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Home: The Toast

51i74sVQ72LNicole – EDITH, you have made a book, and I am in it! How did this come to be?

Edith – Yeah! A lovely editor at Amazon got in touch a few months back about potentially putting together a Kindle Series featuring frequent Hairpin contributors, and I was like “YES!” and we thought “travel” as a topic was the way to go. And lo, here it is: An Experience Definitely Worth Allegedly Having: Travel Stories From the Hairpin.

Also, a Kindle Series is a collection of essays (or whatever) that comes out as a serial, with each installment getting beamed to your e-reader (and smartphones and tablets with the appropriate app) upon publication, which for us is every two weeks. To continue the list of less-exciting details: it’s $1.99, which buys all the essays, although it’ll take a few months for them all to come out. But you can buy the thing any time, and get all the ones that have already been published, or buy it way later, once it’s all over, and get them all at once. Or buy right now, and get the very short introduction plus the wonderful first installment, by the excellent and hilarious Carrie Frye. Or never buy! Or whatever.

Nicole – Which one is your favourite? MINE, RIGHT? No, you don’t have to answer that, I know it’s mine.

Writing about travel is such a weird, personal thing. Or, I guess, not necessarily? I think there probably are people who write really informatively and objectively about travel and never tell you about how they hung their underwear to dry over a radiator. Who are the travel writers you admire?

Edith – Oh, I don’t know. And I doubt anyone would really give a shit who my favorite travel writers are.

Let’s make this more interesting. How’s The Toast going?

Nicole – OKAY, let’s do this! Good! Oh, man, it’s weird. I think about The Toast all the time. I mean, I thought about The Hairpin, but not at night, or anything. And I’m never satisfied with it, and I can’t pretend I’m not in charge when stuff breaks or just doesn’t suit me. And then the other day someone was all “this is just The Hairpin,” and I was all “defensive explain redirect” because I am constantly thinking oh god wait I can’t do/say that/call this that. As if I am not more obsessed with worrying about just rehashing The Hairpin then some random commenter is!

But I really, really love it. And I like what we’re running, and I’m writing stuff, and Mallory literally never stops writing stuff, it’s like she’s been cursed by a witch. And she’s funnier than I am, which I don’t have to resent anymore, because I profit from her funniness now.

And then there’s the obvious cinematic experience of “well, I’m going to do things THIS way instead of THIS way,” and then the ensuing realization that people do things in a particular way because it is basically impossible to do them the way you are envisioning as an alternative, and then you feel like a child demanding a candy house.

“We’ll run more poetry!”

Oh, wait, literally NO ONE CLICKS THROUGH TO POETRY. Never. Not one person. No one has ever read a poem, did you know that? Ever. The famous poets are just famous because they had nicer cover art so people were willing to put them, unread, on shelves. So now I am accepting one poem a month, so that we do not hemorrhage money, and am telling everyone else to go read their wonderful poems on a street corner or something.

And then, too, editing is such a learned skill. I am still teetering on the border between “just make it better” and “here are some suggestions for how to do that.”

So, essentially, I feel like I’ve gone from doing something which was really clear and manageable and easy to something which is really hard and alternately terrifying and immensely joyous, which is also exactly what it has been like to go from not having a kid to having a kid, I guess.

And it’s nice to do it with Mallory, because we came in really conscious that we were both the goofy froofy non-detail-oriented members of the team, like we were both Chaos Muppets, so both of us have really tried to put on our serious hats and not fuck things up. And, too, it’s hard to meaningfully share completely equal power, but we made a pact that we could only ever complain about the other person TO the other person, and it hasn’t really come up yet. We’ve had pieces we didn’t necessarily agree about, and we’ve trusted each other to go with the stronger or better-expressed opinion on that.

So, that’s how that’s going. How are you dealing with not being on the ground on The Hairpin on a daily basis? Unless you are this hookah-smoking caterpillar that advises Emma on things. I had to sort of consciously stop reading, although when things come up on social media I click through and enjoy them, because it was that thing you told me about not reading the other people who do what you do, so your mind remains clear.

Edith – Haha, oh I wish I were a hookah-smoking caterpillar. But no, I’m not doing much of anything, so that’s…whatever it is.

And I hear you on so much of this. The all-consuming worry! Yesss, I recall it fondly. Enjoy! Haha. Also good luck with: “we made a pact that we could only ever complain about the other person TO the other person.” Just kidding, I CAN actually imagine you somehow keeping that up. Maybe. (Ed. note – There is nothing to complain about Nicole; there is no garbage within her soul.)

