5 Things I Learned from Real Simple's Leslie Yazel



On this week’s Write About Now podcast, I visit the New York City offices of Real Simple magazine to talk clutter with new Editor-in-Chief Leslie Yazel. Leslie opens up about her impressive career as a writer and editor, which started on the mean streets of Des Moines and continued all the way to the top spot of a major Time Inc. publication.

She also gives me a tour of the office, including the legendary fashion closet. I had a secret fantasy that Real Simple's offices would be complete mess with piles of stuff scattered everywhere. Not a chance. Befitting of the mag’s title, Leslie runs a lean and mean ship.
Prior to helming the SS Real Simple, Leslie was director of editorial content at Cosmo, deputy editor at the Wall Street Journal, and she held senior editorial positions at The Washington PostRedbookMaximSeventeen. We first met as young, idealistic editors at Glamour magazine, where we both received an invaluable education in the Bonnie Fuller school of grab-em-by-the-lapels journalism.
Both Leslie’s career path and her knowledge about the craft of editing are super interesting and instructive. Here are some snippets I took away.  

  1. She honed her “down-and-dirty” newspaper skills as an investigative reporter at the Des Moines Register—her hometown newspaper. One of her biggest scoops was uncovering that the new University of Iowa sports complex was slipping off its foundation.
  1. She prefers editing to writing, making decisions about which stories to run, who should write what, and which photos to choose. She says, “As an editor you have to be able to work with a lot different people, you have to have trust of writers, and you have to be a person who can manage down as well as up.”
  1. She says that another secret skill of the best editors is “knowing when to say no.” Even if a writer really wants to write a story, you can’t have too much of their times spent on just an ok story.”
  1. One of the first things she did when she took over at Real Simple was remove a lot of the puns. “Something about having cutesy puns was dissonant with a magazine that had real information,” she says. Sounds like a Real-ly good idea (sorry).
  1. She once had a boss at The Washington Post named John Pancake, who was married three times but, surprisingly, none of his wives took his name. Oddly, I once had a boss named Ben Waffles. Actually that's not true.
Jonathan Small