I’m Barbara Falconer Newhall, and I have a confession to make. I’ve been touting myself as a serious journalist for decades, but the fact is I’m not. Serious, that is.
I’m 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.
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 boyfriend or have a heart-to-heart with a Sufi about her spiritual life 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 a book — “Wrestling with God,” published recently 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, breathing, chatting people – that means you – into my writing room here in the San Francisco Bay Area. So please visit often. I’ll do my best to make you cry a little, and laugh a lot.
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 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 movement, 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.
I was the religion reporter at the Times. 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’ll also be doing some mini book reviews — check out Book Openers. And from time to time I’ll be passing on writing tips and reflections on the writing life in The Writing Room.
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 photography.
My children are now 32 and 34, and I live with my husband in a mid-century house on a woodsy hillside overlooking an aging Monterrey pine and a half-acre of lush poison oak.
The Book I’m Working On
My book? Wrestling with God was inspired by my stint as the religion reporter at The Contra Costa Times. It’s one woman’s search (mine) for a way to believe in God (or Something!) in our globalized, post-modern, multi-faith, skeptical, twenty-first-century world.
To find some answers I opened my mind and heart to the stories of an amazing group of people — Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, fundamentalists, Native Americans, Witches and one very spiritual atheist. People of many temperaments — from fundamentalist to progressive — have participated in the writing of this book, and they’ve been wonderful company on this rocky spiritual journey of mine.
You’ll find posts about the book in the My Rocky Spiritual Journey category.
I hope you will enjoy the thoughts and stories I share on these pages. Please subscribe to my blog via email or RSS feed, follow me on Facebook or Twitter, 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