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An Interview with Sarah Nechamkin

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

Interview magazine is one of my absolute favorite publications. I don't like to admit it but I think my first introduction to Interview was through The Carrie Diaries when I was but a tween. Although the antics of a soapy teen dramedy is what drew me to Interview, as I learned more about its history and the people behind it, I developed an even deeper appreciation. I hadn't read anything by Sarah Nechamkin until she became Digital Editor for Interview, but I'm so thankful that her work was brought to my attention.

At the time this interview was conducted, I couldn't remember which article of Sarah's I had read first--- I'm still in the habit of ignoring bylines --but after looking through her archives at Interview I remembered it was her profile of one of my favorite musicians (Sandy) Alex G. I think what I appreciated most about the profile was how it so effortlessly blended her experience and observations with more biographil information.

This isn't exclusive to that particular article. The rest of her profiles are just as descriptive and perceptive, as are her stories for The Cut. In fact, all of her stories reflect a deep sensitivity to other people and a magnificent command of language; they are both in-the-moment and able to withstand the test of time. It's normally hard for me to not get distracted when I read things online (I prefer print), but when I'm reading her articles, I lose track of time.

Who are your biggest inspirations and what lessons have they taught you?

It's so cheesy but I'm genuinely inspired by the people I work with. Nick Haramis, who's our editor-in-chief, is just super smart and witty. I love the balance we have in our staff. Mel Ottenberg, our creative director, is such a genius. He has such a passion for what he does, and I'm so inspired by his outlook on life. Our design team is so brilliant. They take words and explode them and turn them around and make them crazy and fun. I genuinely wouldn't want to come into the office every day is I didn't feel like I was surrounded by motivating people, people who's lives and careers I want to model mine after. And all the fun we have. They're a model of how not to take things too seriously while doing something serious. Of course, Andy Warhol founded the magazine, so I could give you the cheesiest possible answer. But it's true. I think Warhol inspired all of us in the way that he found highbrow and lowbrow culture equally important. I'm lucky I'm able to help carry on the Warhol legacy, so to speak.

What work are you most proud of?

I do a lot of interviews for my current job, because I work at Interview obviously. Within those, I have ones that I like and I have some separate work that I'm proud of because it feels more personal. There's this piece I wrote for The Cut-- two actually --that were more personal. I'm not really answering the question because I'm way too indecisive to just pick one! One of the articles I wrote for The Cut was about how I still sleep with my childhood blanket. It's like the first thing that comes up when you Google me which is super embarrassing for any romantic prospects out there, but I really like that one. I really enjoyed writing it. I got really good feedback on it. More people than you'd think are in that boat. The Cut has this series called I Think About This A Lot which is about random pop culture moments you think about often that are funny or weird. I wrote a piece for that about this scene from The Leftovers, an HBO show, where Justin Theroux's character throws a toaster against the wall because he's confused because he put a bagel in it and it never comes out. It's just like the most intense, dramatic scene about a bagel that I've seen in my entire life. I made it more generally about uncertainties in life and how that show speaks to grief and confusion in a deeper way. As for my work at Interview, I was just combing through my archives, and I really love this conversation I had with Jia Tolentino. She's so amazing and I read almost everything she writes. She was so fun to talk to. She gave me the advice to go do molly which I thought was really hilarious because I've never heard that advice from anyone else. I loved talking to Jeff Goldblum, that's one of my favorite celebrity interviews I've ever done. It wasn't a very long interview, but just being in his presence was life-altering, as many people who've worked with him would tell you.

How did you get your job at Interview?

