A Day in the Life of Hillary Rosner

Hillary Rosner is an award-winning independent journalist who has been covering the environment for more than a decade. You can find her byline in National Geographic, Wired, Scientific American, The New York Times, High Country News, and many other publications. She is also a contributing editor at the website bioGraphic. She has an MS in environmental studies from the University of Colorado and also an MFA in creative writing from New York University. She has been a reporter at the New York Post and an editor at the Village Voice, and has helped launch numerous journalism sites throughout her career. Rosner was a 2010 Knight Journalism Fellow at MIT and a 2012 Alicia Patterson Fellow. She lives in Colorado with her husband and son and a bunch of rescued dogs and cats. Follow her on Twitter @hillaryrosner.


contrib-photo-tree-2Valerie Phillips

Hillary Rosner

What I’m working on:

I’m spending a lot of time editing for bioGraphic, helping develop features and craft them into amazing stories. I’m currently reporting a story for National Geographic that involves some complex international logistics. And a few other stories in various states of the brainstorming/reporting/writing/editing process, for a handful of different publications. I’m always multitasking, which is a bad way to get anything done.

Where I work:

I live in Boulder, Colorado, where my office is in a straw-bale studio behind my house. I share it with my husband, who built it a bunch of years ago. It’s lovely—bright, sunny, energy efficient. My desk is next to French doors that look out on a stone patio with a grape arbor. Though sometimes I’m too lazy to make it the 50 yards from house to office and end up working in my living room. My husband also works from home, and we are excellent at distracting one another.

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Rosner’s writing studio.

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Rosner bikeJason Gormley

The morning preschool commute.

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Daily routine:

I have no such thing as a typical day. I tend to travel for work once a month, even if it’s just for a few days, and that proves really disruptive to any kind of regular schedule. Sometimes it feels like the only constant is chaos.

I split my time between writing and editing at the moment, so there are always about a half dozen stories I’m dealing with, either my own or other writers’. On a recent memorable day, I biked my son to preschool, then came home and checked email while having my second cup of coffee. I did a phone interview, finished editing a story for bioGraphic, and then gathered some last-minute documentation to apply for a journalist visa to Indonesia—which was nearly as arduous as applying to college. I was starting to get excited about the trip, which will be the first time I’ve been so far away since I became a mom. And then I happened upon a news story about an influx of deadly cobras in Sumatra, where I’m headed. There’s no antivenom for these snakes, and if you get bit you die within two hours. So that kind of ruined my day! I wrote “buy snake chaps” on my to-do list and went for a head-clearing hike with my dogs. (I have a pit bull and a Chihuahua, both rescues. Also two cats.) In the afternoon, I biked to a café to do some background research for a feature I’m hoping to write, set up some interviews for another story, and fielded a few pitches. It’s fun to be on both sides of the writer-editor divide. After that, errands, preschool pickup, and family time. Often I’ll do a couple hours of editing work after my son goes to bed, but I try not to work on my own writing after 5:00 p.m. I’m too fried.

Most productive part of my day:

From 9:00 a.m. to noon.

Most essential ritual or habit:

Morning coffee. A soy latte from my Krups espresso maker.

Mobile device:

iPhone 6


MacBook Air

Essential software/apps/productivity tools:

Coffee. Chocolate. Walking. Snuggling with dogs. I guess none of those are software or apps. I use TripCase to store all my travel info. And I rely on Dropbox.

But I’m pretty old-school, in general. I use a hard-backed graph-paper notebook as a DIY Planner Pad. I find it really helpful to make lists and map out my week with pen (Pilot G2 rollerball, always) and paper.

Favorite time waster/procrastination habit:

Planning travel, both work and personal. I’m incredibly indecisive and noncommittal about travel itineraries, so I spend an excessive amount of time imagining different travel scenarios before booking anything.

My reading habits:

I read the homepage of The New York Times every morning, and also my local paper, The Boulder Daily Camera. I read The New Yorker, New York magazine, National Geographic, and Wired in print. And the Sunday New York Times. I’m always reading multiple books at once, some combination of hard copies and on my Kindle, fiction and nonfiction. I’m terrible about not finishing books, and I often put something down after 75 or 100 pages if I’m not hooked. I read most nights before bed.

Sleep schedule:

I need a lot of sleep. I’ve always been envious of friends who can survive on 5 or 6 hours a night; they seem so much more productive. I’m an 8-hour girl. And I rarely sleep on planes.

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