Sunday, August 12, 2012


Menlo Park, CA

Is impostor a career path? If so, I think I've got a solid resume.

Journalist Pretender :: Washington, D.C. :: 1996-2005
Across the room from where I sat hung the NIXON RESIGNS print plate of The Washington Post, which actually reads SNGISER NOXIN, because, of course, it's a print plate. It's backwards. At 36, I had flipped my own life around and signed up for Journalism 101. Nine months later, thanks to a boost from my professors, I had launched my new career posing as weekend editor of in a tiny conference room with the top editors at The Washington friggin' Post.

Impostor Wine & Beer Expert :: Kill Devil Hills, NC :: 2005-2010
Chip and I decided to open a wine shop, where, overnight, I stopped posing as a journalist and started impersonating a wine and beer expert. I worked across the room from a DOGFISH HEAD sign that was printed correctly and much easier to read, even if I'd been drinking. Our shop morphed into a raging success (because Chip's not an impostor).

Sailor Impersonator :: Water :: 2010-present
Two years ago, we sold the wine shop, so I could impersonate a sailor on a boat where I'm required to display a sign that tells how far out in the ocean it is legal to dump dunnage. (Don't even ask me what dunnage is. I don't know. I'm an impostor.)

Impostor Travel Writer :: Corte Madera, CA :: August 2012
This week I sit in a small room across from a sign that says, "BOOK PASSAGE" at a travel writers and photographers conference, sharing the same air with the gods of travel writing, real live people whose head shots appear on the cover flaps of my books.

Yesterday, I was honored to be scolded harshly by Georgia Hesse, the founding editor of the San Francisco Examiner, for a) writing in the vein of "what I did on my summer vacation," (just like I'm doing now. Sorry, Georgia.) and b) telling me I needed to look up the word 'enormity.' (She was correct.) (I love her.) The verbal spanking would have bothered me more if I hadn't been so mesmerized by her glasses frames, each side large enough for a yak to walk through. (That sentence ends with a preposition. I'm really sorry, Georgia.) I was also delighted to be told by Jim Benning, editor of World Hum, that my blog looked like it was a holdover from the '90s, and apparently this is not good.

At the end of four 17-hour days on a travel writing bender, I'm left with a inspiration hangover, caught between motivation and intimidation, certain to be busted when I string little letters together and unleash them out here on the worldwide web.

Masquerading is stressful but gloriously so.

Exec Editor of Afar, Travel Editor of Sunset, Author (and my mentor)
David Farley, San Francisco Chronicle Travel Editor.
Author Susan Orleans and
Don George, Contributing Editor of NatGeo Traveler, author, magic dust producer.


  1. I think that "enormity," like "gender," is changing in its role in the stream of American English. You're ahead of your time, that's all.

  2. Of course the "impostor" forgets her amazing work with the Post on elections,especially Bush/Gore and her live online coverage of Hurricane Isabella and her 30min. open boat ride to Hatteras to cover the devastation there. Also, the impostor scooped Barbara Walters, and the world, when she acquired and reviewed Hillary Clinton's book, with Linton Weeks. Also the impostor travel writer forgot about her article in the Sunday New York Times sports page...full page...on free diving in the Bahamas that was over a year ago. 60 minutes did a lame attempt about the same topic last month...Dammm I want to be an impostor like this!