Joel began writing professionally at the age of 17 as a stringer for his hometown newspaper, and continued on-the-job training as a student journalist and arts reviewer at Hofstra University.

His first position after college was as an assistant editor on a video trade magazine. He then moved into marketing communications for several firms as an account executive, public relations manager and employee communications writer. As a journalist his work has appeared in Connecticut Magazine, Pittsburgh Magazine, New Jersey Monthly, The New York Daily News, The Hartford Courant, Dramatics Magazine, Moment Magazine and many others.

Joel is the author of the novels Almost Like Praying and Blowin' in the WInd, and five nonfiction books. His previous nonfiction book was Some Kind of Lonely Clown: The Music, Memories, and Melancholy Lives of Karen Carpenter, which followed a report on the late singer that he wrote and narrated for NPR's "All Things Considered."

His other activities include producing CDs of the work of his late grandfather, Benny Bell, a comedy songwriter about whom he wrote a book in 2008.

Two of Joel's plays have been brought to life on stage, including Six Tens from a Fifty, a series of 10-minute pieces performed in New York City in 2007, and The Bittersweet Ballad of Bobby Blu, a one-act performed in Connecticut in 2013.

Joel and his wife Bonnie have three grown children and five grandchildren.