Jake Halpern is an author, journalist, and radio producer. He has written three books: two nonfiction — Braving Home (2003) and Fame Junkies (2007) — and a fantasy novel, Dormia (2009), which has been hailed as the next Harry Potter by the American Library Association’s Booklist. He has written for The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, GQ, Sports Illustrated, and New York Magazine, and is a contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered and This American Life. He is currently teaching a college seminar on Radio Journalism.
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What is your favorite memory of Yale?
My freshman year, they had a Winter Ball in Commons and they had these massive ice sculptures. There was an enormous one that was a carving of a swan. And a whole bunch of us — like twenty guys — we took the ice sculpture out of Commons and went up to the top of whatever that street is where it goes up to Science Hill. We rode down the center of the street on the swan just cruising down past the cars. We called it “Juan the Swan” because we were all rowers, our coach was Juan. And so we rode Juan the Swan for a long time, and then eventually we hit a car and Juan’s neck broke off and it ended.
You can’t live without…
Ari Gold on Entourage.
If you could meet one character from a novel, who would it be?
Winnie the Pooh.
Writing today needs more…
Old-fashioned reporting and grit.
If you could ask President Obama a question, what would it be?
Would he ever consider sporting an afro again?
What is your favorite word and why?
Swashbuckling. Why? Because it’s not exactly an onomatopoeia but swashbucking — it’s just dripping with old-fashioned adventure. It’s actually dangerous I tend to use swashbuckling too much.
What’s the most difficult piece you’ve ever had to write?
I wrote a story about the gated community in Hollywood inhabited entirely by child actors. So I basically had to live with like 200 hundred child actors for two weeks. I should say live with the child actors and their stage moms. That was pretty spooky.
What’s your favorite New Haven establishment?
I like the Anchor because it reminds me a lot of the bars in Buffalo, where I grew up.
The most embarrassing moment of your career was…
I was interviewed by Adrian Grenier for that HBO documentary [Teenage Paparazzo] and despite spending several days with him I kept calling him Vince.
What advice do you have for Yale students?
Don’t worry about making money in your twenties. Do what you want to do.
If you could go back to college now what would you do differently?
I was a rower and I loved rowing and my best friends were all rowers. But if I had to go back to college I wouldn’t row. If I had to go back to college again I would also make sure that I did the best thing I did there right which is meet my wife. I made so many stupid decisions in college I can’t believe I actually made one right one.
Most importantly, why is Yale better than Harvard?
Because it’s smaller, because it’s in a scrappy town, and because it has heart.