It does look like things are off to a great start. And yeah, the poetry thing. Patricia Lockwood crushed it the other day, though, on The Awl.

Also, with what money are you paying contributors?

*Tents fingers*

JK, you can sidestep that one if you want. Haha. But, most crucially, how much are you going to pay me for this interview???

Nicole – NOT A DIME. We figure if we run out of money and no one gives us any more (we’re starting to make some money, thank God; like, we’re not in the black or anything yet, but we’re hitting our own extremely-modest goals for the first few months), Mallory and I will just write 4-5 features a day between the two of us and conduct a lot of free interviews until we die in a cave with calloused fingerpads.

No, we have ponied up our own money (or, mostly, our publisher and basically my husband have [THIS INDIE FEMINIST WIZARD WEBSITE BROUGHT TO YOU INDIRECTLY BY WHITE MEN FROM QUANTITATIVE HEDGE FUNDS AND BIG LAW] (Ed. note – This is fine; let’s take all their money and create a surreal, misandro-queer empire with it, leaving them with nothing but ashes and the memory of power), and Mallory is writing way more content than I am), an amount we feel comfortable losing if the whole thing goes pear-shaped, which it might! IT’S NOT LIKE PLACES DON’T PAY PEOPLE BECAUSE THEY HATE WRITERS. They don’t pay because monetization is a real bitch, and also because if you don’t want to go to jail you need to engage in elaborate tax-related paperwork for every single person who draws a picture of a puking baguette for you. So, it’s a gamble! We’re also paying, like, $50-100 for things. $100 for really long, intensively-researched things, $50 for most other things. I directly respond to people with “can we pay you this insulting sum of money?” and then people are usually “yes, that is actually okay,” bless them.

We’re just trying to run everything else on a pretty shoestring budget, too. Like, every time something breaks or looks terrible, one of us is literally googling “fix tech thing” and the other one is dancing a jig to distract the readers from noticing. Which means our budget is like 80% paying writers, 10% hosting/tech-y stuff and 10% buying cat food and dancing shoes for Mallory.

Oh, Patricia Lockwood! Oh, my God. That Poem. I finally read the comments yesterday, and I cannot decide how I feel about them. I know Choire murdered a bunch of them, which is good, but I also think the correct amount of mental detritus was left; the poem is stronger because you get to see the rape culture that created it. I mean, if anyone ever asks me what rape culture is or proclaims not to believe in it, I will just send them that link. Done.

Here’s a question for you: how the hell did you run The Hairpin on your own for large chunks of time? Like, literally, what did your day look like? I seriously want to know.

I also just miss you, and talking to you all day. I think that when you’re a writer for a website but not a Real Editor with actual responsibility, it’s like being a slacker non-custodial parent who likes to show up with ice cream and bow out if anything gets messy or cries (to return to overblown parenting metaphors), and then you can always have Mom Edith handle things and be the accountable one, but when it’s yours, it’s yours.

Edith – Thanks for this, Nicole. I miss you too! And yeah. Money, it’s a bitch! I also love it so much.

And to answer your question, I just spent a lot of time on my computer. Like, 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., vaguely. And then a couple more hours at night, when I wasn’t doing anything. It was hard to measure because there was a lot of it that was doable without seeming like work. Like answering emails or reading submissions or whatever. Just doing them as they came in. But yeah I didn’t really do anything else. And I have never been super efficient with time-management, either — so a lot of that was just chatting and doing whatever. It maybe sounds like long hours, but I was essentially “fucking around online” for a job, which was amazing and made it so fun. I loved it.

Also, yes, I love your story in the Hairpin Travel series. Although at first it seemed kind of crazy that you chose to describe 10 of your most astonishing overseas sexual exploits in such eye-popping detail, I am now–and, honestly, have always been–truly grateful for it. Thank you, Nicole.

Nicole – I am mostly really excited to read the other stories, because I haven’t! I know it’s Chiara Atik and Carrie Frye and Jenna Wortham and Jim Behrle and Maria Bustillos and Anne Helen Petersen, but I have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. TRAVEL, dumbass. Travel. Thanks so much, Edith!

(they reach out and pretend to hug each other from different apartments at their own, lonely laptops)

Nicole – WAIT, did you have sex with Chris Evans? Edith? Edith?

For extra information and weekly update posts and weird pictures of the authors, please consult the Hairpin Travel Tumblr.

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