I was working at The Cut before this. I was an intern there during college, and then I got hired back after college, and they hired me as an editorial assistant. While I was an editorial assistant, I became a morning writer because they needed someone to do it. So I was writing for their news blog in the morning and doing editorial assistant stuff in the afternoon. The way it works there, they have somebody cover the blog in the morning and the nighttime. I wasn't sure how long I was going to stay. In the meantime, my brother's friend's girlfriend just got a job at Interview and she was starting in two weeks. I saw her at a family event coincidentally, and I was like, "Huh, that's so interesting. I wonder if they have jobs open." And she was like, "I'm not sure, you can email me your resume when I start." And so I did about 2 or 3 weeks after that. I asked if they were looking for anyone, and they were looking for an Associate Digital Editor, and I thought that'd be perfect for me. I was looking to go into more of an editor role as opposed to a writing/blogging role. I applied, and then I got it! I was so happy. That was a year ago, and now I'm the Digital Editor. I was hired as Associate.

What's the most challenging part of your job?

Feeling like you need to be ahead of the curve can be mentally taxing. I try to give myself a break because you can't know everything, especially if you're at a magazine that covers different avenues. When someone was talking about a musician I hadn't heard of before, I used to feel like a failure. But now I feel like "Oh cool, who are they?" I want to learn, y'know? In this job, you're always learning new things. Rather than see that as something to be feared, I see it as something to be embraced, like all challenges. Something really annoying about my job is having to clear out my inbox everyday. I'm someone who likes having 0 unread emails, and I haven't had that in over a year. You just get so many emails every day. Obviously, it's an essential part of the job but it gets pretty exhausting sometimes.

What's the most rewarding part of your job?

I generally really love almost everything about my job and I don't say that lightly. I think the most rewarding part is when you have a project that you've nurtured from the getgo, and you get to see it come to life. We're a print-focused publication which is pretty rare. I'm the digital editor but I still get to work for print sometimes. There's something really rewarding about seeing your work in print. The photos are beautiful, and the person looks good, and it feels like they were treated with such dignity. That's such a cool thing. I love people and I love talking to them. I actually do get a little bit of a high after I've had a really great interview with someone. I almost always get nervous before. It's really fun and I love connecting with people, that's the most rewarding part.

In your opinion, what makes a good pitch?

What I always look at is whether it feels like the person has read the site. Every publication has a different way of doing things and a different voice. I get a lot of pitches that are clearly not the right fit for Interview. When someone gives a really angled, specific pitch that's not too long, and we've ran another story that's similar we can envision it looking like, it shows that the person has done their homework and will be able to write like our writers do. You should always include a couple clips from other websites. I don't really care where they come from to be honest, if they're from some random niche blog or some major publication, as long as they have the voice. Pick the clips you think communicate your voice and style of writing in the first paragraph. Great writers, you can read the first paragraph, and you know they're a great writer and they'll do a great job. Being able to trust that a freelancer will do a great job is huge.

What do you think is the most important skill for a young journalist to develop?

I think it depends on what kind of journalist you want to be. I was always told that curiosity is the thing. I think [that's right], the ability to look around and see trends and things and people that excite you and ask why. As a cultural critic, you're always wondering how the world around you operates.

What's been the most transformative experience of your life?

Without getting too much into it, I guess I would say I was diagnosed with endometriosis when I was in college and I ended up getting surgery for it. I think that process, of going to a million doctors and not knowing what it was and having to deal with the uncertainty of all that, really changed my life in a lot of ways. I think having to be my own advocate when I felt like no one else was, when I was being told by other doctors that it wasn't real and I should just move on, showed me what I'm capable of. Life can test you, and that was the first time I was tested in a real way. Having to cope with that and solve it of my own volition was very powerful.

Using a metaphor, how would you describe your creative process?

Years ago when I was touring college, I was in St. Louis with my dad. We were in this restaurant, and they gave me this deconstructed Caesar salad. It was just a piece of lettuce, with cheese on the side and bread. It's such a funny concept in gastronomy. I kind of feel like my mind is like that sometimes. I'm very piecemeal in the way I work. I do one thing here, one thing there. I don't have a linear process to how I work. I guess that's why I like writing, because it lets me put a logic flow to my thoughts. The way I work on a day-to-day is very motivated by how I feel and like randomness. It's almost like a combusting star. I'm all over the place, but somehow it all gets done. It makes me sound disorganized, but I'm actually very organized. I just like doing things in a way that makes me feel like I'm checking off a lot of boxes at once.


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