Fifteen months: That’s how long I’ve been freelance now, how long it’s been since I swam onto a packed subway every morning to greet the same coworkers, to make a consistent title with the same fuzzily outlined audience in mind. The world feels bigger now, brimming and frenetic, and the freelance life is one I’ve grown to love. I’ve traveled the world, finished a crummy first draft of a mystery novel, and written about so many things for so many outlets: Snapchat and fitness trackers and fetal tissue donation and “emotionally unavailable” men and almost-addiction and so many other things. The world is so interesting, isn’t it, when you stop to think about it? That’s what freelance-writing is: perpetual wonder, with the background software running to determine how to capture it, how to capitalize on it.
Here’s a conversation I’ve had many times over the last few weeks:
“I’m so sorry about your magazines. It’s just a terrible time for magazines right now.”
“Thanks. But we were actually doing really well. Both titles were making money and Fit Pregnancy especially was growing like crazy.”
“Then why did it fold?”
“Because it was doing so well.”
These are the facts: We were killing it, therefore we were a threat to a large competitor, who shut us down and folded our subscription lists into magazines of its own. Eighteen months ago, we were brought in to flip houses, to refresh the magazines and make them profitable again—we didn’t realize that was with the eventual goal of selling them, but you can’t say we didn’t accomplish our mission. (If we were a startup and had been bought out by another company, we’d be celebrating! Of course, we’d also have stock options. So.)
I just hate for others to hear that we’re shutting down and assume we petered out without attracting readers, ad dollars, or industry attention. And I don’t want to come across as deluded or self-aggrandizing when I insist we folded because we were on a roll. So, here’s a little crib sheet of what we accomplished in the last 1.5 years, led by our inimitable EIC, Laura Kalehoff:
- In the second half of 2014, Fit Pregnancy’s paid subscriptions were up a jaw-dropping 264 percent. That’s more than twice the growth of the next-fastest-growing title (Allrecipes at 107 percent.)
- We went from rarely having celebrities on the cover to snagging (deep breath) Jessica Alba, Shailene Woodley, Alyssa Milano, Kristen Bell, Kourtney Kardashian, Emmy Rossum, Giada de Laurentiis, Molly Sims, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, and more for Natural Health and Fit Pregnancy. Evangeline Lilly was an editor-at-large for Natural Health and was writing (and yes, actually writing!) a column in every issue.
- We killed it in the Association of Magazine Media’s first-ever ranking of “gross audience”—a measure of how many people are engaging with a magazine brand in print and online. Out of 150+ magazines analyzed, Fit Pregnancy was #2 in brand growth and experienced a stunning 44 percent jump in YOY gross audience since our team took over in September 2013. That growth outpaces that of Cosmopolitan, Bon App and 99 percent of the media universe. Observe (click to enlarge):
- NaturalHealthmag.com also climbed up in the rankings: It was #7 for web growth in the last year.
- An update: The second 360 report came out in March 2015. It showed that Fit Pregnancy grew a whopping 38 percent from Jan 2014 to Jan 2015 (#6 ranking for audience growth, smack between Wired and Playboy).
- Both magazines grew in brand recognition (a measure of how recognizable various media brands are to consumers) from Fall 2013 to Fall 2014—Fit Pregnancy by 8.2 percent and Natural Health by 5.2 percent.
- In MRI’s most recent biannual survey, Fit Pregnancy’s readership looked phenomenal: The magazine had a gain of nearly 15 percent in readers to 2.1 million, got a bit younger to 29 and was up in income 31.6 percent.
- Fit Pregnancy got an honorable mention in the min Editorial & Design Awards in the category of Design: Magazine Redesign—Consumer.
I hope I don’t sound bitter, braggy or ungrateful to have been involved in these two wonderful titles. I just wanted to set the record straight (and, for my own sake, organize a sampling of the accolades we received). I have one more week working with this tireless, insanely talented staff, and I hope they all know this happened not because we failed but because we were a massive success.
It’s a Yiddish proverb, co-opted by slimy Woody Allen, but I’m using the original adage here: Man plans; God laughs. Less than two weeks after my last chipper post, I got the sad news that Natural Health and Fit Pregnancy—rocketships by any standards, with Fit Pregnancy outpacing more than 150 magazine brands for YOY total audience growth—were folding. (Well, they’ll continue on as websites for the time being, but there’ll be no more print magazines and my coworkers and I were all laid off, which feel like the more telling bullet points here.) I’m sad, because I love my colleagues and hate to see them stressed; because I loved these magazines and hate to see good publications disappear in a puff of smoke. But I’m also excited, because I’ve been through this before and know that whatever the future holds, it’ll be exciting. For now, I’m dedicating March to finishing a draft of my novel, with a solo writing residency planned in the South of France and even a few freelance assignments turned down in order to go all in. In time I’ll look for something new, something fresh and fulfilling with a new set of challenges and a cast of new coworkers. But for now, I’ll push my nose to the grindstone and write.
