Meet Our Outrageously Talented Contributing Writers

Our Writers


Senior Education Editor
NPR News

“There are many great teachers and mentors who have shaped my life. One who is in my thoughts often is my high school photography teacher. Simpson Cloyd was a gruff World War II veteran from Kentucky. For anyone who was willing to learn, he didn’t care when the bell rang or when the school day was over, and he treated us like grownups. He instilled in me a love of images and cameras and photography, and of the science and technology behind it. I still feel it today, every time I pick up a camera or take a picture with my phone.”

Steve Drummond leads NPR's education reporting project, NPR Ed, which launched in March 2014.  Drummond joined NPR in 2000 as an editor on the national desk. In 2003, he became the senior editor of All Things Considered. He returned to the national desk in 2004 to edit coverage of poverty and welfare, education, religion, and crime and punishment. From 2007 through 2013, he was NPR’s  Senior National Editor and oversaw domestic news coverage and a team of more than 60 reporters, producers and editors in Washington, DC, and 18 bureaus around the country.   Before joining NPR, Drummond spent six years as a senior editor and writer for Education Week, and has been a reporter with The Tampa Tribune and The St. Petersburg Times in Florida and at the Associated Press in Detroit. He has written for a variety of publications including The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press, The New York Times, and Teacher magazine.  After getting a graduate degree in education, Steve also worked as middle and high school teacher.   At NPR his work has been honored with many of journalism's highest awards, including three Peabody Awards, two Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University awards, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the Edward R. Murrow Award. Drummond holds a bachelor's degree and two master's degrees, in journalism and education, from the University of Michigan. In the fall of 2013 he was a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University.


Author and Contributing Editor and Contributor to Vogue and

“My favorite teacher ever was my high school science and math teacher John Pearce. Astronomy (including building our own telescope, and hand ground, with infinite precision, the lens and it was insanely powerful.) Calculus (which I almost flunked and talked him into teaching me a solo course in non-Euclidean geometry—it was a progressive boarding school.) And he taught a class called Natural Science, that was an environmental science class before it’s time, where he taught us. that everything is related. So much of what he taught us turned out to be so many years later, foreshadowing theories about ozone depletion and global warming and dependence on coal and oil. I still marvel at what he taught me; the mathematical formulas, plain sense botanical observations, and reflection on the composition of air, fire, water, not be simplistic, as a full scale laboratory involved (chemistry was a prerequisite before you could take this course) and also involved the splendor of wild-life and nature of 70 acres of South Woodstock, Vermont and the observation of four very distinct seasons. Our final exam was to sit in the woods for four hours and write about everything we saw and how it all related to each other. 'Everything is related'—John Pearce”

Amy Ephron is the author of the award-winning and bestselling A Cup of Tea.  She is also a contributor and contributing editor at Vogue and The Castle in the Mist is her first novel for children.  She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and any of their children who stop by.  


Contributing Editor
Atlantic Magazine

“I owe a tremendous amount to Kenny Sholl, the assistant headmaster of the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. My football coach on the field and my geometry teacher off it, Kenny has set an example for literally thousands of boys over three and a half decades in the classroom. His intelligence, sense of humor, and commitment to teaching, training, and mentoring boys are all things I try to carry into my life as I raise two boys of my own.”

Andrew Exum is a contributing editor at The Atlantic magazine. Until January of 2017, he was deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East Policy at the Pentagon. He began his career as an officer in the U.S. Army and fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Andrew was educated in Philadelphia, Beirut, and London.


Author, Journalist, and Editor of The O. Henry Prize Stories

“The importance of a one-on-one connection between teacher and student is certainly true of the teacher who most influenced me, Irving Kizner, my Latin teacher at Hunter College High School in New York City from seventh through twelfth grade. He gave me a language with which to speak about language—the beautiful balance of Latin. He also was a trustworthy adult at a time when my troubles seemed insoluble and most interactions with adults felt dangerous. He even persuaded my math teacher to pass me (and it took some persuasion) so I could graduate from high school. Mr. Kizner died last year and his children received a large bouquet of tributes from his over-fifty years of teaching and helping his students to be better human beings. I never forgot him and neither did many others lucky enough to be his student.”

