Big Belated Book News!

If you haven’t already heard: I’m writing a book!

The working title is Shake It Off: A Personal Journey Through The Science of Facing Our Fears, and it will be published by Penguin Canada (in Canada) and The Experiment (stateside). It will combine a personal narrative about my attempts to face and overcome, or at least renegotiate, my biggest fears with a deep dive into the science of fear: how it works in our brains and our bodies, and what it means, in concrete terms, to “cure,” “conquer,” or otherwise defeat our fears. I’m excited about it!

This means I haven’t been publishing a ton of other stories in the last while, and won’t be for the next while either. I’m hunkered down for the winter trying to get this thing done.

The plan is to publish in early 2020. If you’d like updates on my writing process, what I’m learning, reading recommendations, and – eventually – information on how to buy the book or attend an event near you, I have a newsletter you can subscribe to. It will come out once a month, and I hope it will be a fun and/or useful read.

New(ish) Stories

I published a heap of new work in the early months of 2018! Some highlights:

For Outside, I traveled to Nunavut to complete a two-week boot camp in polar travel and survival. I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of memorable trips for work, but this one was something special. I wrote about learning the secret to success on the ice.

Though it was published in 2018, that story was based on a trip I did in March 2017. The confidence I got from my time in Nunavut allowed me to enter the 100-mile Yukon Arctic Ultra here at home this past winter, and I wrote about my experience in the race for the Globe and Mail: I Would Walk 100 Miles. I also wrote a short item for Outside about the catastrophic injuries sustained by one racer during this year’s event.

Moving away from my cold-and-snow beat, I wrote a feature for WIRED’s Life Issue about the evolving science of saving extreme preemies: Saving Baby Boy Green. I really poured everything I had into that one, and I hope you’ll check it out!

For Longreads, I followed up on the Freelancers’ Roundtable that I put together a couple years ago. This time, I moderated a panel of smart folks talking about writing on both sides of the fiction-nonfiction divide.

For Seattle Met, I wrote about the mysterious disappearance of a crab boat in the Bering Sea, and the Coast Guard investigation that followed: The Boat at the Bottom of the Sea.

And most recently, Hakai published my dispatch from the westernmost village in Alaska, where a newly formed polar bear patrol aims to protect humans from bears – and bears from humans.

What I Wrote In 2017

Oops! Somehow the year got away from me, and now it’s December 1 and I haven’t posted an update here since 2016… So, without further ado, here’s everything I wrote this year.

Back in January, The Walrus published the last in my series of short dispatches from Nunavut: Running the Road to Nowhere. Sticking with the northern theme, in February I wrote a quick hit for Hakai about a new study of Arctic shipping patterns, and for Pacific Standard I interviewed Alethea Arnaquq-Baril about her excellent and important documentary, Angry Inuk. I also wrote a short, fun dispatch for Up Here about life on Arctic Internet Time.

In late winter I had a traffic jam of features coming out all in a row. For Longreads, I profiled an elite birder and explored our need to classify and categorize the world around us: Bird Man. For Esquire, I attempted to cure my fear of heights by learning to rock climb: Exposure Therapy and the Fine Art of Scaring the Shit Out of Yourself On Purpose. For Seattle Met, I looked back at the aftermath of the Tunnel Creek avalanche (of “Snow Fall” fame) five years later: After the Fall. And for Outside, I wrote about a wild endurance climbing competition in the Ozarks: Headbangers Wall.

I also reviewed Dan Egan’s new book, The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, for the Globe and Mail. (You should read it, it’s great!) And I really enjoyed writing this short dispatch for Pacific Standard about a communal sunset in Arches National Park.

In the summer, Up Here published my short profile of a woman who built an Arctic archive on Baffin Island: The Accidental Archivist. Outside dispatched me to the Kenai Peninsula to cover another extremely rugged event: Mount Marathon is the Toughest 5K on the Planet. And Amazon published my Kindle Single about a disastrous 1928 Arctic airship expedition – it’s available for purchase for just a couple of bucks, and I’d be thrilled if you checked it out: Mussolini’s Arctic Airship. (That’s the U.S. Amazon site. And here’s the link for Canadians.)

That’s it! Roughly 38,000 words, less than half my usual output in the last few years, but my goal has been to get to a place where I can write less and still pay the bills. (I’ve got a few things slated to come out in January that I’ve already written as well. Stay tuned.)

Still a month to go, but happy almost-New Year!

What I Read In 2016

As usual, I read a lot this year – mostly nonfiction, and more articles than books. Here are a few of the ones that really stuck with me.

