Nice work if you can get it: Editor

This is part of the Yes and Yes work interview series in which I talk to friends of mine about their fantastic, enviable jobs. Erin is one of my favorite internet girl friends and not just because we were both be-sparkled competitive dancers in high school. She’s a talented and funny writer and mother to The Cutest Baby Ever. And she’s a travel writer! Stop living my dream life, Erin. Seriously.So what’s the deal? What do you do?
I am a custom publishing editor for a travel industry newspaper. When I tell people that, they usually nod and throw in an I’m-trying-to-be-interested-but-don’t-know-what-that-means “Oh!” Basically, our sales team contracts with the Travel Bureaus and Convention and Visitors Bureaus in cities and countries around the world, and my team and I work with them to create publications about those destinations that are then distributed to our readers.

Tell us about an average day in editorial world.
Most of the day-to-day excitement of this job comes from interacting with my coworkers (everyone in my office is in their 20s). I do a lot of online research of reputable websites (i.e. official ones, although for non-work-related information I’m a google, wikipedia and imdb JUNKIE). I exchange the occasional email with a correspondent or freelancer, and edit any stories that come in. Sometimes I have a conference call to talk with our clients and hammer out the vision for their publication. I often proofread and edit our publications during the client approval process. On a daily basis, I work with a project manager and a graphic designer. I also help out our newspaper’s marketing team (we share an office) by proofreading surveys and coming up with brilliant copy for publisher’s letters, conferences, awards shows, and other marketing materials. Apparently, I’m adept at taking up the mantle of a middle-aged man through the written word.

Did you go to school for this? Or get any special training?
Sort of. I got the generic English degree, because reading/writing has been my shtick since I was little. Of course, now I don’t illustrate my own stories, mainly because the stories I write for work don’t feature pioneer families in multilevel wooden houses riddled with secret passageways like they did when I was 8. As far as special training goes, I’ve had some stellar on-the-job mentors who clued me in to how newspapers and magazines really work. I’ve also actually just started taking a couple graduate-level classes through the University of North Carolina, specifically geared toward writing and editing. On a separate note, my personal travel experience helped me get this particular job, although I wouldn’t say that traveling is a big part of what I do.

How did you get into this line of work?
It all started in a small apartment (that was probably really nice when it was built in 1974) on an old computer (that ran really fast when it was bought in the year 2000), where a passionate yet skeptical recent college grad (me) searched job websites for anything relating to writing and editing. I found a listing for an entry-level editing position at the local paper, applied, went through a terrifying process of interviews and proofreading tests, and got the job as Celebrations Editor (read: weddings, births and anniversaries, although I had more than one request to post a divorce announcement in the weekly celebrations section). Then, through sheer awesomeness (the sorry state of newspapers had nothing to do with it), I quickly rose in the ranks and serendipitously became involved with the ground-up launch of two magazines on a team of highly experienced, fantastic individuals. Invaluable experience.

Are there any drawbacks to working in writing?
Simply, yes. Although writing is ultimately a creative function, it’s hard to convey the creative process to non-writers and non-editors. It’s also difficult when I have to write about a subject I don’t know much about. But then, that’s also the fun of it–getting myself to the point at which I actually do know something. On the editing front, it’s difficult to be able to read the same text through several different finely tuned lenses–copy editing, content editing, proofreading–with limited resources. I currently work on a very small team, whereas before I worked with a much larger one with multiple editors. Also on the drawbacks list: Burnout.

What are the highlights?
I’ve gotten to travel to interesting places for the job I have now (mostly to New Jersey. I know, very exotic). But there’s always the possibility of more travel to cool destinations. With writing for publication, I’m always meeting new and interesting people. When I wrote announcements for the local paper, I actually wrote announcements for a fairly famous online entrepreneur as well as an NBA star. Once, the paper’s Washington Bureau Chief stopped by to visit me when she was in town because of an admiring email I sent her. Now, it’s not uncommon for me to exchange emails or conference calls with someone in London or Paris or South America, not to mention various places around the U.S. And when I first started getting paid to write, I would drive around town wondering how many people that I encountered had read something I had written: a fascinating and empowering but also terrifying thing to do, particularly as a novice writer. Now my stuff is distributed across the country (though to a select group of travel professionals). Seeing my name in print is always a bit of a thrill.

Are there any misconceptions about working at a magazine?
Unfortunately, it’s almost never as glamorous as one might think (unless, I assume, you’re a writer or an editor for a fashion magazine).

