Irene S. Levine, PhD is an award-winning freelance journalist and author whose writing focuses on travel and relationships. Trained as a clinical psychologist, she holds a faculty appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. In what now seems like another life, she held senior management and policymaking roles at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Center for Mental Health Services in Rockville, Maryland.
You might wonder how Irene morphed into a freelance writer. Here’s the story:
In 1999, when (then) First Lady Hillary Clinton moved to the small hamlet of Chappaqua in Westchester County, New York (as Irene had done five years before), Irene spontaneously wrote an essay offering seasoned advice to ease the First Lady’s adjustment.
The piece was sprinkled with names of people and places—tidbits someone might share with any new neighbor—with a hefty dose of tongue-in-cheek humor because the thought of Hillary moving to such a small town after living in the White House was hard to fathom.
Having never experienced editorial rejection, Irene fearlessly called the Washington Post and asked for the Style editor. She was transferred to the Outlook section of the paper, the political commentary section that appears on Sundays and an editor asked her to fax the story. Several hours later, the Post faxed back a contract. With some light editing, Irene's memo to Mrs. Clinton was published the next weekend with cartoon-like illustrations that brought the story to life.
The excitement of that first clip and paycheck as a freelancer was only exceeded by the thrill of all the phone calls she received from old friends and colleagues from New York and Washington, DC who were regular readers of the Post. She was hooked! To read Irene’s first essay, click here .
Discover Corps' Best Boomer Travel Blogs
FlipKey Top Boomer Blog Award
About.com Best Friendship Blog
On becoming a freelance writer
NATJA Travel Awards 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
SATW Lowell Thomas Award 2015
...and one thing led to another
Given her background and training, writing about health and mental health was a natural transition for Irene. In addition to writing for major health publications she co-authored, Schizophrenia for Dummies (Wiley, November 2008) with her psychiatrist/husband Jerome Levine, MD. The book distills what they had learned from families, clinicians and researchers during their many years working in public mental health. The book dispels myths and misunderstandings commonly associated with schizophrenia and offers information and advice to help individuals and families better cope with this devastating disorder.
Her solely-authored book about female friendships was based on a online survey she conducted with over 1300 women. Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Break-Up With Your Best Friend was published by Overlook Press in September, 2009 and led to her creating The Friendship Blog.
When one of Irene's editors was appointed travel editor of a high-circulation daily, it opened doors to new freelancing opportunities. Travel writing seemed to build on Irene's skills, enthusiasm, tenacity research skills and interest in people and places. The timing was fortuitous as well. As a new empty-nester, Irene and her retired psychiatrist husband suddenly had more time and freedom to travel.
Irene currently writes about travel for national print and online publications and produces MoreTimeToTravel.com. With a large following on multiple social platforms, she serves as a brand ambassador for high-profile travel companies.
A recipient of numerous travel writing awards, she is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), the preeminent travel and tourism media association, and also a member of the North American Travel Journalist Association (NATJA), the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) , the American Society of Journalists & Authors (ASJA), and the Authors Guild.