Photo credit: Rob Dubbin
Sandy Ernest Allen is an author, journalist, essayist, speaker, editor, teacher, baker of bread and grower of food. Their writing and speaking work tends to focus on normalcy, especially it relates to madness and/or gender. Sandy is nonbinary and trans. They live in the Catskills with their husband, the best dog, numerous plants, objectively too many cats, and one very important jar of goo.
Sandy's first book, A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story about Schizophrenia, was published by Scribner in 2018. AKOMP was featured on several 'most anticipated' lists, praised by O Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, and The New Republic, among many others, and named a best nonfiction book of 2018 by Esquire. In 2020, AKOMP was nominated as one of the top works of journalism of the last decade, by NYU's school of journalism.
AKOMP is a formally innovative work of nonfiction that focuses on the life of Sandy's late Uncle Bob. Bob was first diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager in the early 1970s. AKOMP is written in two fonts, blending a retelling of Bob's typewritten autobiography with Sandy's analysis of it and their discussion of many related topics — including the diagnosis of "schizophrenia" and American mental health care, historically and now. AKOMP is available in hardcover, paperback, as an ebook, as an audiobook (recorded in part by Sandy) and in French. When it was published by Belfond in 2019, it became the first book published in that language to feature a gender-neutral pronoun in the author's bio.
Sandy's essays, reported features, and radio stories have been published by outlets such as 99% Invisible, BuzzFeed News, Healthyish, Pop-Up Magazine, Guernica, Lit Hub, Gay Magazine, Mad in America and them., where they write a column called Between the Binary. Sandy has been featured on podcasts and national radio shows like KCRW's The Organist, Slate's Dear Prudence and This American Life.
Sandy's work has received other recognition such as a MacDowell Colony residency in 2017 and an 11th Hour-UC Berkeley Food & Farming reporting fellowship, which is administered by Michael Pollan.
In 2019, Sandy launched their podcast, Mad Chat, which they co-created with audio producer Lee Mengistu. On each episode, Sandy and a guest unpack our pop culture's messages about madness and mental health, diving deep into a particular TV show, movie or trope. Mad Chat's ten-episode first season is available wherever you listen to podcasts; learn much more at the show's website. As The New York Times put it in this glowing write-up: "Listening feels like hanging out with two of your smartest and funniest friends."
Sandy's speaking work is represented by the Leslie Shipman Agency. Sandy has spoken for groups of medical professionals especially, for example keynoting the University of Iowa's medical humanities conference, The Examined Life, and delivering a Grand Rounds talk at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.
Previously, Sandy worked as an editor. Back in 2009, they co-founded the online-only literary quarterly Wag's Revue, which they ran until its conclusion in 2015. The magazine's twenty issues can still be read online for free. From 2013 to 2015, Sandy was the Deputy Features Editor of BuzzFeed News, instrumental in launching the longform journalism presence on the burgeoning news platform. During that time, Sandy had in a hand in publishing roughly 200 features and essays of over 2000 words and was lead editor on roughly 50 of those. The first feature Sandy ever commissioned was also the first ever to break a million views on the site. Sandy's own reported essay about the former tallest woman on earth, also named Sandy Allen, later joined the small handful of features that achieved that level of readership.
Sandy has also taught writing and reading in a variety of contexts to a variety of people, from academically-excelled teenagers to undergraduates to retirees. Most recently they've taught an occasional online course for Catapult on works that blend reportage and memoir.
Sandy is originally from Muir Beach, a small town in northern California. They graduated from Brown University in 2009, having studied nonfiction writing. In 2012, they received an MFA from the University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program.
As a precocious theater kid, Sandy did stuff like record scratch voices for Pixar's A Bug's Life and sing with a choir at the Sydney Opera House. In high school, they won the national mock trial championship, as Sandy wrote about a decade later. In college, Sandy was a founding member of the longform improv group Starla. They also wrote and sang the "dirty little mermaid" parody that went viral on YouTube in like 2006, whatever viral meant back then.
During the pandemic, Sandy returned to their performance roots. With Rob's help, they launched a sourdough bread baking instruction series called Breb Class. Whether you're a baker or merely interested in carbs, check it out.