What suggestions would you give to people interested in getting into this?
I’ll say what that Bureau Chief (who, incidentally, also started her career writing wedding announcements in a small town) told me: Don’t stop writing. Keep doing it, always trying to improve your craft, and you’ll go places. Other than perhaps the hope/dream of writing a book one day or writing for a big-time magazine, it takes far more grit than luck to have a successful writing career. Also, carry around a Moleskine notebook. It’s imperative to jot down thoughts as you have them, because the more you write down your thoughts, the more thoughts you’ll have worth writing down. Plus you’ll look cool and feel a little like Hemingway. Oh, and one other thing: Know the rules–thoroughly–before you break them. That way you’ll always write with purpose, and can defend your creative choices intelligently

I know there are heaps of wanna be editors out there! Ask Erin some questions!

In Praise of Schmoopy Style

Some things that are impossible:

Eating just one spoonful of Hagen Das coffee-flavored ice cream
Turning off the TV in the middle of The Office
Finding an outfit that is simultaneously fashionable, flattering and comfortable

But wait, dear friends! Though I will never be capable of pushing the power button mid Jim/Dwight squabble, I think there might just be hope for numero three. Really! We can have have our cake and eat it, too! Or perhaps, more accurately, have our cake and still fit into our clubbing clothes.I completely support fashion´s current infatuation with ruching. And knit wear. And the balloon hem. Because all of these gorgeous tactics make for lovely clothes! And possibly more importantly, comfortable clothes. Because I am all over being fashionable. But I am also all over eating a one pound burrito for lunch. And I don´t think those two things have to be mutually exclusive!I´ve dubbed this ruched, ballooned, knit wear fashion Schmoopy Style. Because you might feel a little bit like you´re wearing your sweats, but you still look like a million bucks. The ground rules of Schmoopy Style are

  1. At least one piece of your outfit is non-binding, allowing for much cupcake eating, running through streets or rolling down hills.
  2. Said outfit could possibly be washed in the washing machine (!)
  3. There is little fear of panty lines or bra-band bulges

So! What does Schmoopy Style look like? Let´s see it in action!

Schmoopy work

Schmoopy WorkLook at that fantastically cosy sweater! Perfect for cuddling on the couch, watching 30 Rock. But if you pair it with a sexy pencil skirt and these leprocaun-worthy shoes you won´t be getting any stern talkings-to about dress code. So go ahead! Help yourself to that birthday cake someone left in the lunch room!

schmoopy clubbing
Schmoopy Clubbing
This dress is ridiculously forgiving. If you´ve got a great pair, you could maybe even go braless! And forget about that painful thong you usually have to pull out for club nights. You can go ahead and wear your comfy cotten day-of-the-week panties under this number. And when you´re dining out with your girls before you hit the clubs you needn´t limit yourself to tapas. Order the lasagna, dude.
Schmoopy Casual
Schmoopy Weekend
The last thing you want to worry about on a Saturday afternoon is if your muffin top is hanging out of the top of your skinny jeans, or if how you can manage to sit on the grass in your tiny skirt. These harem pants are great for tree climbing, frisbee playing and wrestling your lover to the ground and smothering them with kisses. Now you can´t do that your silk mini dress, can you?

Would you ever consider going the way of Schmoopy Style? Or are you already there?

Why Every Woman Should Learn to Say “Scarf” in French

I think it is universally acknowledged that we’re all half in love with Winona of Daddy Likey. She’s wicked funny, she’s really nice, she’s got hair as good as mine and she’s written for National Geographic, y’all! I’m lucky enough to count her among my internet girlfriends – we’re working on a plan for 2012 to blog our way across Russia on the Transiberian Railroad. Consider yourselves warned!Pretty much everyone on earth agrees that French women always look effortlessly chic and perfectly pulled together. So what’s their big secret? Good genes? Nope. Magical La Mer skin cream? Well, yeah, that probably helps, but it’s not the big secret. OK, do you really want to know?


Seriously, look closer at any photo of a stunning French woman, and you’ll see she’s wearing her Michigan State sweats and an old t-shirt from the Hanes 3-pack. It’s both empowering and terrifying to realize it, but the only difference between you and a stylish French woman is that she has a gorgeous scarf around her neck.

Scarves and hats are very similar in that they take very little effort—extend arm, grab scarf and/or hat, and put it on— but have the power to upgrade or transform a whole look. No matter your hurry or mood, there’s no excuse to not throw on a pretty scarf

To make things even easier, there is really no such thing as a bad scarf, so the details here are up to you. Wide scarves, skinny scarves, warm scarves, printed scarves, solid scarves, sequined scarves, cheap scarves, expensive scarves—I love and own them all. You could make one designer silk scarf your signature look or could wear a different scarf every day. Either way, you’ll look amazing. Here are a few of my current favorite scarf finds.

Tie any of these gorgeous options, or an old scarf of your own, around your neck nonchalantly, practice saying “Oui, oui!” and just try to walk to the corner store without getting mobbed by street style photographers. They won’t even notice that stain on your Michigan State sweats.

