About

I’m Caitlin Kelly, a National Magazine Award winner, a writer and speaker whose career includes working as a reporter and feature writer for three daily newspapers.

I’ve also produced 100+ freelance stories for The New York Times; here’s one of them, third-most-emailed of that day’s paper.

Please follow me on Twitter at @CaitlinKellyNYC.

My 90-minute, one-on-one webinars, (offered by phone or Skype), can help anyone who hopes to write or pitch their ideas more effectively; details here.

I also coach individually by phone, email or Skype, with many satisfied clients from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Please email me at learntowritebetter@gmail.com; $225/hour with a one-hour minimum.

Six of my posts have been Freshly Pressed; here’s the most recent, about why we need to say thank you.

I’ve published two books of detailed national reporting on complex issues, on American women and gun use, and retail work; for the first, I interviewed 104 men, women and teens from 29 states.

photo: Jose R. Lopez
photo: Jose R. Lopez

Broadside grows daily, now with 16,514 followers worldwide. Thanks for stopping by!

Of course, everything written on this site is copyright; links are fine, anything else requires my explicit permission!

My newest book, a memoir, is about working in an upscale suburban mall for The North Face.  It’s an honest and highly-detailed look into the nation’s third largest industry. You can read a sample of it here, and buy it here. Of course, it’s also available as an e-book.

It was published in China in July 2013 by these publishers, and was nominated for the 2012 Hillman Prize, given annually to a work of journalism “in the service of the common good.”

The New York Times: a clear-eyed account”

Entertainment Weekly: “an excellent memoir”

It’s also been featured in Marie-Claire, USA Today, People, Time.com, Fortune.com and Forbes.com, and many others.

“Kelly’s powerful descriptions of retail…highlight so much of what is wrong with our economy” said David Madland, Director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress.

Here’s my essay on the Harvard Business Review blog about the overlooked value of retail associates.

I’ve keynoted and addressed major retail conferences, including Retail Customer Experience, whose audience members included senior executives from Swarovski, Cabela’s, Target and Old Navy. A lively speaker, I’ve got practical, useful tips for retail managers to help them hire, manage and motivate.

Here’s a link to my most recent address, to students and retailers at the University of Minnesota.

Samples of my newspaper and magazine writing are here, and here’s the site for my first book “Blown Away: American Women and Guns,” which Booklist called “groundbreaking and invaluable.”

Thanks for visiting!

134 thoughts on “About

  1. Lauren Elizabeth Richards

    I’m a total idiot when it comes to the internet. How can I subscribe to your blog? I’ve been browsing, and I really love your work! 🙂

  2. Hello and thanks for posting 10 ways to seriously improve your writing! We share many interests including my intense desire to continuously hone my writing skills. Thanks for that added push and inspiration.

  3. I’ve just come across your blog for the first time. I love that you are a generalist. I’ve always seen myself as a “Jill-of-all-Trades” and wondered if it would be better to be more “specialized”. Looks like I no longer have to wonder and can relish being a generalist. I’m signing up to receive emails of your new posts.

    1. I won’t say it’s easy! I think specialists can make more income but I have so many interests that I get bored easily. I really love being able to switch between design or business or sports to news or an essay. The game many of us play is to have several specialties (business is very much one of mine).

  4. What a fascinating career! I, too, like that you are able to write about your different interests–sounds like more fun than a specialized focus, but that’s just me.

    I tried to click on your 11 Reporting Tips link and it said the resource cannot be found. Is it me and my internet or a problem with the link? I’d love to read it…

    Thanks for visiting my blog! Glad I found yours!

