Fraser Abe is a freelance lifestyle and entertainment writer based in Toronto. He’s mainly known for his work with Toronto Life, but his writing has also appeared in The Grid, the Toronto Standard and SharpForMen.com. In his downtime he enjoys being a misanthropic curmudgeon yelling at kids to get off his lawn.
Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
No, I worked on Bay Street doing Bay Street-y things. After I decided the only thing I liked about the business was after-work drinks on Thursdays at the various patios (including many a mis-spent evening at Vertical), getting laid off was the push I needed to apply for an internship at Toronto Life. That was in 2009 and I haven’t looked back since. Except, you know, when I realize it takes money to do things.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
I’d love to be living in New York and writing for GQ or Esquire or something, but I think if I re-read this in five years and I’m still in Toronto I’ll be depressed, so let’s just say still here, but making decidedly more money.
Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Unpaid internships get a lot of flack, but I think they’re the best way to learn and to meet people in the business. My writing was pretty rambling and incoherent when I wrote for She Does The City (I wrote a sort-of gay sex column called Homo Arigato Mr Roboto) and my internship really helped me polish my work. It’s also really great to know how to fact-check and what goes into making a magazine, even if you want to work online or, I’d guess, in PR. Also, check your expectations. This job isn’t even close to glamourous. Find a rich husband (I’m still looking, fellas) if you want glamour or Balenciaga tote bags.
What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
This is a tough question for freelancers, since I’ve written for Toronto Life, The Grid, Sharp and the Toronto Standard (all amazing outlets, of course). But I like Gawker (they’re snarkier than I could ever actually be in print – though I probably come close in real life), the AV Club and anyone else who would like to pay me to write for them. My new favourite magazine right now is Wired – they do great stories with fun charticles like “What’s In Pop Rocks”.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
I don’t do a lot of proper interviews, but during TIFF I talk to celebrities for nanoseconds. This year I peed with Gerard Butler. I also had a great time chatting with Aaron Levine and Michael Williams from A Continuous Lean for the Toronto Standard when they came to Toronto for the relaunch of the Club Monaco on Bloor.
If only I had interesting stories to impart. I’d just say generally when people give one word answers it makes writing something pithy pretty difficult.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
I think Carley Fortune (torontolife.com associate editor when I was interning) was a really great mentor, despite us being the same age, and she really helped my writing. I used to submit 500 word posts, but now my work is a lot more succinct. I’ve also got to give thanks to Matthew Fox (torontolife.com‘s editor) for giving me a chance to cover TIFF my first year, when he’d only seen me write for one other outlet. Jen McNeely from SDTC, who I met as a summer student a thousand years ago, gave me my first writing gig and introduced me to Matthew. And if you’ve never worked with Veronica Maddocks, try to. She is the most thorough researcher I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with and an amazing teacher.
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Oh, I don’t know. Who has their own personal mantra they repeat in front of the mirror every morning? I guess just be nice to the people who serve you food and drive you places.
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Learn people’s names. Everyone on Twitter seems to hate that and I can’t even count how many people think my first name is Abe. Follow up with a personalized email if you (for some strange reason) actually want me somewhere or want me to pitch a story to some outlet. It’s hard to care when your email is so obviously a form letter (unless you’re sending emails about free wings – keep those coming).
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
All of my best experiences with PR people have been because they’ve taken the time to try and know me and know what I actually write about. A less formal approach is always appreciated, I like when we can joke about other stuff while still getting work done. I also am always appreciative of PR people who realize most of us don’t have time to respond to every email we get.
Lots and lots and lots of things. Read my Twitter, I’ve probably written about something that irked me within the last 24 hours.
Walks on the beach, dinner by candlelight, macarons with my New York Times Sunday crossword and a Starbucks Venti half-caf moccachino, being facetious.
I just came back from a vacation where I read American Pastoral by Philip Roth (Dawn Dwyer reminded me so much of Betty Draper I feel like Matthew Weiner must have stolen her from Roth) and Bossypants by Tina Fey. Right now I’m reading Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. And I love to read this little indie drawn art series about these kooky teenagers from a fictitious town called Riverdale.
Best place on earth?
Well I just returned from Turks and Caicos, where I ate lobster and swam in turquoise water every day so let’s say there. And of course I love Saturdays at Fly. Look for me next time you’re there, I’m the one with his shirt off drinking Rev.
Ina Garten, but she has to cook us a roast chicken and bring her cadre of fabulous gays.
Gambit from the X-Men. Maybe Wolverine.
Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Instagram is fun, but let’s be real. Scruff.
Pool or ocean?
Pool, provided there are no screaming children.
Voicemail or email?
The only person that leaves me voicemails is my dad. And Kevin Naulls (but he prefers to be called Big Kev), when he tells me “we need to talk about last night”. He tricks me every time – I guess I should stop getting black-out drunk.