Full of Gratitude: A Day of Work

A Day of Work zooms in on the daily routine and work habits of Autostraddle team members. Read about the coffee, the cats, the Slack meetings, emails and minutiae that makes Autostraddle go.

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Right now on 6/30/21 we’re right at the end of our June Member Drive. Thanks to this community, we’ve surpassed our drive goal of 300 and our stretch goal of 350! We have 410 new members! Today is our last day of the drive  and all our posts planned, we’re going to keep going to see what could happen! We set our goal based on how many members we thought were possible to welcome during this drive, but you’ve shown us that so much more is possible than we dreamed! Thank you and onward, into the queer future!

This Post Was Written June 29th, 2021

When I wake up, it’s 8:30am. I’m famously not a morning person, so usually when I wake up it’s closer to 9:30 or 10am. From there I normally would spend a half hour on the phone checking Autostraddle and then scrolling Twitter, which is a terrible habit, I know, but I convince myself that keeping up with the internet conversations of the day is good for work — mostly it just makes me feel crappy.

After I get out of bed, I’d normally have a fairly multi-step skin routine. While I am a firm believer that Black Don’t Crack, I also have really prominent acne scars and hyperpigmentation, so a little help never hurts. Last year, I found a Black owned skincare line called Beauty Strike out of Brooklyn that has left my face the softest and smoothest and most glowy it’s ever been. I can’t sing their praises enough — but the steps take time. So here is where I would put A Different World on my iPhone (I watch it every morning for one episode, cycling through all six seasons. When it’s done, I’ll switch to Living Single, and then back again) and get to work washing and exfoliating.

Carmen is working at her desk

I am laughing because it’s the only way I for sure smile on camera (I am awkward), I love this head wrap! I got a bunch of them from Wrap Life, which is another Black woman owned business, and they are my main summer aesthetic.

Of course on this morning I do none of those things. Since transitioning to becoming the Editor-in-Chief (no longer “interm”) at the beginning of June, I’ve been the busiest I ever have been in my life — which is saying something! The mountain of IOUs has been never ending, like digging your way out of a pile of mud that keeps refilling and has no top. Once we are able to hire a Deputy Editor, the work load will be slightly more spread out. And thanks to the support of A+ members to give us a solid foundation, I feel really confident that soon we will be able to find a Deputy Editor who is really great! But for now, I’m doing both jobs (and also for most of June, I’ve been running our TV/Film coverage while our TV Editor Heather Hogan was on medical leave, plus this membership drive alongside our A+ Director Nicole, so what’s that — four jobs? No wonder I’m behind). So this morning when it’s 8:30, I roll directly over to my laptop and get to work.

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To be honest, I’ve been putting off writing this letter (I am so sorry!) because I don’t know how to describe my work day? The minute I sign into Slack, it’s like a full speed marathon of tasks and meetings and being pulled into this new fire or that new fire, sometimes writing if I’m lucky, edits on posts, conversations with writers, more fires (always more fires) and then I look up and it’s between 10-14 hours later and if I’m lucky I remembered to eat? That’s how my day goes.

It can feel a bit like being plugged into the Matrix? The Autostraddle Slack and my inbox takes over a large section of my brain and I just ride that electronic rollercoaster until it’s time to get off. Then I close my laptop, watch television, eat (if I forgot), stretch, sleep, and wake up and start over again? I know that I do a million tasks in between, but they are all at such a light speed, overlapping each other and pulling my brain in at least three opposite directions at any given time. It can be hard to break them down in a letter for you all.

But I want to! I am so grateful for all of your support. We all are. As I am writing this letter, we are currently at 410 A+ members. We started with the goal of 300, and because you so dearly believe in the magic and importance of our queer community you smashed that number beyond our wildest dreams. The fact that I get to wake up and type these words and help manage our team is because you’ve entrusted us to tell your stories. You believe that we can be larger, together, than any one of us are alone. And that? That means the world. That’s how we get this done, this huge project of Autostraddle that is outsized beyond the capacity of our very tiny team. We do it with you by our side. (And you can still join A+, anytime!)

