Serena Solomon began her adult life as a social worker helping homeless teens in her hometown of Sydney, Australia. During that time she learned three things: listen, listen, and listen. It is a lesson that served her well when she transitioned into journalism with a BA in Media.
After spending years as a reporter in the gritty world of New York City local news, Serena is now a freelance journalist and writer who regularly contributes to the New York Times as well as other publications such as the BBC and the Atlantic’s CityLab.
Serena sporting orange hair during a study abroad stint in Seattle
ST: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I never thought to myself “I want to be a writer.” However, I did think at about the age of 14 that I wanted to be a journalist. I love the entire process of interviewing, researching, thinking and writing.
ST: Whose biography would you most like to write?
I love the stories of “regular” people. I’ve interviewed a few celebrities and it tends to be boring; they are cautious and you’ve likely heard their story before. The story of a random person will always be surprising and often, their life story will reflect something greater in society — a cultural trend, a grand moment in history, etc.
ST: If you were writing a StoryTerrace book of your life, what would be the title and why?
I will tell you when I’m 90. Probably because I’ve written obituaries, I do have a morbid fascination with what the lead (the opening few sentences of a news article) of mine might be. That’s if I even get one! You need to be a little bit famous to get a decent obituary.
ST: What surprised you most about working for StoryTerrace?
When I sit down with an elderly client whose family bought them a biography package, often the client will say “I have no idea why the family wants this documented.” And then over the course of a few hours, this incredible story trickles out of them. People don’t seem to realize the incredible story they’ve lived. Hopefully, when they read their life in a StoryTerrace book it changes their opinion.
ST: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
An endless Saturday morning.
ST: What is your biggest fear?
Writing on a white board or blackboard (showing my age there) in front of other people. I’m a good writer, but a terrible speller. Spell check is my best friend. Thank God I wasn’t a journalist in the typewriter era!
ST: Consider your life story. What's the name of the chapter you're in right now?
"Is There a Manual for This Kid?"
ST: What trait do you admire most in others?
ST: If you hadn't become a writer, what career would you have right now?
Probably a producer of documentaries. It’s another way to tell stories and I am obsessed with stories.
ST: What is your most treasured possession?
Probably my engagement ring. I’m not really into possessions, but I can take a ring on an airplane so it is very portable. I think that comes with moving to different countries, because you have to get rid of a lot of things when you move or pay huge amounts in shipping.
ST: Who are your favorite writers?
Taffy Brodesser-Akner. Although she writes about other people, often her magazine features are really about herself, which proves to be the more interesting story.
ST: For someone that asks questions for a living, what is it like answering questions about yourself?
It’s terrible. I’m reminded how generous people are to answer the questions I ask of them. It makes you feel vulnerable.
ST: Salty or sweet?
ST: Introvert or extrovert?
ST: Truth or dare?
ST: Vintage or modern?
ST: X-ray vision or time travel?
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