Journalism & Writing Process

Huzzah! My New Book Cover!

Here she is!! The cover of my new book, Listen, World!: How the Intrepid Elsie Robinson Became America’s Most-Read Woman. The book comes out September 27, 2022.

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The Grief Crisis Is Coming

For each person who dies of Covid-19, experts say there are at least nine newly bereaved. We must begin to address the toll.

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My Favorite Poem

After my mother died, I found this typewritten poem stashed in a book that had belonged to her. Reading it, so deep in my grief, I felt equal blows of tough-love and compassion. My mother’s parenting style was steeped in that dichotomy: She loved me so fiercely, so unconditionally, she’d sooner let me fail than rescue me. Reading the poem that day, attributed to Elsie Robinson, it was my mother’s voice that filled my ears….

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Pandemic Grandparenting, Beyond the Dreary Video Calls

As a veteran television journalist, Sally-Ann Roberts knows how to tame an unsteady landscape and will it into submission. She survived 40 years reporting and anchoring the news for WWL-TV in New Orleans, covering 10 races for mayor and in 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a storm that submerged four-fifths of the city in water and left her rebuilding her home for nearly two unforgiving years. But as far as grandparenting during the coronavirus pandemic, she says…

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How New York Changed After the Worst Tragedy Too Few Remember

Thirty years ago, an arson fire at the Happy Land Social Club left 87 people dead. The effects are with us still. Before the fire was out and the smoke had lifted, Ruben Valladares was already in the emergency room with second- and third-degree burns covering half his body. The ambulance call report, handwritten at 3:47 a.m. and updated several times over the next hour, detailed the locations of this injuries.

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Rejecting the Name My Parents Chose

I was named for the main character in “Little Women.” Changing my name may be the most Jo March-like decision I could have made. Despite the byline you see on this article, the name my parents gave me was Jo. Not Josephine, just Jo. Inspired by the main character in “Little Women,” they dreamed I’d grow to become every bit as norm-bashing as Louisa May Alcott’s fictional character, Jo March….Continue Reading

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Gilding the Gutters

MONTCLAIR – JESSICA de KONINCK knew that when she put her home of nearly 21 years on the market, she would need some help. “If I ever have any free time, the last thing I’d ever want to do is spend it decorating,” Ms. de Koninck admitted. Lack of time and interest had indeed taken a toll on her house. Ms. de Koninck had never redecorated while raising her two children, now grown, and her…

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Transitioning From Passive Mourning to Active Remembering Is Key to Building Resilience After Loss

If you’re lucky, like me, soon after your loved one dies, a swarm of friends will embrace you in all sorts of meaningful ways. They’ll pack the funeral home, attend the wake or shiva, and a few may even leave homemade meals wrapped in tin foil by your front door so you won’t have to cook for a while. Rituals surrounding loss tend to kick into gear automatically and I benefitted from being the passive…

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5 Ways Spring Cleaning Can Help You Build Resilience After Loss

After my parents died, I felt a responsibility to hang on to nearly all their belongings – my father’s neckties, my mother’s scarves, their mortgage records, car titles, passports, books, home videos, photographs, and more. For a while, keeping these possessions made me feel closer to my mom and dad. But years later, doing so became a burden and certainly didn’t bring me pleasure. Over time, I figured out that repurposing objects, or simply parting…

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Why Looking at a Photo Can Ease Loneliness and Grief

In the photograph, my mother and I are sitting on the stone lip of a large circular fountain in Paris. Shoulder to shoulder, we’re leaning into each other, fingers interlaced, my head tilted toward her cheek. It’s Saturday, August 31, 1985, and I’m 15 years old. We are in the Tuileries Garden, giddy tourists on a mother-daughter adventure that began just that morning when we landed in France from New York. Studying the photo now,…

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How Celebrating Deceased Loved Ones Can Make You Happier