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Ok, on this particular morning I am up early because I have to finish an essay about Queen Latifah’s Lifetime Achievement Awards speech during Sunday’s BET Awards. To be honest, we should have had this post up on Monday — when every other website on the internet went sprinting for cheap and easy clicks. But I had writer’s block (Heather always says I get writer’s block when I have something important to say, but I don’t know that’s true). I also had at least 5 unexpected fires at work that took my attention. The earliest I could finish the essay was Tuesday morning, and I am incredibly grateful that it’s because of the support of A+ members that we are able to take our time writing queer essays about the stories of our culture that matter, instead of fighting with corporate overlords and Google. Because of A+ members, I have time to write the essay about Queen Latifah that mattered to me, the one that can’t be found anywhere else on the internet. And I am so thankful for that gift.

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A photo of Carmen's bookshelf, which is piled high with books, alongside her altar full of candles and another pile of books on her nightstand.

I heard that “bookshelves of Autostraddle staff” are kind of popular? If you zoom in you’ll see my baby photo and my college graduation photo. In the back is my ofrenda with a variety of candles for praying. And yes, I really do have a separate stack of books on my nightstand. And coconut oil. I’m the old lady who lived in the shoe, but the shoe is books.

I finish the essay around 11am and ask Heather to do a second read of it, because it’s kind of personal and I’m nervous. After she helps me come up with a title that I love (and says a few encouraging words, because she’s the best) — it’s off and published. I edit the feature photo of Queen so that her melanin pops and also work on custom language for Twitter and Facebook that I leave for our social media team, which I often do (or Shelli does) when we are editing pieces about QTPOC culture that we want to reflect our voices and find an authentic QTPOC audience. I think not everyone realizes that.

I stop to check our Chartbeat account to see how are doing for traffic today. Chartbeat allows us to see not only how individual pieces are doing, but where people are finding them (from our homepage? from social?) and how long they are engaging with them. It’s a lifeline for understanding the ins-and-outs of daily traffic and Heather, Rachel, and I have it open in some tab of our laptop nearly all day. Of course these kinds of tools are not cheap, and having analysis of them would be a full time department literally anywhere else, but we fit it in around our jobs with your financial support. We also monitor traffic stats using WordPress JetPack and Google Analytics, which Riese and Heather write up into monthly reports for the team and I compare against Laneia’s analysis of our budget. The Queen Latifah essay has shot to the top of Chartbeat; now that I know we have our traffic driver for the day, I shift my focus back to other meetings.

It’s 1pm. Heather and I are also scheduled to have a meeting to go over her transition back to work after a month of medical leave. I want to make sure that she’s set up to do work in a way that is sustainable with her recovery and not over-whelming or causing undue pressure. We both also want to make sure that the senior team at large knows what (if anything) to expect so that we can adjust accordingly to make this transition back as smooth as possible. We go through that checklist of questions, and then Heather also floats wanting to prepare for our summer Olympics coverage (I slammed the keyboard with my all caps YES) and preparing some other very exciting TV coverage plans that I can’t spoil just yet, but it’s going to be great. I love working with dynamic, enthusiastic queer people every day. It’s beyond any belief, just how lucky I am.

While talking to Heather, I simultaneously get pulled away to talk with Natalie about a draft she’s turned in and to find out about the LGBT Pride Ikea Couches that everyone’s talking about on Twitter. I side-barred both of those convos, but now it’s time to take them head on. (I note that Rachel is also getting up the A+ Intra-Community Bookshelf post, which is gorgeous and I’m really proud of her. She’s been working on it non-stop for almost 48 hours, even after weeks of planning with our tech team).

Carmen working at the kitchen table with a pile of Reese's

Hmmmmm. Reese’s.

I move to the kitchen table which I often joke is my “second office.” I love the desk that I work on in my bedroom, but it’s very small. My bedroom has these really beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows, which are a dream (though it makes controlling temperature and lighting in my bedroom a nightmare, I don’t care, the view is worth it). I shoved a desk — that is really a tall hallway table — against the window for maximizing seeing sunlight while I work. But it’s cramped! At some point I usually move to the kitchen table, which has no lighting but is infinitely more comfortable and directly attached to food. I cut up some strawberries earlier, but now I reach for the Reese’s Cups.

