By theno1pick, Mar 11 2015 11:56PM
Rachel Gallaher GRAY Magazine Q&A
Rachel Gallaher's work has spanned the Puget Sound from downtown Seattle to the shores of Edmonds. Over the past six years, Gallaher has worked with renowned publications such as Seattle Bride, Seattle Homes and Lifestyles, City Arts, Edmonds Patch and GRAY Magazine, where she currently serves as editor. A graduate from University of Washington, Gallaher majored in English but focused more on Creative Writing. But it wasn't until Gallaher landed an internship with Seattle Homes and Lifestyles magazine that her passion for design writing began.
"I started out in what was supposed to be a three-month internship," Gallaher says. "But once the three months were up, I just kept coming into the office and they never asked me to leave. So it turned into a yearlong gig."
It was Gallaher's persistence in the field and ability to succeed when faced with adversity that has made her a success story in the journalism industry. I interviewed Gallaher about her experience in the field and asked what advice she would give to prospective journalists today. Check out her answers below!
1) Tell me a little bit about your experience in the field. Where did you get your start? What is your background? Has your beat always been design writing?
I have been in the industry professionally for about six years now, but I’ve been writing all my life and was the editor of my high school newspaper for three years. In college at the University of Washington I was an English major and focused more on creative writing, but after graduation my first internship was at Seattle Homes & Lifestyles magazine. That led me into design writing, but I also started freelancing for a local arts magazine in Seattle, and a bridal publication. I’ve also covered news for a smaller, online community publication. Overall design and the arts are my focus, but I always like the challenge of tackling a subject I don’t normally cover.
2) Where all have you worked prior to becoming an editor for GRAY magazine?
As I mentioned, my first internship out of college was at a now-defunct magazine called Seattle Homes & Lifestyles, which was a design-related publication. I started out in what was supposed to be a three-month internship, but once the three months were up I just kept coming into the office and they never asked me to leave, so it turned into a yearlong gig. As I started branching out and writing for other publications (City Arts, Seattle Bride, Edmonds Patch) I continued freelancing for SH&L. When that magazine folded some of the staff got together and launched GRAY. They asked me if I was interested in writing for them and I jumped at the opportunity. That started my relationship with GRAY, and after about eight months I was promoted to the assistant editor role which eventually led to where I am today.
3) What is the most challenging part of your job? Most rewarding?
The most challenging part of my job is juggling the many moving parts of a magazine every single day. Each story has so many small, and shifting parts, and if you drop the ball on one thing it can have a huge impact on the overall outcome of a story. When you have three or four stories on your plate at once, are editing other people’s stories, managing social media, and helping to plan events it can feel a little overwhelming at times.
The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that I am helping expose the work of designers and artists, especially those who are just starting out or are new to the field. It’s such a great experience to watch a designer’s career take off and become successful.
4) What advice would you give students for breaking into this magazine market as a freelancer?
I get this question a lot and there is no easy answer. Things have changed drastically since I first got into the industry. It’s a lot harder to have a livable career as a freelancer. I owe my career to my first internship. Journalism, and magazine journalism especially, requires experience. I can’t stress enough how valuable an internship at any kind of publication can be. Coming away with clips that you can send along to other editors as you pitch stories is always helpful.
When you do score a freelance assignment make sure you communicate with your editor. Communication is so important. We can’t read your mind. If you’re having an issue with a source or a problem writing your story, be sure to speak up. I’d rather help you work through something than have you turn in a piece that needs to be completely torn apart and re-written due to an error that could have been addressed with a quick phone call.
This should be self-explanatory, but do not miss deadlines. Nothing kills an editor-writer relationship like late stories. A story that comes in late is then edited late, sent to the copyeditor late, passed on to the art director late, and the entire production cycle is thrown off a bit. Be honest about the amount of time you think you will need for a story. I would rather be able to give you an extra day or two upfront than receive a rushed, poorly written piece.
5) What advice would you give a freelancer who wanted to write for GRAY?
The best thing you can do before pitching a story is to read as many back issues as possible. This will help give a sense of the voice and style we use at GRAY, and hopefully familiarize you with the types of stories we publish.
It is always best if you send a story pitch rather than just contacting one of our editors and saying that you’re a writer looking for an assignment. Most magazines get dozens of emails like that a month. If you can prove that you’re willing and able to go out and find fresh, new ideas that fit well in GRAY (in addition to being a good writer) that will help you stand out. Most magazines, including GRAY, have an editorial calendar that sketches out loose themes or topic areas they plan to cover in each upcoming issue throughout the year. Ask for that and see if any of your story ideas fit into those categories.
When you pitch a story be as detailed and thorough as possible. Sending an email with a pitch about new spring paint colors isn’t going to be as effective as say pitching a story about a brand new custom paint colorist who is launching an eco-friendly line this spring. Always ask yourself the question, “So what?” Why is this story important, interesting, or relevant right now?
6) What is something you learned in your early years as a journalist that you didn't know until today?
One of the biggest things that I am still learning is the value of self editing. It’s not enough to write your story, do a quick read through and pass it on thinking, “Oh my editor will deal with any mistakes.” Oftentimes when you do this, your story will come back completely ripped apart or needing a large amount of re-writes—frustrating for both you and your editor.
A method that I’ve adopted in the past year or so is to give myself a personal deadline of a day or two before a story is due and make sure I have at least 90% of it written. Then I sleep on it and re-approach with fresh eyes the next day. It’s incredible how much that can help. I often come back and realize that the structure is off or there are some spelling mistakes, or I need to switch out a quote. It takes a while to get good at it, but once you turn that corner you feel even more pride in your work, both as an editor and writer.
7) Anything additional you would like to add that I didn't ask?
I can’t stress enough how important tenacity is in this industry. If I had given up at the times when I was feeling like I would never be able to break into this field, I would have been done about six years ago. You learn to become thick-skinned and brush off rejection with a re-focused determination. Samuel Beckett once said, “Fail Again. Fail Better.” That is my personal mantra. Strive to go beyond what you did last time and never give up. Eventually you will break through. It’s going to be discouraging at times, but I challenge you to find someone successful who never felt that way.
Photo credit to graymag.net