About Cary Tennis

Cary Tennis, best known for his Salon.com advice column, “Since You Asked,” has enjoyed a long and varied career as a writer, editor and musician. He graduated cum laude from the University of Miami in 1976 with a degree in literature and journalism (while studying jazz with the well-regarded UM music department). He then moved to San Francisco and entered the masters program in creative writing at San Francisco State. He passed his orals (Wallace Stevens, William Faulkner and Vladimir Nabokov) and had his creative thesis approved (“The Riverwood House and Other Stories”), but became deeply involved in San Francisco’s art-punk explosion of the early 1980s and never did officially receive his masters degree. His experience in graduate school taught him much about literature but left him with a thirst to experience the working life outside the academic profession. So for the next few years he worked many jobs, played guitar, wrote and sang for art-punk/new wave band the Repeat Offenders.

Cary on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence

He worked as a bike messenger and as a rock journalist for the SF Weekly and generally tried to live out an idiosyncratic version of the poet and fiction writer as brilliant urban rebel and scold before finally settling down in 1989, working freelance covering music, politics and technology. In 1999 the pioneering online magazine Salon.com hired him as a copy editor and he quickly became head of the copy department and began writing regularly for Salon. In October 2001, when author Garrison Keillor ceased writing his signature column, “Mr. Blue,” Tennis succeeded Keillor with  a new advice column called “Since You Asked,” which he wrote five days a week for a large and enthusiastic international audience until the fall of 2013. He now continues the column on his own site, carytennis.com.

How he came to lead writing workshops and teach: In 2007, after years of writing under intense daily deadline pressure, Cary sought to broaden his practice and find new insight into the craft, and to build community and perspective as a writer in the world. Browsing the reference section at Borders Books, he discovered Amherst Writers and Artists founder Pat Schneider’s groundbreaking book Writing Alone and With Others, and soon after attended a week-long workshop with Schneider at the Berkeley campus of the Pacific School of Religion. On the spot he decided, with Pat Schneider’s blessing, to begin leading AWA workshops at his San Francisco house. Soon after, his worldwide base of readers and fans, wishing to participate in his AWA workshops, persuaded him to begin a series of retreats, or “creative getaways” to which they could travel to experience the workshop method and his uniquely encouraging and entertaining tutelage. With the help of his multi-talented and multilingual wife Norma Tennis he led retreats first at nearby Marconi Conference Center and then in Florida, Baltimore, Amsterdam, Tuscany, and France’s Loire Valley.

He has published numerous books of columns, among which are Since You Asked, Citizens of the Dream, and That Special Time of Year.
Finishing School: The Happy Ending to that Writing Project You Can’t Get Done, co-written with Danelle Morton, will be published in January 2017 by Tarcher/Penguin.

Finishing School_cover

For more information about workshops and retreats see carytennis.com or write to info@carytennis.com.