I was going through old emails today and I totally found my edit test for this job -- which is like an application in publishing, an "audition," of sorts, that you hand in before coming in to interview. I thought it would be fun to republish -- my pitches were crazy! I hope Jane doesn't still want me to actually do any of them [I do! ]. But first, let me tell you the whole story! It's like a little xoJane.com history lesson! Fix yourself a Julie-approved low-calorie snack.
OK! Let me set the scene! It was, I think, February 2011. Nothing was known about Jane Pratt's mysterious new website except that it was launching sometime in the summer and that was is to be called JanePratt.com (wrong) and that Tavi was going to be involved (wrong again).
An ad went up on Mediabistro -- and Amy K. from VICE is hired as managing editor -- the position Emily holds now and that we're currently hiring for -- to help Jane hire a team of writers and editors and launch the wildly anticipated new site.
Where was I at this time? Nowhere good. Prescription drugs had finally, finally broken me in half -- I'd quit my beauty editor job at Lucky months earlier and had been in bed ever since except when I went out at night to get even more broken. Wrecked! Smashed. Smooshed.
Finally I went to my grandmother's in Charlottesville for three weeks. One night on Twitter, which I scrolled through endlessly on my Blackberry every night bored out of my mind in the country, Amy -- we followed each other -- tweeted something like, "Does anyone know of a health blogger that's not so...healthy?"
Jane Pratt, I thought. Janeprattjaneprattjaneprattjaneprattjanepratt.
I DM'd her immediately, hopped on a train the next day, and wrote the (crazy) informal email and edit test (which is basically a list of ideas for stories) on the train trip back to New York.
The funny thing is, there wasn't even a beauty job open at the time! No, correction -- the really really funny thing is that I had literally no interest in working in online; I'd never even had Internet at my apartment before.
But Jane is Jane is JANE. Is JANE. Oh yes.
For beauty, they already had Hannah, who was and still is in Canada -- so I was going for a full-on HEALTH EDITOR role (and we all know how well that would have worked out).
I didn't say anything, but I knew they'd need beauty fulltime in New York, and I knew that if Jane wanted someone Vice-y like Amy, she'd probably also like me. (That's not arrogance -- that me knowing my industry better than I literally know my little brother Phil) (who incidentally just moved to South Korea -- why?).
I was also asked to submit stories for the Sex and Relationships Editor job, which was a joke, since I was a functioning long-term drug addict who rarely had sex, really never had relationships (pills replace people), and also just happened to hate writing about sex (though I love reading about other people doing it).
Guess who beat me out for that job? YUP. Madeline. No, just kidding; obviously it was Em.
The third job I applied for, as you'll see, was the Celebrity Editor, which I guess is now entertainment editor -- Julianne. I hadn't read the Janepratt.com mission statement about not tearing down celebs yet, so my submission for that job (which I actually sort of wanted; I love writing about celebrities) was fucking VICIOUS! The piece I link to on Lindsay Lohan below is one of my favorite things I've ever written. You'll see.
Anyway, so Amy showed Jane my crazy ideas, which you're about to read, to Jane, who I guess liked them, and then I wrote a writing sample -- THE most boring first story ever. It was supposed to be about health and I literally couldn't think of anything from day one, so disinterested am I in health; can you imagine?! And hence my very first "audition" piece, "Does Anyone Else Gag Down Water?" was born.
And then they called me into a Thursday meeting, which still happens today, where I met Jane for the first time (she was wearing a flannel shirt and I remember thinking she was so nice [And I remember thinking that the look in your eyes ]; I was so late [but so was Emily for once!], and Jane looked literally 13 years old), I was hired (and then, like, four months later, they actually started paying me).
And then Amy, whom we all love, randomly got a dream job as a photo editor somewhere swag, so she left and everyone was excited for Emily to step in and take her job so beautifully and seamlessly, right before launch. I guess Em has never seen this edit test either, so...enjoy my sex article ideas, dude.
Anyway, sorry for the epic intro. Here it is ]
Conde Nast is obviously an amazing place to spend the formative years of your career but I'm a zany person and so quite frankly I got squirmy! I am not one for sitting in a cubicle, writing dry beauty stories, and going to events. Tea parties for new mascaras and things. I'm just not!I did, however, get to write creatively on the Lucky beauty blog (which only launched about a year ago); I got to be funny there, and that peaked [sic] my interest in writing for online. My archive of blogs for Lucky is here. I particularly like "How to Have Dandruff like a Chic Parisian Ingenue" and the lamely titled "Not a Morning Person? Meet Your New Body Wash" best, if you only have time to check out one or two.
Okay, so I really want to do this new site not because I love the internet or anything—far from it—but because like everyone else I am obsessed with Jane Pratt (whom I've never met, FYI).
I have missed JANE magazine so much in adulthood, and I'll write a lot of silly stuff in this email but I mean that. It was the only women's magazine that didn't talk to girls like they were stupid babies! You know? Like being called an "-ista" everywhere these days makes me want to die.
Here are a few ideas off the top of my head for the different subjects you mentioned: sex, health, celebrity.
Thanks for looking!
