Signing Off

Thanks for checking in. I’m signing off for now. Too many other things are tugging at me, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Thank you to the 80+ writers who contributed essays, the 90+ people who let me interview them, and the community that formed around these stories. For me, thinking out loud with all of you was so worthwhile, and so fun.

Logistics note: all of the content will remain online at; I just won’t be around to stir it!

Photo credit: Chris Walton of Visual Story Productions.


#92: Arthur Chu, Writer and Former Jeopardy! Champ

The Work Stew podcast is still on hold; there’s just not enough time in the day right now. But last month, I read a piece in Salon called “Gather around, screwed millennials: You must see this.” It made me want to pick up the phone and chat with the writer, who is none other than Arthur Chu, the former Jeopardy! champion who has emerged as one of today’s most consistently interesting columnists.

About Arthur Chu: Arthur Chu is a voiceover artist, stage actor, public speaker, and freelance writerand an 11-time Jeopardy! champion. He currently lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife and what he described to The Daily Beast as an “alarmingly” indeterminate number of cats.

Image: used with permission from Arthur Chu.

#91: Bethany Allen—Writer, Mother, Citizen

Listen to the interview by clicking the arrow on the audio player below.

Brief note from Work Stew editor Kate Gace Walton: Sometimes I request an interview because the specific job that someone does is intriguing to me; for example, this was clearly the case when I talked to an air traffic controller, a high-rise window washer, and a python hunter.

Other times, what I’m most interested in discussing is not so much a specific job, but rather work in the broadest sense: the work of being a parent, the work of making a living, and the work of helping to shape the world in which we live. That’s what Bethany Allen and I discussed in this interview (which I’m releasing a few days early because it’s longer than usual). As always, thanks for listening.

About Bethany Allen: Bethany M. Allen is a writer and editor living in the Boston area and the proud mother of three (adult) children. She is currently working on a trilogy of original screenplays and a book about family, race, identity, and love.

Photo: used with permission from Bethany Allen. Allen (second from right), surrounded by her children.

#90: “Veeptopus” Artist Jonathan Crow

Listen to the interview by clicking the arrow on the audio player below.

For many of us, the past few weeks have been especially hard and depressing. As a nation, and as individuals, we are grappling with a host of painful issues. And grapple we must; bending that long arc towards justice is arguably the one job we all share. That said, it’s a tough job, making moments of comic relief not only acceptable, in my view, but necessary.

Yesterday, my moment of comic relief came via the work of artist Jonathan Crow. My response to his Veeptopus series, which I glimpsed by chance in my Facebook feed, was to laugh out loud. I was grateful for the guffaw, and curious, too. Personally, I didn’t need a why, but I still wanted to know if there was one. So I called Crow and asked: why put an octopus on the head of every U.S. vice president?

About Jonathan Crow: Jonathan Crow was born in Toledo, Ohio. He grew up in Bowling Green and currently lives in Los Angeles, with stops in Austria, Boston, and rural Japan along the way. He spent much of his misspent youth getting largely useless graduate degrees, including an MFA in Film from CalArts. When not drawing pictures, he is a screenwriter and a writer whose work has appeared in Yahoo! Movies, The Hollywood Reporter, The History Channel, Open Culture and other publications. His Etsy shop is completely delightful.

Photo notes: both images are used with permission from Jonathan Crow.

#89: Margaret Corvid, Professional Dominatrix

Listen to the interview by clicking the arrow on the audio player below.

Sex workers, even those operating legally, risk being treated as criminals. Many also face relentless moralizing from family, friends, and casual acquaintances. I wanted to talk to someone who endures all that—to find out how, and why.

In this interview, professional dominatrix Margaret Corvid explains what her work involves, how she got started, and why she’s stayed at it.

About Margaret Corvid: Margaret Corvid is a writer, activist, and professional dominatrix living in the South West of the UK. She blogs for the New Statesman and has appeared recently in, the GuardianJezebel, and xoJane. She tweets at @mistress_magpie.

#88: Mortician Caitlin Doughty

Listen to the interview by clicking the arrow on the audio player below.

Generally speaking, our culture is not one that deals well with death. Caitlin Doughty, an LA-based mortician and best-selling author, is on a life-long quest to change this.

When we spoke, we discussed:

—how she became a “death professional” 

—the biggest misunderstanding that most people have about the work she does

—and how, with her new venture Undertaking L.A.she aims to help people help themselves…to take care of dead bodies.