Ok. Stef has taken the team conversation about the Ikea Couches and turned it into a post! I want to rush and get that out while everyone is still talking about them, so I go through and make edits (fixing any of the bad backend code that happens when you copy from Slack into WordPress, adjusting the sizing on the photos so that they fit, shortening the length so that the jokes really land a punch, all those things) and rush it out the door. Natalie has been working really hard on a review of We Are Lady Parts and I am excited to read it! It’s smart and cinematic, and I just love it. I make some adjustments to the conclusion to really emphasize her core points and pass it back to her for final approval. Natalie and Stef have both been here for such a long time, it makes working with them on these steps a breeze. I’m able to get both posts up within an hour/90 minutes.

I check our Chartbeat again while Nicole breaks the news that WE OFFICIALLY HAVE OVER 400 A+ MEMBERS FROM THIS DRIVE!!!! I want to have more time to celebrate with them, because what they have been able to pull off has time-and-again been absolutely life saving for us, and I know it comes at great cost for them. Even though we all believe in the strength of this queer and trans community, that doesn’t mean that pulling off these hat tricks aren’t a lot of of work! These miracles come with sweat. Thank you to each and every one of you for showing up, and making our work worth it.

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I send a quick congratulations over to Nicole and then I check our Twitter mentions to do some RT’ing of commentary on our popular articles, to keep their readership up. Ro is hosting the final event of their series “How to Survive in a Post(??)-COVID World,” which is an IG Live Event with Gaby Dunn. I am deeply proud of these guest editorship series that we are able to run this year, providing our writers with skillset growth opportunities and to find new ways to bring their voice to our site beyond their writing. This month Ro has edited this entire series, plus taken over as our SLICK editor, edited and written our Sex and Dating newsletter “More Please,” and edited yet another standalone piece about queers in swimsuits! They are a beast — and I mean that in the best way. I watch Gaby Dunn while I make a sandwich, answer more questions from editors and writers in Slack, and make a note to publicly thank Ro for all their hard work tomorrow.

I also drink a lot (and I mean a lot) of water. I usually end my day with no fewer than 4 or 5 mugs. Are these mugs filled with coffee like a normal person? Nope! Water straight from the filter. Why don’t I use the same mug, you ask? No idea, friend! I think because whenever I think of it — I have to get up and go to the fridge anyway, and the mugs are right next to the refrigerator door. So it’s grab a mug, open door, fill with water. Yes I realize this makes little sense. Thank you for accepting my quirks.

There are three mugs and a pile of cut up strawberries on top of books

Ok this image is a small cheat because I took it in the morning when I was still on the “strawberry phase” part of the day, but I wanted you to see all the mugs!

We find out that there’s going to be a The L Word: Generation Q trailer drop for tomorrow, and Riese is off this week (my vacation is coming in July), so I make some quick coverage plans around that.

Now it’s 4:30pm and I am stunned at the time! Where did it go?? I have another post to write! It’s Tuesday, which means I curate our link roundup. This is less demanding work, I gather links that the team has left in Slack along with things from my personal stash, read over everything (admittedly, sometimes quickly) so that I’m not recommending something that’s offensive by mistake. Then I look for “holes” in the round up and start searching some of my go-to websites for stories or features that might fill them. Of course then I find a funny headline from within these links, put them all in WordPress along with what I hope is insightful or humorous quips, optimize everything for social media (we have to write custom titles to fit small Twitter and Facebook boxes, did you know that?) and do an accessibility and SEO checklist (we do this every time, too!) and finally press publish.

We are doing an “Unboxing” on Instagram to show off all of our Autostraddle Platinum membership perks. I tune in to watch while I work, Nicole and Sarah look great. They worked their asses off for the better part of a year bringing this Platinum Membership plan together and I’m really excited to see their work have tangible results. Not everyone can afford a Platinum Membership level, of course, but we’ve been so surprised with the success thus far! Also, you get an amazing mug (we have already talked about me and mugs).

