One of the things I am proudest of, besides my body of work, my pool game and my hairline, is the extended family of student helpers/apprentices who I have been working with over the past twenty years on my diverse projects, also known as “The Munchkins.” My Munchkins, who serve as both personal and research assistants as well as liaisons and just about everything else, are generally recruited from Cornell’s Risley College for the Creative and Performing Arts, where I was artist in residence for two years (and still have the honorary title of artist-in-orbit) but have also come from other colleges (go Sarah Lawrence!)—even other countries (go Suomi!).

My ex-Ms, all of whom have gone on to great and groovy things, as per below are forever asking me about how each other is doing. Now they can find out here. And you can see why they truly are my secret weapon, as well as my pride and joy.

Phoebe Hering was my personal and research assistant for the 2012-13 school year. In this capacity she worked on several projects, including doing the research for my forthcoming biography of Urho Kekkonen from WSOY, my Finnish publisher; putting the final touches on the just published University Press of Kansas edition of “The Hundred Day Winter War;” and doing the spadework for my projected dual biography of Martha Gellhorn and her friend and comrade, Virginia Cowles; as well as successfully performing other crucial home front duties, including and especially liaising with my mother, Dorrit—all this while juggling her studies and her swinging mallet as a member of the freshman polo team! Well done Phoebe! She will be missed. Phoebe can be contacted at

Courtney Maysak ’14 was my personal assistant for the 2011-12 school year and the fall of ’12. Amongst other things, she was project manager for Serling, which was reissued last year, for which she did extraordinary work, especially the extremely arduous job of getting permissions for the new photo group, while also performing innumerable other tasks with dispatch and elan. Here she is on assignment with me in Binghamton, hometown of Rod Serling, where we shot some of the new photos for the reissue. She can be reached at

Scott Reu ’13 was my “back of the house” and all purpose utility player, providing crucial and timely technical and editorial assistance for my work, while specifically helping me shepherd the two major Finland-related projects in progress, The Hundred Day War, the forthcoming (summer ’12) US edition of my Winter War epic, The Hundred Day War, and Off The Map: A Personal History of Finland, my memoir of my special relationship with Finland. My official webmaster, Scott shares credit for the redesign and resurrection of this all-weather site, The Sander Zone. A graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, Scott is a crack writer and photographer, as well as diehard Zonie. After leaving the Hill this summer, Scott will be voyaging to England to do his Master’s at Cambridge University, where he will be studying Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic stuff. Here he is in California contemplating the eternal verities, a gift he acquired from me. He can be reached at

Also graduating along with Scott will be Courtney Stevenson ’13. Courtney was my top adjutant during the 2010-11 school year. A preternaturally gifted editor and researcher, Courtney’s signal achievement during her productive sojourn with Sander Media was helping me edit and polish the Finnish edition of The Battle of Finland for publication in the U.S., including helping me shave off sixty pages of the former, something of a first for a munchkin: I could easily see writing books for her. She’s that good. I expect Courtney to be one of the great editors of her generation: she has already had successful internships at Bedford/St. Martin’s and Henry Holt BYR. She also happens to be an excellent singer and an active member of the a capella group “The Callbaxx,” with whom she has toured across the US. The mellifluous Ms. Stevenson can be reached at

Generally speaking my “munchkins” work for me for a year, because I feel that the learning curve for them—i.e., what I have to teach them (and is this very much a two way deal)—tends to taper out after a year. Unless they wish to re-up. My penultimate assistant, the boundlessly talented Tal Gluck ’10 was one of those who chose to remain on deck for another year. And I am very glad that he did. During his two years before the Sanderesque mast, Tal did everything from interview the chief rabbi of Tallinn for me (for an article about the Estonian Jewish community ), to help me mount my 2008 retrospective, “The Cornell Zone,” to research, copyedit, and type the Battle of Finland for me, said tome would not have been published without him. But most of all, he helped me keep cool. For two years Tal was my rock and staff. For this and too many other things to name, I remain forever indebted to him. He also has a wonderful sense of play. I expect him to name his first video game for him. Tal, who is currently an analyst with Synovate, can be reached at

