Thursday, December 12, 2013

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR! Interview with Tavi Gevinson of

Tavi Gevinson is a 17 year-old writer and magazine editor for an online magazine called Rookie Mag [].  Independent comics publisher Drawn and Quarterly partnered last year with Tavi to bring Rookie Mag to life as a physical book collection ostensibly like a school Yearbook.  The ROOKIEMAG YEARBOOK VOL. 1 (still available for purchase) was successful enough to make VOL. 2 inevitable.  The ROOKIEMAG YEARBOOK VOL. 2 (available now) is more than just a mere collection of blog postings.  It is 350 pages full of the best articles, interviews, collages, photo editorials, and illustrations from teens and for teens over the past year, but also includes celebrity contributions (Judy Blume, Mindy Kaling, and others). 

The book itself is an impressive production and Tavi herself may simply be the most accomplished 17 year-old I’ve ever met.  I’m retroactively embarrassed by my slothful 17 year-old self now.

Keith Howell (Me):  Nice to meet you, Tavi.

Tavi Gevinson (Tavi):  Nice to meet you, too.

Me: Well, I've read through your ROOKIEMAG YEARBOOK VOL. 2. I shared one of the articles with my 16 yr old homeschooled daughter and then posted it on my FB page. 
The "No More Nice Girls" article.

Tavi: Oh, that makes me so happy! I hope she liked it. “No More Nice Girl” is one of my favorites. That writer, Sady Doyle, is so talented.

Me: It was exceptionally sharp.  Well-written.

I appreciated her perspective.

The whole endeavor, the website and book are damned impressive work.  I hope you realize that. :)

Tavi: Thank you so much.

We all work really hard on it, it's a labor of love for sure, so this period of time when we have events and signings and can see Rookie live offline is extremely rewarding.

Me: In this day and age, where publishers are going to the web more and more, what was it within you that got you thinking along the lines of doing it reversed — taking it from the web to the printed age and doing it so creatively?

Are you a tactile learner?

Tavi: I don't know if I'm a tactile learner so much as I'm just impatient. I knew how I wanted the series to look when we started talking about doing the first one, and figured I would learn the technicalities of the process along the way.

Me: Are you the type who just says "I want it to be like this." and expect someone to just figure out how to get that done or are you more...fluid about it.  Like maybe have a generalized concept and feel it out as you go?

Tavi: My way of operating with Rookie has never been to just say "I want it this way" and let people fill in the blanks. There's always a conversation going on, any kind of disagreement never feels personal: we're all just here to make the strongest work we can for our readers.

A lot of Rookie is about using the online to get our readers to do stuff offline. We post a lot of DIYs (Do-It-Yourself) on stuff like starting a band, making a journal, all of that. And our readers respond to that, to the kind of attention to detail many of us have, that weird connection to who we used to be as they can be memorialized in tangible objects like a dress or a book or what have you.

So I knew our readers would like to have a version of Rookie they could hold in their hands, experience in a more visual way, keep on a nightstand. For this reason, it was also important to make it worth it -- not to do a copy-and-paste website-to-book.

Every spread was exhaustively decorated and thought through.

Me: Yes it is.  It's not just a reading book, it is interactive.  It's informative and interesting, but also fun.

I would also imagine that your schedule is just jam-packed most days.  Do you still find time for purely pleasure reading?

Tavi: It's nice of course when a book we read for English is also pleasurable to me. I try to make time for both but usually I can only stick with what I have assigned for school.

Me: Understandable.

What stories out there inspire you? (film, comics, books, whatever). 

Do you find inspiration in stories?

Do you have a favorite poet, for instance?

Tavi: Yes, absolutely -- even though Rookie is not the same as, you know, making a fantastical movie or something, even though it's not fiction and we are trying to be honest, I feel most inspired after reading a book or watching a movie. I think it's because they create a feeling in you that makes YOU want to do the same, and that's important to us at Rookie, inspiring our readers to be creative themselves, instead of just taking in what we do.

I love Patti Smith and E. E. Cummings and Margaret Atwood.

Most of my favorite movies are teen movies, dark comedies like HEATHERS

Me:  HEATHERS is amazing! I was there when it first came out!

How do you take it knowing that there are people (many of whom you've never met) who are inspired by you? 

Is that humbling or energizing?

Tavi: I know I can't read into it too much -- I gave a talk about “fangirling” at the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Writers Festival in August about this -- because so much of what people love about a writer, musician, etc. is more a reflection of the person who loves it. So I'm very happy people respond to what I do or can see me as "inspiring," as you say, but I know there's a lot that goes on between my putting myself out into the world and how they receive me. I also just think it's unhealthy to take any feedback too personally, whether it's positive or not. It's just tricky territory.

Me: You have a healthy attitude.  Very wise.

Tavi: Ultimately, however, you know, I'm not complaining. For as much as there's no for sure way to measure the validity of every single ounce of feedback from every single person, I am pleased and flattered that the overall response to what I do has been encouraging.

Me: What has been the biggest surprise (or surprises) to you about embarking on this endeavor?

Tavi:  Hmmm. That it's happened at all, really.

I think about ROOKIE YEARBOOK VOL. 1 and it's like, HOW did we get on the phone with Drawn & Quarterly in mid-May and then get a book out by September? The ROOKIE machine is crazy and magical.

Me:  The book itself is kind of crazy and magical. I can't think of anything else out there like it.

Tavi: Thank you so much! That's so nice of you to say. 

Also, (another surprise), when I went to Fashion Week regularly and wrote about fashion and worked with fashion magazines, everyone thought that industry would like, poison my brain. Honestly, I think there is that kind of cattiness in a lot of different areas I've worked in. It's not exclusive to fashion, or any industry.

It's just that when stuff like power comes into play, people get insecure or threatened or what have you, and then they forget about what they actually love about their work, and they act out -- whether they work in fashion, publishing, film...The risk in saying this is making myself the exception, and I'm not; I get disillusioned, too.

But if you're asking what the biggest surprises have been, that's one of them: that I have witnessed more cattiness among adults with jobs than I have in high school.

Me: Thank you for chatting with me, Tavi.  You've been very gracious.  Okay.  Take care.  I hope we can talk again another time.

Tavi: Yes! Thank you!

*This interview, with slight re-edits, was originally published under my "Prof. Challenger" nom de plume at Aint-it-cool.

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