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The Pleasure of Deadlines According to Annie Zaleski

April 21, 2023

Flexibility is not your friend when you're juggling this many things.

Annie Zaleski is a writer, editor, author, and music curator who's been lending her considerable talents to TBC since 2017. But she was honing her craft professionally for close to two decades before that (and she points out that her fervent energy for writing dates back at least as far as elementary school). She wrote a book on Duran Duran's Rio (2021) as well as Lady Gaga: Applause (2022), and other titles are in the works. Annie is profoundly passionate about and fluent in rock, pop, punk, and New Wave music, among other genres, and without breaking a sweat can throw down 16 reasons why her hometown, Cleveland, is truly the only place that could be the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Here, she told us about her accomplishments, challenges, dreams, and nightmares. 

What is the piece of work you've created that you're most proud of? Describe how it came together. 

The 33 1/3 series book I wrote on Duran Duran's Rio. (Available in two editions!) It's a long, complicated story: I pitched the book in 2007 and 2009, to no avail, and finally wrote a better proposal in 2018 that was accepted. I started working on it in late 2019 and spent the first very fraught part of the pandemic at home, doing interviews, research, and writing, and finally finished it in fall 2020. I labored over the writing, the word choices and arrangements, the editing and copyediting because I had been wanting to write the book for so long—helping to place Duran Duran's music in the greater canon was deeply important to me. I'm enormously proud of how it turned out and that people like it!

What is the most challenging part of your job, and how do you address that? 

Time management. Projects with hard deadlines are preferable, since then I can plan better, but I often have projects with long deadlines (or amorphous deadlines). Trying to balance short- and long-term deadlines is tough for me because things keep getting pushed off. That old saying about assignments expanding to fill the time you have is so deeply true. My best solution is not to overschedule, because that's when I tend to get overwhelmed—it's definitely a work in progress. 

What's the best work advice you've ever received? 

That there's enough work to go around—so operate from a mindset of abundance, not scarcity. 

Name one time you said "yes" to something that felt like a leap of faith, and you're so glad you did. And name one time you had a hard time saying "no" to something, and you're so glad you did. 

Back in the 2000s, I said yes to a job working as the music editor at the Riverfront Times in St. Louis. I moved to the city knowing absolutely nobody, just my soon-to-be co-workers, into my first real full-time day job out of college. In hindsight, I marvel at how much confidence it took for me to make such a bold move. But years later, that job has continued to pay dividends for me professionally and personally—and I'm so grateful for taking it and for everything I learned.

As far as saying no—years ago, I applied for and was accepted to grad school for journalism at UC Berkeley. I opted not to go because it would've been very expensive. While I sometimes wonder what might have happened had I moved to California, many very good things happened because I didn't go, so it was ultimately the right decision. 

Professionally speaking, what's your biggest fear? What is your ultimate dream? 

Biggest fear: having assignments and opportunities dry up and editors stop emailing. Ultimate dream? To write a book that makes the New York Times best seller list.

What have you been listening to/watching for pleasure (not for work) recently? 

The K-pop group IVE, the forthcoming albums from Hannah Jadagu and Laura Cantrell, and my current favorite jam is Julia Jacklin's "I Was Neon." I was also marveling just this morning about how spoiled I am to live in the Cleveland area, because we have an abundance of amazing college radio stations—four or five come in clear enough for me to listen when I'm driving around. So I've been flipping between those lately, too. Watching: new season of Single Drunk Female, the Brooke Shields documentary, and finishing up the second season of Girls5Eva.

If you could hang out with any musician/performer/producer/actor, alive or dead, who would it be? Why, and what would be the first thing you'd ask them? 

David Bowie, because I find him absolutely fascinating. I'd ask him what he's reading.

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