About

Author Barbara Falconer Newhall at home, wearing glasses, Photo by Barbara Newhall

Selfie by Barbara Newhall

I’m Barbara Falconer Newhall and, like everybody I know, I have a serious case of the human condition. I’m grumpy, judgy, absent-minded, and given to all-day shopping expeditions. I’m also, like most people, susceptible to occasional, inexplicable bouts of compassion and generosity — which, of course, is what makes the human condition so darned interesting.

cover of paperback book proof Wrestling with God, Stories of Doubt and Faith, by Barbara Falconer Newhall. Patheos Press, 2015, won an IPPY gold first place in its category.

Not only that, I’m mortal, sad to say. And I’m getting more mortal by the day. More mortal than I was as a bright-eyed, forever-young teenager growing up in the suburbs of Detroit. More mortal than I was mothering two little ones while holding down a part-time newspaper job here in the San Francisco Bay Area. And more mortal than I was as I wrote away on the one thing I thought might let my words, if not my flesh and blood, live on forever – “Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith.”

You might like that book. Whether you are a believer or a skeptic, but especially if you find yourself a little of both, you’ll find it enlightening, though I can’t promise Enlightening. “Wrestling with God” is a skeptic’s pilgrimage of discovery (mine) through the religions of the world in search of a way to believe in God – or Something – in our multi-faith, globalized, tech-obsessed, twenty-first-century world. It’s got an atheist, a witch, a fundamentalist Christian, a progressive Muslim, Jews, Catholics, a Buddhist and a Hindu. The whole ball of wax.

A Career in Journalism

Some background. For years now, I’ve been touting myself as a serious journalist. But the fact is I’m not. Serious, that is.

I am a journalist. I’ve been on the staff at places like Good Housekeeping magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Oakland Tribune, and I’ve got boxes and boxes of clips to prove it.

Zodiac News Service owner Jon Newhall removes the garter from his bride, Barbara Falconer, at their wedding reception in San Francisco's University Club in 1977. Photo by Jerry Telfer

Jon and I get married in 1977. Tossing the garter? A fine old tradition that both our kids eschewed at their weddings. Photo by Jerry Telfer

But the truth is I’d rather write about my belly fat than subprime mortgages. I’d rather report the wine preferences of my daughter’s new husband or have a heart-to-heart with another grandmother about how she manages the art of long-distance grandparenting than contemplate the Keystone oil pipeline.

I’m an informed citizen. I pride myself on having a political point of view. (If you must know, I’m a knee-jerk moderate.) It’s just that, when it comes to writing, I’d rather report the personal side of the news. And that means telling stories from my own life that are poignant, life-altering and funny. Especially funny.

For a long time I spent my days working on “Wrestling with God,” published in 2015 by Patheos Press. That was totally pleasurable. (OK, sometimes it was torture, but mostly it was a pleasure.) But then I finally noticed that sitting here at my computer all the day long was just too danged solitary.

So I started this website in the hope that it would bring some living, thinking, chatting people – that means you – into my writing room here in the Bay Area. What started out as a quickie blog back in 2009 has morphed into a tome of 500-plus personal essays. Some of them date back to the 1980s when my kids were little and still within breathing distance. Some date to last week, when Peter and Christina were grown-up thirty-

Jon Newhall and his two schoolage children in 1991. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Jon and our children in 1991. Those cute little kids are gone, gone, gone. Photo by Barbara Newhall

somethings texting me or Skyping from the Upper Midwest or Southern California. It’s kind of quiet around the house now, just Jon and me watching the news and knocking out the Sunday crossword puzzle together.

So. Please visit often. Think of this website and its hundreds of stories and photos as a book (a scrapbook, a blook, an honest-to-goodness book?). Check out the Table of Contents on the Home Page. It’ll take you to specific topics like “The Art of Grandparenting,” “I Married That Guy,” and “Civics 101.” There, I’ll do my best to make you cry a little, and laugh a lot.

Some History

Going way back: my first journalism job was in the steno pool at the old Look magazine on Madison Avenue in midtown Manhattan (and, yes, I had to learn to take dictation). In those days it was tough for a woman to be hired on as a writer at places like Look, Time or Newsweek. (Think “Mad Men.”) The women’s magazines were more welcoming, so when I was offered a spot as an assistant editor at Good Housekeeping, I grabbed it.

I spent four years in New York, then moved to San Francisco, where I  acquired a pair of sandals and some leather pants, joined the women’s

Author Barbara Falconer Newhall's children and their significant others,, Thanksgiving, 2013. Photo by Barbara Newhall

The grown-up kids and their SOs come home for Thanksgiving in 2013. Photo by Barbara Newhall

movement, demonstrated against the war in Vietnam, spoke up for civil rights, and spent a few precarious years as a freelance writer.

When I’d had enough of living hand to mouth, I went to work for a alternative radio station news service called Zodiac. I later married my boss, Jon, who is another (happily long) story. After Zodiac, I worked on the San Francisco Chronicle, then the Oakland Tribune and the Contra Costa Times. My book, “Wrestling with God,” was inspired by my stint as the religion reporter at the Times. You’ll find posts about the book, along with reflections on my spiritual journey, such as it is, under the category My Rocky Spiritual Journey.

At the Trib I wrote a weekly column about the hectic life of a woman with a job, a husband, two young children, a conscience and a much-needed sense of humor. You’ll read some of those old columns – and some new ones in the same vein – under the categories A Case of the Human Condition and My Ever-Changing Family.

I also do mini book reviews, and from time to time I pass along writing tips and reflections on the writing life. Look for those stories in Writing and Reading.

About Barbara Falconer Newhall -- at a Zumba class. Barbara Newhall photo.

I’m on the left — at Zumba. Barbara Newhall photo

Some other things you might like to know about me: I grew up in Michigan, graduated with a teacher’s certificate and a BA in English from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), and spent a year at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. I like hiking, Zumba and my trusty point-and-shoot camera.

I live with Jon in a mid-century, three-story ranch house on a woodsy hillside overlooking an aging Monterrey pine and an acre or two of lush poison oak.

What’s Next?

What’s next? Well, the truth is, I’m getting older. I’ve been doing that for decades, of course, and so have you. But I have now officially entered the fourth quarter of my life, which gives me a lovely vantage point for surveying the human condition, especially my particular case of it. I’ll let you know what I discover in this, to me, brand-new territory. Who knows. Maybe my next book will be all about getting older . . . and older.

I hope you’ll enjoy the thoughts and stories I share on these pages. Please subscribe to my blog via email or sign up for an RSS feed. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest and share links to your favorite posts with friends. And click that comment button from time to time. I’d love to hear from you.  — BFN

About Author Barbara Falconer Newhall in front of the Anne Frank House, Amsterdam,. Barbara Newhall photo

Diarist Anne Frank has been an inspiration to me as a writer ever since my mother gave me a copy of her book when I was a young teen. Here, I’m paying my respects at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Barbara Newhall photo

Share