If you visit lesleyarfin.com, everything you need to know about New York City-based writer, Lesley Arfin will be sitting at the top of the page. It reads:
Author. Writer. Totally Awesome Girl.
She’s known for her book Dear Diary and being the Editor in Chief for Missbehave magazine. Currently Arfin pens a column for Russh magazine, an advice column for Street Carnage called “Ask Barf,” and is in training for her CASAC (certification for alcohol and substance abuse counseling).
Today, we honor Lesley Arfin for all her success and achievements but more importantly, for simply being a “totally awesome girl.”
Lesley has written for numerous publications such as Vice, Missbehave, Jane, Jezebel, Street Carnage, Platform, Paper, Nylon, and iD.
Most recently she wrote the forward to Todd Selby’s new book “The Selby: In Your Place.” She has also written for Fashion Now II (Taschen), “The Vice Guide To Sex Drugs and Rock n Roll,” and “News, Nudity, and Nonsense: The Best of Vice Magazine Volume II.”
Lesley has done commercial work for Nike, Burton, XBox, Kanon vodka, and both Libertine and Sophomore fashion lines. She is the former associate fashion director of America magazine.
We take a trip into Lesley’s brain via some Q&A:
M.I.S.S.: What woman, besides your mom or grandmother, do you find inspirational?
The woman I consider to be my muse is Cookie Mueller (RIP). It just seemed like she didn’t give a fuck about what anyone thought in this really positive, funny, beautiful and charming way. She was a great storyteller and writer without being an academic. She rolled with the punches and surrounded herself with total freaks and weirdos. I wish I could have known her.
M.I.S.S.: How did you get your start as a writer?
From the beginning-beginning: I started to feel alienated in high school. From the professional-beginning: I started interning at Vice.
M.I.S.S.: Your Vice column turned book, Dear Diary consists of actual entries from you diary as a teenager and young woman. How did the idea come about to publish your journal entries?
Actually, it wasn’t my idea. A writer named Lisa Gabrielle was the original Dear Diary columnist and when she left Vice, I took over.
M.I.S.S.: What was the most difficult part about publishing your diary entries? Do you have any regrets?
It was hard for me to read page after page how fucking obsessed I was with boys. I was just so consumed with them, each chapter of my life was bookmarked by a different guy. So I guess my biggest regret was that I wasted so much time in that obsession. It seems like one, very, very long obsession with a variety of boys that mean nothing to me now.
M.I.S.S.: Do you still keep a diary? Does it have a lock on it?
I do keep a diary, I have a few of them, and none of them have locks unfortunately.
M.I.S.S.: What was it like working with Missbehave? What do you miss most about it?
I loved working at Missbehave although I do feel like I was not for qualified for the position they gave me (editor in chief). The best part was was working on the Chloe Sevigny issue because I just really tried so hard and I feel really proud of that issue. All the girls there were so smart and creative and funny and I miss being around them. I don’t miss all the fear and anxiety it caused me. I was always worried about fucking up the magazine and wanting to be liked by everyone and feeling like I failed at both of those things. I miss Sam‘s enthusiasm, Sally’s creativity, and Sarah Morrison‘s outfits.
M.I.S.S.: You write for several magazines – do you prefer writing for magazines or working on a larger project like a book? Do you plan on writing another book?
I do enjoy writing for magazines because it’s done quicker and gets published quicker. The sooner something I write is out of my hands, the better.
Writing Dear Diary was a very therapeutic experience for me, it was like training for a marathon. Just a little bit everyday until I eventually amassed this big thing. I had the help of all my former selves too, which was amazing. I would love to write another book, but I feel like my first experience may have been a very charmed one.
M.I.S.S.: What’s your favorite piece that you’ve written?
M.I.S.S.: Who do you want to work with?
Benjamin Franklins face. You know what I mean. I’d love to collaborate with Elizabeth from white lightning and Gavin from street carnage (they’re my office mates). Michael Showalter, Amy Poehler, Kathleen Hanna, Spike Jonze…
M.I.S.S.: What part of writing is the most challenging and do you dislike the most?
Getting started on something is the hardest part. Literally sitting down to write in front of a blank page. There is nothing scarier! It’s also hard to write something that’s boring, something I’m not interested in and the client keeps telling me they don’t like it, the feedback is never specific enough and it can feel like I just don’t know what I’m doing and that I should give up. My own brain is my biggest obstacle, but in turn it is also my biggest attribute. Being a writer is like going into battle. It is never easy, it SHOULD never be easy, and if you think it’s easy then you’re probably not a very good writer. Making it look easy is another story.
M.I.S.S.: Any advice for ladies who are just starting out in a career in writing/journalism?
I would always suggest reading, and taking writing and poetry classes. Yes poetry. There is something about working with other writers that feels magical. If you can’t take college classes, look for writing groups in your area that meet. I’ve been in tons of workshops since college and it does help. Don’t ever try to be a writer to make money. Don’t try to be a writer, period. You either are one or your not, and if you are one you will do it regardless of how often you get published. You will do it because you have to. So for all those unfortunate ones who must write no matter what, do it because you love it. Because you can’t not do it. And if you’re struggling it means you’re doing something right. Keep going.
Thanks so much, Lesley!
You can also reach her though her website: lesleyarfin.com
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