After several family members died in rapid succession, including my parents, I struggled with knowing how to keep their memories alive. In the days and weeks immediately following their deaths, I never had to look far to tell a story or hear one. But all too soon, I hesitated to bring them up in conversation. Anecdotes I told my children seemed heavy or forced, and I didn’t want to make my friends uncomfortable. …Continue Reading

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What I Share with Angelina Jolie

In 2007 I had my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to prevent my getting ovarian cancer. It was a surgery of the kind that Angelina Jolie recently underwent, as she revealed Tuesday in a New York Times op-ed. Two years ago, Jolie divulged that she’d had a prophylactic double mastectomy — I had done this as well, in 2012. Along with the effects of the surgeries themselves, we now also share a related fallout: surgical…

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Motherless Daughters and Parentless Parents Trek to the Andes to Aid Orphans

When author Hope Edelman and I started planning a trip that would take 16 of our readers to Peru to work in an orphanage and hike the Andes, we ignored concerns about bringing together a group of women who didn’t know each other and convinced ourselves it was a great idea. Our confidence bubbled up partly because our readers share an important bond that links them to each other and us: We’ve all lost our…

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Journalist and Survivor: The Rules Blurred on 9/11

A continuous shower of debris rained on my head, shoulders, and back. I couldn’t tell when it would end because I couldn’t even see my hands. Feeling around my surroundings with my fingers, I determined I wasn’t trapped. Within minutes, a triage tag was forced around my neck and I was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Doctors in the ER cut off my clothes and stuck a tube down my throat to see if…

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How 9/11 Made Journalists Part of the Story

On Monday, I’ll get to see my triage tag in the 9/11 museum—a reminder of the day I reported live from a hospital bed. There’s a small piece of paper at the new National September 11 Memorial Museum with my name scrawled across the top. Underneath my name, in black ballpoint pen, it says: Abd pain; Diff breathing; Inhalation. The triage tag put around my neck on 9/11 will be on display when the museum…

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Why I’m Giving It All to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum

The National September 11 Memorial Museum opens to the public today. Timed to this historic moment, co-editors of Covering Catastrophe: Broadcast Journalists Report September 11 have legally transferred all publishing rights to the Memorial & Museum to support its work in perpetuity. The Museum, before it even officially opened its doors, came under attack for having a gift shop, the same store where Covering Catastrophe will be sold. Former FDNY Deputy Chief Jimmy Riches accused…

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9/11 Survivor Allison Gilbert On The New September 11 Museum And Covering Catastrophe

From almost any spot at Scenic Hudson Park I can see where I nearly died on 9/11. The scene is often unavoidable for me: I live in Irvington and during baseball season that’s where I go to watch my son play home games for his Middle School team. With my back to the Hudson, I wouldn’t trade the view for the world. Nearly thirteen years ago, I was a producer at WNBC-TV and was sent…

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Foods Every Breast Cancer Survivor Should Know About

Women checking in for appointments at the Comprehensive Breast Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York this month are being offered more than a pre-op or post-op surgical visit. On the reception desk, inside a large plastic frame, is a colorful flyer decorated with pictures of luscious-looking fruits and vegetables. It’s an invitation to attend “Superfoods and Super Habits for Super Health,” a seminar that promises to teach patients the foods they should…

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Can the Human Blueprint Have Owners? BRCA Test, Vital for Me, Shouldn’t Be Limited

Myriad began offering BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing in 1996, the same year my mother died of ovarian cancer. Since then, Myriad reports to have screened more than one million patients. That includes Angelina Jolie, and me. Jolie and I have a lot in common: Her mother died of ovarian cancer when she was 56; my mother died of ovarian cancer when she was 57. Angelina tested positive for BRCA1; so did I….Continue Reading

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Why More Women are Choosing Double Mastectomies

Ten months ago, Vanessa Thiemann lay in bed unable to sleep. The 42-year-old single mother of two had a sinus infection, and the pain was making her restless. She tried getting comfortable on her left side, then her right, but she ended up staring at the ceiling in complete darkness, her left hand coming to rest on her chest….Continue Reading

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