August 27, 2013

10 minutes with Chelsea Fagan

This girl is a hero. And she literally has the best job ever.


Here’s some questions and answers with New York’s most wanted writer. She’s gone and written a book, and she’s only 23. You can find her tweeting hilarious one-liners here @chelsea_fagan.

– So, Chelsea! Welcome and congratulations on your fantastic writings! When was the moment you realised that you wanted to do this for a living?

I don’t think I ever told myself that I wanted to be a writer professionally, because I didn’t think that it was an option. I always imagined that there were people who were writers in a capital-W sense, kind of like aliens, and I would never be a part of their breed. I was just someone who liked to write and did it in her spare time. But I’ve written — blogs, short stories, terrible Young Adult novels, etc — since I was a little kid. I think it was the best way to
channel my problems at school (I was never a good student, never popular.)

– You are a frequent contributor to the wonderful Thought Catalog. How did you first discover the site, and what do you love about it?

I am actually Senior Writer at Thought Catalog! And I first discovered it nearly three years ago, started contributing, then worked as a freelancer, then as a staff member. I’ll be moving to Brooklyn to work in the office with the rest of the team next month (finally!). And I love it for many reasons, but the two biggest would probably be the freedom we give to people to express their opinions and their styles, because the kind of autonomy and independence we have as a result is a rare, wonderful thing. And I love how positive everyone on the team is — we are supportive, we don’t attack other writers or publications, and we are generally as nice and professional to one another as possible (which is something of a dying art in the internet age). It’s nice to feel very much at home where you work.

– What inspires you to think up unique ideas that then turn into articles?

Life in general. I write so many articles, and I get the freedom to talk about literally anything I want to talk about, so it’s all about just making small observations in daily life and working on how to take that fraction of an idea and turn it into something that is relatable, and something that other people would want to read. I talk about food, about work, about friends, about the metro — everything.

– You have just written a book called I’m Only Here For the WiFi. Can you give us a little clue as to what this is about?

It’s a guide for starting your life post-school, finding a job and an apartment and adult friends and all of that kind of thing. It touches on a huge variety of subjects, but all in a very (what I believe to be) humorous way. I wrote it for my sister, who is now almost 18, as the book that I would want her to read when she was just setting out in the world — it answers as many questions as I am qualified to answer, I think. It is as practical as I could make it with my experience, but is still (I think) a lot of fun.

– You also wrote a book last year with the amusing title Take Your Earrings Out Before You Fight and Other Things I Learned in Public School. How hard is it to start and finish a complete book?

Well that was just a small ebook I did for Thought Catalog’s ebook imprint, only about a chapter’s length, so it wasn’t very long. My book-book, I’m Only Here For The WiFi, is a full-length print book, so that took quite a bit longer to complete. I would say, beginning to end, the process took about a year, and it involved quite a bit of tedious revision and reading things aloud and changing small points. The actual writing aspect of a book is relatively small compared to all of the work that actually goes into publishing, and making something as perfectly presentable as possible. And that’s the real challenge, I think — putting something that is wild and unrefined and natural into flowing chapters, and beginnings and endings, and transitions. That is the work, in many ways, of the editor, but it is also something authors need to learn how to do, and it’s a much more technical, difficult aspect of the writing process.

– You have already accomplished a lot for a young twenty-something. Is there any advice you can pass on to anyone wanting to find the time and inspiration to be a writer?

In this market, with the talent influx of the internet and the economy the way it is, you have to fight for it. You have to take the small jobs, or the bylines, and let it stack up into something bigger. You have to be persistent, and follow up, and build your own personal networks and brand as much as possible. The important thing is to define a voice for yourself (which will often involve not turning your nose up at any kind of work, and seeing where you can reach a new audience at every turn), so that people will know who you are and why they should follow your work. Once you have established your voice, and an audience of your own, then you can count on the work a little bit more. But getting that ball rolling down the hill is very, very hard work, so be prepared to shill yourself like you would any other product. Don’t be afraid of getting rejected, just be afraid of completely missing your chances because you were afraid to try.

You can download Chelsea’s book here. I whole heartedly recommend it, it reads like chatting to a best mate in the pub. Perfect for times when you need a bit of a pick-me-up or in need of a humorous reality check.

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