Our What’s In My Pocket series offers an inside look at the interesting people who use Pocket to elevate their work and life. Know someone who fits the mold? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. For this installment in the series, we sat down with Emily Perper, who compiles weekly Reading Lists for the Longreads blog.
Name: Emily Perper
Bio: Longreads contributor, humor magazine editor, interfaith advocate, stage manager for Maryland Ensemble, feminist, internet addict. Or, as Missy Elliott put it, “I’m five foot two, I wanna dance with you, and I’m sophisticated fun.”
Location: Frederick, Maryland
Little-Known Fact: My first concert was country singer Wynonna Judd. My mom was a huge fan! I was just 9, and sang along to all her songs on our family road trips.
Twitter Handle: @Emily_Perper
Started Using Pocket: May 2013
How did you come to be a Longreads curator, Emily?
My mom is a librarian, so I guess that’s where I got my reading gene. In college, I was an English major with a History minor; took media criticism and public speaking courses; and served as the Managing Editor of the campus newspaper. Also, I’ve always been interested in the internet and social media.
This combination of factors led to an independent study on longform journalism with a Communications professor my senior year. I wanted to define what a “longread” was (beyond just “a longer piece of journalism”); learn what it takes to write such pieces; and study the storytelling aspect of the genre.
I started by reading a ton of really good articles, including profiles (like Chris Jones’ piece on Roger Ebert in Esquire) and investigative pieces (like the New Yorker article about an arsonist on Death Row). I annotated everything extensively, and did lots of analysis.
While collecting pieces, I started posting batches of “Articles Read and Loved” on my blog, Diet Coker. Several months later, Longreads emailed, asking if I would be willing to create themed collections for them. I do tend to read deeply on various topics, so this was a perfect match.
What drew you to longform, specifically?
I feel that, in an age of bite-sized headlines and Upworthy and viral videos, you really need more context and nuance on deeper issues, like the Middle East, race, current events… If you don’t get that background then you can’t have a truly educated opinion.
How do you craft the lists that you curate?
From week to week, I’m paying attention to what’s going on in the world, but I also take risks and do some out-there themes. I might have an idea in my head on Monday but that idea can change during the week if something else comes up.
My themes are almost selfish, on a level; this is what I would want to read, and I still find it incredible that other people want to read this stuff too. For instance, I did a list on the concept of home right after a list on cryptozoology (the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and so on).
I try not to use super popular material on my lists.
There’s a balance between what everyone’s reading, what I’m reading, and what I think people should be reading.
I’m mindful that I don’t want to be a broken record, so it’s not just, say, women writers every week. I want variety, and to move beyond my own comfort zone. In fact, I wish I did that more. I’m not interested in sports, for instance, but some of the writers that I read are, and there’s some great sports writing out there, too. Am I able to understand and interpret it, though? I’m not sure I could coherently understand and appreciate it, but I’d love to try.
I was very excited to share my list on Roxane Gay, because I want to do my bit to push talented writers out into the world, and she’s an important writer right now.
What about touchy topics?
I don’t feign neutrality on controversial issues; I’m not a very good liar! Take, for example, the list on gentrification — I tried to offer several perspectives, with the pros and cons, so as to level the playing field. And these lists are very obviously personal, as I preface each list with anecdotes from my life.
What kind of feedback do you get on your work?
I sometimes get editorial feedback from Mark Armstrong (Longreads’ Founder) or Mike Dang (Longreads’ Managing Editor), and it’s mostly positive.
When a list goes up, if lots of people respond negatively to something, we’ll consider removing it. Mistakes are always corrected — I can think of the time I accidentally put a male writer on a list of all female writers. People favorite or retweet my work on Twitter, or send me messages or @replies saying, “Thanks for posting this!” I love getting list ideas and contributions from readers, too; in fact, I got my first one a few weeks ago.
Publications will also get in touch sometimes, such as when I ran The Airship‘s piece on prison libraries; they emailed me and thanked me for including them.
How did you first hear about Pocket? What made you try us?
I first saw Pocket mentioned on Twitter.
I was looking for a way to organize my longreads better; especially once I got an iPhone, I realized that I needed to be able to do that all the time! I used to email myself links, but Pocket was most efficient. And, I could use the app with Twitter and Tumblr, which was really convenient.
My Pocket is mostly full of longreads, which shouldn’t be surprising. But I do also save some news articles, to keep abreast of what’s going on in the world.
Where do you discover your favorite content?
I subscribe to lots of longreads newsletters — Longform, Longreads, Pocket Hits, Kickstarter, Narrative.ly, Buzzfeed Books, Buzzfeed Reads, Tablet magazine… It’s getting harder and harder for me to find new sources!
I also use Twitter a lot, as I mentioned. It’s my favorite social media outlet. I follow tons of publications and journalists. If multiple journalists are tweeting about one article, I know I have to read it.
Where do you go for inspiration?
I’m deeply inspired by Tavi Gevinson of Rookie, who took her personal interests and created community around them.
Books are a huge inspiration, especially used or “new-to-me” books. It’s a life dream of mine to open up my own bookstore. Free books are even better! There’s a used book space called The Book Thing of Baltimore, where all the books are free. You just take what you want; they have hundreds of thousands. It’s amazing. When I lived in Baltimore my housemates and I would go at least once a month.
Although I’m a social person, solitude is inspiring to me. I love listening to records while reading in a quiet room.
I particularly enjoy reading fashion magazines, because at one point I wanted to be a fashion journalist.
What is your favorite Pocket feature? What do you tell others about?
Since you guys contacted me for “What’s In My Pocket,” I’ve been talking about Pocket a lot — usually with an evangelical zealot look in my eye!
Because I save obsessively, the ability to have everything in one place is super useful. I also love the organization aspect of Pocket: the ability to tag things is great for me, because I save so many things that I start losing them!
Emily’s 5 all-time favorite Longreads Reading Lists:
- “Being Gay in Russia Today” (February 2014)
- “Mother’s Day” (May 2013)
- “Believe in Your Selfie” (September 2013)
- “Yes, All Women: A Reading List of Stories Written By Women” (June 2014)
- “Choose Your Own Adventure: Leslie Jamison, Author of ‘The Empathy Exams'” (April 2014)