The charming and resourceful Sarah Jacobs ’05 was my first assistant upon my return to The Hill in 2002 as Risley Guest Suite Artist (as the species were then called). Sarah was crucial to the success of my residency at Risley. She also provided stellar editorial and logistical assistance with the publication of the first UK edition of The Frank Family That Survived, helped me mount my first photo show at Cornell, and helped me write, report and distribute “Panopticon,” the biweekly newspaper I put out for the Risley community during my two years in its hallowed halls. A brilliant writer in her own right, Sarah is currently completing her Ph.d in English at CUNY Grad Center. I am very pleased to announce that Sarah has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach at the University of Rabat next year. She also eloped to Hawaii and got married! Well done Sarah!

Sarah’s stalwart successor, Erin Geld ’07, helped see The Frank Family That Survived through to publication, doing everything from typing up my handwriting to helping draw the maps for the book, while performing such other pivotal duties as helping me prepare for the celebrated Dada Ball that I threw for Risley in return for the college’s allowing me to extend my residency for a second year. A native of Sao Paolo, Brasil and a third generation Cornellian, Erin, is also an excellent writer and blessed with a great sense of humor. She was also voted as having the 3rd most radiant smile at Cornell during her sophomore year. As a fellow hearing-impaired person, we shared a special bond; she also helped me to adjust to my own hearing loss. Erin spent some time teaching 10th grade at the Harvey Milk School in New York City while working towards her M.A. at Teacher’s College at Columbia University. Erin recently returned to her hometown of Sao Paolo to teach and reacquaint herself with her home country. Erin can be reached at

J.J. Manford ’06, one of my “special ops” munchkins, worked for me on various unclassified and unclassified missions during his four years on The Hill, as well as serving as my personal assistant for a period after graduation. Amongst other things, JJ helped me mount both of my major photo shows at Cornell, my 2006 retrospective, “My World,” and “The Cornell Zone: 1968-2008,” incorporating images from Cornell from the first layer of my Cornell experience, as a student, and the most recent one, as a D.A.G.T.R.O.C. (Distinguished Alumnus Given The Run of Campus), and provided key bibliographical assistance for my last two major books, The Frank Family and The Battle of Finland. He also provided the illustrations for my serialized novel, “C Town Blues,” which ran in “The Cornell Daily Sun” from 2004 to 2006. He also helped paint my house. JJ is currently working towards his MFA at Hunter College. Attached find a sample of his most recent out-of-this-world oeuvre. JJ can be reached at

My Helsinki “bureau chief,” the luminous Mau Vuori, has played a pivotal role in my flourishing Finnish publishing career, making significant contributions to both The Battle of Finland, for which she did everything from helping me conduct interviews with veterans of the Winter War to translating dozens of articles about the war from the Helsingin Sanomat, to accompanying me on the publicity tour; as well as similar duties for Off The Map. She also happens to be the most beautiful woman in Finland, a valuable asset when trying to turn foreign diplomats. There’s no one I like meeting more on a wintry Helsinki afternoon for coffee than Mau. She does not suffer fools gladly; I am grateful that she has suffered me for three years. She also bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie.

John “X” Carey has the honor of being the first Risleyite to work with me. I met John in the long-ago, far away year of 1989 when I was working on the original edition of Serling, when I “did” my first residency at the Castle. John went “undercover” for me for that book, performing various long-range reconnaissance missions deep behind “enemy” lines. Hence the “X.” Over the years, John has also provided crucial technical and logistical assistance for various other projects. He was the only one I trusted to care for my late cat, Claire, which sort of tells you everything. An excellent writer in his own right, John is currently a librarian at the City University of New York. He also plays a mean trumpet and bass.