FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The answer to your question(s) might be found in one of these interviews with me! If not, read on...
How did you get your start in journalism?
I went to undergraduate journalism school at the University of Missouri-Columbia. After graduation in 2004, I couldn’t afford to take an unpaid magazine internship, I was rejected from all the paid internships I applied to, and I wasn't interested in a newspaper reporting job. So I found a non-journalism job and saved money for a year, then applied for the Mother Jones internship program, which is where I got my start in magazines.
Keep in mind that it was a different era, when lots of editors weren't paying much attention to the digital side yet. In some ways, that made it easier to break in. For several years I also wrote for and helped edit a blog called Feministing, which was (and is!) a labor of love run by a group of peers. A lot of my future paid opportunities came from the unpaid work I did for that site.
How did you become a freelance writer?
The short answer is: I got fired from my editing job and scrambled to figure it out.
The long answer is: I had worked as an editor for six years by the time I went freelance. I knew a lot of other editors, was a fast writer and reporter, and was good at juggling. Which is why, ultimately, I think I've been successful as a freelancer. It was *still* hard, and I ate through my savings, but I am very happy working for myself now.
But when people ask this question, they're usually asking, "How can I become a freelancer?" That's harder to answer. The truth is, not everyone can do it.
Related questions: I just got fired and I am terrified. | I want to go freelance, but my pitches aren't getting accepted. | Can I pitch a story I've already posted to my personal blog? | Should I publish for free? | When is the right time to go freelance? | How do I get editors to send me out on assignments? | I'm freelance-curious. What do I need to know? What is it really like? | An editor chopped my article down to nothing. Can I publish it in full elsewhere? | Can I sell the same article to several different magazines? | What is the typical editing process like? | How long do I wait to follow up on a pitch?
How should I read your pie charts for maximum comedic effect? Clockwise or counterclockwise? Starting at the top?
Do what you feel. There is no right answer.
What is “low-maintenance ladyswagger”?
It originated in a parody I wrote of an article about hip young male editors. The original piece quoted someone as saying, “There’s an appeal to editors who have their feet on the ground and who have confidence but not an outlandish sort of confidence. Swagger — low maintenance swagger — is having a moment.”
Here’s my gender-flipped rewrite: “There’s an appeal to editors who have a ton of estrogen but are still smart and confident. Lady-swagger — low maintenance lady-swagger — is having a moment.” I see lady-swagger as being bold and confident and sometimes aggressive, but not ashamed of your gender or your femininity. It means being great to other women, especially at work but in all contexts, really.
How did you build an audience for your writing, your podcast, and your newsletter?
As with most things, it was a combination of luck, privilege, and working hard really consistently.
HELP! I'm in my 20s!
That's not a question. (The answer is, yes, it does get better.)
Related questions: I'm 22 and I feel stuck. | I'm 23 and want to do exactly what you do. How? | I'm 25 and living with my parents, and I feel lost. | [Email from an overconfident white dude.] | Do I have to move to New York?
Can I interview you for my school project / national magazine / niche website / moderately popular podcast?
Perhaps, if you're flexible and patient. Email me to set something up.
Can I pick your brain?
Listen, there’s a lot of stuff in my brain. I’ll be more responsive and helpful to you if you ask me a specific question. (Please scroll through these emails first because I may have already answered it!) I answer most friendly emails eventually, but you'll have to be patient. Like, it might take me months.
If you're asking for a lot of my time and attention, you might want to set up a consulting call.