St. Petersburg, Florida.
First writing experience?
I wanted to be a marine biologist but I couldn't deny my love for news and writing. Growing up, I would camp at the front window, waiting for the Evening Independent delivery in the driveway. Thus began my path to journalism and the University of Florida where I accepted my first reporting job at the college newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator. That experience led to internships at the Gainesville Sun and Tampa Tribune. Just as I was offered a position at the Los Angeles Times , the Tribune hired me from my news internship in its Peninsula bureau as one of its first female sportswriters.
Why the interest in sharks and marine environment?
I grew up on Boca Ciega Bay. I was mesmerized by its sea life, especially the sharks. That fueled my passion for marine life and a scuba certification at 18. So it was a dream come true to work for The Miami Herald as its Florida Keys bureau chief and reporter and have the world's third-largest coral reef at my backdoor. Though my journalistic responsibilities were vast, I gravitated to the marine sanctuary and news from it. Among the highlights: bottle-feeding a stranded pygmy sperm whale and sharing its journey. My opportunities as a journalist have never been lost on me.
One of the perks of being a journalist is meeting exceptionally talented people. Fellow UF Gator/novelist Carl Hiaasen is one of them. We were both in the Keys; I was the Herald's reporter there. Carl, a Herald columnist, would call with news tips. Most involved the environment and corruption - the themes of his best-selling novels. One story in particular - a mass mangrove hacking in Key Largo - had the twisted plot line, greed and political intrigue of a Hiaasen book. Needless to say, I jumped at any chance to develop a story from him. Carl's humor and distinctive voice encouraged me to see our beloved home state in a more colorfully-weird way.
If I could travel tomorrow, where would I go?
Back to Isla Guadalupe, MX. It's like stepping back in time. Kong Island and Jurassic Park in one. Twenty-two hours by boat. Off-the-grid. No cell or Internet. Untouched. Water as clear as gin. Surrounded by big sharks. Minus the colossal ape and man-eating dinosaurs.
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