Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
The question I am always asked is how do you practice medicine and
put out a magazine? I started the Townsend
Letter as a hobby, a newsletter. Back in 1983, it was a bulletin
board for doctors to share their pet therapies and mad-scientist
ideas. When I realized that a publishing hobby could become quite
an expense, I made the decision to make the letter into a magazine.
We sent the earliest issues out to chelation physicians, environmental
doctors, naturopaths, and members of the professional supplement
industry. I remember my first paid subscribers asking, "Am
I really going to get a full subscription for the year, or will
this magazine fold?" and "Do you really expect the magazine
to be operating after five years?"
Well, here it is 300 issues later, and the Townsend
Letter is a fixture in the alternative medicine/naturopathic
medical community. While our circulation holds to around 10,000,
we have had well over 100,000 health professionals read our publication
over the past 25 years. Although we are not yet referenced in the
Index Medicus, many of our articles can now be found on www.findarticle.com.
Our listing of alternative medicine
meetings is updated each issue and on our website www.townsendletter.com.
Getting back to my opening question, it is difficult to see patients
and edit articles and sell advertising and design a magazine. Yes,
it is juggling, but it's the type of juggling that I enjoy doing.
I edited the high school newspaper and the college engineering magazine,
so editing and publishing were not new to me. It's a great fit to
be able to write about the alternative medicine I practice and the
medicine that peers practice. We still are a bulletin board –
there are many diagnostics and therapies that don't fit my idea
of an alternative practice yet still deserve a forum.
biggest shortcoming has been that the time to see patients, publish
a magazine, and walk our Westie terrier, Bella, has meant less time
for my wife and family, whom I thank for bearing with my workaholic
We look forward to another 300 issues of the Townsend
Alan Gaby, MD
Contributing Medical Editor
Dr. Gaby writes the invaluable column Literature
Review and Commentary as well as regular editorials for the Townsend
I have been interested in writing for as long as I can remember.
Between ages 10 and 12, I published a bi-weekly newsletter called
Spotlight on Science. My co-writer
was a nine-year-old boy named Edward Witten, who lived two houses
from me and was the smartest person I have ever met. He has since
won the Field's Medal in mathematics and is a contender for the
Nobel Prize in physics for his work on string theory. We wrote articles
on topics such as Mendelian genetics and Einstein's relativity,
discussed science news, posed brain-teasers, and told people where
they could look for the planets through their telescope at that
particular time of the year. I plagiarized most of my work from
the World Book Encyclopedia and the local newspaper, not knowing
at the time you weren't supposed to do that. I did all the typing:
four pages per issue, single-spaced onto a Ditto stencil, with a
non-electric typewriter, hoping with every keystroke not to make
a mistake, because there was no clean way to correct mistakes on
those stencils. We sold copies (for five cents each) at school and
by ringing doorbells in the neighborhood. Our highest circulation
for a single issue was 105 copies.
The Townsend Letter has been a similar
labor of love, and I am grateful to have been able to contribute
to every one of the 300 issues. It has been an important outlet
for helping to shape my thought processes, and I have especially
appreciated the fact that Jonathan Collin lets me say just about
anything. It has been a joy working with Jonathan, Barbara Smith,
and the rest of the staff.
My non-medical activities include being a volunteer for the Kimball
Elementary School Chess Club, where my son is a first-grader, and
a coach for the Concord, New Hampshire Little League. I stopped
eating red meat two years ago, and my back stopped hurting for the
first time in my adult life. I wake up every morning grateful that
I have a wonderful family and that most of my body parts still work.
I hope to resume my old hobby of songwriting some time in the not-too-distant
future, after my 30-year project (a textbook of medical nutrition)
Adrianne joined Townsend Letter
in 2005, replacing retiring long-time editor
My father, a doctor, is a crack diagnostician. I remember over 24
years ago, a Port Townsend friend's family was undergoing
a series of mysterious illnesses and, having been treated unsuccessfully
with a phalanx of pharmaceuticals, the whole family had been referred
to a psychiatrist. I mentioned what I knew of the family's
symptoms to my father over the phone. He thought a moment and said,
"Sounds like Lyme disease." Turned out that the family
had spent a summer visiting in-laws in Connecticut, and while no
one remembered a tick bite, the symptoms fit, as did the resulting
treatment. My father is still a hero in that family. So, obviously,
one of the aspects of working at TL I enjoy most is sharing the
magazine with my father and my mother, an equally astute nurse,
back in Pennsylvania.
In addition to editing TL, I write fiction. My most recent book,
The King of Limbo, is a collection
of stories published by Houghton Mifflin in 2002. And I teach in
Pacific Lutheran University's MFA program for writers. With my two
sons grown – and greatly missed – I no longer have to
sneak in writing and reading time, so when not at work, I'm most
often found at my desk or with a book or working in the garden with
my husband, Alistair, our enormous dog Mac, and our last surviving
Favorite TL Feature: All the columns,
the book reviews, and, of course, Barb's cover designs.
Jule Klotter, Contributing
Jule is not only a longtime Townsend
Letter staff member, she writes the much-revered
"Shorts," frequently reviews new books and DVDs, indexes
the magazine, and occasionally offers a fascinating full-length
I still remember my excitement at finding a job listing for "temporary
editor" in Port Townsend's weekly paper in 1990. I was grooming
dogs at the time and wanted to use my training in writing. The temporary
job at Townsend Letter led to permanent
employment as the magazine's indexer, gradually expanding to book
reviewer and "Shorts" columnist. I inherited my interest
in alternative medicine from my parents. My mother, a former nurse,
taught us to trust the body's ability to heal and to be skeptical
of traditional medicine. My dad enjoyed reading about vitamins,
Edgar Cayce, and biochemistry. My passions include companion animals
and theatre. While living in Port Townsend, I wore several "hats"
in a community theater group. I also took part in the National Audio
Theatre Workshop in Missouri for a week each June. Now I live in
South Carolina, where I teach astrology at the local Unitarian Universalist
church, sing in the community chorus, walk my three dogs, and experiment
with "wild fermentation."
