A Taste of the Literary Life

Danny Gregory, who left his post last month as creative chief at Doremus, still enjoys advertising—he continues to freelance. But he’s found a second calling as an author, with one book on the racks (Hello World: A Life in Ham Radio) and two due this fall (Filmstrip and Everyday Matters: A New York Diary).

Hello World (created with co-author/designer Paul Sahre) examines the culture of ham radio through the eyes—and ears—of longtime operator Jerry Powell, whom Gregory discovered through a binder of QSL cards (which document ham radio exchanges) that he found at a flea market. Filmstrip focuses on American education in the wake of World War II. And Everyday Matters explores—through journal entries and drawings—the aftermath of a serious accident that involved Gregory’s wife, Patti.

Asked about the thread that runs through his work, Gregory says, “The thing I’m interested in is the significance of insignificance.” It’s that fascination with the mundane (and, in the case of Hello World and Filmstrip, the area where technology and society meet) that has also informed many of Gregory’s ads, be they for IBM or ITT.

Gregory, 42, seems to enjoy the literary life just fine. After 21 years in advertising, he has no problem selling his work; in fact, he wonders if his publisher thinks he’s too pushy (though the high-profile write-ups for Hello World suggest it’s working). Plus, there’s something liberating about being your own client: In writing ads, “you’re ghostwriting for someone else,” he says. “When I write a book, it’s me.”