About Caitlin Doughty: Caitlin Doughty is an LA-based mortician and writer who founded The Order of the Good Death, a movement focused  on preparing “a death phobic culture for their inevitable mortality.” Doughty hosts a regular video series called Ask a Mortician and is also the author of The New York Times bestseller Smoke Gets In Your Eyes…and Other Lessons from the Crematory.

Photos: Used with permission from Caitlin Doughty.

Production notes: This episode was edited by Chris Walton of Visual Story Productions. The interview was conducted via Skype, and unfortunately we didn’t have a good connection. I’m grateful to Chris for cleaning up the sound as much as possible, and I would ask that you consider the remaining effects “atmospheric.” Thanks also to forensic pathologist Dr. Judy Melinek for suggesting Caitlin Doughty as an interview subject.


#87: Joe Loya, Former Bank Robber

Listen to the interview by clicking the arrow on the audio player below.

I wanted to speak with Joe Loya not because I see criminality as a career path, but because it is a life path for many:  it’s hard to find good information on the number of Americans who have been convicted of a felony, but one estimate from the Bureau of Justice Statistics holds that 1 in 37 U.S. adults has served time in a  state or federal prison. I wanted to hear Joe’s story: how he came to rob his first bank, what it was like to live a life on the run, and what has changed—and not changed—since then.

About Joe Loya: Joe Loya is an essayist, playwright, actor/director, and author of the critically-acclaimed memoir, “The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell: Confessions of a Bank Robber.” His essays have appeared in The LA Times, The UTNE Reader, McSweeney’s, and many anthologies. He is currently writing a book about being an ex-con dad trying to raise a good daughter. It’s titled, “Dada, Tell Me A Zombie Story.” (Like him, she loves all manner of resurrection narratives.)

Photo credits: ‘Before’ and ‘After’ provided by Joe Loya. Before (right): FBI surveillance photo from 1988. After: author photo taken by Reid Yalom, 2004. 

#86: Karen Lynch, Retired Homicide Detective

Listen to the interview by clicking the arrow on the audio player below.

In this interview, I spoke with Karen Lynch, a 29-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department. We discussed what it was that drew her to a life in law enforcement, why the role of homicide detective was her “dream job,” and—very briefly—her perspective on the events unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri.

About Karen Lynch: Karen Lynch is a native San Franciscan. After graduating from UC Berekley, she joined the San Francisco Police Department in 1981. She lives in Novato with her husband and their three children, including Kyra, who was the subject of an essay that won the 2012 Notes & Words national essay contest.

Her memoir, Good Cop Bad Daughter, is the story of how growing up with a bi-polar mother trained Karen to be a cop.


#85: Writer Leah Lax

Listen to the interview by clicking the arrow on the audio player below.

Another writer interview??? I know—I’ve done a string of them recently. For what it’s worth, I do have other sorts of people lined up. Coming soon on the podcast: a South African mediator, a retired homicide detective, and that elusive chimney sweep.

But first, yes, another writer, simply because I received an email from Leah Lax that went like this: “I spent thirty years as a covered woman among the Hassidim—Jewish ultra-orthodox. Birth control was forbidden, so I had seven kids in ten years. Oh, and I’m a lesbian—my secret all those years.”

Needless to say, I had to learn more.

About Leah Lax: Leah Lax has published award-winning short fiction, prose poetry, essays, stage productions, a major opera (with an NPR broadcast), and soon, in 2015, a memoir–Uncovered. To learn more about her life and work, visit her website.

#84: Beatrice Hogg on Being Over 50 and Long-Term Unemployed

Listen to the interview by clicking the arrow on the audio player below.

When I first connected with Beatrice Hogg, she said she wanted to share her story to show people that “being over fifty and long-term unemployed isn’t the end of the world.” In this interview, she shares the events that derailed her original career, and she discusses her next steps.

About Beatrice Hogg: Beatrice M. Hogg was born in Greensboro, North Carolina and raised in the coal-mining town of Lawrence, Pennsylvania. She has a B.A. in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. Since moving to California in 1988, her articles and essays have appeared in many publications and anthologies. She spent over twenty years working in the social services field, including work determining eligibility for public assistance programs, unemployment insurance benefits, Social Security benefits, and Supplemental Security Income. For five years, she facilitated a writing workshop for women at St. John’s Shelter Program for Women and Children in Sacramento, CA. Genesis Press published her novel “Three Chords One Song” as an e-Book in 2012. She is working on “WTF: Five Years of Bad Decisions,” a book about her experiences as a long-term unemployed woman over fifty. Her short essays on family, music, and more can be found on her blog, Marvellaland.