Writer/Editor Emma Glassman-Hughes Has Found a Silver Lining in Being Unemployed

Q(uar) & A is a series of interviews with some of our favorite storytellers and creators about how they’re living while in lockdown.

“Me in my San Diego backyard.”

Emma Glassman-Hughes is the former print editor for Here Magazine and a current grad school hopeful and unemployment leech. At age 19, Emma began her career in content when she was hired as an editor for THINX (before the Vox exposé). In 2017, she became the editorial intern for Away (before the Verge exposé) where she helped to launch the in-house print publication, Here Magazine. As the print editor for Here Mag, she traveled to 11 countries on five continents and learned the hard way not to write directly on magazine proofs. 

Where are you currently sheltering in place?

At the tail end of February, I quit my job at Here Magazine and flew out to San Diego to visit my family — days before the “first wave” of the pandemic really started to hit NYC. The night of my scheduled flight back east, I decided that I would stay in California indefinitely (TYSM JetBlue for refunding my points!!). My family had just adopted two adorable kittens in early February so I was more than happy to stay put for awhile. I just flew back to Brooklyn earlier this week, so I’m in my apartment for the time being with my dear roommate, Lindsay, and a big ol’ bag of Smart Food. 

“Taking a writing break with my San Diego kitten (he lives with my parents).”

What does your face mask look like? 

I have two sweet, little face mask numbers that I cycle through. One is jewel-toned with a feather pattern and the other is covered in a bunch of dainty strawberries.

Do you follow any kind of routine at this moment? 

While I was home in San Diego, I was living like a quarantine princess. Every single day I held myself to a minimum of one hour of writing, an hour of either yoga in the living room or running on the elliptical in the garage, and 15 minutes of practicing guitar. (I did not get very good but I mastered the G-major chord, which is hard if you have inflexible pinkies like me.) I was also doing a silly thing where I took a video of myself dancing in my backyard each day that I was in quarantine, just to keep myself feeling playful and youthful — even if the joy only lasted for three or four minutes. 

But, of course, now that I’m back on Eastern Standard Time that’s all gone out the window — I made the mistake of walking around Brooklyn in sandals for a few hours and now I have an infected blister on my toe. Dr. Rogers at ModernMD in Bed-Stuy gave me an antibiotic shot and has ordered me to stay off my feet for a few days, so the current routine involves lots of The Office reruns from the couch.

What are some pieces of entertainment that you have consumed and loved during this time? 

The ongoing revolution for Black lives has demanded that I reckon with my own racist blindspots that I’ve fostered, consciously or unconsciously, as a white woman living in the U.S., and that includes my own history of not engaging actively enough with Black-led media. I’ve been trying to right that wrong bit by bit, making more conscious choices about the media I’m consuming, starting with some films. Favorite docs include Quincy and Disclosure on Netflix, and I watched Malcolm X and Da 5 Bloods basically back to back. I also tuned into a reading hosted by the Hurston/Wright Foundation featuring three incredible writers who read snippets of their work for Juneteenth. I’m currently reading White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo aloud with my family (now we’re doing it over Facetime) and Dear Life by Alice Munro. Also, my mom had never seen Transparent on Amazon, so I started rewatching it with her while I was home. It was a very special way for me to share something that has resonated so deeply with my experience of and love for my own Jewishness and queerness. 

Are you working on anything during this time? And if you’re having trouble “creating” things at the moment, how are you getting around it?

These last four months have been surprisingly productive for me. This is the first time in my life that I have had real, serious time to focus on creative writing and I’ve been working on a handful of short stories (hopefully things I can use to apply to grad school in the fall!). When I quit my job in February, my plan was to build a robust career out of freelance writing, but that has NOT happened for me in a big way — partially because of the pandemic and partially because I’ve realized that I need a break from the media rat race, which makes it sort of impossible to commit all of my waking hours to cold-emailing editors. (Is that too cynical? Meh.) But the incredible privilege of being unemployed and creatively free is not lost on me, and I’m so grateful to be able to take advantage of this time in my life the way that I have.

Have you taken up any new hobbies? 

I attempted the guitar and even picked up my old trumpet while I was home (I was First Chair in middle school band AND the only girl, so…). I also started sketching my own nudes, even though I’ve historically avoided the visual arts because I have always felt my hand skills are massively inadequate. But doodling my own body has been a borderline revelatory experience for me, I highly recommend. It gave me an all-new appreciation for the uniqueness and elegance of my form.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten so far during quar? What’s the worst?

I made this amazing chicken thigh dish from NYT Cooking with potatoes and pine nuts, it was exquisite. I also attempted that Bon Appetit (pre-cancelation!) vegetarian ramen and it turned out much better than anticipated. My family is big on cooking and even bigger on eating, so I ate really well while I was home. Worst meal would have to be my breakfast today, now that I’m alone in my apartment: dried apricots and Wheat Thins straight from the box.

What’s your current iPhone wallpaper and what’s the story behind it?

It’s a still from a scene in Moonstruck, when Nicolas Cage and Cher are at the opera. Their faces are so full of emotion, and more importantly, they were both so hot in 1987!! Truly an exquisite year for film, which also brought us Dirty Dancing and Raising Arizona. You can’t beat it.

What’s the best quar purchase you’ve made so far?

I bought some semi-permanent hair dye from Good Dye Young and dyed my head blue at the beginning of April. It’s pretty much all faded now, but it was quite vibrant for about a month. I also invested in some new sustainable finery because I absolutely had no idea I would be in California for as long as I was when I left my apartment and I desperately needed some clothes. Faves include this swimsuit from Summersalt, these pants from BackBeatCo., and this jumpsuit from LaCausa. And I got a new vibrator from Dame because we have to spark our own joy these days.

Who are the writers, storytellers, or makers who are bringing you great joy right now?

Jamel Brinkley and Danez Smith are two writers I discovered through the Hurston/Wright Foundation and I’m loving their work. Janelle Monae just shot a series of self-portraits for Gayletter and my heart stopped. LaVerne Cox and Jen Richards in Disclosure and in life are absolutely everything. Reading Joan Didion is always like hooking myself up to an IV of life-giving fluids. Lots to take inspiration from and I am so grateful for that.

Any unexpectedly memorable moments so far?

For the last month of my time in San Diego, I would make weekly visits to my grandparents at the outdoor space of their apartment complex — maintaining six feet of distance! — where I would interview them about their lives. Not only was it great information to collect as a writer, but it was really special to capture some of these stories I’ve been hearing my whole life on tape. And the experience was pretty therapeutic for them, too. The most memorable moment for me was either when I asked my grandpa to describe what it felt like for him when his mother died (he rarely talks about difficult emotional periods in his life) or when I asked my grandma if she’s ever had sex with anyone but my grandpa (it’s their 60th anniversary in December) and she said no. We had a really wonderful conversation about the cultural differences in sexual expression from the ‘50s, when she was a teen, to the present-day. I had to gently explain to her how much of a slut I am, but she was receptive!