I had lunch with my wonderful friend Liz Egan today, author of the upcoming A Window Opens. (Liz is brilliant and hilarious and I can’t wait to read every word she committed to paper.) As we parted ways, she turned around and called out, “Don’t let anyone give you that face, that ‘poor you.'” She exaggerated the whimpery frown I’ve seen over and over during the last two weeks. “This is exciting! This is the beginning of something great.”
And you know what? She’s right.
It’s January, an introspective and forward-thinking month to begin with, and today Timehop reminded me that it’s been 6.5 years to the day since I moved to this city, and 1.5 years to the day since I accepted my current gig at Fit Pregnancy and Natural Health. It’s lovely to feel settled but still challenged, and to shake things up this fall, I filled in for the editor-in-chief during her three-month maternity leave, which wrapped just before the holidays. It was fun to fill a role but know it was temporary, the same sensation as dipping in and out of an internship or contract position. I loved working with the ad team and steering the ship on big projects, but the sojourn made me appreciate my own job more—the bits about hammering out the nitty-gritty with editors and really wordsmithing every last line.
I also participated in National Novel Writing Month in November, egged on by my friend Leah Konen and my sister Julia. I just pulled it off, hitting 51,000 (of the 50,000-word goal) before the month’s end, on a new fiction project, a deep-recession mystery with lies and betrayals and autopsy reports and all sorts of things to keep me up, spooked and writing, late into the night. I’m at 70,000 words now with a ways to go before I have a completed first draft, but it feels good to be writing, stringing scenes together into a whole. Eventually I hope to
rewrite revise the whole thing, find an agent and turn the mess into a book, but what I keep begging myself to do is just to keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. On the eve of my opening a Googledoc entitled “New Project,” I whined to my friend Leah about a fear of starting, and total bewilderment about how anything would fit together, how the plot would unroll. The reply that got me started:
Go all in for the shitty first draft. Take off your editor hat. Take off your people-will-mock-me-for-
I briefly considered backdating this because I’ve been so dilatory in making an update. But here we are, deep into a crisp, sunny fall, and I’ve been too busy enjoying my new role to post an update no one’ll read. The story is this: A half-year into my tenure at Glamour, I was happily editing hilarious sex features and overseeing ambitious health reports that really, really mattered, when my former coworker, one I sat next to for two years at SELF at the start of my career, reached out to say that, as the new editor-in-chief of Fit Pregnancy and Natural Health, she needed a deputy, and wouldn’t I like to be top-editing stories and looking at the big picture and getting back to those integrative medicine roots? The answer, of course, was yes, and I’m now almost two months into the role down at American Media Inc.
It was so, so tough to say goodbye to my Glam coworkers so soon, but I’m loving the new role and team. In August, my sister Julia held up the Glamour she was reading as I stressed aloud about leaving a job I loved so soon. She pointed to an item in the Glamour List entitled, “10 Ways You Too Can Be Kick-Ass.” “Take the job that scares you,” it instructed, “and slay it.”
How great was the inauguration? Obama gave a stirring speech that mentioned women’s rights, gay rights, and climate change, Sasha looked bored out of her mind, Kelly Clarkson reminded us why she won the first American Idol, and Beyonce did a slow, deliberate arm-raise on the last note of the national anthem like a boss.
AND SO. In what might be the most brazen examples of deluded self-importance of all time (all time!), imma use Inauguration Day to tell you about my own new appointment. I’ve accepted an offer from Glamour and will start as their new senior editor in February. I’ll be handling all their health pages as well as editing some lifestyle stories. And oh. my. god. I. am. so. excited. Like, unable to fall asleep at night because I think about it and feel the happy lurch in my ribcage and just lie there smiling. I’ve been subscribing to Glamour since I was in high school, and if someone had told 16-year-old me that I’d someday call the title my employer, my head would’ve exploded.
Two new concerns have emerged. One, that I’ll be hit by a truck, because where do I get off being this flipping fortunate? And two, a much more pressing concern: What on earth am I gonna wear for my first day?
It’s been six months since I’ve updated; my last post was effusive and gushing, a perfect counterpoint to this one. Whole Living folded yesterday, a sad and surprising end to a job I truly loved. We’d known for a while that change was afoot, but we’d received official word that the magazine would be bought, so we were caught off-guard by the whump of the coffin lid.
