Ben Tanzer was born in 1968 in Washington, D.C., but raised in upstate New York. His father was a painter and his mother a psychotherapist; both were Jews from the Bronx, advocates for peace and the intellectual. As a kid, Ben read books at the dinner table even though everybody else talked. Ben hated little league, but played soccer for years. He wrestled until he broke his leg skiing. He ran track and cross-country throughout high school. Once, at the drive-in on a date, Ben was kissing with his eyes open when he saw a glowing, white cylindrical UFO hovering above the drive-in. In the local paper the next day, it was reported that other people saw it too, but it couldn’t be explained by anything military or weather-related. Ben didn’t study much until college, but he studied obsessively in college and was a double-major—English honors and psychology. The first time Ben saw his wife, she was doing aerobics in the basement of their freshman dorm. Ben vowed to meet her and did when it turned out their roommates were secretly dating and he found himself needing somewhere to sleep one night. They have now known each other longer than they have not, which is pretty cool. One thing Ben regrets about college is not going abroad and being too focused on grades, substance abuse, sports, being cool, and getting laid. One morning, toward the end of college, after another long night, Ben looked out at the dreary upstate morning and tried to think of the farthest place from there. He moved to San Francisco one month after graduation, and it was one of the best decisions he ever made. So was marrying his wife in 1996—and have their two kids (he hopes both of them soon begin to sleep through the night). And so was deciding to become a writer around his 30th birthday, something he had been thinking about for maybe 10 years. In 2007, he published his first novel, Lucky Man, which was great—not just getting published, but also meeting all sorts of wonderful writers and artists. In 2008, Ben published his second novel—Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine—as well as the story collection, Repetition Patterns. Right now, Ben is the director of strategic communications at the national office of Prevent Child Abuse America (he received his masters in social work in 1996). It helps that Ben has a great ability to listen to others and ask them questions about themselves. What else? Ben still runs and reads compulsively. Plus, would love to find more down time to be lo-fi and low-key with his wonderful wife. And, at some point, he will learn how to surf, how to play guitar, and how to break cement blocks with his forehead—all things that would make Ben even cooler than he already is.
[Update: Ben Tanzer's new essay collection, 99 Problems: Essays about Running and Writing is now available Radiohead-style pay-what-you-want from CCLaP Publishing. Also, his new novel, You Can Make Him Like You is coming out in mid-December from Artistically Declined.]