gabydunn15 karma2013-03-21 18:11:48 UTC
So here's what I did: I moved to NYC and lived with my brother in a tiny apartment where I shared a room with a baby. It sucked. I got a day job and I started a blog. That blog had a clear theme and purpose -- a deadline to complete a project (something people could follow) and it was long-form journalism (what I wanted to be hired to do). For a year, I wrote on that blog every single week multiple times. (It was called 100Interviews.com if you want to look.)
At first, no one read it. But I kept posting, and showing Facebook friends and putting it on Twitter and since the blog included interviews, people who were on the blog showed their friends and their fans. It got bigger and bigger. After a year, people knew me as "the 100 Interviews girl." I had an audience. I did press for that blog everywhere. (I can't stress enough how much of a great spiderweb interviews are.)
When that blog finished, the culture editor of the New York Times Magazine emailed me to say that since the blog was done and since I clearly had a year-long resume of the writing I wanted to be hired to do, did I want to come work for him?
Do the writing you want to be doing. Do the writing you want to be paid to do. Just start doing it. Do it in your free-time. That's how I started getting paid to do it, because people knew it's what I wanted to do.
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gabydunn9 karma2013-03-21 17:38:24 UTC
A zillion. In college, for two years, I was a nighttime crime reporter at the Boston Globe, through a coop program at my college. I went to school during the day and worked at the newsdesk from 6 pm to 2 am. They gave me a car and a police radio and I went out every night and covered fires, shootings, other various crime. It was an invaluable experience, even as it probably messed me up in the head for a while. I mean, I was 19 and looking at brains on the sidewalk and banging on the doors of family members to get comment. I basically never slept, but I learned so much about daily journalism. While it was going on, I felt crazy but now, looking back, it's my favorite. I'll never have that again, I don't think.
gabydunn6 karma2013-03-21 18:26:09 UTC
I answer what it's like in a video thing coming soon, but as for landing the job -- I applied my junior year of college to the Viacom internship pool at VH1. Since Comedy Central is owned by Viacom, they didn't have a spot for me but they gave my resume to TDS. (I thought they were BSing me but they really did.) I interviewed with a bunch of people and then I got it.
I think honestly what got me the internship is that my cover letter was bananas. It was all jokes. I wrote about Zac Efron and my love of Nick at Nite and like, it was just the weirdest, most "me" cover letter. I really, to this day, think it was that risk that got me pulled from the slush pile.
Edit: I'm also OBSESSED with TDS and had published an article in high school in a "Best High School Writing" anthology about how I wanted be Jon Stewart, which I spent the whole internship worrying someone would find and show everyone. :(
gabydunn6 karma2013-03-21 19:33:28 UTC
I read everything. I used to only read non-fiction for a while because I was a snob and an asshole, but now I see the benefits and beauty of fiction -- mostly because I read all the Rabbit books by John Updike and was just blown away. That guy's good. (Understatement of the century.)
Recs: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (love love love forever)
The Rabbit series by John Updike
Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
And for journalists, I love the Warren Ellis series TransMetropolitan. It's a graphic novel about a crazy Hunter S. inspired journalist in the future. I am obsessed.
gabydunn6 karma2013-03-21 17:45:23 UTC
Email introduction! I've never gotten anything pitching blind. I think I have freelancing friends who have, but it's never worked for me, ever. I'd always do an email introduction first, with specifics. Maybe you share an alma mater, or you really liked the last thing they worked on. And for me, it really helped to have my own blog where I interviewed people and wrote about them so, for example, a great way to meet editors is to say, "Can I interview you for my blog?" and then just ask them everything you want to know, and get to know them. Or just ask if you can take them for coffee, if you're in the same city. No one hates free coffee. But pitching blind seems like a waste of time to me.
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