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A few things about me… I have written six books, several of them on literary style (including Wired Style, and Sin and Syntax). These are intended as romps through English and subversive guides to grammar and good writing. They got me dubbed “Marian the Librarian on a Harley, or E. B. White on acid.”


If you are a lover of all things syntactical, you might enjoy my eight-part series on sentences for “Draft,” in The New York Times. And check out Writing Character, chock-full of prompts on that most important aspect of the craft.


My other books are an intellectual coffee-table book on hula titled The Natives Are Restless and a picture book for children, set in Hawai‘i, called ‘Iwalani’s Tree. I also write articles on politics, culture, history, and travel, as well as essays on everything from the name I share with my grandmother to my odd taste in food.

I grew up in Hawaii, speaking “proper” English at home and Hawaiian creole (or “Pidgin”) with friends. My weird bilingualism led to a fascination with the edges of English.

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I left the islands to study English Literature at Princeton University, after which I wrote short stories and performed monologues in dim San Francisco coffeehouses.


I can’t say I went straight after that, but I did earn a masters in Journalism at UC Berkeley, after which I worked as a reporter and editor at the Gilroy Dispatch, the Oakland Tribune, and the San Francisco Examiner. I truly started dabbling in the idiosyncrasies of the mother tongue, though, while copy chief at Wired magazine.


As a freelance writer, I’ve written about Latin plurals and Latino culture, Berkeley politics and Hawaiian sovereignty.

The fascination with character has led to dozens of profiles. My stories have appeared in newspapers from the Los Angeles Times to the Miami Herald, as well as in magazines like The Atlantic, National Geographic Adventure, Afar, Smithsonian, Health, and Honolulu. I love the travel essay, and have been published in anthologies including France, A Love Story (Seal Press) and Best Travel Writing 2006 (Travelers’ Tales).

I am as passionate about editing and teaching as I am about writing. I have edited more than three dozen books, on everything from leadership and red-state politics, to Mexican history and war and peace. Today I work as managing editor at Arion Press in San Francisco, where we pair classical works of literature with original art in beautiful handmade volumes.


I have also directed conferences for midcareer journalists, including the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism and UC Berkeley’s Latest in Longform. I run an annual writers retreat in Hawaii and speak all over the place. I am a founder of The Prose Doctors, an editors collective, and I work one-on-one with many published writers. (More on that work here.)


Oh, and if you’ve heard that I dance a damned good hula, I do.

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