Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Under Further Review No. 10 - Max Blau

This week's Under Further Review is adapted from an informational interview that I did with Max Blau for Dr. Giddings' Professional Portfolio class back in February, so note the different format. For anybody who has an interest in ever writing a freelance article, Blau's insight is extremely valuable. Enjoy!

With an interest in writing but also having a steady and secure career to fall back on, freelance sports writing became a profession that I wanted to explore further. Enter Max Blau. By day, Blau is a staff writer for Creative Loafing, an alternative weekly publication in the city of Atlanta, Ga. By night, though, Blau is a freelance features writer with interests in music, sports, and popular culture. His work has been featured by national online and print publications like The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Grantland and Buzzfeed, just to name a few.

His career journey began in public relations, which he spent 18 hate-filled months in before he quit to pursue journalism full-time. The freelance aspect is one that Blau enjoys the most because it allows him to investigate personal interests that his daily writing for Creative Loafing does not delve into. He explained it basically as a glorified Google search. When he finds a topic that is wildly interesting to him, instead of simply Googling it and reading the stories that others have written inflected with their opinions, Blau sets out to find the answers and stories for himself. The thrill of chasing a subject and obsessing over it for a period of time keeps him going from story to story. Blau shared insight into what it’s like to make it as a freelance writer.

One of the aspects that Blau spent the most time explaining to me was the art of a successful freelance pitch. He said it can be the most stressful part of the journey because it’s essentially like applying for a job every time. You have to really sell yourself, your set of skills, and how you can help the specific publication. Your previous writing clips are your resume, and your pitch is the cover letter. On top of that, though, is simply being a quick and efficient communicator in both interactions with editors and in your work. Editors are all extremely busy. Although your work should be the criteria for selection, editors gravitate towards writers who make their lives easier. If you can communicate efficiently, then editors will be happier to work with you because it’s not as taxing on them as working with somebody else.

This efficiency must also shine through in your work. Do careful and diligent editing, because if you limit the work the editor needs to put into the story, then they are most likely going to enjoy working with you. You don’t have to be the best writer in the world, your work just has to be clean and up to their standards. This can help a writer when looking for more work with the same publication.

His advice to me was straightforward journalism advice that he said sounds cliché but has become truer to him every story: work hard and do not fear rejection. With any profession, hard work will always shine through, and freelance writing is no different. Editors will recognize the high quality hard work that goes into a story, the dedication to research, and the carefully crafted phrasings.

For Blau, he said the biggest motivator for his own hard work is making sure he picks a topic that he can fully immerse himself in. Writing about something you really enjoy just comes more naturally, and you will want to dig deeper, he explained. Finally, the fear of rejection is one that all freelance writers must get used to in order to survive in the profession. When sending out pitches, you’re batting for average. The fear of rejection also extends to edits and changes to a story. It’s all a learning process, he said. All of the experiences build on one another. Just don’t be afraid and make sure you are doing what you love.

Thank you to Max for taking time with me back in February and agreeing to allow me to publish this as part of the series. Follow Max on Twitter @MaxBlau and check out his writing on Creative Loafing (I'm particularly partial to his writing about the Braves' new stadium). He has a website, too.

Under Further Review:
No. 9 - Dave Zeitlin
No. 8 - Andrew Albert

No. 7 - Travis Waldron
No. 6 - Patrick Hruby
No. 5 - Greg Hanlon 
No. 4 - Josh Verlin 
No. 3 - Kami Mattioli
No. 2 - Aaron Bracy
No. 1 - Adam Hermann 


Kevin Rossi is a senior Drexel Sport Management major with minors in Communications and Business Administration. Since joining the SMTSU, Kevin has worked his way up the ladder to President. Currently, Kevin is serving as the Sports Information Assistant for Drexel Athletics and  intern at Comcast SportsNet in web production. Kevin has writing experience with, The Triangle, Temple University, and various outlets in a freelance capacity. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Connect with Kevin Rossi on LinkedIn.

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