Normally the freelance journalist’s life is an endless cycle of pitching, waiting, scrambling, panicking and pitching again. This year I’ve been spoiled with ongoing engagements with select editorial and corporate clients that have allowed me to mostly avoid pitching panic altogether. I dare say it’s been the best year of my freelance career so far, in terms of both finances and fulfillment, and I hope 2019 continues just the same way.
I love how everything slows down at the end of December anyways (and after being full-time freelance for six years, I know to lean into it and prepare for it rather than fight it). I’ve been looking back at what I’ve accomplished in the past year and thinking about what I want to achieve in the next. Here are some highlights for me from 2018:
My favorite stories I wrote
All of my favorite stories this year appeared in the English edition of Handelsblatt, where I’ve been a freelance editor since last summer. Handelsblatt is Germany’s leading business daily newspaper, and my editor there has given me a lot of room to explore topics interesting to me and other expats:
- The Berlin way of urbanization: This four-part series explores the urbanization and gentrification of Berlin, an endlessly interesting topic. My editor supported my obsession as I over-reported this for six months.
- The German war against drafts: On the other hand, this story I wrote in half a day and received more emails in response than anything else I’ve written all year.
- Fraktur and the psychology of type: In a way I had been preparing my entire life to write this article about the intersection of historical typography and German politics.
- Expats beware: Germany uses dodgy tactics to snatch church tax: My own experience led me to write this story about how Germany’s church tax system confuses expats.
- Why Germany’s two-tier health insurance system is so complicated: And again my own trials with the health insurance system led me to create this guide for expats that includes a flowchart for better decisionmaking.
My favorite stories other people wrote
- The Cut: “Maybe she had so much money she just lost track of it” by Jessica Pressler. Like everybody, I was obsessed with this story about a woman who faked her way into New York society, kicking off the summer of scammers. I still want a Fake German Heiress T-shirt.
- New York Times: “What is Glitter?” by Caity Weaver: This wins the distinction of story I most wish I’d written this year.
- The Atlantic: “The Perfect Man Who Wasn’t” by Rachel Monroe. Another scammer and incredible long-form storytelling.
- The Verge: “Bad Romance” aka Cockygate by Sarah Jeong. This story about algorithm-gaming romance authors on Amazon is thrilling and ridiculous.
- Daily Beast: “How an Ex-Cop Rigged McDonald’s Monopoly Game and Stole Millions” by Jeff Maysh. I wouldn’t say I’m super into true crime, but this list is sure saying otherwise.
- New York Times: “The Baby Formula Crime Ring” by Chris Pomorski: Once again with the true crime!
- New York Magazine: “Worst Roommate Ever” by William Brennan: True crime and real roommate nightmares!
Assorted other favorite things from 2018
- Bruno Bartlett, the very thicc cat: I was here for Bruno from the moment the Chicago-area animal shelter posted a picture of him standing on his hind legs that went viral. His instagram is one of the best things to come from 2018.
- The raccoon that scaled a skyscraper in St. Paul: A harrowing tale!
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Always a delightful show, with extremely crafty costumers and set designers.
- How to F*&@ up an Airport: A four-part podcast from Radio Spätkauf detailing exactly why Berlin can’t have a nice airport.
- Wild Wild Country: I love a good cult story, and in addition to watching the Netflix documentary, I devoured the Oregonian’s original reporting on the Rajneeshees from the 1980s.
The best books I read this year
- John Carreyrou, “Bad Blood“: The true story about the rise and fall of Theranos — yet another addition to the scammer canon.
- Ijeoma Oluo, “So You Want to Talk About Race“: I want every American to read this book.
- Michael Idov, “Dressed up for a Riot“: A very funny memoir about a Russian-American who moves back as an adult to run GQ in Moscow.
- Virginia Eubanks, “Automating Inequality“: Real talk about how algorithms perpetuate existing subconscious bias.
- Camille Perri, “When Katie Met Cassidy“: It’s a romantic comedy about two women, and it’s just begging to be turned into a movie.
What were your favorite things you read this year? Let me know in the comments — I have not yet maxed out my browser tabs.