Paul Spencer Sochaczewski
Paul Spencer Sochaczewski (born August 1, 1947 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American writer, writing coach, conservationist and communications advisor to international non-governmental organizations. He lives in Geneva, Switzerland, and has lived and worked in more than 70 countries, including long stints in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
Paul Sochaczewski graduated in 1969 from George Washington University, in Washington, D.C. with a degree in psychology.
He served in the United States Peace Corps, 1969-1971, working as an education advisor in Sarawak, Malaysia. This exposure to Asia informed his writing and as a result most of his work has a Southeast Asian theme.
He was a freelance journalist and creative director of J. Walter Thompson in Indonesia.
He was founder and chairman of IGOLF-International Golf and Life Foundation, an international NGO which promoted environmental and social responsibility in the sport.
As head of creative services at WWF-World Wide Fund for Nature, 1981-1994, he created international public awareness campaigns to protect rainforests, wetlands, plants and biological diversity; and managed the WWF Faith and Environment Network. From mid-1992 to mid-1993 he took a leave of absence from WWF to write articles on environmental problems in the Pacific for the Environment Program at the East-West Center in Honolulu. He then worked for ten years as global communications director of the International Osteoporosis Foundation.
He has lived and worked in some 80 countries, speaks Bahasa Indonesia and French, and basic Thai. Affiliations: Fellow, Royal Geographical Society, member PEN International, member American Society of Journalists and Authors, IUCN-World Conservation Union commissions on protected areas and education.
Themes and style
Several themes recur in Sochaczewski’s work. How arrogance and greed of power brokers in the capital cities of Asia leads to environmental destruction and cultural disruption. The process by which isolated communities adapt to life in a modern world. Our need/fear relationship with nature. The romance of the "hero’s journey."
Sochaczewski is particularly interested in Asian stories that defy western Cartesian logic. He writes about the love affair between the Sultan of Yogyakarta (Java) and the mystical Mermaid Queen. He explains why isolated Indian villagers are angry at the Monkey God Hanuman for not returning their sacred mountain. He investigates why Burmese generals use the perceived power of the white elephant to solidify their hold on power, and how a rural woman in the Himalayas changed government conservation policy by hugging a tree.
His books and articles have exposed the cultural genocide of the Penan people of Sarawak, Malaysia, helped to generate a renaissance of appreciation for British naturalist and explorer Alfred Russel Wallace and identified Eco-Cultural Revolutions which have had major impacts on our relationship with nature.
Reviewers have noted his innovative style and approach; Jeffrey Sayer, founding director general of the Centre for International Forestry Research in Bogor, Indonesia, and professor of conservation and development at James Cook University, Australia says: "This book [An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles] occupies a new category of non-fiction – part personal travelogue, part incisive biography of Wallace, part unexpected traveler’s tales."
Articles and personal essays
Sochaczewski has published more than 600 by-lined articles in the International Herald Tribune, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, Travel and Leisure, Bangkok Post and other publications.
He has written or co-authored books of non-fiction, personal travel and fiction.
They include: Exceptional Encounters: Enhanced Reality Tales from Southeast Asia. Simon Lyster, chairman of the World Land Trust said: “Once again, Sochaczewski has pushed the frontier of travel literature in an exciting new direction.” Benedict Allen, BBC presenter and author of Into the Crocodile’s Nest; Journey Inside New Guinea, said: “This is Sochaczewski at his very best – sharp, witty, energetic, and unafraid to be irreverent. Reminds me of the satire of Catch-22 combined with the insightful travel memoirs of Bill Bryson and Mark Twain.”
Share Your Journey - Mastering Personal Writing. The (surprisingly easy) techniques professional writers use to write personal memoirs and travel stories that connect with editors and readers. Thomas Bass, author of The Spy Who Loved Us and professor at State University of New York, said: "If you want to write, if you want to improve your writing, if you want your writing to leap off the page and click its heels in mid-air, read this book and follow its good advice. This is a lifetime’s wisdom, offered by a pro."
Curious Encounters of the Human Kind: True Asian Tales of Folly, Greed, Ambition and Dreams. (five volumes covering Myanmar (Burma), Indonesia, Himalaya, Borneo, Southeast Asia). Gary Braver, bestselling author of Skin Deep, said: "Paul’s writing in The Sultan and the Mermaid Queen has the humanity of Somerset Maugham, the adventure of Joseph Conrad, the perception of Paul Theroux, and a self-effacing voice uniquely his own."