Laura Furman was born in New York, and educated in New York City public schools, including Hunter College High School, and at Bennington College. Her first story appeared in The New Yorker in 1976; since then work has appeared in Yale Review, Southwest Review, Subtropics, Ploughshares, The American Scholar, and elsewhere. Her books include three collections of short stories, two novels, and a memoir. Recipient of fellowships from the Dobie Paisano Project, John S. Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and New York State Council on the Arts, she’s been series editor of The O. Henry Prize Stories since 2002; each year she selects the twenty winning stories. She is a professor emerita in the English Department of the University of Texas at Austin. Her most recent story collection is The Mother Who Stayed. She lives in Austin, Texas.


Sports Journalist

“Like so many young kids, I grew up convinced I was going to be a professional athlete. That dream fell through by the time I’d reached ninth grade, at which point it was Renee Burke, my high school yearbook and newspaper advisor, who helped me discover my voice — and my backup plan — through journalism. For four years at Boone High School in Orlando, I practically lived in Renee’s classroom, where she came to work early and stayed way too late, way too often, to teach me and my classmates the finer points of everything from writing and editing to photography and page design. But beyond that, her class was a sanctuary where I felt most comfortable being myself (not to mention the place where I met my future wife). More than a decade has passed since I graduated, and I’m fortunate to still consider Renee one of my closest friends. ”

An Orlando native and graduate of the University of Central Florida, Sam Gardner spent eight years telling athletes’ stories at FOX Sports before joining Florida Citrus Sports as the organization’s assistant director of communications earlier this year. In 2015, his “One & Done” series placed fourth in the projects category among publications with a circulation greater than 175,000 at the APSE’s annual writing contest. You can email him at or follow him on Twitter at @sam_gardner.


Executive Editor
Texas Monthly

“Growing up in a small Texas city, I played in the high school orchestra under David Holcombe. Our performances were always close to chaos: few of us were exactly musical talents. But Mr. Holcombe taught us to play with passion, regardless how many notes we missed. ”

Skip Hollandsworth grew up in Wichita Falls, Texas, attended TCU in Fort Worth and after graduation worked as a reporter and columnist for newspapers in Dallas. He also has worked as a television producer and documentary filmmaker. Since 1989, he has been a staff writer at Texas Monthly magazine, where he has received several journalism awards, including a National Headliners Award, the national John Hancock Award for Excellence in Business and Financial Journalism, the City and Regional Magazine gold award for feature writing, and the Texas Institute of Letters O. Henry award for magazine writing. He has been a finalist four times for a National Magazine Award, the magazine industry’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, and in 2010 he won the National Magazine Award in feature writing for “Still Life,” his story about a young man who, after suffering a crippling football injury in high school, spent the next 33 years in his bedroom, unable to move. The movie "Bernie," which Hollandsworth co-wrote with Richard Linklater, was released in May 2012. It is based on a story he wrote in the January 1998 Texas Monthly titled "Midnight in the Garden of East Texas." His book, The Midnight Assassin, a true historical thriller, was published in April 2016 and became a New York Times bestseller. The Midnight Assassin is a history of Austin, Texas in the year 1885 when a brutal but brilliant serial killer went on a rampage, ritualistically slaughtering seven women over the course of twelve months, and setting off a citywide panic. Three years later, when a man nicknamed Jack the Ripper carried out a similar series of killings in the Whitechapel district of London, England, Scotland Yard detectives speculated that he was the Austin killer who had traveled overseas to continue to carry out his "diabolical work." In its review, The New York Times described the The Midnight Assassin as “true crime of high quality,” “smart and restrained” and “chilling.” The Wall Street Journal called the book a “thoroughly researched, excitingly written history” and an “absorbing work.”


Classical Music Critic
San Francisco Chronicle

“My elementary school music teacher, a gruff and committed educator named Richard Marcus, taught us great swatches of the American songbook — folk songs, Tin Pan Alley ditties, Civil War songs, blues, and so much more — just by having us sing them over and over. It might not have seemed so profound at the time, but decades later, everyone who came through his classes still has a vast and unshakable cultural legacy at their fingertips.”

