138 MARCH/APRIL2015 | BETHESDAMAGAZINE.COM
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE THAT YOU
WANTED TO BECOME A JOURNALIS T?
In junior high, I had an English teacher
who said, ‘You’re too smart to be such
a terrible writer. When you get to high
school, take a journalism elective.’ I
took it, and I really liked it. The movie
Love Story was the movie of the day,
so I went to see it, and we had to do a
review. I wrote a scathing review, while
everyone around me is being washed
away [with emotion]. Unbeknownst
to me, the teacher passed it off to
the school newspaper, which I never
even read. They printed it, and all of a
sudden all these people started coming
up to me, saying, ‘You are SO mean.’ I
decided on the spot, this is for me.
WHEN DID YOU COME TO D.C.?
Right after school, I got an internship at The New Republic. My uncle
was a subscriber, and he said, ‘Look, I
saw this little thing in the back of the
magazine that they have internships.’
So I went out and got some copies and
was like, ‘Oooh, this is a cool magazine,’
and I applied, and the editor, Michael
Kinsley, picked me. And that totally
changed the course of my life.
And then I was here [in the area],
mostly just freelancing for many years.
MICHAEL KINSLEY FOUNDED
SLATE IN 1996. DID YOU BEGIN
WRITING FOR THE SITE WHEN IT
I had just had a baby. I was on a semi-yearlong maternity thing, so I wasn’t
one of the originals. I came in a couple
of years into Slate.
HOW DID “DEAR PRUDENCE” GE T
S TAR TED?
Herb Stein, who was the head of
Nixon’s Council of Economic Advisers, was a friend of Michael Kinsley’s.
He was older, a wonderful guy. He
said to Michael, ‘You’ve got this crazy,
new-fangled thing here, an online
publication, you need an old-fashioned
kind of column. An advice column.’ He
named it ‘Dear Prudence’ because it
sounded like an old-fashioned-y kind
of name. He did it for a while. He was a
very good Prudence. Then he was like,
‘OK, I’ve had enough of this.’ Mike was
a friend of Margo Howard, who is Ann
Landers’ daughter, and I don’t know
all the ins and outs of how she got it,
but she was the next one. And she did
it for several years. And then she left,
and there was an opening. So I leaned
in and asked for it. That was nine years
ago in February.
WHAT’S IT LIKE DOING THE LIVE CHAT?
It’s much more stressful than the
column. If there’s a juicy question, I
don’t have time to think about it. It is
imperative to answer quickly and move
it along. You’ve got people at their
computers, and if you fall silent, they’re
going to go away.
AND HOW ABOU T THE VIDEOS? AS A
WRITER, HOW DOES IT FEEL BEING
I never wanted to go into TV. I’m a
print person. I beg our producer, who’s
very sweet, to Vaseline the lens. I have
to memorize everything and do it in a
clean take. I find it a little stressful—
not stress like I’m a Syrian refugee—but
looking into a camera and memorizing,
it’s just not my strength.
WHY DO YOU THINK THE COLUMN IS
It’s either, ‘My life is terrific compared
to this,’ or ‘I have the same thing.’ I
think part of what makes it so much
fun is that it’s not like therapy. You
don’t get into all the subtleties and the
nuances and the history. The majority
of people read Slate at work, and you
can take a two-minute break and go,
‘Oh my God, this is the craziest thing
I’ve ever read.’ It’s fun.
TELL ME ABOUT SOME OF YOUR
MOST MEMORABLE LETTERS.
I had a Halloween letter that said,
‘These awful poor kids [come into our
PLACE TO SEE A MOVIE
Landmark Bethesda Row
PLACE FOR A DRINK
Food Wine & Co.
Don Pollo and Shangri-La
BOOK OF 2014
All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr
TV SHOW OF 2014
MOVIES OF 2014
Finding Vivian Maier
and I Origins