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An Interview with Megan Reynolds

Jezebel was a godsend for thirteen-year-old me who had just discovered feminism and was tired of the triviality of other women's magazines, but also was bored of the dry, woe-is-me writing in some of the other feminist publications. Jezebel was never falsely positive nor was it woeful and inaccessible. I learned about the creepiest paper dolls and what the most awkward greetings are. It helped me to embrace the tragic, funny, beautiful, messy experience of being a woman. A lot has changed since those days, but it still helps me to remember that.

Jezebel has undergone a lot of changes since then too, but I think it has still stayed true to its founding principles, perhaps one could even say its grown into them-- they fit better now than ever before. I especially admire senior writer Megan Reynolds' work. She constantly surprises me with her wittiness and her hot takes. I did this interview way back in pre-Covid times (and then got too distracted by the fact the world was burning to write this), but I'm actually thankful I held off because I think some of her best work is her most recent (of course, I would always say that, but still). I've sympathized with her ability to watch everything and nothing, and felt comforted by her experience living alone. Thanks to her, I have also discovered the glories of S'mores Pop-Tarts and the dating show Rock of Love. I mean, what more could you ask for?

What work are you most proud of? The hardest thing I’ve ever written was this essay about the power of vulnerability and the ways human beings trap the secret, most tender parts of themselves in boxes because being hurt really sucks. Something snapped in me this year, which has already been way too long, and I realized that being a hardened shell of a woman is not quite the way I’d like to live? So I tried to change it! Sometimes the easiest way to do that is by quite literally writing it out and seeing what comes.

Who are your biggest inspirations? It embarrasses me to say that I have never really thought about my inspirations because I've spent most of my career keeping my nose to the ground and doing work that hopefully impresses or at least moves someone. However, my best friend is the most sensitive, caring, and honest person I know. His candor, wit, and empathetic intelligence inspires me to be a better person every day and I sincerely hope that some of that comes across in the work that I do.

What made you want to go into journalism? It's funny because I don’t really consider myself a journalist, but I have known for a long time that I’m very good at about three things, tops. Writing happens to be one of them and so after a brief career in the less glamorous side of advertising, I managed to extricate myself and get into writing for a profession. Honestly, I still feel lucky to be able to do so.

Using a metaphor, how would you describe the editing process? Editing is basically like trying to win over a feral cat. You have to approach it slowly, with compassion, empathy and understanding. Know that somehow in the process,someone will come out with a scratch or two but the end result will be connection of some sort. That's what good writing does--foster a connection, whether it’s with the editor and the writer or, more ideally, with the finished piece and a receptive audience.

What has been the most transformative experience of your life? Hasn’t happened yet, I don’t think.

What do you think is the most important skill for a young journalist to develop? I tell everyone, including myself, to avoid reading the comments as much as possible. To that end, the most important thing for a young journalist is to have an extremely thick skin, which is easier said than done! Writing is a tricky profession because insecurity is baked right into the thing, so being able to look that insecurity in the face and tell yourself to get over it is a valuable skill to have! I have reassured myself over the course of my career’s various failures that it’s not about me. There are so many factors to why one person gets a job over someone else or a pitch doesn't quite land, especially in an industry where there aren’t that many jobs, so to dwell on what was wrong with ME per se isn’t the best move? A hearty dose of humility and the ability to believe in yourself as much as you can is the only way to get through this.

In your opinion, what makes a good pitch? A good pitch has a clear point of view and a strong through line about what the actual piece is about. I want to see passion for the subject matter and a sense of the writer's voice from the pitch itself, which is

If you weren't in journalism what would you be doing? In an ideal world, married rich early and spending a lot of time reading and rearranging the pantry. Otherwise, I really don’t know? Advertising? Something that doesn’t make me feel dead inside, like journalism occasionally does.


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