While I do all of this, I also talk with Valerie — who has been graciously running all of our social media on Twitter and Facebook alone (and during a taxing membership drive, no less!) while Heather was on leave. On top of her normal recap writing! And she also wrote all of this month’s Pop Culture Fix roundups, too! None of this includes her non-Autostraddle actual day job. We were able to pay Valerie extra to do all this work because of A+ members. Which I know feels like a repetitive theme at this point, but it’s true. When you support Autostraddle, that money is going directly into the pockets of the queer and trans creators whose work you already love. There’s no straight middle man. There’s no corporation. It’s literally just us, plain old queer humans, working to keep this boulder going and going. I update Valerie of my meeting with Heather and how that effects her workload going forward. I also thank her for all her hard work this month! Now it’s 7:30pm.

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I answer more questions from team members in Slack. I do another round of Chartbeat check and RTs (the Queen Latifah article and the Ikea couches are really doing great today, but also we published a beautiful piece about being a nonbinary breastfeeding parent that Rachel edited and I’m proud of, it’s doing well and finding its audience. Same with Natalie’s review of Lady Parts and a Shelli-edited piece from a freelancer about Black queer musicians to listen to in June).

It’s about 8:15 and I break to make a huge bowl guacamole for dinner — it’s too hot to “cook” food — and circle back to the office for my night tasks. To be honest, these go slower. I’m kind of running out of steam, even small tasks take longer than they should. I get in touch with Christina, because even though she turned in Wednesday’s No Filter earlier in the day, there’s a late-breaking Niecy Nash post on Instagram that I think will do great numbers tomorrow, so I ask her to include it. I finally clear out my Inbox for the day (I try to do this much earlier, but as you can see! Lots going on!) and make notes about what has to be moved to deal with tomorrow. I do the same on the final round of all Slack messages. Like I said, I am constantly owing people things — but I swear, I am trying my best.

I also make a joke about Niecy Nash in our office Slack channel for the senior staff, because really? Have you seen it! I want what she has!

Rachel lets me know that have a slight traffic jam on the schedule for tomorrow, because it (Today!) is the last day of Pride and we have some timely content that cannot be moved! I make a quick adjustment, moving an evergreen (not timely) piece to later in the week and notify Shelli, the editor on that piece, so she isn’t surprised.

Christina gets back to me (have I mentioned how much I love and appreciate our team? Christina is on vacation and it’s after 8pm, but she still squeezed in my request. I thank her and wish her much sun, we all deserve sun). I finally edit/schedule No Filter for the morning, which mostly involves taking Christina’s already great jokes and turning them into a headline and excerpt. Sometimes getting a feature image to fit can be tricky, but Niecy Nash makes it a breeze.

Ok it’s 10:30pm! What am I now? Tired! But also, writing you this letter. Because YOU ARE THE BEST.

Thank you all for being a part of this fundraiser. Thank you for supporting this weird, beautiful website that we call home. Thank you for being a part of that home. This has been a wild ride, but not one we want to get off any time soon! And with your support, we are so grateful that we don’t have to.

Thank you again. Your hair looks great today. Drink some water. We love you.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Carmen Phillips

Carmen is Autostraddle's Editor-in-Chief and a Black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 682 articles for us.


    • Ah so inspiring and beautiful like everything you do, Carmen!

      And yes I LOVE bookshelves of Autostraddle staff so I appreciate that easter egg caption 🤗

      Also, your purpley walls are GORGEOUS.

  1. Carmen I love you SO MUCH (as a reader here), what you’re doing here is brilliance and making the future possible and . . .and. . . all I can think after reading this is “not sustainable.” Super excited for this deputy editor. Also SO EXCITED for you to take a break! Did you take the one Nicole & you teamed up on already? Dear rest-of-autostraddle please ensure Carmen TAKES ANOTHER BREAK, a big ass break, sooooooon!

  2. Just wanted to say that as a longtime reader, I really appreciate when Autostraddle takes its time responding to something big in the news! I totally understand what drives needing to have an immediate take (ah capitalism!) but having more time to reflect makes for a more nuanced, interesting piece IMO. Thanks for doing everything you do, Carmen!

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