Where Are They Now: Wendy Gordon '76

November 17, 2016

Wendy Gordon '77

We caught up with Wendy Gordon '76 to talk about her upcoming book, "Wrong Highway"

What is your name, what was your class year, what was your major at Simmons and what is your current career path?

Wendy Gordon, class of 1976, Nutrition major, have worked in journalism the past 25 years, writing restaurant reviews, human interest features, and articles on health and nutrition for magazines, newspapers, and the internet. For the past 10 years I've been working on my debut novel, Wrong Highway, published June, 2016:


What is a typical day like as a writer?

I have four children (youngest now 16) and four grandchildren, three under the age of 2, whom I help care for. So I write whenever I can. I have always made productive use of my unscheduled time: early in the morning, the school day, sometimes evenings.

What steps did you take early on that helped you become a professional writer?

Back in the ‘80s I wrote an advice column for a Long Island newspaper called “Ask the Nutritionist”. I also helped run a food co-op. When we moved to Portland, Oregon one of the first places I went was the local food coop, only to discover that all their “food-related” jobs were handled by full time grocery workers. But they needed someone to write their newsletter, so I did that From there I moved on to writing an article on local politics for our neighborhood association and then applied for a restaurant reviewing job at a local paper, the NW Examiner. One thing led to another as far as freelance assignments. In the mid 1990's I took some classes in fiction writing, journalism, and screenwriting. And I kept writing. The best way to learn to write, especially fiction, is to write as much as possible.

What is your favorite part of your job?

For journalism: freedom to set my own hours and learn about a multitude of interesting things
For fiction: the incredible rush of artistic creation. The ability to use my imagination and translate the worlds in my head to paper.

What kind of jobs did you hold prior to being a writer? How is being a writer different?

Right out of college I worked for three years for the Chicago Dept of Health, counseling pregnant women and new mothers for the WIC program. It was a satisfying job but I did not like 9-5 employment. I returned to school at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine in a masters degree program in Clinical Nutrition. I considered applying to medical school but gave birth to my first child mid-program and decided such a high-powered, all encompassing career was not for me. I did complete my degree but never returned to hospital work. I have taught cooking and nutrition classes both for pay and volunteer and still do—in fact, I just recorded two cooking videos for OPB and did a presentation on teen nutrition at a summer camp. But I find writing—especially fiction—to be the best synthesis of my skills and passions.

What was your favorite class you took at Simmons? Why?

Organic Chemistry was SO hard, but I studied diligently and got an A minus on the final! Chemistry was like a language. Once I'd mastered the basics, I found Biochemistry fascinating. One of my professors, Dr. White, encouraged me to take a graduate Neurochemistry class at MIT with Dr. Frederick Wurtman, who became a big name in neurochemistry and nutrition. To be with such brilliant scientists was challenging and exhilarating. I also did a Creative Writing tutorial with a professor whose name I don't remember. I handed him a short story and he came up to me the next day in the hall and whispered in my ear “you've got talent”. That, and some other valuable advice he gave about writing, stuck with me.

If you could come back and take one class at Simmons what would it be?

Hmm. Probably more liberal arts. I did not have much space for liberal arts in my major. More literature, more philosophy.

How did Simmons help prepare you for your career?

Simmons did a great job of prepping students for the work world—resumes, interviewing, and the like. Those skills made it easy for me to land a job after graduation. As for all the science classes I took, I would say grounding in the scientific method was the most important skill I gained. Many of the “facts” I learned have since been elaborated upon, or proven downright wrong. But the critical thinking skills I learned remain invaluable.
What advice would you give to the current Simmons undergraduate students?
You can't do it all, so do what matters most. Follow your heart.

What's really important to you and how do you make time for it?

1) My family
2) Creative expression

I try not to waste time on things that are unimportant to me. I don't watch TV. I don't do Facebook except to promote my writing. I consolidate errands. I let the laundry pile up upon occasion. I try to make every minute count.