Why Our Editor Says You Should Ignore Advice And Only 'Do What You Love'
Meet the Girlboss Editors: The Deena Drewis edition! She’s our site editor and if you don’t already love her, you’re about to.
Deena Drewis is what the old school psychological community might deem a "multipotentialite," in that she’s super intellectual and excels at pretty much everything she touches. What a bitch! Kidding—the editor of Girlboss is as sweet, talented and interesting as they come.
Aside from editing and writing stimulating news and feature stories on this very site, the Korean American 30-year-old is also the founder and editor of Nouvella, an independent publishing house dedicated to the art of novellas. After winning the first ever Girlboss Foundation grant, the writer came on board as Girlboss’ one-woman word machine.
Since then, the team has grown and so too has Drewis’ fanbase. Ready to join ‘em? Let’s meet her.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was really young, I wanted to be a gold miner. I grew up in Northern California, where a lot of that history went down, and I was a total weirdo about it—I carried around a replica of Patty Reed’s doll in my pocket for, like, a month after I read the book.
Luckily, I grew out of that and decided a much more practical career choice would be to pursue the arts. By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I knew I wanted to be a writer.
Long story short, what did you do to get to where you are today?
Because I knew what I wanted to do pretty early on, I knew the rough trajectory. I studied literature at the College of Creative Studies at UCSB, where I worked as an editor on the campus literary magazine. After college, I volunteered for a scrappy literary getup in Sacramento called Flatmancrooked, which eventually led me to start up Nouvella, an independent publishing company dedicated to novella-length fiction.
In 2015, I was one of the inaugural Girlboss Foundation recipients for Nouvella, and that’s how Sophia and I started working together. When she decided to start building Girlboss Media, it was just a really natural fit.
That being said, I want to make sure I’m painting the full picture: After college, I lived with my parents in Sacramento until I was 27 and I waited tables part time until a week before my 30th birthday.
Sometimes those parts get left out of people’s narratives. But all the while, I was working as a freelance editor and writer, and working on Nouvella. It’s been a really piecemeal hustle, but it allowed me a lot of freedom and flexibility, which was invaluable.
What exactly do you do every day, anyway?
I write a lot of the articles you read on the site. Alongside our editorial director Jerico, we discuss what’s going on in the world on a day-to-day basis and what we see as the most important topics for women defining success on their own terms.
Then we figure out how we can talk about them in a way that’s engaging and informative for our readers. We also have incredibly nuanced conversations about snacks.
What’s the worst career advice you ever got?
To only do what you love. It seems like nice advice, but we’ve gotten to this point where we put so much pressure on ourselves to find our dream careers and to be aggressively happy about every choice we make that it can result in tunnel vision.
Waiting tables until I was 30 wasn’t a dream of mine by any means, but it was essential in providing me with the time I needed to read and write and develop the education that is indispensable to doing what I love. Don’t be afraid of doing stuff strictly to pay the bills, so long as it’s helping you progress towards what you really want in some way or another.
What’s the best career advice you never got?
Don’t overthink it. One of the first public speaking gigs I ever did was a panel with this legendary editor, Alan Rinzler, who discovered Toni Morrison and edited The Bluest Eye. I was 22 at the time, and totally green, but I straight-up wouldn’t allow myself to feel like I wasn’t qualified to take part in the conversation because there was no other option.
I knew what the audience’s perception of me likely was, and if I let that into my head, I would have just sat there nodding. Instead, a joke that made people laugh came out of my mouth, which was neat, and I think I said some other pretty-OK things.
Any pets? Please share.
Oh boy. Do you have a minute? Would you like access to my Dropbox account so you can see my million-picture archive of my sun, moon and stars, Riggins? My boyfriend and I adopted him on Labor Day last year.
Our friend was fostering him and she brought him to a BBQ, and Riggins and I fell in love with each other right away (not in the least because he’s named after Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights, which is the greatest TV show ever. I will fight anyone who disagrees).
I try to keep my incredibly obnoxious dog-person behavior to a minimum but it is REALLY HARD. We taught him to stand on his hind legs and shake hands when we say “Be a real boy!” so yes, I am 1000% insufferable. Here is a picture of him:
And please follow @the_riggins_dog on Instagram so he can become an influencer and go to college one day.
Starsign / Myers Briggs type:
Virgo, and extremely INFJ.
What three books changed your life?
In high school, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath was the book that made me realize I wanted to be a writer. Since then: Self-Help by Lorrie Moore, The Collected Stories of Grace Paley and The Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill.
Best methods for getting out of a slump?
Reading something completely unrelated to whatever is stumping me, by a writer whose prose I really admire. It reminds me of why I want to do what I do—the art of it, and how effective storytelling makes me feel.
Also, going to ballet class. I grew up dancing, and I think because I always knew I was never really good enough to be great, the movement and lack of pressure become something that’s really euphoric.
What does “girlboss” mean to you?
A girlboss is anyone determined to figure out what makes them feel engaged with the world around them and with themselves.
Being totally honest about what you want, about what makes you tick and feel alive, is so much harder than it sounds. It takes real work. But it’s the only foundation you can really build something meaningful on.
Words: Jerico Mandybur
Photo: Emman Montalvan