Friday, April 25, 2014

The Bold Italic at USF: Jennifer Maerz Makes a Guest Appearance

Last week our humble Feature Writing class received a visit from the managing producer of The Bold Italic, Jennifer Maerz. The San Francisco based website has been growing in popularity over the past few years, and Maerz was kind enough to impart some words of wisdom to the aspiring writers of USF.

As managing producer for a successful magazine/website hybrid that we’re starting to see a lot more of, Maerz took some time to talk with the students and answer questions about our uncertain future. She tried to ease our troubled minds with some suggestions for how to prepare ourselves for the professional world.

Right out of college be comfortable writing online. Internships are always valuable even if you're not interested in that particular field. Take what you can get, because it could lead to something bigger and better. It’s also important to trust your voice. It might change over time, but remember to be true for it. Try to seek out the publications that write about things you're interested in.”

As students we are constantly being bombarded with advice for the real world or pushed to prepare ourselves for graduation. It gets old hearing what we should be doing with our lives from people who are older than us, but Maerz took a different approach. Maybe it was her calm, quiet voice, or her admission to being “a punk rocker at heart”, but either way, Maerz wasn’t off-putting, and that’s always a breath of fresh air.

Maerz also took some time to discuss The Bold Italic, describing what kinds of writers/stories they look for to match the tone of their site. She describes The Bold Italic as “silly, pro LGBT, feminist” and one that doesn’t “take anything too seriously.” Contrary to many professional publications, writers for The Bold Italic don’t have to have 10 years of experience and a vast store of writing samples to be considered.

What she looks for instead are “stories where people write about race or racism that is unobtrusive, people posing situations not as any one person being wrong, but instead about their experiences, what has happened to them, and what they learned from it.”

The website’s editors try their best not to completely edit what their writers say, but Maerz confirmed that, if a story seems racist or overly crude, they will not run it.

“We don't want to print something that we think would be spreading something negative. We also cut out things that are bias or homophobic.” As they should.

The Bold Italic’s aim is to appear in some ways as a “conversation with the city”, featuring writers and stories straight from the city they are representing. The site features, stories, anecdotes, and humor pieces—all of which have to do in some way with San Francisco.  

Maerz also stressed the importance of being up to date and savvy with your social media use. She described her use of Facebook, not so much as a tool to communicate with her friends, but more as a means of creating an online presence for herself. Facebook, she says, can be an extremely useful tool for self-promotion. If a student has writing or a blog, she encourages them to post links through Facebook as a way of getting the word out.

“I say yes to almost every friend request I get, because I don't see Facebook as a platform just for sharing my personal life, I see it as a way to further myself. At this point no one really cares about what you do on Facebook, the most they'll do if you post too much is take you out their feed, so post links to things and share your stuff! We're in an era now where everyone is posting selfies and self-promoting. So it’s important to get yourself out there in a positive way.”

Still, despite an ever-increasing attempt to stay relevant, Maerz does worry about being out of the loop and losing touch with her young audience. Although she claims that “writing about music keeps you very young”, she still doesn’t want to be the one to decide what’s important to San Francisco. For this she turns to the throngs of new writers entering the professional world every year.

“The more you can show that you have an online presence the better. We need someone who really knows the publication and really gets what we're about. Be a confident person and a strong voice in your writing will show.”