News & Politics

A Frustrated Writer Built a Useful (and Fun) Site for New Authors

Girl Tell Me is part publishing platform, part mentorship program, and part support group.

Nikki Frias. Image courtesy of Girl Tell Me.

When Nikki Frias moved from the DC area to Brooklyn several years ago to pursue writing, she struggled to get started. She quickly grew frustrated after sending pitches to editors and asking for feedback but never hearing back from anyone. Frias was uncovering the long-standing paradox encountered by many freelance writers just starting out: You typically need a portfolio to get an editor to publish you, but how can you build a portfolio if editors won’t give you any work? After a lot of hustling, the now 32-year-old Woodbridge native was able to accumulate some clips, but she knew she wanted to make the process easier for other aspiring writers. “A lot of times, especially in the writing industry or any industry where people are trying to break in, [established people are] less helpful,” says Frias. “They’re more internal with all their secrets and how they got to where they are.” 

That’s why Frias—who has since moved back to Woodbridge—launched her site Girl Tell Me. The platform aims to be a welcoming spot that mentors and publishes new writers, while also bringing some humor to a difficult endeavor (according to the site, this month’s motto is “New Year, who dis? …It’s still me, bitch!”). Frias publishes everything that is submitted to the site (“aside from bigotry, ignorance, and just like, weirdos—guys who send dick pics,” she says), and she will work with writers to edit their pieces if they want her to. Girl Tell Me also sends out a twice-monthly newsletter, offers a page that lists outlets looking for pitches, and has a funny horoscope vertical. (The current message to all Geminis: “Girl, leave those Baby Phat jeans back in 2006 where you found them. Kimora need a break.”) 

By not having any requirements for pitching, Frias hopes that the site will allow writers to express whatever they’d like, instead of agonizing over finding a newsy angle an editor would sign off on. “When you give the opportunity for people to share their stories and to write whatever they want, they’re able to write more expressively, with more detail and in their original style,” she says. And Frias is not interested in criticizing—only encouraging. “There are so many people I’ve talked to who are like, ‘Well, I used to love writing, and then someone critiqued it and then I was so embarrassed,'” she says. “And my mission is to let people know that one person’s opinion is cool, but it doesn’t matter. Whatever you have to say is going to speak to some audience and it’s going to affect some reader.”

The site’s name comes from Frias’s previous blog, Girl Tell Me About It, one of her favorite phrases. It’s fitting for her mission, which is to foster a friendly, friends-hanging-out-and-joking kind of vibe. The goal is to ultimately build on the platform’s mission of mentoring and fostering aspiring writers, a la Girls Write Now or She Writes. Girl Tell Me is hosting its first online conference in February, called “Get Yo’ Life Write,” and Frias eventually wants to expand into confidence-building workshops and book clubs. She sees her core demographic as “women from like, late-20s to late-30s that are in this weird place where we work our jobs, but we also have passion projects and we don’t know how to get out there to tell everybody about our story.” (While Frias wants to focus specifically on elevating the voices of those who identify as women and women of color, she says she has accepted some pitches from male-identifying writers.) 

Currently, Frias is only paying the newsletter’s featured writers. “I call it Grubhub money because, let’s be for real, I’m broke myself,” she says. Her goal, though, is to one day pay each writer she publishes, since she knows how exciting it feels to get that first paycheck for a piece. To help her reach that goal, Frias accepts donations and also sells merchandise online, including a mug that says, “Look at you, growing like a perennial and shit.”

Speaking of growing, it seems like Girl Tell Me will continue to do so in the DC area. Frias is also employed as an office worker at a Prince William county school, and has been living with her mom since moving back. “We’re kicking it,” she says. (Everything is copy, though—she wrote a piece for the Daily Beast about trying to date during a pandemic while cohabiting with one’s parents.) And it doesn’t look like she’ll move too far away when she eventually leaves the Covid-era nest: Frias is adamant that she wants to keep the site headquartered in the DC area, even post-pandemic. “New York—you know, they say you can survive it here, you can survive it anywhere,” she says. “And it’s true. But I’m ready to expand to somewhere else.”

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Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Associate Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. Her work has appeared in Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Petworth.