Lisa Bertagnoli

Freelance Writer

Degree(s): BJ '83

Whereabouts: United States, Chicago, Illinois

What do you do?
I am a full-time freelance writer, living and working in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. I currently write lifestyle features and cover nonprofits for Crain’s Chicago Business as well as contribute to AARP Bulletin,, and write for a number of custom publishers. I also wrote a book, Scarlett Rules: When Life Gives You Green Velvet Curtains, Make a Green Velvet Dress (Random House/Villard, 2006).

How did you get your job?
I started freelancing after getting an MA in linguistics from Indiana University. I thought it would be a way to pay the rent until I got a “real” job, and 15 years later, here I am, still working in my pajamas. (Just kidding. Most days I get dressed.)

What is the best professional lesson you learned at the J-School?
To cut the first graf or sentence of any story I write. The first sentence is warming up, and the second sentence is usually where you want to start.

What advice do you have for current students?
Learn to discern. We are overwhelmed with so much easily accessible information these days, and not all of it is good information. Do your own sourcing for stories. Fact check. Learn to separate good and bad from plain ugly in order to produce a better piece and better serve readers.

What is your favorite J-School memory?
Working at The Maneater and typing a concert review into the typesetter because I was writing so close to deadline.

Updated: November 2, 2011