Who Is This MJV?

I’ve never been the kind of guy who identifies as just one thing. I’m Italian, but Jewish (I prefer the phrase, “Pizza Bagel”). I’ve got no problems meeting new people, yet I love to be alone. This multi-faceted reality applies to my professional life, too; I’m a full-time freelancer who writes, edits, and makes mayhem in the multimedia world. In the NBA, they’d call me a triple-threat. I like to say I’ve diversified.

I’ve been writing professionally since 1995. In that time, I’ve written about everything from milking goats to shellfish farms, Clown College to biometrics. My work has appeared in newspapers and magazines, on Web sites, and in a variety of corporate documents. I’ve written web copy, ad copy, marketing campaigns, executive speeches, and brochures. I’ve written a couple of DVD and online trivia games. One time, someone even hired me to write the toast he gave to his daughter at her wedding.

I also am proud to say I contributed as a freelancer to coverage that collectively won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018.

My editing business began in 2002. Since then, I’ve edited adventure travel magazines, corporate newsletters, press releases, corporate reports, and blog posts. I’ve updated a number of guidebooks (about Las Vegas, Hawaii, California Wine Country, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks). I even do some brand essence work.

I regularly tackle multimedia projects. Since 2005, I’ve moderated hundreds of Webinars for high-tech clients, recorded dozens of podcasts, and orchestrated a number of video clips and audio slide shows. I also did the blogging thing, publishing a blog about family travel, and contributing (both as a writer and as senior editor) to the Expedia Viewfinder blog from Expedia.

Some other work-related facts about me:

  • I have had recurring gigs at a number of publications and websites over the years, including CNN, Sonoma, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, The New York Times, Entrepreneur, and the Press-Democrat, to name a few. (Those links take you to the main directory pages of my work for each of the respective outlets.)
  • I work at a stand-up desk. Because I tend to work late at night, standing up forces me to stay awake. I’m also not good at sitting still.
  • I am passionate about education. I’m on the curriculum committee at a local junior college. I advise journalism students from our local high school. I mentor aspiring freelance writers through my alma mater, Northwestern University. I also have taught college-level reporting classes.
  • I’m an Android guy, a proud Samsung owner. I do not own (nor do I wish to own) any Apple products.
  • I have been interviewed about freelancing and travel writing numerous times over the years. My all-time favorite interview on the subject was the Spring 2020 podcast I did with Wudan Yan and Jenni Gritters of The Writers’ Co-op here. Three other good ones I’ve done over the years are here, here, and here. The April 2020 Dad 2.0 podcast with me also is pretty rad.
  • One time someone from The Washington Post also interviewed me for tips about surviving family road trips with kids. That was a hoot.
  • I am a big fan of costumes. I’ve got an alter-ego named Matty Vino who makes regular appearances around California Wine Country; his website is here and his Instagram page is here. I also have been known to dress up and bid-call fundraising auctions, kind of like I did here.

Outside of work, people know me as MJV (my middle name is Jacob). I’m a father, a husband, a runner, and a Yankees fan. I bet on college football and basketball. I listen to copious amounts of folk music. I eat bagfuls of raw almonds, and always have room for frozen yogurt. I drink brown liquor (especially brandy). I usually wear jeans and a t-shirt. I shave infrequently. And I love cetaceans. If people who worship the Grateful Dead can call themselves “Deadheads,” a whale-worshipper such as moi can self-identify as a “Whalehead.” That’s how the name for this site was born.


Matt Villano
Matt Villano

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