Wendy Swallow was born
in Newport, Rhode Island, on Oct. 13, 1954, between two memorable
hurricanes. She was the second daughter in a family of four children
and remembers herself as a dreamy tomboy who loved animals and
Her father was a naval
officer, and the family moved often, like all military families.
She spent six formative years in Coronado, California, with
the beach as her backyard. The family finally settled in suburban
Washington, D.C., during her teen years. She graduated from public
high school in 1972 and went on to Colby College in Waterville,
Maine, where she majored in English and Music. After college,
she joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and worked
in Fayette, Mississippi, helping develop social services for people
living in rural poverty. When her service was finished, she returned
to Washington, D.C., and worked for several years as a special
assistant to the Director of VISTA and the Peace Corps.
In 1980 she married and left the government to study journalism at American University. She received her Masters degree in 1981 and went to work for a small newspaper in suburban Virginia. In 1983 she was hired as a financial reporter for the Washington Post. Her first child, a son, was born in 1987 and her second child, also a son, was born in 1989. In the fall of 1989 she left the newspaper to take a position teaching journalism at American University. She separated from her husband in 1993, moving out to suburban Maryland. She was awarded tenure at American in 1996. As an academic, she has studied the influence of advertising on editorial content in newspapers and magazines, and has written about how new technology is changing journalism. She teaches reporting and feature writing classes, and writes regularly for national magazines on family and parenting issues. She served as director of the journalism division at American for two years, and is starting work on a book about the use of the personal voice in contemporary journalism. She married Charles Shepard in 2001, and now lives in Washington, D.C., with their four teenage boys, a dog and a gecko. In her free time she enjoys playing the piano, cooking for her family, sailing, skiing, yoga, chatting with friends and listening to her kids.