Christine Stoddard is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor with visual storytelling and media production experience. In 2014, Folio Magazine named her one of the media industry’s top 20 visionaries in their 20s for founding Quail Bell Magazine and Quail Bell Press & Productions.
Born and raised in Arlington, Virginia, Christine is a Salvadoran-Scottish-American writer, editor, and artist now based in New York. Her work has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Bustle, Native Peoples Magazine, The Feminist Wire, the New York Transit Museum, the Condé Nast Building, The Huffington Post, and beyond. As the founder of Quail Bell Press & Productions, Christine edits Quail Bell Magazine and produces other art and media projects, either as a solo artist or in collaboration with other creative thinkers.
Christine has performed her writings at events ranging from BUNKERprojects’ Performance Art Festival to the Annapolis Fringe Festival. Her films, photo media, and collages have been shown everywhere from the New York Transit Museum to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. Christine is a member of Del Ray Artisans in Alexandria, Virginia. Christine is also a Puffin Foundation emerging artist, a Southeast Review featured artist, a Cyberpunk Apocalypse visiting writer, and one of Style Weekly’s Top 40 Under 40.
For Creative Girls: What was growing up like for you and at what point did you decide to start writing?
I grew up as someone who was socially shy but creatively and academically bold. I’ve wanted to write since I learned how to write as a child. I used to make mini magazines, books, and comics for my younger sisters and sell them. In school, I began winning writing and art competitions in kindergarten. My mother in particular always encouraged reading when I was a kid (you can read more about that here) and we often went to museums, concerts, and art festivals as a child.
Though my parents always supported my creative endeavors, there was a time when they actively urged me to go to law or medical school. My father used to say that I could write and make art on the side. Like most parents, my mother and father wanted time to be secure. my father is a cameraman for news and documentaries, so I think his experience influenced him to guide me toward a safer path. He’s been extremely successful, but that success has been hard-earned. While I never had my heart set on exactly what my father does, there’s definitely overlap between our jobs. Luckily, my parents don’t worry about me anymore. By the end of college, I’d proven that I truly wanted a career in art, literature, and media—and I’m willing to work for it. I’m honored to do what I do.
Is there a major experience or issue that has impacted or changed the course of your writing?
Probably transferring from a small liberal arts college in a rural area to a large public art school and research university in an urban setting. My mother instilled the idea of women’s empowerment in my sisters and me when we were young, so I already identified as a feminist by the time I got to high school. Still, I wasn’t totally confident with the label. I endured a lot of bullying because of it. When I arrived at my first college, I felt comfortable with the label, but it didn’t seem like a place where intersectional feminism truly thrived. There just wasn’t enough cultural and economic diversity. That mattered to me because I was biracial and the child of an immigrant. I experienced a lot of confusion and even self-loathing because of my ethnic, racial, and religious identity as a kid. I wanted college to be a time to find answers (you can read about that here.)
VCU gave me the time and space to do exactly that. At the School of the Arts, I nourished my artistic side. At the College of Humanities & Sciences, I nourished my intellectual side. At the da Vinci Center for Innovation, I nourished my entrepreneurial side. I’d spend hours at Cabell Library and the Student Media Center, too. I earned scholarships and studied abroad in France, Scotland, and Mexico. Then I capped off my VCU days with one year of AmeriCorps service, which I completed right before graduation. VCU was everything I wanted it to be and it made me the writer and artist I am today.
Quail Bell Magazine is a very beautiful storytelling concept. Why did you start Quail Bell?
Thank you! I started Quail Bell Magazine as a place to tell socially inspired stories grounded in the imaginary, the nostalgic, and otherworldly. I’ve loved magazines and books since childhood and have always been a broad reader. Growing up in the Internet Age, I’ve also had Internet access since kindergarten. In college, I refined my sense of what kinds of culture stories digital and print outlets were telling and I saw an opportunity for growth. I didn’t see enough outlets pursuing visual storytelling, nor did I see them truly representing a wide range of voices.
Quail Bell is female-run and my managing editor Gretchen Gales and I take our dedication to intersectional feminism very seriously. That doesn’t mean we have to tell stories in a serious way all the time, though! Quail Bell runs a whole swath of visually engaging stories full of beauty and humor. We truly believe that when paired, art and ideas result in magic.