All the way back in January, WIRED published a heartbreaking story by Jason Tanz about a video game dedicated to a dying child.

Evan Ratliff reported and wrote (and continued to report new sections after the first ones appeared!) this crime serial about a remarkably successful criminal mastermind, and his downfall.

Shane Bauer had a wild year. He went undercover as a guard at a private prison, resulting in this long, powerful expose, and then infiltrated a private militia that has taken it upon itself to patrol the Mexican border – another powerful story.

Jon Mooallem might be my favorite writer working in magazines right now. I loved his story about an online cloud appreciation society. His look at Steven Spielberg, Roald Dahl, and childhood was lovely too.

This story from The Atlantic about an ancient papyrus and Jesus’ wife was bananas. Jen Percy’s piece on the families still searching for loved ones years after the Japanese tsunami was crushingly sad. This Harpers Letter From El Salvador, on what happens to women suspected of inducing a miscarriage there, was disturbing and incredibly important.

On the book-length side of things, I was moved by Blair Braverman’s debut memoir, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube – nominally about learning to dogsled but really about learning to navigate a male-dominated, potentially hostile world as a young woman drawn to the wilderness. I also enjoyed Lynsey Addario’s memoir about being a war photographer: It’s What I Do.

I’d been waiting for years to read my friend Luke Dittrich’s book, Patient H.M., the story of neuroscience’s most famous patient but also the story of Luke’s family. It’s really gripping. I was decades late to the party on Deborah, by David Roberts: a classic mountaineering memoir that’s like no other I’ve read, focused on the dynamics between two climbers rather than the mechanics of the climb.

After my mom’s death last year, I held off for several months before delving into the world of grief memoirs. When I did start reading them, the book I liked best was Meghan O’Rourke’s The Long Goodbye, which mixes personal narrative with some interesting research into the science, history, and literature of grief.

Happy Almost-New Year!

Since I last updated the website (I know, I know) I’ve had a heap of new stuff published. In July, I had three magazine pieces appear: In Canadian Geographic, I wrote a short feature about my experience riding with the bike couriers of Montreal. (The story’s not online, but there’s a short accompanying blog post.) For Outside, I reviewed Blair Braverman’s wonderful new memoir, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. And for Southwest: The Magazine’s national parks issue, I wrote about scattering my mom’s ashes in Canyonland National Park. (The story starts on page 74.)

For Hakai, a new-ish Canadian online magazine based on Vancouver Island, and dedicated to “coastal science and society,” I wrote a quick thing about coastal horror movies, and something longer about a Nunavut community’s fight against oil and gas development – and how Greenpeace got involved.

I wrote a handful of online pieces for The Walrus: dispatches from Pond Inlet and Cambridge Bay, in Nunavut, and a look at the Yukon’s recent territorial election.

I stepped down as a contributing editor for Up Here at the end of May, but I’m still writing for the magazine occasionally – including a profile of my old mining crew chief, a quick dispatch from the Royal Tour, and this short essay about going to survival school.

As always, I’ve got lots more coming soon…

As promised, here’s my feature from the latest issue of Pacific Standard – it’s about the implications of a growing cruise industry in the Northwest Passage, with a focus on what that industry could mean for the people who actually live in the Arctic. I hope you’ll check it out!

There are a couple of online extras to go with the story: A selection of photos from my Northwest Passage cruise last summer, and an interview with the marine biologist who is studying the impact of increased shipping on narwhal in the region.

I also wrote about my most memorable afternoon on the cruise for Up Here: A Meal in Franklin Strait.

I don’t have a ton of stories in the about-to-be-published end of the pipeline right now, but I have a lot of reporting/travel planned for the summer. So stay tuned!

New Stories


After a long lull, I’ve had a few new stories drop in the last month.

For Longreads, I sat down (well, virtually sat down) with ace freelancers Jason Fagone, Josh Dean, and May Jeong to talk about the business of freelance writing.

Here’s a short essay I wrote for Up Here’s sports issue about the steep learning curve of outdoor sports in the Yukon: Swimming in Cold Water.

And I wrote a dispatch for The Walrus about the challenges of maintaining natural golf greens at 64 degrees north.

I also wrapped up my year-long Pacific Standard column, Dispatches From a Changing Arctic, with one last entry. But that’s not the last you’ll hear from me at Pacific Standard – my print feature story about the impact of a growing cruise industry in the Northwest Passage is due out in May! The photo above was from my incredible cruise through the Passage last summer…