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Brett Berk

As a seasoned freelance writer, Brett Berk writes non-fiction pieces for major publications, such as Architectural Digest, The New York Times and Vanity Fair. He is also a contributing editor to popular titles like Car and Driver and Road & Track. Born in Detroit and raised in Farmington Hills, attending Cranbrook Schools, Berk and his boyfriend, Tal McThenia, now divide their time between New York City and a house in upstate New York, but he still has family and friends in metro Detroit, where he’s always happy to return for work or a personal visit.

“I have a strong affinity for Detroit and the Midwest in general,” said Berk.

He also has nothing but praise for Cranbrook. “It was a very foundational place for me in my life,” he said. “I was there as a scholarship student with a single working mom. The opportunity to go there was the beginning.”

The support and guidance he received were instrumental to his success. “I was there at a time when my family was falling apart and school acted as a substitute family. Teachers and friends and even friends’ families provided a lot of structure,” said Berk. “For a career, with an emphasis on the arts, it shared the possibilities of life as a writer.”

Berk would go on to Oberlin College to major in writing. “Cranbrook really opened my eyes to different concepts of what I could be in the world,” he said. “It exposed me to what could be pursued and that really inspired me.”

His first pursuit was fiction writing, which he studied as an undergraduate. He published short stories and taught fiction writing at The New School University in New York City.

Berk earned a master’s degree in early childhood education and became a preschool teacher before running a preschool in NYC, and also wrote a non-fiction book called “The Gay Uncle’s Guide to Parenting.”

After taking a lengthy break from fiction writing, he has been working on a novel. “It’s nice to touch base again,” said Berk. “The two really inform each other, so I was excited to come back to fiction.”

He seems to be equally talented at both. “It’s about how to create something that is engaging and amusing in addition to being informative,” he said.

The passion he has for his profession shows in his work. “I just have a love of writing,” said Berk. “For me, the joy of writing is part of what keeps me going – and the exploration. If I’m not making new discoveries, the reader isn’t either. Nine times out of 10, I’m making a discovery in the process that brings the story to life in a different way.”

Berk has a way with humor and enjoys the topics he covers, like cars. “It’s been a blast to write about where the automobile meets culture and finds its way into art, architecture, books and movies,” he said. “I also like to write about architecture, art, film or books, and I get to write about parenting and child development and cars as a mainstay.”

Luckily, he likes to hustle. “I enjoy that part about the freelance world. I like to make connections and meet new people,” Berk said. “Temperamentally, I’m well-suited to it, but it can be a struggle sometimes. I tend to travel a lot for work and that can be challenging.”

A creative career like his takes a leap of faith and commitment. His advice for writers starting out: “Set aside time for yourself. Turn off your devices. You’ll be amazed how much you can accomplish.”

Story: Jeanine Matlow

Photo: James Lipman

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