Who Is John Neufeld?
THIS John Neufeld is a writer. There are many others: ministers, scientists, musicians. You have to fight through them to Google me.
I was born in Chicago and grew up in the American Midwest. I graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, and then from Yale College. My US Army service was sandwiched between two long periods of living in England.
I wanted to be a Maxwell Perkins, editor of Hemingway and Wolfe and Fitzgerald. Publishers in Boston and New York didn’t see me in that role. I began writing advertising copy for Harcourt, Brace & World in New York. I also took classes at the American Academy of Dramatic Art in playwrighting.
I was fired from my first job because I spent too much time in my office writing my own stories. This was a good thing. Still in publishing, I became a publicist, running around the countryside promoting other people’s books. In a few years, I worked for Franklin Watts, George Braziller, McGraw-Hill, Holt, Rinehart and Winston; Western Publishing.
Not yet Max Perkins, I was still cheating in the office: writing when I could my own stuff. Eventually, I got lucky. My first novel – EDGAR ALLAN – got a rave review from The New York Times, and I was launched.
What followed? LISA, BRIGHT AND DARK – like EDGAR ALLAN, a selection by The Times as a Notable Book of the Year – and a raft of novels, more than two dozen – published by Random House, Penguin, Putnam’s, Atheneum, Dial, Harper & Row, etc., for example. I flew west to write for television, wrote for newspapers, wrote short stories, taught social studies and English to kids in grades 5 through 8.
Now for an NPR radio station in Connecticut where I live, I write and produce political commentary. I also write entertaining (I hope) single shots about heath, good luck, bad luck, science, medicine, human frailty. (You can see these podcasts on YouTube via WHDD.FM.) I generally write every day on one project or another. I have even had the great good fortune to edit other people’s work (finally!), and to review others’ fiction, too.
Five years ago, it occurred to us (the NPR station and myself) that what was consuming me was also riveting the country. Politics. Hence, “SIDE EFFECTS,” which earlier had been titled “Tapdancing the Hall.”
Not only does it give me pleasure to slice-and-dice national political figures and their ideas, but more importantly I have an opportunity to suggest solutions to our national problems – some no doubt bad but some, I think, good. I get to make fun of pomposity and I get to applaud honest, thoughtful efforts at helping Americans manage to live day to day.