The first sign that I had a future as a writer appeared in my kindergarten report card.
“Barbie always listens very carefully to the stories we read, and asks questions about why people do the things they do,” the teacher wrote, adding: “She’s very dexterous with the scissors.”
Scissors aside, my curiosity about stories and my compulsion to tell others what I had found out led me into journalism. After graduating from Williams College, I accepted the best and lowest-paying job that I was offered: as a copy kid at The Christian Science Monitor. There I covered economics, law, and political scandals – remember the Iran-Contra affair? – until, at 29, I was posted in Tokyo for the nightly television news program, World Monitor. I traveled throughout Asia for three years, covering, among other events, the rise of Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi and that country’s first “free and fair” elections in a quarter-century, which the military junta marked by imprisoning all of the democracy party winners. My coverage prompted my quick exit from the country -- to the great relief of the Burmese military intelligence officer assigned to me, who had staggered behind me as I completed my eight-mile run each morning.
After a one-year Knight Fellowship at Yale Law School – which gave me enough of a taste for law to know that I wanted to report on it but not practice it -- I joined National Public Radio in 1995. Among my most memorable moments there was my first day covering the Justice Department in November 1998, when Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr delivered his salacious report about President Bill Clinton to Congress. While on the Justice Department beat, my billet included Florida’s disputed 2000 election, terrorism, crime, espionage, wrongful convictions, and the occasional serial killer. Coverage of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks earned me, along with other NPR reporters, the George Foster Peabody and Overseas Press Club awards.
In 2003, I switched to the religion beat at NPR and reported on the intersection of faith and politics, law, science, and culture. The awards for my religion reporting include the Gracie Award for Women in Radio and Television (twice), the National Headliner Award, and the Religion Newswriters Award. I was one of 10 journalists selected for a Templeton-Cambridge Fellowship on Science and Religion in 2005, where my colleagues and I spent weeks questioning world-class scientists and theologians at Cambridge University in the UK.
At Cambridge, I realized I must finally address my recurring question: Is there more than this? Fingerprints of God, which was published by Riverhead/Penguin Books in 2009, was my attempt to answer that question by delving into the emerging science of spirituality.
A few years later, that question presented itself in a slightly different form. At the age of 51, with my mother lying unconscious in the ICU after a stroke, I looked at my life and once again wondered: Is there more than this? I was thinking in terms of human years, not eternity. I had my family and my friends, my career and my health, and yet I felt that I was tottering on the edge of a midlife crisis. Life Reimagined is my attempt to learn the secrets of a thriving midlife. Also published by Riverhead/Penguin, the fruit of my faux midlife crisis will be on the bookshelves or Amazon’s stockroom on March 15, 2016.
I graduated from Williams College in 1981 with a degree in economics, and received a masters in legal studies from Yale Law School in 1994. I live in Washington, D.C., with my husband, Devin Hagerty, a college professor and international security expert, and my yellow Labrador retriever, Sandra Day. These two, along with my adult stepdaughter, Vivian Hagerty, provide the sunshine in my daily life.