When Carrie Frye graduated from Amherst College she was an aspiring poet, so naturally she immediately found herself working at a carwash. Equipped with an English degree and only a fuzzy idea of her next step, she bounced around before interning at a business journal in Asheville, N.C., followed by a stint at the newsweekly Mountain Express.
It wasn’t until recently, however, that she’s landed what she calls her dream job. The Awl, a politics and culture website known for its quirky subjects and smart oddities, hired Frye as their managing editor in February.
“The Awl has been one of my favorite websites since it launched, and I feel very fortunate to be part of it,” she said.
As managing editor, Frye’s responsibilities include working with contributors and scheduling the week’s editorial lineup. She is also working on some new recurring features that include a newly launched Awl book club, dedicated to Classic Trash. Given Frye’s past experience with her book blog Tingle Alley, this is a fitting addition to the site. Her online media experience doesn’t stop there. She also contributes to About Last Night, a blog hosted by Arts Journal highlighting arts and culture in New York City and across the country.
“What’s exciting about online media is the opportunity it’s given writers to leapfrog into the conversation that they might otherwise not have had – whether because they lived somewhere out of the way, media-wise, or didn’t have the right credentials or contacts or whatever,” Frye explained. “That’s certainly been true for me.”
Originally from Appleton, Wis., a typical Midwestern city situated on the Fox River and where folks still use exclamations like “uff da,” (Frye introduced the phrase to readers last month), she has benefitted from online media’s accessibility.
“As a writer, I used to feel guilty about all the time I spent online – but it turns out that it was really just stealth career development,” she said.
While Frye certainly appreciates the doors online media have opened for her, she also finds the demands to “get connected” a little overwhelming. “One new wrinkle of social media that I find is the pressure on writers to have these immense social networks that can be mobilized to ‘like’ or recommend an article as soon as it appears online. I understand the pressures there, but it depresses me a little for the writers who only have twenty Facebook friends. It seems like it should be enough to write a great article; you shouldn’t have to be forced to go out and gather your own applause.”
Frye does tweet, but it’s definitely not her favorite way to communicate – she has far too many things to say and 140 characters just doesn’t cut it.
“When they open a Big & Tall Twitter store I’ll be there,” she added.
Frye’s Midwest humor and witty anecdotes make a great fit for The Awl. As The New York Times pointed out late last year, “The Awl is all over the road, from an article on Gene Simmons, an illustrated essay on the virtues of the breaststroke and even tips on picking up obnoxious hipster girls.”
This sometimes random but relevant editorial has put The Awl in a class all of its own. “If there’s an editorial through-line for the site, I’d put it at, ‘huh, the world is an interesting place!’” Frye boasts. “The audience is readers who wish to be entertained and edified by what they read online.”
When it comes to contributing at The Awl, Frye suggests visiting the site for tips. “Beyond that, I encourage writers to pitch with very specific story ideas and, if they haven’t written for us before, to send a well-sketched out plan for the story they want to write. I’m less concerned about clips and where writers have been published before than I am in getting a good sense of the particular thing they want to write now. We want our features from contributors to be substantial takes on a topic; so my other piece of advice would be to ‘go deep.’ And finally, write what you’re truly interested in writing.”