Edith Zimmerman ’05’s self-selected career highlights include partying with Chris Evans then writing about it for GQ, grilling an elevator expert about the paranormal for New York Magazine‘s entertainment blog, and mocking the people who write in to women’s magazines. From her current position as editor of The Hairpin, she’s waxed poetic about The “Winter Boyfriend,” taught the world How to Make a Doll Into a Wine Glass in 23 Quick Steps and compiled my personal favorite: Women Laughing Alone with Salad.
How did you get started as a writer and editor?
I did a couple of editorial internships in Boston and NYC, then got a job at a small art magazine (in NYC), then moved to another magazine (editorial assistant to associate editor), then started blogging at that other magazine (a small NYC alt-weekly), and liked the pace and feel of online writing, so I changed jobs and became a bars editor for an online NYC guide, then went from there to covering pop culture for NYMag’s entertainment blog, and at some point in there started a personal blog and became a columnist for The Awl, and then when they were starting a sister site, they approached me about running it.
That’s probably more information than you want, so, short version: Internships, then entry-level jobs, plus writing for free for places I really admired = writing for money for places I admire!
What does your typical work day look like?
I start working at around 6:30 a.m., from home, and will work here until about 9 a.m. or so, then head into the office. Then I come home around 3 or 4 p.m., and, depending on what I’ve got scheduled that evening, put in a couple more hours of work between 5 and 9. It varies. But it is ALWAYS glamorous.
You’ve had experience at more traditional magazines, and now you’ve moved on to running The Hairpin. What’s the advantage to writing for a blog?
I like the freedom and creativity. Weird formatting, images, experimental stuff. I love it. Plus you can see all the different buttons people pressed to show they liked it or didn’t!
What cultural topics do you never get tired of reading and writing about? On the flip side, what tends to get over-covered on blogs and in magazines?
I love to read about health-related stuff. Food, dolls, weird science. Advice. Unexpected things. Sometimes on sites aimed at women, like The Hairpin, topics like weddings and babies can get a little tiring after a while, but it’s all good. I love weddings and babies!
How do you approach writing about controversial topics?
With as little hand-wringing and as much humor as is appropriate.
How would you describe your writing style?
Perfect and brilliant.
Is moving to New York still a requirement for the aspiring writer, or does new media really make it easier to contribute from anywhere?
Not a requirement, definitely not. For instance, some of The Hairpin’s best contributors don’t live in NYC and never have, but they’re getting their names out there via the internet, and are freelancing all sorts of places (NYMag, The Atlantic, to name a couple). That said, it does help to be here, even if it’s just to bop around and meet people in real life, which can get you work-related footholds.
Any other advice for Wes students hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Work as hard as you can at what you think you’re best at!