Our member of the week is Jason Overdorf. Jason’s work as a freelance journalist has taken him to the far reaches of the world. He has spent time working in Beijing, Hong Kong, and most recently New Delhi, India, where he is currently based. His work has been featured in such publications as Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal. Check out Jason’s profile and the interview below to learn more about him. You can also keep up with his life as a freelance journalist abroad by reading his blog.
1. What has been your most interesting project?
I still have a soft spot for the story I did on the endangered Marwari horse of Rajasthan for Smithsonian Magazine. It was my first "big" story as a freelancer, and really my first experience exploring India. And it had everything--India's colonial past, kings, these incredible battle stories sung by itinerant bards. Not to mention the incredibly beautiful horses--and landscape. 2. Why did you decide to go freelance? I came to journalism late, after abandoning a PhD in English literature and knocking around China for a few years and fantasizing about becoming a novelist without ever doing much work, so I felt (and still feel) a little bit behind the eight ball. I had this incredibly mind-numbing job at a wire service that I expect will soon be performed by a computer, and the management there were among the most obnoxious people I've ever come in contact with--and I came to the conclusion that the fast-track to big reporting assignments that I'd envisioned when I took the job was never going to materialize. So it was sort of put up or shut up--either you stop talking about all the things you want to do or you get the hell out there and do it. 3. What tip would you give to a new freelancer or someone who is considering going freelance? I'll steal a line from John Updike (I believe): "Sell everything twice." 4. *What is your favorite spot in the city in which you live?* Delhi is no picnic, especially in summer when it's incredibly hot. Most of my favorite places are dives that serve cheap beer, but I also love the canteen at the Andhra Pradesh statehouse, where they serve an unbeatable all-you-can-eat lunch. Maybe my journo side is showing.... 5. *What is your inspiration?* I don't know.... Inspiration always seems a little high-flown to me. I operate more on a depression-avoidance level. If I'm not writing something, I go into an impenetrable black mood. Sometimes I read somebody amazing like Ryszard Kapuscinsk (author of The Soccer War, among other books) and it makes me want to write something in the same vein, but just as often it makes me want to hang up my pen or holster my keyboard or whatever. Then the real inspiration kicks in: the money's gone, the rent's due, and I can't do anything else.