  5. Interesting to read about your writing journey. I have a very old degree in journalism (graduated when I was 22, I’m 50 this year, so you can imagine how useful that is at this point in time!) I have never used writing to make a living, although some of my jobs have required writing skills. But I couldn’t, in any sense of the word, say that I have worked as a journalist. I find the path that brings people to blogging interesting, the diversity of the journey and the variety of people you run across.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Sheila

  6. This book sounds so great! I am hopefully going to order it from the library at the first opportunity. (Sorry I didn’t say purchase it… but with a library around the corner and one income feeding the family that’s how we roll and I really want to read the book!) -kate

  7. Thanks for leaving a comment on my “A Year in the North Cape”… because now I’ve found your blog and I’m following it now. Congratulations on your new book. Looking forward to reading your posts and I wish you all the best with your latest book publication.

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  9. K.L. Gore

    You know, I’ve heard about your book and was interested in reading it, especially since I worked in retail for 15 years, many of those years holding down two retail jobs in order to afford an apartment. I’m glad you responded on my Revision411 blog so I could read up on who you were and remember I’d wanted to read Malled when I first heard of it…was it last year? I can’t recall. Anyhow, I’m curious to see if your experiences mirrored my own. I’ve even considered writing a fiction novel based on retail but I thought, nah, who’d believe this stuff could really happen? LOL. Looking forward to purchasing your book, now. Thanks again for stopping by my blog. 🙂

    1. I’d be very interested to see how you react to Malled since you know the territory so well. I’ve gotten a lot of emails from retail veterans who think it’s extremely accurate in its reflection of life behind the cash wrap.

      1. K.L. Gore

        I’ll let you know. 🙂 Unfortunately, the retail worker faces abuse from both management and the customer, so it’s basically a double-edged sword. I’m definitely curious on your take.

      2. So true. I’ve been lucky enough to be paid to speak to three audiences (so far) of retailers — and I remind them all that their front-line staff are extremely vulnerable to abuse.

  10. Thanks for the comment! It’s tough, but knowing other people out there have gone through/are going through the same thing eases the pain.

    Your book looks like it will be very interesting! I work in an upscale mall right now, and there is a lot of behind the scenes action that people never know about unless they work retail. Namely, how hard it is to come face to face with people that instinctively hate you the moment they see you (you’re the bad guy who will tell them they can’t use that coupon) and that awesome moment when a customer treats you like another human being.

    I look forward to more of your blog in the meantime!

  11. I appreciate the thoughtful comments you have left on my blog. It feels good to be able to engage in a conversation with you and the rest of those who are on wordpress. I know I’ll be adding your books in my to-read list, seeing how interesting they are.

    I wish you all the best!

  12. Grace

    Hi Caitlin 🙂

    Having just spent an hour devouring your blog posts, I was moved to comment!
    Your pieces are delightfully well written – interwoven with inspiration, smarts and your unique flavor. I look forward to reading more.

    Kind regards,
    Grace

  13. thebitchybride

    I’m a little in awe… I want your life. (I hope that sounds flattering and not scary.)

    I just read your 10 objects post and now this. Your book sounds brilliant. I fully intend to go out and find it. I’m a fiction and creative nonfiction writer trying desperately to get an agent at the moment, and I’ve just clicked the “follow” button not with the vague interest that usually leads my mouse there, but with a full desire to be a “follower”, however scary WordPress and Twitter make that term sound.

    Can I ask what your opinion is on MFA courses? I’m thinking about applying, but finding it hard to get a straight answer about how useful they are.

    1. You may want my life, but I seriously doubt you want the daily hustle to achieve it, or the income that comes with it. It looks probably quite different from the outside. I enjoy it, but it should be easier by now! The publishing world is in turmoil, as is journalism. I made my easiest and best money last year on speaking engagements related to my book. Gotta love the irony — folding T-shirts for 2 yrs in a mall and writing about it has ultimately paid off.

      Glad you’ve signed up. Please comment lots…we have a great group here. I don’t tweet, so it’s here, my websites and malledthebook’s FB page.

      I never took an MFA and probably never would, for lots of reasons — none of which may apply to your goals. 1) I dislike formal education; 2) I couldn’t imagine paying $$$$$ to write a book; 3) the opportunity cost seems too high to me. BUT…I also spent years writing for national outlets and worked for 3 newspapers so I basically got paid to learn to write…and that’s the (putative) value of an MFA. One friend of mine has one, but none of their novels (yet) have sold.

