Why Phindie? The editor’s personal statement

I have worked as a writer and editor since 2000. My first writing job was writing up research reports for a private detective agency in Glenside, PA. I moved to Colorado in 2001 and got a job writing and editing for a small travel company, but came back to Philadelphia after two ski seasons, and worked in magazine and book publishing for most of the next decade. The first publishing project I started was Philly Fiction, a 2005 book that collected short stories set in Philadelphia and written by local writers; I’ve since co-published two more collections.

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Your faithful editor, Christopher Munden

I’ve loved theater as long as I remember. My parents did community theater and my mother took me to shows of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, when I lived near there. As a young adult, I used to go see as many Shakespeare shows as I could, and gradually added more and more shows by other writers.

I was working as a copy editor for a Philadelphia magazine in 2009 and InterAct Theatre sent in press tickets to a show, which were given to me. I had this epiphany that theaters would give you FREE tickets to plays if you just wrote about them. I’d already written reviews of books, museum exhibits, and restaurants, and I asked a publication I was writing for if I could review a play. Soon, I realized I liked reviewing theater not just for the free tickets, but because I wanted to analyze and say something about the work I saw.

I got better at reviewing as I did it, and wrote for a bunch of places, but I was dissatisfied. I wanted more editorial control over my writing and what I covered. Also, I saw a shrinking of arts coverage in the city—most especially of independent theater, which I love. I had a rarely used a blog, and I decided to migrate all my pieces from there and elsewhere and start a new site. The impetus was twofold. I wanted to write short 200-word (“60-second”) reviews and had no home for these, and I wanted to do some podcast interviews (though they proved too time-consuming after a few attempts). So I built the site, imported all my old theater writings, and articles by some friends from other defunct sites. It didn’t interest me to present it as a personal blog, even if that was what it could have become. Why not present it as if it is a serious, existing arts publication? Then I just started to post my own reviews on Phindie.

The first reviews I wrote specifically for the site was used by a theater—perhaps Philly Shakes?—in a promotional email: a pull-quote with the byline “Phindie”. Within a week or so, companies were writing to ask for coverage, and the site very quickly had 50 visits or so a day (it now averages 500).

I did a few things which put the site firmly on the map: I invited local critics to vote for a theater awards, which attracted a lot of interest in a year without the Barrymore awards, and I decided to cover as many theater shows as possible in the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. I almost abandoned that project, because I watched a close friend and roommate die of a heroin overdose a few weeks before the 2013 fest began. But I transferred my grief into energy and recruited a bunch of writers and this (at the time) one-person operation beat every other publication in terms of Fringe coverage—which is cool, but kinda embarrassing too.

Phindie is still just one of the things I do, and it doesn’t pay my bills. My “profession” is copywriter and marketing manager, with some freelance editing thrown in. I also spend a lot of time on activities for a non-profit, Kensington Soccer Club, which organizes teams and leagues for youth in North Philadelphia and around the city. I’m on the board, coach four days a week, and manage the other coaches. I give a few hours most days to Phindie, writing, editing, and posting. I don’t do well when I’m not active, but at times it does get overwhelming. Every so often I’ll just delete dozens of unread emails and unheard phone messages and start anew with the theory that even an urgent message isn’t urgent if you ignore it for long enough. Sorry about that.

I want Phindie to continue to be a prime source for theater coverage in the city and to attract more readers to the site. There are things I’d like to do: add more sections on other arts, increase feature article coverage, pay writers more often and more money. I’d like it to be more than just a clearinghouse for theater reviews. However, if Phindie continues the way it is now until next year, I’ll be content; if we get huge and buy out the Inquirer, that would be okay too. I estimate we’ll have to raise about $763 for that.

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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.