An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles: Campfire Conversations with Alfred Russel Wallace on People and Nature Based on Common Travel in the Malay Archipelago, The Land of the Orangutan and the Bird of Paradise, Peter H. Raven, president emeritus at the Missouri Botanical Garden said: "A fascinating journey through the tropics of Southeast Asia, Sochaczewski not only follows in the footsteps of Alfred Russel Wallace but engages in a dialogue with him for the whole journey. Thought-provoking about change and constancy, and a delight to read."
Distant Greens: Golf, Life, and Surprising Serendipity On and Off the Fairways. Distant Greens travels to “crypto-golf” courses – locations where golf oughtn’t be. It also travels into the soul of golf, the rituals, the beliefs, and asks why people cheat and why do golfers remember the bad shots instead of the good shots? It ends by asking whether golf and nature can support each other? Rick Lipsey, of Sports Illustrated, said: "Distant Greens is an intimate golfing tour that travels to all corners of the planet and brings us into the heart, mind and soul of the game that we all love."
The Sultan and the Mermaid Queen: Extraordinary Asian People and Places, and Things that Go Bump in the Night. A compilation of unusual travel in Southeast Asia. James Fahn, author of A Land on Fire and executive director of the Earth Journalism Network, said: "Sochaczewski is blessed with a relentlessly probing curiosity, an easy-to-read writing style and a sensitive soul. His explorations of the remote jungles, far-flung archipelagoes and quirky characters of Asia leave us with fascinating accounts that mix natural history and modern-day reporting to investigate old fables and inspire new ones."
Redheads. A comic eco-thriller novel set in the rainforests of a fictional Borneo sultanate, concerns the plight of orangutans and Penan people threatened by forest destruction. Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael, said: "Redheads does for the struggle to save the rain forests of Borneo what Catch 22 did for the struggle to stay alive in World War II."
Soul of the Tiger: Searching for Nature’s Answers in Southeast Asia. (co-author: Jeffrey A. McNeely). George Schaller, director of Wildlife Conservation Society, said: this was "a marvelous book, unique, intelligent, attuned to cultures and filled with stimulating ideas."
Share Your Journey - Mastering Personal Writing. The (surprisingly easy) techniques professional writers use to write personal memoirs and travel stories that connect with editors and readers. Explorer’s Eye Press. 2016. ISBN 978-2-940573-15-8.
Curious Encounters of the Human Kind: True Asian Tales of Folly, Greed, Ambition and Dreams. (five volumes covering Myanmar (Burma), Indonesia, Himalaya, Borneo, Southeast Asia). Explorer’s Eye Press. 2015. ISBN 978-2-940573-02-8.
An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles: Campfire Conversations with Alfred Russel Wallace on People and Nature Based on Common Travel in the Malay Archipelago, The Land of the Orangutan and the Bird of Paradise. Editions Didier Millet. 2012. ISBN 978-981-4385-20-6.
Soul of the Tiger: Searching for Nature’s Answers in Southeast Asia (co-author: Jeffrey A. McNeely) Doubleday. 1988. ISBN 0-385-24225-5. Paragon. New York. 1988. 1-55778-280-6. Oxford University Press. 1991. ISBN 0 19 588573 2. Sho Koh Na. Japan. 1993. ISBN 4-88302-143-2. University of Hawai’i Press. 1995. ISBN 0-82481-669-2.
Encyclopedia of Malaysia(16 volumes). Editions Didier Millet. 1998–2007. (editorial advisory board).
He has developed writing workshops which have been run in more than twenty countries.
- Exploring Your Personal Odyssey
- Sharing the Journey
- Almost Famous
- Breaking Through
- Wake-Up Writing
Sochaczewski lectures widely; his presentations include:
- Alfred Russel Wallace - Hero’s Journey in Southeast Asia
- Travels in Search of Eco-Dharma
- Things That Go Bump in the Night
- Hantus in the House - Indonesia’s love of ghost stories
He has given his Alfred Russel Wallace presentation to groups worldwide including: Royal Society for Asian Affairs (UK), Royal Geographical Society (UK, Singapore, Hong Kong), Anglo-Indonesian Society (UK), London School of Economics, Travellers Club (UK), Bournemouth University, University of Hawaii, Asian Civilizations Museum (Singapore), University of Singapore, University of Malaysia, Siam Society (Thailand), Indonesian Heritage Society, Sarawak State Museum.
- Sochaczewski, Paul Spencer. "Aunt Sarah Rather Liked Her Real Childhood Name". New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- Sochaczewski, Paul Spencer. "A True Javanese Fairy Tale:The Sultan and the Mermaid". Retrieved 7 July 2014.
- Sochaczewski, Paul Spencer. "A Tribal Struggle to Preserve What's Left of a Borneo Forest". Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2014.