From Wes to the Real World

Sarah Firshein graduated from Wes in 2004, English degree in hand.  After making her way in the magazine industry from Connecticut to NYC, she’s now at the top of the masthead as editor of Curbed National–a well-known and respected interior design, decor, and real estate blog. Want to know the secret to her success?  Read on:

Did you have any writing internships while you were still in college?

Senior year, I had a two-semester editorial internship at Connecticut Magazine.
What was your first writing job after graduation?

When I first graduated, I worked in PR for a year and a half. I quit, knowing it wasn’t for me, and I took a gig as an editorial assistant at a small regional lifestyle magazine based in Princeton, NJ. That was my first real job as a writer/editor, and it’s indubitably the one that launched my career—I went on to run the magazine group there. You have to be willing to be a big fish in a small pond for a while—it’s better to be an editorial assistant who writes a ton of stories at a small magazine than one who gets coffee at a large magazine.

What’s your job at Curbed like?  Do you get to do a lot of writing?

My position at Curbed involves daily blogging at a very fast pace. I do most of the writing on the site, with help from a very talented associate editor who writes five posts a day. Together we update the site 18 to 20 times a day on subjects ranging from real estate to interior design to architecture to highly time-sensitive news-related content, so often it’s the case that when I wake up I have no idea how the day will unfold. At 5 p.m. I’ll look at the site and be like, “Wow, what a day.” It’s probably what I like most—the fact that no two days are alike.

What piece or article have you written that you’re most proud of?

Well, I’ve written several architecture/design features for print that I can still appreciate even though I no longer work in magazines. In terms of Curbed, though—and it’s hard to pick just one post, given how often I blog during the workday—a project I’m particularly proud of was called Operation Dollhouse. The day we launched the site, we sent five unadorned, fully constructed dollhouses to the editor-in-chiefs of five major shelter magazines (Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, Martha Stewart Living, Dwell, and Lonny) and asked them to decorate them and send us pics. Ultimately, all these media honchos obliged and we were thrilled to be able to publish the photos. It engaged much of the design and shelter-media community and was a fun little endeavor that put the website on everyone’s radar—exactly the goal.

What would you love to write about but haven’t yet?

I would love to write about restaurants and food, especially in NYC. Call it a personal hobby/obsession!

Do you have a writing routine, or anything you do to get your creative juices flowing?

Each morning, I read the news ravenously for ideas, interesting stories, and quirky tidbits that other blogs might overlook. Then I take a deep breath (and a swig of tea) and get to work. It’s really as simple as that. The juices flow easier once you start putting things in writing, and with blogging you really can’t over-think things too much or else you’ll be staring at a blank computer screen for 10 hours a day. You just have to know your brand and get words on-screen that make sense within its parameters.

What’s the hardest part about writing for you?

It really depends on the day: on slow days, the hardest thing is generating good, interesting content. On crazy days, it’s keeping up with the news cycle and features I want to run. Never mind presenting it in a way that is distinctly Curbed‘s—with our own perspective and tone.

Do you have a writing mantra?

There is always something to write about (and then I force myself to go find it).

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