How did you become a writer? In high school I wrote the senior play, and was so engrossed in the process that when my mother said that dinner was ready I realized how fast the time had passed. I sold a couple of captions to a syndicated cartoonist for $5 each.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.). Dalton Trumbo, Norman Mailer, Joseph Heller, Ken Kesey, Kurt Vonnegut, Ring Lardner Jr., J.D. Salinger, Nora Ephron, Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote, Tom Robbins, and anonymous reporters -- for example, there was a 3-inch item during the Watergate period which mentioned that Martha Mitchell (rebellious wife of Nixon's Attorney General John Mitchell) which said that she confided with a journalist she called at 3 o'clock in the morning, and I thought "confided" was a sardonic choice of words since Martha knew it would be published in the papers, which was what she wanted to happen.
When and where do you write? In my office, but I have a pad and pen to make notes in the living room, the dining room, the bedroom, the bathroom, and in my pocket. In a sense I'm always "writing" as ideas pop up from my subconscious.
What are you working on now? At the age of 80, my long awaited (by me) first novel, about a contemporary controversial comedian based on my friendship and association with Lenny Bruce, whose autobiography, "How to Talk Dirty and Influence People," I edited.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? Only when there are other priorities that fall into place. When I do get stuck, it becomes a learning experience, as I examine what exactly is delaying the next sentence.
What’s your advice to new writers? Make lists. Reflect on what you're writing from a reader's point of view. Avoid clichés like the plague.
Bio: Published The Realist from 1958-2001. Wrote a few things for Mad magazine, and a column, "Freedom of Wit," for The Independent, a precursor to the underground press and alternative weeklies. Wrote for magazines, from The Nation to Los Angeles Times. Contributed to Playboy, from covering the Patty Hearst trial to a dialogue with the late right-wing propagandist Andrew Breitbart. Did columns -- "Brain Damage Control" for High Times and "One Hand Jerking" for AVN (Adult Video News, a trade journal for the porn industry). Published several collections -- the latest, "Pot Stories for the Soul" -- and an expanded and updated edition of my autobiography, "Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counterculture," including a new chapter, ""Bloopers and Outtakes: The Parts Left Out of This Book." In December 2010, honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Oakland branch of the writers' organization, PEN.