We like to understand how every creative woman we meet navigates productivity. What is your daily routine like? Give us a snippet of a day in your life?
Every day is a little different for me, but I still have a general routine on weekdays. I wake up, have breakfast (with one or two strong cups of coffee!), take care of my personal needs, and then set to work. I generally write at my kitchen table in the morning. In the afternoon, I might go out to do interviews or take photos or run personal errands. Otherwise, I’ll keep writing and researching with a break for lunch and a walk. I sometimes have events in the evening, but I try to come home early enough to get more writing done. I generally work on visual projects in the evening. Before going to bed, I read or watch a movie. Weekends are a lot more in flux. That’s when I tend to have bigger events and also give myself a chance for social time. Sundays are my big reading, movie, or museum day to get re-inspired for the week ahead.
What’s your definition of creativity? And how do you handle creative/writer’s block?
Creativity is about exploring and hopefully finding solutions.
I have to be honest—I don’t have the luxury of indulging creative block. I make my living through writing, multimedia production, and art-making. I depend on my creativity every single day. It’s largely what gives me the ability to eat and pay my rent. Because of this, I have disciplined myself to be creatively on call no matter what. Clients and employers expect it of me.
Yes, I love the act of creating, but it’s also what allows me to live a comfortable middle-class life. I think people too often romanticize what it’s like to be a writer, artist, or another kind of creative worker. Realistically, though, there’s not much that’s glamorous about hard work. And that’s exactly what it is: work. Every book signing or art reception or other exciting events I do is an opportunity I have earned. I don’t just put on a pretty dress and see my name on display somewhere. By the time my work has reached the public, I have put hours, months, or perhaps years into it.
Even when it comes to my purely artistic pursuits, I stave off the creative block by simply creating. With projects that offer little to no immediate monetary reward, I still feel morally obligated to create. Artists’ voices always matter, but our voices are especially important under the Trump administration. It can be difficult, especially as a woman, to believe that your voice counts. But you have to believe in your own power. If you have the privilege of a platform, you must create. You don’t always have to show what you create. It’s good to keep some of your work private, though it’s dangerous to be overly cautious. Sometimes you have to reveal your creations before you think you’re ready. I’m personally challenging myself to do this more often. The reality is that your work has the potential to touch others in manners you can’t even imagine.
Are you currently reading any book or getting immersed in any creative piece? Which book or piece do you consider a must-read for female creatives?
I just finished reading Chasing Utopia by Nikki Giovanni and highly recommend it to aspiring poets and essayists. It’s a hybrid, so there’s a good mix of poetry and prose. I also just finished watching Celia, which is a 60-hour telenovela about the Afro-Cuban singer Celia Cruz. Both Chasing Utopia and Celia offer incredible insight into what it’s like to live as a female artist of color.
There’s so much to read and watch—and I read and watch a lot! Today I’m in the mood to recommend To Kill A Mockingbird, Borderlands/La Frontera, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Persepolis, Caucasia, and The Awakening. (If you ask me tomorrow, my answers might be different.) For other ideas, read my arts and entertainment coverage at Mic.com.
What’s your advice for anyone trying to market their art or make money from it?
Definitely, build up an online presence. Seek out opportunities and submit your work as often as you can. You never know who’s looking. Some of my most incredible opportunities have come from Craigslist posts. Submitting to open calls gets time-consuming, so I usually multitask while watching TV or waiting for my food to cook. You can accomplish a lot just during the time it takes to make tea!
Is there a project you are working on right now? We would love to know 🙂
There are always so many! Two that are easy to describe include my film and photography projects through Quail Bell Press & Productions. Plus, I started a feminist talk show at Radio Free Brooklyn called “The Badass Lady-Folk of Brooklyn.” You’ll be able to find archived episodes at Quail Bell Magazine and on iTunes soon. I also have an upcoming anti-Trump comics show at The Living Gallery in Brooklyn and a forthcoming chapbook from Dancing Girl Press.
Here are a few links to select recent projects: