How did you become a writer?
I'm a writer? When did that happen? I still have dreams of becoming a cowboy or an astronaut. Or a spelunker -- I want to be the world's first claustrophobic spelunker! I guess it crept up on me when I was an editor at the Bay Guardian in San Francisco. It was one of those my-dad's-got-a-barn-let's-put-on-a-show type of newspapers, where everyone did everything. I was the copy editor/production manager. When the restaurant critic left to take a job as a bank teller, I volunteered to take over. I wasn't paid extra. As I recall, I wasn't really paid at all. But you know -- it was the '70s. We were in it for The Cause. Whatever that was. So, I didn't become a writer. Being a writer became me. I went from the Bay Guardian to San Francisco Magazine to Rolling Stone to Los Angeles (Magazine and city) -- where I write radio and TV (largely unskilled labor), and have written about travel, movies, music and food -- always food. You got to eat to live. You may as well get paid for it.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
Calvin Trillin, Seymour Britchky, Robert Service, Dr. Seuss, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Paul Theroux, Ogden Nash, George Ade, Mark Twain, Jean Shepherd. In other words, I'm all over the map. So is my prose. But it sure is fun.
When and where do you write?
I arise at dawn to walk the dog, get a bagel, and contemplate the meaning of my words. Then, I anoint myself with oils, beat myself with birch branches (sometimes for quite awhile), slip into my silk writing gown, and sit down in my Fortress of Solitude and Creative Thought. Then, after maybe 30 seconds, I get up to grab a snack from the fridge, and check the news. The whole day goes like that. I have the attention span of a parakeet.
What are you working on now?
Answering these questions. It's hard, demanding work. Also, the Zagat Survey and various columns for various newspapers and magazines. I've got a list here somewhere. Which I'll find after I get a snack...
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Sure. But it's nothing I can't cure without a run to Trader Joe's for more snacks. Dang, but those dark chocolate peanut butter cups are good!
What’s your advice to new writers?
Consider writing as a hobby. Something you so as a time filler between calls on your talents doing more lucrative work. Like removing tattoos (a monster growth industry!), or working as a global warming adaptation consultant. You ever see a teenager working his or her iPhone? Reading and writing are so 2012...
Merrill Shindler -- acerbic, witty, urbane Editor of the Zagat Survey, longtime host of the Feed Your Face Show on KABC, Host of Fine Living: Critics on the Fine Living Network, Restaurant Critic for the San Gabriel Valley Newspapers, and author of American Dish and the El Cholo Cookbook -- has written and spoken about the pleasures of the palate, and the joy of travel, both in America and abroad, for most of his adult life. His words have graced the pages of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Diversion, Food Arts, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Focus, the Chicago Tribune, American Way, the Gault-Millau Guides and Playboy. When he's not dealing with food and travel, Shindler is also writer of many popular radio and television programs, including American Top 40, American Top 20, America's Top Ten, Cinemattractions, America's Choice, the VH1 Top 21 Countdown, Christmas at the Movies, and the American Video Awards.