I'm a freelance journalist and contributing editor at The Atlantic. I’ve been freelancing for pretty much my entire professional life.
Freelance writing works for me because I have a form of vocational attention deficit disorder. I can get really excited about a subject for a time, and then one day I'll grow distracted by another subject passing by, and I'll run off in pursuit. In this regard, I'm like a golden retriever plagued by neighborhood kids with multiple tennis balls. But I've learned that that, done right, freelance writing can be like going to graduate school your entire life except with a slightly better stipend and fewer annoying phone calls from parents asking when you'll get a real job. I greatly admire academics who spend their whole lives studying a single subject, but, seriously, I don't know how they do it.
Since I started all this, I’ve written hundreds of articles for dozens of magazines and newspapers. Among those I've written for are the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bon Appetit, Men's Journal, American Archeology, American Scholar, Canadian Geographic, Islands, AARP The Magazine, Travel+Leisure, Down East, Preservation, and Yankee. I've also contributed to the radio show This American Life. I’ve been a contributing editor at The Atlantic since 2005.
In the last few years I’ve been writing a lot about cocktails, spirits and bars, and also about long-distance walking (plus a bit about architecture and urbanism). I wrote The Atlantic’s “Drinks” column between 2008 and 2014. I penned a book on rum’s history (2006), and another book about what humans lose when they cease walking long distances (2014). I also write about the random subjects that strike me as interesting, which are often travel-related. Stories over the years have have included those about the plight of vintage motels in Florida, what happens when an automobile hits a moose at high velocity, why monorails failed to catch on, and how iceberg vodka makers in Newfoundland get those huge icebergs into those little bottles. I've posted links to many other stories on my archive page. For about five years I wrote guidebooks for Frommer's and Globe-Pequot, but I haven't done that much recently because – if I may speak confidentially here – the work sort of sucks.
A few boasts: in 2002 the Society of American Travel Writers named me the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year. In 2007 I won a gold Lowell Thomas award for best magazine story on the U.S. or Canada. (It was for this Atlantic Monthly story.) I've had stories selected to appear in the Best Business Stories of the Year, 2003 (Vintage Books) and in A Certain Somewhere: Writers on Places They Remember, edited by Robert Wilson (Random House, 2002). And I've been shortlisted three times for the Best American Travel Writing anthology.
Some deep background for those wondering if I'm the same Wayne Curtis they found so annoying in class years ago. I went to Harding Township Elementary and Pingry high schools in New Jersey, then Vassar College in upstate New York. I got my masters at the University of Pennsylvania. I lived in Washington, DC, for several years until I moved to Maine in 1987. After nearly twenty years in Maine, my wife and I moved to New Orleans in 2006, because, really, first of all: winters in Maine? And, second, if your interests revolved around history, architecture, preservation, and drinking, where the hell else would you move? Also, it bothered us how the whole city had been left twisting in the wind after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. So we bought a house about a half dozen blocks from the Mississippi River and moved everything we owned off an island we were living on in Maine. Doing this was the best thing I've done. Ever. I love living in New Orleans.
I also give talks and lead educational workshops. This is most often about cocktail and spirits-related topics. I’ve presented at the Tales of the Cocktail (14 seminars since 2008), American Distilling Institute, Manhattan Cocktail Classic, Atlanta Food and Wine Festival, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and elsewhere. Here’s a link to my 2014 TEDx talk entitled “The Evolution of the Craft Cocktail.” I also have an illustrated talk on Edward Payson Weston’s 1909 walk from New York to San Francisco, with a detour into what happened in the century since America decided to stop walking.
If you have further questions, or have a project that you want to run by me, please contact me here.