Here’s what you’ll learn from my books: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. I’m 60 years old. I have three brothers. My parents are still alive. (They live in a retirement community in Florida.) I live with my wife and our three teenage children in New York City. (The kids go to the Bronx High School of Science, a truly great public school.) On weekends, we take our two dogs and three cats along with us to our home in Dutchess County. It’s a wonderful life — overflowing with craziness, crises and love — which is why I dedicate Pilgrim to the whole Kaplan/Kravitz clan, including our dogs and cats.
I went to Yale (Class of 1975) and Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism (Class of 1983). Between those degrees I traveled overland from London to Calcutta by Land Rover and lived on a kibbutz in Israel. I also began writing articles and taking photographs for magazines. I interviewed pioneering photographers like Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson, and reported about culture and politics in places like Nicaragua and Puerto Rico. I supported myself mainly by bar tending. The adventures I had in my 20s created much of the unfinished business I had to address when I was 54.
The big turning point in my career occurred in 1987, when I was 33. I got my first “real” job — as an editor at Scholastic, the publisher of classroom magazines like Scope and Junior Scholastic. I didn’t expect to remain there more than a year. (I needed back surgery — and hence, health insurance.) But I got smitten by the mission of creating media that informed and inspired young people and ignited their passion to change the world.
In Pilgrim and Unfinished Business, you’ll learn very little about the next 20 years of my life and career, beyond the fact that I was obsessed with work and spent far too little time with my family and friends. During that time I edited and led some of the nation’s most widely read publications, including several at Scholastic, a Parade-published teen magazine called React, and then Parade itself, the most widely read publication in the English-speaking world. In those jobs, I worked with hundreds of writers, editors, artists and executives who were dedicated to the proposition that “a story well-told” could connect emotionally with millions of readers and change lives.
And then the roof caved in. In October 2007, with the world of newspapers and magazines hovering on the brink of a recession and fundamental change, I was fired as Parade‘s Editor in Chief. In the months and then years that followed, I took stock of my life and turned inward, focusing on the hard spiritual work that produced Unfinished Business and Pilgrim.
These days I’m writing and speaking about topics related to my books. (See Speaking). At the same time, I’m reporting on the “conscious aging” movement. Our culture is obsessed with staying young and living forever; it denies the fact that we age and die. Conscious aging involves seeing the final phase of our lives as an opportunity for spiritual, emotional and psychology growth. If you’re interested in learning more, stay tuned to my updates here and at psychologytoday.com.