Are you a scarf fanatic? And, more importantly, when you wear them – do people think you’re French?

Why You’re Cute/Sexy/Breathtakingly Gorgeous

Really! Look at those lips! That cleverly put together outfit! That sexily mussed hair!

We can all use a good dose of ego stroking from time to time, and it´s a shame to stand around waiting for for someone else to comment on our great bone structure. So let´s put together a marching band of all our own horns and toot them!
Please allow me to raise my french horn to the sky with these five things:
  1. Excellent natural hair color. Good job DNA! I´m never sure how to react when people ask me if it´s natural. Really, this is one step away from asking me if the curtains match the rug.
  2. My button nose. I spent most of my adolescense hating my nose for making me look like a 9 year old, but now I think it makes me look friendly and trustworthy.
  3. My ankles. Not that they are necessarily spectacular, but I really appreciate their total lack of cankleness.
  4. My feet. I am lucky enough to possess toes of appropriate length, a high arch and (for now) a total lack of warts and calluses.
  5. My hands. Honestly, they are the hands of a 12 year old boy, tiny and thin and totally androgenous, but they look capable and strong. The sort of hands that can pick apples and write short stories and make an award-winning loaf of bread.
What are the top five things about you that are adorable beyond measure?

Nice work if you can get it: Visual Effects Artist for Weta

(This is just one of many interviews with folks who have awesome, envy-inducing jobs. They all also happen to be my friends. When I was living in New Zealand, I attended a house warming party in Island Bay. As I was nibbling on a piece of Whittaker’s, I heard a sweet, sweet sound in the distance. Whaaaat? Pray tell, is that an American accent?! It was, and it belonged to Michael. As most expats do, we immediately joined forces to talk about home and discuss funny animal videos. Not only is Michael an aficionado on the best viral videos featuring penguins, he also works for Peter Jackson’s production company, Weta. Lord of the Rings, y’all. Jealous yet?)So what’s the deal? What do you do?
I’m a visual effects artist. My official title is ‘Technical Director’ which is a fancy way of saying I make pretty pictures or ‘shots’. A shot is a continuous camera take. A movie can consist of a couple thousand shots a few hundred or thousand of which can have a visual effect in it. These shots are divided amongst us artists, and our job is to add the effect (anything from monsters to buildings to giant turtles) as realistically as possible. Other times we have to remove stuff such as wires, lights or acne. On rare occasions we’ll even remove or replace a bad actor like Keanu Reeves.

Obviously these days the majority of this work is done on computers. We use 3D graphics software such as Maya to produce the said turtle and 2D compositing software such as Shake or Nuke to combine it with Keira Knightley or a likewise sex symbol.

Tell us about an average day in life of your job.
Well we get into work around 8 or 9 and review Dailies – which is basically all the previous day’s work. At Dailies we’ll address notes from the Director, Studio, Producer or sometimes his cousin or niece. We’ll make sure all the shots are headed in the right direction and are looking convincingly scary/pretty/sexy and look good together in sequence. Sometimes the work will look so amazing someone will cry. Most of the time it looks like shit.

We’ll spend the rest of the day making corrections and progressing our shots to show at the next day’s dailies. A couple of times during the week we may have meetings or conference calls with the Director and his at the time girlfriend or other Studio heads and Producers and their relatives.

Did you go to school for this? Or get any special training? How did you get into this line of work?
There really weren’t any schools for this kind of stuff when I was studying. I did study Computer Science and did some computer graphics work at University, but it was more on the engineering and research side of things than artistic. I got my break in the industry doing an internship while I was in college and then landing a programming job at ILM (Lucasfilm) who was just starting work on the new Star Wars when I graduated.

Are there any drawbacks to working in film?
The hours are pretty long so you really have to love it. You also need a bit of thick skin because there are quite big egos in the industry.

What are the highlights?
The job can be rewarding because people see your work on the big screen. I remember being in a theater hearing a kid next to me gasp ‘whoa’ when my shot came up. You get to meet some important and famous people now and then I guess and the parties aren’t bad. I used to be a Star Wars geek so getting to work on the prequels was a big deal for me.

What are the misconceptions about working in film?
People think its glamorous and working on a movie is a big party. The reality is very meticulous and tiresome with a lot of grueling hours. It’s also very technical. Most people get bored pretty quickly when they find out its not all fun and games making a movie.

What suggestions would you give to people interested in doing this?
I wouldn’t suggest going to school to study 3D graphics. Anyone can learn to use a computer and software. A traditional art background is much more useful as well as a broader liberal education. Its more about having a good artistic eye and understanding color, composition, and lighting. Its an art not a trade and you need to have a place to draw from.

Is anyone out there a fledgling film geek? Any queries for Michael?