      I think if you can get a free ride and want to focus on fiction, yes. Otherwise, it seems like a luxury to me. But my goals may be different. All I really want to write is various genres of non-fiction. Not sure if that helps at all… 🙂

      1. thebitchybride

        Thanks, that is really helpful. I’m looking at MFAs specifically because some of them have full funding, whereas if I stayed in the UK the same would cost a fortune. So I think my thinking now is do it as long as it’s free, but otherwise work out a way to do the same myself.

        There is some beautiful irony in your least interesting job becoming ultimately your best paid. I’m glad it worked out like that for you.

        And I look forward to reading more on this blog. So glad I found you!

      2. I’d be really thoughtful about an MFA. What (rhetorical question) do you want to get out of it? Contacts in the publishing world (there are other ways to get them.) An agent (ditto.) Street cred. Or do you want to teach? There are many valid uses for an MFA but I would not ever assume it will lead to the publication on your work as a result, and I think that is exactly the hook they use.

      3. thebitchybride

        I’m looking mainly for experience teaching and a way to “hone my craft”, as pretentious as that sounds. I’m already in talks with an agent and I’ve had a bit of interest from others, but I’ve never formally studied writing and I often feel like I’m faking it. I think some of what I write is kind of okay, but I struggle with other bits, so I hope I could benefit from tuition and from being in a writing community. Plus, I’d like to learn a way to make a living from writing (read: I’d like to quit my coffee shop job!), hence the teaching experience would be useful. What I’m not sure at this stage, though, is how transferable an American MFA will be back in the UK.

        Sorry, you didn’t really need my life story! Thank you for taking the time to answer my question, it’s really helpful to get an opinion.

  14. Thanks for visiting my blog “Eyes to Heart” and liking my post “Moxie’s Excellent Swimming Adventure.” … You are an accomplished writer. This inspires me … Be well, Dorothy 🙂

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  16. I really enjoyed “Malled”. Having worked so many types of jobs in my 59 years on this planet, it’s amazing that I never worked in retail. I’m glad I got to do so vicariously!

    Now that I’ve moved back up north and am in the process of looking for work, I am game for any sustainable employment where, to paraphrase a quote from your book, I can keep “fun” in my “functioning”.

  17. Michael Tyler

    Minor recognition, I know but…

    Michael Tyler has named you one of his five recipients of The Liebster Blog Award!

    Liebster means ‘beloved’ in German.

    The Liebster Blog Award was passed along to me with the following rules:

     Thank and link back to the giver of the award.
     List 5 blogs who you believe deserve the Liebster Award and have 200 or less followers. And let them know on their respective blogs.
     Copy and paste the award on your blog and share 7 random things about yourself.
     Hope that the people you’ve sent the award to forward it to their five favorite up-and-coming bloggers and keep it going. Enjoy the Love!

    Receiving the Liebster Award means your blog reaches out and touches the heart and souls of others. The 5 blogs you nominate should meet the same criteria.

    Here are my five. If you have more than 200—or even 2000—followers, forgive me, I just went with what I like.

    5 Blogs with 200 or less Followers:

    1. http://daphneshadows.wordpress.com –Corny as it may be to award this to the person who awarded it to you, it is a must. Daphne is a bundle of energy, always makes me smile or makes me think, and she can really write.
    2. http://notquiteold.wordpress.com –Another lady with solid writing skills who brightens my day. I learn a lot by reading her blogs. It’s hard for me to write a female POV, and she is SO feminine—it helps me get a handle on how to do this, or at least how to attempt it.
    3. https://broadsideblog.wordpress.com –Amazing. Thought provoking. The lady is a pro, and though I suspect she has a gazillion followers, I had to put her on my list of favorites. Her last piece—Etan Patz—brought tears to my eyes.
    4. http://georgettegraham.wordpress.com –Lots of well-written tips and stories, mostly related to writing. This lady juggles a lot and still manages to write a great blog to follow.
    5. http://mselene.wordpress.com –This young lady can write, and I am curious to watch where she goes with it.

