Genie Williamson (MAPH 06) and the Return of “The Baffler!”

Jeff McMahon (MAPH '02) and Genie Williamson (MAPH '06) at the "Making Writing Work" Panel in January

After a two-year break, The Baffler is returning this March. First published in 1988 by Thomas Frank and Keith White, The Baffler is a magazine of  criticism, culture, and politics focused on “blunting the cutting-edge.” Suspended and relaunched various times since its inception, The Baffler will be back with issue no. 19 early this month, released out of MIT, in print and with online content. I got a chance to sit down and talk with MAPH alum and the publication’s Associate Editor Genie Williamson in January. Despite her frantic in advance of The Baffler’s revival, Genie managed to pay us a visit at GradUCon and shared her insights about the publication–and her own career path–on the “Making Writing Work” panel discussion.

An Illinois native, Genie accumulated a lot of writing experience in Chicago before leaving. She reviewed music for New City and You Are Chicago, which she describes as roughly “the blog equivalents of the day.” Though she initially began these reviews “almost just to get the free cover for the shows,” the writing experience eventually allowed her to move onto a more established freelance position at Time Out Chicago.

Along with other panelists, Genie expressed the importance of individual initiative, of finding a focus or specialized topic for your writing, and of networking (she got started the gig at Time Out Chicago through  a friend). While freelancing, Genie had an office job at an international real-estate conglomerate, which she held for four years. According to Genie, it’s important that writers don’t turn their noses up at jobs that take the pressure off financially. As she put it, for young writers it can be useful to find jobs that “don’t take up a lot of mental space”.

Genie also offered practical advice on how writers can go about finding a focus, a tip echoed by nearly every writer on the GradUCon panel. “Writers should not be afraid to work on spec,” she said, adding that it can be better the write a story first and then search for a publication with a readership that fits.

Congrats to Genie and the staff of The Baffler. Be sure to check out the newest issue in print and online early this March. If enough current students and alumni are interested, Genie said it might be possible to arrange a MAPH discount.


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