SEX/RELATIONSHIPS EDITOR PITCHES
WELL. Here's why I'd be both good and bad at this: I don't have boyfriends and never have; I have dumb intimacy issues so diagnosed by comparably dumb psychiatrists and I sleep with people and totally want a boyfriend but don't know how to have one and go around loudly announcing as such to people, mainly potential non-boyfriends. And my parents are both terrible shrinks. I talk about everything.
If that's the kind of sex and relationships stories you're looking for, I could totally be awesome at them. Like, hmm:
1. SEX TIPS FROM PHONE SEX WORKERS
Like if they'll have phone sex with a MAN for four dollars a minute, wouldn't someone at 800-HotSlut (sorry) dish out advice to a woman? I originally thought of this as a beauty article, like get a dude to call pretending to have a beauty fetish and get the phone sex hotline worker to describe her beauty routine with product names and everything.
2. WE TRY IT: THE WORST OF SEX TOYS
One of my favorite websites is LARRY FLYNT'S HUSTLER HOLLYWOOD, which has the best-worst unsexiest sex toys ever! Look at this inflatable talking sheep with action-activated sound! Or this horrifying vaginal speculum kit! Why not bring 'em into the bedroom and terrify someone with it by demanding it be used?! And then write about it on the internet?
3. INTIMACY QUEST
I could do innumerable things to 'get a boyfriend' and work on my intimacy issues that I would never do normally, like mixers or literally responding to crazy Craigslist ads or joining J Date though I'm not Jewish which worked for my MOM) (my parents are grown-up divorcing! I'd be happy to write about that mess too). Perhaps even...the Scientology Center. Maybe that's a Heath and Fitness blog. They have a sauna!
4. NEGOTIATIONS WITH POTENTIAL CRAIGSLIST SUGAR DADDIES
These guys who advertise mutually beneficial ARRANGEMENTS on Craigslist are so lame. Obviously I want to talk to them. Like I could go meet up with them in a public place pretending to be interested and HASH OUT the deets, but secretly I'd be an investigative sex journalist! Like how much sex for how much money are these losers talking? How will I be pampered (UGH)? WHERE will we go shopping? Will I have to do anything weird? WHO ARE THESE DUDES?
5. WRITING MATURELY ABOUT SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS
I can also do that, lest I've given you the wrong impression. I'm not disgusting.
HEALTH AND FITNESS EDITOR PITCHES
I don't know if this includes MENTAL health, but if so, let me know; I have a million ideas for you. I obviously went to the mental hospital at least one time while employed by Conde Nast. Otherwise...
1. I'm totally about to get in shape this spring anyway! It could be chronicled. Like the SELF thing that's so popular, except not soul-sucking and with personality. I'll do anything. I know lots of publicists for things like Yogaworks and Physique 57. I always make them tell me which celebrities go there and when I can go and be in the class with them or at least what their skin looks like up close. I'd be good at this because fitness is incredibly boring and I like to write about boring things and make them funny. IT'S THE ONLY WAY TO SURVIVE in beauty and it applies all around.
2. THE ASHRAM The cheapest stays at yoga ashrams are like $20 a day and you have to sleep on a community porch in like a hammock! This sounds terrible. Fun to write about. I am not exactly zen.
3. NETFLIX WORKOUT DVD REVIEWS
One way to keep fitness interesting is to make a list of the workout DVDs on Netflix and do a different one every day! I like a healthy mix of great-looking DVDS and really, really stupid-looking ones, like The Girls Next Door Playbunny workout. I could review these.
4. REAL TALK: STOP TAKING ADDERALL TO LOSE WEIGHT. SERIOUSLY.
This could be a friggin' book! And I could write it! I like REAL TALK for a lot of self-destructive behaviors young women are engaging in these days. I know ALL OF THEM.
5. THE MOST RIDICULOUS PRO-ANA TIPS -- EVER
There are innumerable ridiculous tips and rituals to gather up and do things with: try them to tear them down ('ICE BATHS'), have analyzed by doctors, etc. I'd like to actually interview these thinspiration website girls. Not meanly, but interestingly. Like, "What IS kneefat?" My mom was a serious anorexic for a long time and I too have dabbled in starvation, so I've always wanted to start a satirical pro-ana blog moment that's totally anti-RIBCOUNT.COM or whatever which is not a real blog name but I wish it were.
CELEBRITY EDITOR JOB PITCHES
This is news-ier, no? I have secret celebrity blogging dreams. I can talk and write endlessly, endlessly about celebrities. I love their style; I love their narcissism. I can celebrate them or tear them down. Here's an example of a Lindsay Lohan article I wrote. I think it sort of does both!
BEAUTY JOB PITCHES
I know you have a beauty writer, but...I mean, in my honest opinion? I could do beauty for your site that no one has ever done in the history of editorial beauty ever before. If that sounds braggy, it's not; it's just that no one really takes risks in beauty because beauty advertisers are squares; I believe in drawing an audience by being different and not giving a fuck, writing beauty like a guy would write a story -- with no fear of people condemning him for not being a good girl (obviously) -- and I believe that the audience will come in droves. And then the advertisers will pay attention. I always take risks, and I won't write for a site that won't let me.
And I've attached some pieces from Lucky.
And THAT is the LONG and exhausting story of how I got hired to xoJane.com! Did you learn anything? And should I actually do any of those stories I pitched? XO
Cat's on Twitter (yet still no Instagram godammit!). Follow her @cat_marnell.