    I received this prestigious award from:

    http://daphneshadows.wordpress.com

    Daphne is an original. She always makes me smile, and what a nice thing to give someone. I’m pretty sure she might be one of the keys to the universe, like that Fifth Element gal…

    7 Random things about Yours Truly:

    1. I live in the country, and one of the things I like most about living in the country is being able to pee outside. In fact, even in the middle of the night, it’s not uncommon for me to go outside to share my water with precious Mother Earth and take a look around. It’s peaceful and it’s a security boost.
    2. I was once knocked unconscious by lightning that struck near me as I crossed the side of a hill during a storm in the middle of the night in Central America. I can still remember the metallic taste it left in my mouth.
    3. My mother’s family name is Trueblood. Quakers seeking refuge from religious persecution in England, The Truebloods settled in North Carolina in the 1600s. Around 1800, the clan split, with one group moving to Indiana after freeing their slaves, which was contrary to NC law at that time, and the other, smaller group remaining near the coast of North Carolina. The Indiana Truebloods, who eventually started family groups in Ohio, Illinois, and Iowa, took their freed slaves with them for fear they would be re-enslaved. Sadly, Truebloods fought Truebloods in the Civil War, with family members serving the Union (Indiana) and the Confederacy (North Carolina).
    4. I have a phobia: Palmetto Bugs. You know, those great big creepy fluttering damn creatures that love hot, humid climates? Acckkk! Guaranteed to make me scream girlishly and run for high ground.
    5. I love old Harleys. My current bike is a 1973 FLH, which is almost too new. I love this bike, which I named Hell Bitch, after Woodrow Call’s horse in Lonesome Dove. It is cranky. A pain. I am constantly having to tinker with it, which I have come to realize is one of the reasons I like old bikes. I need a bike I have to kick start. I need a bike I can cuss at when it’s obstinate. I need a bike without push buttons, computers, turn signals, horns, and rear shocks. I need obnoxious bikes. If a bike has a push-button starter, flashy paint, or a windshield, I have no interest. Yup.
    6. I did some pretty crazy stuff as a younger man, and did them better than most, with no apparent ill-effects. Now, as I close the gap between right now and my fiftieth birthday, I find that the scars left from my past exploits are closer to the surface. Depression has become an issue, something that is hard for me to admit, but I fight it as best I can. For some years, I sought refuge in a bottle, but booze only made things worse. So what to do? Continue the fight, of course. Quitting is never an option.
    7. I love music and sports, but have never been to a concert and have never attended a professional sporting event. Hmmmm.

      1. No worries! Just wanted you to know! I’m not the kind of gal to say, “Send out your nominations in the next 24 hours or you will have seven years of bad luck.” 🙂 It’s really just an appreciation thing.

  18. Wow– I’m totally intrigued. After braving six years in fashion retail, I often talk about how retail associates are vastly underestimated. Can’t wait to check out your essay and your book!

  19. clownonfire

    Caitlin,
    So this other blogger, Ms. Know-it-All Sweet Mother is like: “Hey Le Clown, do you know Broadside? You should follow her, you’d like her”. So here I am, and I should like you, says SM. No pressure, right?
    Le Clown

  20. Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all people you really understand what you are talking approximately! Bookmarked. Please additionally visit my website =). We could have a link trade agreement among us

  21. thetalkinghangover

    yes theres nothing quite like working retail.. i worked for one of the leading “music and entertainment” retailers on the high st in england. prob the worst job i ever had. they really took the piss with what they expected to the point that i now refuse to shop there. they’ll be out of business soon tho so thats good.
    I also agree with your points about women whining about their size. females are bred to be concerned about little else nowadays. the few that do dare to think and voice opinions get shot down pretty quick.
    how depressing.

