Travel magazines are such a treat to read and look at, and with summer coming up, we’ve been indulging in a quite a few of them. As an associate editor at AFAR, Danielle Walsh helps make that wanderlust magic happen. The Bon Appétit alumna fulfills her dream of being a journalist while making quantifiable, positive gains for the beautiful publication she works for. Check out her advice for writers new to the game, and her most valued qualities for success.
Name: Danielle Walsh
Twitter or Instagram handle: @deedubbayew
Location: San Francisco, CA
Occupation: Associate Editor, AFAR and AFAR.com
Secretly Obsessed With: History. I recently discovered this, but when I travel, I’m super into learning the place’s past and how it manifests in its modern culture.
On My Nightstand: A candle, my Jambox, a funny coaster from the legendary Tosca Café, the latest issue of Bon Appétit.
Last Thing You Read: Lisa Abend’s wonderful piece in the March/April issue of AFAR on conquering her biking anxiety (or trying to) in Copenhagen. It really spoke to me—I’m not a “bike person.”
How did you get started?
I set out for college knowing I wanted to be a journalist. But I didn’t actually know what that meant until I interned for NYMag.com for six months in 2011. I think having to adapt to a publication’s voice for the first time was one of the hardest things to learn, but there’s a curve—now, I’m pretty good at adapting, whether I’m writing for AFAR or Bon Appétit or Refinery29.
What does your daily routine look like?
My daily routine in San Francisco, a city I moved to three months ago, is heavenly. When I lived in New York City, I’d sleep ‘til the last possible moment, go to work, buy an expensive Midtown lunch, meet up with friends at a bar after work or go home and freelance, then hit the hay at midnight. Now, I wake up early and run in Golden Gate Park, have a leisurely breakfast and answer emails from my East Coast colleagues, go to work, cook a healthy dinner (and Instagram it, duh), then watch my Netflix show du jour (right now, that’s Scandal).
What key elements played into your success?
Something I always tell younger writers trying to break into this tough business is to not be afraid to use connections. The people you know in the industry are merely doorways—albeit very valuable and knowledgeable doorways—to your dream job. Ultimately, it’s up to you to prove that you’re worthy. However, be gracious to those who help you get jobs. Thank them, profusely, when they give you a leg up—they certainly do not have to.
While that’s not the most glamorous advice, it’s incredibly important. Another crucial element? Passion and a clear voice. You should already have the former; the latter comes with time and lots of practice.
What’s the best piece of advice you received?
Since kindergarten, my dad drove me to school every single morning. On those drives, we’d talk about everything from schoolwork to sports to body image. He instilled in me a couple of mantras. The first? “Success is when preparedness meets opportunity.” You’ve got to work hard for that one moment when opportunity comes knocking; usually, that won’t happen right away. But when it does, you need to be prepared to jump on it. The other? “Carpe diem.” Seize the day. I’d like to think this is the one I live by.
What struggles did you face getting to this point?
That first year of really, truly writing is difficult. There are a lot of growing pains, from learning the voice of a publication to organizing your thoughts into a coherent, thorough piece. The solution? Practice. Well, [that,] patience and a good editor.
Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?
My former boss, Matt Gross, completely transformed my writing. He got me to think big-picture about stories, and would totally call me out when I was being lazy on my reporting. He also gave me bigger editing projects as an assistant editor, which gave me an eye for the work I’m doing now at AFAR, which is editing the majority of original online content. Another huge influence on my career was my digital director at Bon Appétit, Stacey Rivera, who is such a boss in her management of two (TWO!) major food websites at Condé Nast. She was one of the first people who’s ever gone to bat for me, and is pretty much my professional lady crush.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? When do you feel most successful?
Since coming to AFAR, I’ve doubled the social-driven traffic to the website. That’s something I’m super proud of—being able to impact a company in a tangible, number-backed way. I feel most successful, however, after an excruciatingly difficult story becomes something great as a result of hard work, editing and pure perseverance. It’s so easy to jump ship on a story that just isn’t working, but if you can find the missing piece of the story’s puzzle or restructure it to make sense, the payoff is huge.
What advice would you give to girls looking to enter your industry/space?
Be persistent! You’re not going to become an award-winning writer overnight. Magazines will reject your pitches. Your job will be sort of thankless, and you’ll [have to] do a senior editor’s expenses. But as long as you keep voicing your ideas, working your hardest, and—most important of all—keep writing, you’ll ascend the ranks and be editing writers you once looked up to.