Joshua Kosman has covered classical music for the San Francisco Chronicle since 1988, reviewing and reporting on the wealth of orchestral, operatic, chamber and contemporary music throughout the Bay Area. He holds degrees in music from Yale and UC Berkeley, and is a contributor to the New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, 2nd Edition, and the New Grove Dictionary of Opera. He is a member of the Music Critics' Association of North America and a past winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for music criticism, and his articles have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club. In his spare time, he is the co-constructor of a weekly cryptic crossword puzzle in The Nation magazine, and has repeatedly placed among the top 20 contestants at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.


Freelance writer and former Washington Post Bureau Chief

“In high school I had an English teacher named Holly Weeks. She taught me to write in clear, straightforward prose, and she always kept us on our toes. One day a man with a bandanna over his face burst into her classroom, grabbed her purse, and bolted out the door. Rather than call the police, she ordered us to quickly write an account of exactly what had happened. She then confessed that the “robbery” had been staged and read aloud from our descriptions, which of course differed wildly in key details—how the man was dressed, what he had said on entering the room, and so on. It was a valuable lesson on the tricks of memory that served me well in my career as a journalist. More than 40 years later Holly and I still keep in touch.”

John Lancaster is a veteran journalist who spent 20 years at the Washington Post, eight of them as a foreign correspondent based in Cairo and then New Delhi. Since leaving the Post in 2007, his work has appeared in National Geographic, The New Republic, Slate, Smithsonian, National Geographic Traveler, The Smart Set, the Big Roundtable, The Surfer’s Journal and A piece he wrote for Smithsonian was selected for the 2008 edition of “Best American Travel Writing,” and a subsequent story for National Geographic was a finalist for the 2010 edition of the same anthology. He is currently working on a book about the dawn of long-distance flying. John is married to Catherine Gail Walker, an attorney, and lives in Washington, D.C.


Author and Contributing Editor to Vanity Fair

“At Hibbing High School, I had the great good fortune of having two brothers, Dan and Matt Bergan, as teachers. Dan was an English teacher, and Matt was a math teacher, and thanks to them, I could write a paper and solve a proof well enough to major in English and math in college.”

Bethany McLean is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. She graduated from Williams College in 1992 with a double major in math and English, and spent the next three years working as an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs. In 1995, she joined Fortune Magazine as a reporter, and eventually became an editor-at-large. Her 2001 piece, “Is Enron Overpriced?” was one of the first skeptical articles about Enron, and after the company collapsed into bankruptcy, she co-authored “The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron” with her Fortune colleague Peter Elkind.  A documentary based on the book was nominated for an Academy Award in 2006. In 2008, McLean joined Vanity Fair as a contributing editor. In 2010, her book “All the Devils are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis,” which she co-authored with New York Times columnist Joe Nocera, was published. Her most recent book is “Shaky Ground: The Strange Saga of the U.S. Mortgage Giants.” She is also a columnist for Yahoo Finance and a contributor to CNBC.


Author, Journalist, and Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist

“Mother Mary Ephrem, my eighth grade nun; Jeanette Ritzenthaler, my English teacher my senior year in high school; Catharine Stimpson, my major advisor at Barnard: I believe teachers, particularly those three, made me dare to pursue a life as a writer.”

Anna Quindlen is a writer whose work has appeared on fiction, nonfiction and self-help bestseller lists.  While a columnist for the New York Times, where she won the Pulitzer Prize, and later writing the Last Word for Newsweek magazine, some of her most impassioned work was about the essential role of teachers in our society.  Mother Mary Ephrem, her eighth grade nun; Jeanette Ritzenthaler, her English teacher her senior year in high school; Catharine Stimpson, her major advisor at Barnard: she believes teachers, particularly those three, made her dare to pursue a life as a writer.  (In her latest novel, “Miller’s Valley,” the life of her protagonist is changed forever through the intercession of a teacher.)  The power of teaching, and teachers, was only reinforced for her by spending time in the classroom of Elyathamby Vignarajah, who at age 81 is still teaching high school physics.

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