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How She Got There: Christine Stoddard, Founder & Creative Director of Quail Bell Press & Productions

Name: Christine Stoddard
Age: 27
Job Title and Description: Writer, Artist, and Founder/Creative Director of Quail Bell Press & Productions, with clients including Cosmopolitan, Bustle, Vivala, xoJane and more
College Name/Major: VCU Arts, B.A. Film, B.A. English, certificate in product innovation
Website: WordsmithChristine.com and QuailBellMagazine.com
Twitter Handle: @cstoddard
Instagram Handle: @christine.stoddard

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Christine Stoddard: I run a small business called Quail Bell Press & Productions—which Folio Magazine, the trade publication for the magazine industry, recognized me as one of the top 20 media visionaries in their 20s for founding. There are multiple art and media projects under the Quail Bell umbrella, but the best-known one is Quail Bell Magazine. Quail Bell Magazine is a place for real and unreal stories from around the world. It’s mainly an online magazine but occasionally comes out in print, too. 

As the creative director, my job is to oversee all Quail Bell projects and also satisfy project requirements for Quail Bell’s clients. Mainly, that means I write, edit, art direct and collaborate with my favorite freelance editors, illustrators and photographers, but there are business duties, too. One day, I might have to write an article for Bustle; another day, I might have to restock Quail Bell’s zines and anthologies in bookstores. I might pitch to magazines, write invoices, review a manuscript, copy edit a book, make art for a show, table at a ‘zine festival or run through any other number of duties related to running my small business.

What is the best part of your job?

CS: I mostly do what I love most—tell stories. And I get to do that every day. I have authorship over my work. It’s a rare opportunity to get the chance to fulfill your vision day after day. 

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

CS: Being creative alone is not enough. Staying organized is crucial. 

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

CS: On more than one occasion, I’ve taken on projects I should not have. Lack of interest and time mean I should’ve steered clear. Now I only commit myself to projects that give me happiness, fulfillment and adequate financial compensation. 

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

CS: Probably when I was 18 and had an exclusive interview with First Lady Laura Bush in the White House. Teen Ink gave one other young writer and me the chance to ask the First Lady questions about her youth literacy initiatives. We had just graduated from high school and were terrified, but I learned that our subject was human. That’s what I remind myself before every interview now: This person is a person, too.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

CS: Earn the right to tell a story; some stories are not yours to tell. Humble yourself. Be a person of your word. Back down if your timing is off and your subject isn’t ready. Trust and honesty matter more than a byline.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

CS: Build up your portfolio and as soon as you have enough work to begin attracting clients, file an LLC immediately. Then pitch and make cold calls. You may not get to choose all of your clients at first, but eventually you will get to a point where you have a lot more financial stability and the power to pick and choose your projects.


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Follow Allison on Twitter @AllisonMCrist.
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