30 Under 30: Durga Chew-Bose, Writer

Photo by Nicolas Maloof

This week marks the release of our annual 30 Under 30 issue, and because each of these individuals is so interesting, we thought we’d further highlight them by running some brief interviews with them.

Name: Durga Chew-Bose
Age: 29
Neighborhood: Crown Heights
Occupation: Writer

Who would be your choice for a 30 Under 30?
Heben Nigatu

Who are your role models in your industry?
Wesley Morris, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Hilton Als, Julianne Escobedo Shepherd.

What was a turning point for you, when you realized you could make a career out of something you loved to do?
When an editor has pitched me an idea based on something else I’ve written, especially when the pitch has less to do with a particular subject matter and more to do with my editor feeling confident about my voice; that he or she trusts and is excited about my point of view. More specifically: when I was paid on time for what I believe a piece was worth.

What’s some advice you’d have for people looking to get a foothold in your industry?
Meet writers you admire, and if you can’t, read and re-read with great appetite writers you admire. Copy them, sure. In a notebook you show no one. Don’t expect to like the writers you admire and don’t assume you already know the extent of what interests you. Value your time, avoid situations where you’ll be expected to split the bill, ask other writers which editors have helped them grow. Seek out those editors. Learn to write quickly about things you might not care about while also working on something longer, with no immediate plan or place to publish it. Spend time with friends who aren’t writers. Read women. Don’t only read white pop culture critics. Pay no interest to media madness, don’t feel shy about declaring your dream assignments, take edits, practice pushing back, cancel plans to stay in and read and go to bed early. Ask people how was their day instead of “What are you working on?”

Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for young people to build a career?
Sure. But it’s not the only place. It helps to be walking distance from writer friends who challenge me, who don’t necessarily encourage my every instinct when I’m working on a particular piece but who over dinner or a stroll somewhere will thoughtfully consider whatever obstacle I’ve reached. Some of the best edits I’ve received have occurred during arguments with close friends because I am forced to commit with extra grit my purpose. “Viable place,” “young people,” “career”: I’m not sure I even know how to define the limits of those things anymore.

Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
Sometimes. But not in any big, life-altering ways. Smaller increments: I’d like to report more and move closer to my parents. I can’t really explain why the latter feels like a career shift to me, but it does.

What’s felt like your biggest professional accomplishment?
Hasn’t happened yet!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Less anxious. Less self-serious. Still sincerely in touch with all the women I’ve met in New York whom I care about deeply. In between writing books and living somewhere with a view, with someone who I love and can hear puttering around our home as we both do our own thing. In 10 years I hope to be better at everything without even noticing that that’s true.

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