Smith, Managing Editor
Barbara is the linchpin of Townsend
Letter. Whether submitting an article,
placing an ad, puzzling out design, or planning the perfect dinner
party, Barb's the person to seek out. Thank goodness she's
a Gemini, a natural multi-tasker. We're all just hoping one
day TL springs for a desk for poor Barb, who manages to accomplish
all her tasks at a table ("it's not a desk").
My first exposure to TL began in 1985, practicing the lost arts
of paste up, darkroom, and plating. When things began changing in
the printing industry, I purchased a Mac and a laser printer (the
first in town) and started my own business. With that business,
The TypeSmith, I began typing and laying out the magazine as of
issue #50 in 1987. In the beginning, I actually had to type every
article, then slowly, people started sending floppy disks, and now,
they send most everything by email. Each issue is a new challenge,
and I really enjoy starting with a list of things that need to go
in the magazine and creating it from scratch. Working from my home
office allowed me to be home for my daughter, Allison, while she
was growing up. When Reba Be retired – about the same time
Allison started high school in 1994 – I was able to take on
the position of managing editor. Basically, if anything is wrong,
it's probably my fault. My favorite pastimes are cooking,
entertaining, traveling, motor-homing, and spending time with my
husband, Larry, and friends, laughing, off-road riding, and finding
Favorite TL feature: Health Risks &
Reuther-Costa, Circulation Manager
Joy has been with the magazine practically
since its inception. She started helping with the mailing in 1985,
when she was a mere baby, and then came to work at the magazine
part-time in 1990. In 1997, she became Circulation Manager, following
in the footsteps of her mother, JoAnn Reuther.
I love talking to subscribers on the phone and being able to help
them research articles. Because we're so small, we can respond
personally, but occasionally, readers call with a list of requests,
assuming we're a corporation with a large staff. It takes
them awhile to realize TL is more "a dedication than an obligation."
I love, too, the concept of the magazine, the give and take of information.
Away from TL, I'm active in my church, serving on the church
council and on the pre-school board, and teaching Sunday School.
I also act as a volunteer driver for ECHO, a helping hands organization.
With what spare time I have, I'm working with my husband Robert
to transform our acre of mud into a yard and garden, trying out
the bike path near our home, going to Pilates classes, or baking
fabulous new desserts.
Favorite TL features: Shorts and Literature
Reuther, Managing Assistant
Julie is the junior member of the Reuther
dynasty at Townsend Letter. Like
her sister Joy, TL's Circulation Manger, Julie cut her teeth
in TL's mailing department.
After years of helping with the mailing, I joined TL's office
staff part-time in 1994 as a Circulation Assistant, eventually moving
to full-time Managing Assistant. The best parts about the job are
my co-workers and boss. When not at work, I love watching movies
– any kind – most outdoor activities – hiking,
camping – and hanging out with my two dogs – a Lab Pointer
and a Blue-Heeler mix.
Favorite TL feature: Letter from the
Buddy would give his job title as "Mailing
Wrangler," but everyone else at TL calls him the Mailing Manager,
a job he's held for the past 16 years.
I was born in Kentucky and made two passes at Port Townsend, before
I stuck. Today, I live off the grid in the country, with no electricity
or water. I play music – washboard bass – and enjoy
reading modern literary fiction. Favorite writers include Jean Giono,
Knut Hamsen, and (early) Cormac McCarthy. The best part of working
at TL is definitely being with my co-workers. I just wish the cartoons
in the magazine were better. Dr. Collin clearly has a talent there;
the one cartoon I saw of his was great.
Favorite TL feature: Nutritional Medicine
Tomasi, Managing Assistant
Jill primarily works on the practice side
of the Townsend Letter office as
Dr. Collin's medical receptionist.
I began working for Dr. Collin 17 years ago and almost immediately
was drafted into the Townsend Letter
mailing, eventually working my way up to "go-for." I've
absorbed so much from working in both the practice and at Townsend
Letter that my co-workers joke that I'm a P.A.D. –
Practically a Doctor. Born in Seattle, I was raised in California
and migrated back to the Northwest and then Alaska, before putting
down roots in Port Townsend. I'm passionate about gardening, and
I love walking around Port Townsend.
Favorite TL feature: Healing with Homeopathy
Sandy, an award-winning journalist, photographer, desktop publisher,
and Web designer has been the Townsend
Letter Webmistress since 2002. Her photos have graced the
covers of a number of our magazines, as well. She is the only person
we know who could get a dramatic
"swimming with the giant turtles" cover shot without
During her eleventh 39th birthday party last year, Sandy's
parents "adopted" two fellow Townsend Letterites, Barbara
and Joy – and 14 more of her closest friends. Her children,
22 and 26, were quick to calculate the Christmastime benefit of
having so many loving aunts and uncles.
While we have long questioned Sandy's sanity, it has only
recently been confirmed that she's totally lost it: in February,
Sandy announced she's running for county commissioner. (That's
what happens when you sit on way-too-many land/water use and affordable
In her spare time, which she has oh-so-very little of these days,
Sandy loves to shop, eat, read, walk, and dance. She's even
taught swing dance to some of our office crowd. Re-reading this
little blurb, Sandy realizes it would probably scare off most of
the guys on those online dating sites – especially if she
continues to speak of herself in the third person.
Favorite TL feature: Medical Anthropology