Image: Ann Friedman photographed by Jorge Rivas.
Make Nice is a conference for creative women, taking place in Sydney on September 22-23, and we’re hosting a roundtable session alongside some incredible hosts and keynote speakers, including Ann Friedman, co-founder and host of Call Your Girlfriend podcast and journalist, Stanislava Pinchuk, artist, Jess Scully, curator and politician, and Amrita Hepi, dancer and choreographer, to name a few (the full, incredible, list is here). We’re going to be chatting with some of these gamechanging women in the lead-up to the event, and up first is our convo with Ann Friedman!
Having the chance to ask Ann Friedman questions made plenty of people I know very jealous, which tells you a lot about just how crucial a figure Friedman has become over the past few years. Over 100 episodes of Call Your Girlfriend – the podcast Friedman does with her long distance bestie Aminatou Sow – have put female friendship in the spotlight in the way it deserves, tackling everything from periods, to pop culture and the big political issues.
Friedman’s work as a writer is as iconic, casting light on issues that could all too easily have been left in the shadowy recesses of the current political climate. I highly recommend keeping an eye on her newly launched, in-depth series over at The Cut, in which Friedman digs into contemporary feminism via interviews with people like Chris Kraus and Vanessa Grigoriadis. If you need clarity on a topic without any pretentiousness, Friedman’s thoughtful, considered style is pretty much all you need. Also, any budding journos out there: her interview format is A+++ and while you’re digging into the archives, take a bite out of some of her homemade pie charts.
Kat Patrick: Hello! How are you? What have you been doing today?
Ann Friedman: I’m good! At the moment I’m sipping a very large cold-brew coffee and slaying my inbox. Later today I’ll record an episode of Call Your Girlfriend with Amina and do some work on my keynote talk for Make Nice—I’m super excited about it. I love hanging out with other women and talking about how we all reach our professional goals.
Kat: Back in 2015 you wrote ‘Me, Inc’ for New Republic and a quote has since stuck with me: “Branding yourself might be easier than ever, but it’s getting harder and harder to stand out.” In this tough digital, ‘personal brand’ pressured era, what advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Ann: I don’t think branding or networking are good end goals. I think the focus has to be on making exciting work that you want to be known for, and then sharing that with your community and the wider world. For me, at the start of my career, that meant writing and editing for a blog, unpaid, so I could publish the kind of writing that I couldn’t yet convince magazines to pay me for. And while a lot of the circumstances in this industry have changed, I still think that making good work on a platform that you own is the best way to start out. It’s hard to get established editors to respond to questions like, “Hi, can we meet for coffee?” Or, “Will you give me a chance?” They’re more likely to take a look at you if you can say, “Here’s a piece of work I made that I think you’d be interested in.”
Kat: You probably get asked this all the time but: what podcasts are invaluable right now?
Ann: I love Reveal, which is an investigative reporting podcast. I’ve also been listening to a podcast called The Turnaround, which is interviews with interviewers about interviewing—so, for me, it’s essentially professional development. I’m also enjoying some conversational shows like Sweet and Sour, Tamarindo, Should We, Still Processing, and the brand-new She’s All Fat.
Kat: In your last newsletter you discussed being burned out at the end of 2016 – in times like these, how do you maintain both yourself and your practice? What (and who) keeps you afloat?
Ann: I’ve really been trying to read news directly from news sources—opening the New York Times app instead of Twitter, for example. The tone of social media these days really stresses me out. But I want to stay informed. So I’m trying this crazy thing where I only check in to Facebook every few days, and Twitter slightly more often.
Kat: What has been the most surprising response to the Call Your Girlfriend podcast?
Ann: I love the emails we get from older women telling us that they wish we were around when they were younger. I’m surprised that what we have to say is relevant to them! And I’m thrilled that they’re listening.
Kat: Do you have a favourite pie graph?
Ann: No top favorite, but there are a few that seem to be forever relevant, like this one about female comedians and this one about Planned Parenthood and the way reproductive health is politicized in the U.S.
Kat: What work are you most proud of?
Ann: Rather than a single article or episode of the podcast, I’m proud of the things I’ve been able to do consistently for years. I’m proud that I’ve been sending the newsletter every Friday since 2013. I’m proud that we’ve been producing and growing the podcast every week since 2014. When I take on something new, I commit for the long haul so I can really build something, and I’m proud of that.
Kat: Do you keep a journal?
Ann: Yes, but it’s not a daily practice or anything. Just a space for me to scribble notes and stray thoughts when writing seems more productive than typing. I like to have a space for my thoughts that is not a glowing screen.
Kat: Does writing usually feel like the first response for you?
Ann: Usually a conversation with a friend is the first response for me, when I’m upset or confused or interested in something. Writing tends to come later.
Kat: There’s always been a crossover between journalism and activism, but does that now feel more pronounced to you? Do you think writing is enough?
Ann: I’ve always seen my journalistic work as part of how I work for the change I want to see in the world. I think the audience for meaningful journalism is quite big right now. People are looking for solutions and ways to plug in. I think writing can be an important component in pushing for social change, but it’s not enough on its own.
This post originally appeared on our sister site Well Made Clothes, where you can buy clothes that look good and are actually good!