I’m so grateful for the 11 months I had on staff, working on stories I cared about alongside colleagues I adored. We already have get-togethers planned (drinks with Martha Stewart herself next week, a karaoke send-off the week after), so I have no doubt we’ll all stay friends, but the day-to-day, the good vibes in our aisle as I giggled with my cubemates or shared a weekly potluck lunch with the crew, have come to an end.
The game plan? To take a few weeks over the holidays to unwind and travel—conveniently, I’ve got the Coachella Cruise, a Wisconsin Christmas, and a ski trip to Utah all on the docket in the next few weeks—and then to freelance while looking for a new staff position. I really enjoy freelancing, with its loose hours and eclectic stories and midday yoga classes, but I’m happiest on staff, playing Editor full-time. My hope is that I’ll land in a health, fitness, or lifestyle gig at a magazine, though I’m open to all sorts of opportunities.
The Unknown is kind of exciting. It sparks with possibility, like new projects, singledom, and graduation. The thing about falling off the end of a conveyor belt is that I’ve done it before, and I know I’ll land on my feet.
Happy July! Time for a mid-year progress report.
The first half of 2012 was pretty fantastic. I’m going to go ahead and be annoying and gushy because I mean it: Whole Living is the best place to work in the entire world. For real. The staff is incredible. I get to edit fascinating health reports one day and wrangle Olympians the next. My editors sent me to Wanderlust Festival in Vermont to do yoga in the mountains. Seriously good stuff. My only complaint these days is the daily schlep from the subway to 12th Ave.—I didn’t mind it in winter, but boy, do I hate it when it’s 94 degrees out.
My other Life Update: J&R Creative Media, the brilliant production company behind The Gaggle, has optioned my screenplay! It’s called Classic Love Story, and it’s sort of a hipster Before Sunset, with some elements of magical realism. My agent once called it Eternal Sunshine of the Garden State, which made me laugh. I have yet to nail the elevator pitch, obviously, but I’m very excited to be working toward seeing my words become frames.
Happy March! Spring has always been my favorite season, all dandelion shoots and tree buds and soft lime-green puffs on the end of fir boughs. It was a mild winter, but I’m still not sad to see February go (after lingering around for an extra 24 hours — rude.)
If you care about tracking down and reading print articles I’ve written (in which case I probably call you Mom or Aunt Ruth), this is a great month to support your local newsstand: I have good-sized articles in the March issues of Shape (a feature! Also available here but go support your local newsstand!), Health (also here) and SELF (three distinct one-pagers, PDFs TK).
On a related note, I’m loving being back on the other side of a story, editing full-time at Whole Living. I totally lucked out: The staff is amazing and I’m genuinely fascinated by every article we run. Even my silly concern that going back into an office would give me SAD was quelled by the sunny Martha Stewart offices. (Yes, that actually crossed my mind when I was still freelancing. Related: Freelancing makes you kind of weird.)
I’m on the early side of a plane ride back from Los Angeles, and I’m sad the jaunt is over. I loved everything about it: the knuckly gray trees shooting up from the sandy soil; the massive ultimate frisbee tournament on Santa Monica beach, all tie-dye and cheering and stereotypes; zipping along the Pacific Coastal Highway on the back of a vintage motorcycle, grinning against the foam of my pink and black helmet; bringing a book to the water but leaving it folded in my bag as I watched the rhythmic water. I love Brooklyn, and I couldn’t imagine settling down on the west coast, but every time I visit I leave carrying three new things I want to do in California, my to-dos sprouting like dandelions. As I promised my wonderful hosts Sarah and Erin, I’ll be back, and soon.
The trip wasn’t just a vacation, but rather a last hurrah before I rejoin the ranks of nine-to-fivers. On Thursday, I’ll take my post as Whole Living‘s new senior editor, health and nutrition. (That’s right, my title includes a comma.) I’m as surprised as, well, many of my friends (“…but you love freelancing!”) to find myself leaving the writing life behind — for now — but I’m also so, so very excited to dive into this new position. I love the magazine, love its focus on holistic health and mind-body medicine, love its beautiful layouts and emphasis on green living and every single editor I’ve met there. If I weren’t dog-tired and strapped into an airplane seat, I’d be bouncing around in excitement right now.
That means the next, oh, two days will be spent tying up freelance projects. I’ll update my CV section as more magazine clips roll in in February, March and April; I’ve worked with some incredible editors and am psyched to see these stories in print. On that note, time to turn this tray into a desk and complete some articles.