    1. Retail is pretty consistently brutal no matter where you work — the only place I’ve heard of that pays decently, and only because of government regulation, is Australia, where the minimum wage is very high indeed compared to other nations.

  22. Hi Caitlin, I was wondering if you would consider writing a post reaffirming the importance of fact-checking in the social media age? I love your writing and would be interested in your comments as a journalist. I ask because with this terrible tragedy that occurred in Newtown, CT, and with the killer having been mis-identified at first by various media outlets (although I understand it was a police officer who made the inadvertent mistake), I can’t help but think the race to be first with breaking news in social media can really damage the integrity of journalism. (Or maybe you’ve already written about this topic; sorry if you have!). You can just e-mail me back directly at vicky.hum@rogers.com if you want.
    Vicky

    1. Thanks. I’m flattered you want to hear my thoughts — and I have a post on “page view journalism” already in the can. Maybe I’ll post it sooner than planned.

      My feelings about this shooting are very complex. I am, as I always am in this moments, angry at the emotionalism and simplistic reporting. Which I will weigh in on, maybe in a day or two. I am very interested in the report that the guns belonged to his mother. Why is a small town elementary school teacher owning two Glock 9mms?!

  23. It IS insane. I look forward to hearing some thoughts on your blog. I am a bit of a journalism geek (but am so far from being a journalist), so I’m always interested in hearing the journalist’s POV on major news events such as these! Thanks!

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  26. Hi there. My name is Jordan Faust, and I’m 23 years old. I studied English (writing concentration) at Colorado State University. My ultimate goal is to become a writer. I’m still not sure what I want to write about, but I’d like some advice regarding how to get my name out there, and how to get my skills acknowledged and more advanced. I could email you maybe, but it seems that you’ve got it together. I’ve also taken some journalism courses, but I love analyzing literature and making arguments with valid points/counterpoints. Do I need to find an internship? Should I work at a book store? I just simply don’t know where to get started. I’d appreciate some advice, even if it’s just simple little things.
    Love your blog by the way 🙂

      1. Unfortunately, I can’t afford a conference like this at such short notice, especially because I live in Denver. But I will take your advice about taking as many writing courses as possible, and ultimately get my degree. Thank you for your advice 🙂

  27. Dear Caitlin Kelly,
    Thank you so much making such a wonderful blog !
    Awesome learning here and hope to visit more often and interact with you.
    I’m glad I visited your blog in serendipity…
    With lots of best wishes and a big hug all the way from India 🙂
    madhavi sood alias madhavi mohandas
    (author of ‘From the silence within’)

  28. I’ve just watched the available part of your speech to University of Minnesota – what an interesting speaker and amazing person you are. Your book is in the mail and I just can’t wait to read it. Because I so need to be grounded right now – as I am not focused enough to do as well as I could in my writing career – I had been thinking of getting a part time job with NB liquor since I thought selling wine would be quite a cultural experience. Now I know how it makes sense and will follow your steps with my resume which I wasn’t quite sure how to handle. Thank you for sharing the speech! I am very grateful!

  29. Great work Mam,and your efforts shine your blog better,
    I Wish you a good luck for every step your take for your success..
    Never,ever loose hope,
    Because loosing hope is the indication towards a huge storm in your life,,,
    Thanks

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  31. Thanks for visiting (my blog) and stopping to chat. That is if asynchronous posts amount to a chat? Well I have coffee and I enjoyed the exchange of ideas. In my books that’s a chat – thank you.

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  34. Hi Caitlin, I’m 58, no grandkids, and look up anytime I hear a plane. I poke my husband of 37 years and say….Da plane, da plane (in my mind it’s the voice of Tattoo from that long ago TV series Fantasy Island).

  35. Hi Kaitlin! I started reading Malled last night and wanted to let you know how much I am loving it!! Not surprisingly, your writing is superb. I have done my time in retail, including management, and so I can absolutely relate to your descriptions and observations. So excited to continue reading!

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