a pencil. I never knew when I’d see something I needed to write down.
That little notebook was what saved me, or at least secured me. Most of the members of my family were very unreliable. Alcohol made them that way. The difference between what they said and what they did was huge. The notebook was the place I recorded these disparities. Gradually I understood that this writing habit kept me sane. As it turned out, it was also what made me into a journalist.
I worked at The New York Times, The San Jose Mercury News and People magazine, learning how to interview and to meet a deadline.
At People I started writing books with famous people and regular people who had powerful stories to tell. I’ve written eighteen books, three of which have been bestsellers. I love collaboration, something I did daily as a journalist and do joyfully when I work with others.
All the while I’ve written books, I’ve continued to write in my own voice for magazines and to write humor pieces. I’ve received many honors for my investigative work, been nominated for the ASME National Magazine Award in the public service category, and was a finalist for the PEN/USA Literary Non-Fiction Award. I’ve also received grants in support of my investigative reporting from The Nation Institute for Investigative Journalism and the George Polk Foundation. I still carry a notebook in my purse.