{ How To Make Money With Magazines: A Dreamer’s Guide }

September 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

Coverage Area-01Whaddup, readers. If I’ve been a wee bit absent, it’s because, this time, I’m actually moving forward with making a magazine instead of just blogging about magazine-making.

Cue the trumpets: We’re calling it The New Territory, and it’s going to feature the south-central U.S. in full color: a general scope of genres and topics, with a proudly regional focus. Of course I’ll discuss my process here, but The Gasconader will remain first and foremost a cheering/advice section for all kinds of magazines and Midwest art projects. To follow progress on The New Territory (TNT) specifically, subscribe to my new newsletter, The Roar of Discovery.

So. The last newsletter’s subject was getting “Down to Business,” and I highlighted some ideas for generating revenue for this title. After several years working in and around nonprofits as well as small businesses, establishing TNT as a self-sustaining for-profit company is important to me. Going for-profit is a rare approach for magazine focused on meaningful storytelling (rather than lifestyle, say), especially in our region. The only one that comes to mind is This Land Press in Oklahoma. Columbia Journalism Review did a great story about them back in 2012.

While I try to keep a close eye on both editorial and business ends of magazine-making, there’s still a ton to learn. I’m taking a moment today, using The New Territory as an example, to discuss different approaches to revenue and profit. If you want a primer on why it’s a good idea to diversify funding strategies, start with this Nieman Labs article, “The newsonomics of small things.”

Here’s how I weighed each idea, and keep in mind, I have raised precisely -$300 for the project so far. So maybe you should be schooling me. « Read the rest of this entry »

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{ The Society of Environmental Journalists: Their reporting is fierce, their smiles are genuine, and my god, this coverage is so essential }

August 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

In just a couple of months (yay!) I’ll be in Norman, Okla., for the Society of Environmental Journalists conference. I could say a hundred good things about SEJ, but this video really says it all (and I love that it features some of my favorite people in the organization, women and men I’m honored to call colleagues and happy to consider friends).

Environmental coverage is costly, and for 25 years, SEJ has provided monetary and resource support for environmental journalists worldwide. If you want to see what excellent journalism looks like, check out the winners of the Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment–just announced this week! If you want to continue to see what excellent environmental journalism looks like, you’d do well to consider a donation to SEJ’s fabulous programs. « Read the rest of this entry »

{ Courage & Purpose }

July 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

Katie asked me to join her on a quest. I looked at a calendar. After three weeks of action (teaching and working), I’d get four days of rest, then another week and a half on the road. I consulted the calendar again, back to 1999 when my family moved to Lebanon and this calm, curious, dark-haired girl became my best friend. It’s been nearly five years since we’ve had so many days together. And after being surrounded by teenagers coming of age and finding their passions at the Missouri Scholars Academy, here was a chance to observe a woman I love and respect act that out in real life. Of course I said yes.

For most of the trip I played sidekick, at turns described as a “friend from highschool” or “travel buddy,” though personally I regard our friendship with holy reverence. Not that I desire such a lofty introduction. This was Katie’s trip. She wanted to imagine a possible future as a typographer or possibly even a punchcutter. As we traveled east to realize her dreams, I happily acted as cook, driver, navigator and historian. Every good expedition needs a crew, and this? This was a good expedition.

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Sancho Panza and Don Quixote at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

Katie’s goals were simple: 1.) Meet two of the only printers left in the country who still cut their own type and 2.) See some of said country while we’re at it. In a practical sense, the typographers will hopefully inform her grant application to study typographic punch-cutting. In a mystic sense, the characters are helping guide her toward a mysterious, anachronistic niche tradition and toward fully actualized personhood. Seriously!

Katie has loved letters as long as I’ve known her. In 5th grade, we were members of the Boswell Book Club. Throughout middle and high school, we modpodged magazine clips, ransom-note style, to anything that wouldn’t move. We co-edited the highschool newspaper and also created a literary magazine. I remember when our journalism teacher showed us DaFont, a website for downloading fonts. We clicked through pages after page of type, searching for the right font for the right application. It was my first time witnessing my friend fall in love.

Years later, after slamming through French and English degrees at MU and carrying a headstrong babychild into the world, Katie was sitting in a workshop in Lyon, France, where she lived for a year. As I understand it, she often went to art classes at a museum, and the work was crafty and pleasant. On this day though, typographers presented their craft, and that old fascination with the printed letter shuddered awake.

Courage & Purpose, at Golgonooza Letter Foundry & Press in Asuelot, New Hampshire.

Courage & Purpose, at Golgonooza Letter Foundry & Press in Ashuelot, New Hampshire.

“To be there and see them taking it so seriously, it was very inspiring,” Katie told Julia Ferrari, of Golgonooza Letter Foundry & Press, one of the printers we visited. Julia smiled and nodded knowingly. She had run Golgonooza side by side with her partner, Dan Carr, since they were 24-year-old poets forging an occupation with meaning — printing art books, down to the elemental level of cutting, casting and setting type — in an antique building hundreds of miles from home. Even then it was a daring, potentially irrational thing to do. And because of their courage, countless devastatingly beautiful books exist that would otherwise not be in this world. Dan died recently, but his spirit lives on as Julia openly grieves his absence and learns his half of the craft. She told us stories, read his poetry, and showed us their equipment. Seeing how seriously they took their roles was very inspiring, to me. So was this little block, pictured above. Funny how a few letters, carefully arranged, can awaken so many feelings.

I wish my dear friend all the best fortune as she goes forward and can’t yet express what good this trip did for pursuing my own dreams. Hopefully Katie will get her grant. And just as we had collaborated so often as teenagers, maybe we can work together again, say, on a magazine. After all, isn’t this what that’s all about?

« Read the rest of this entry »

{ Making Impossible Things Possible }

December 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

In Harper’s “Readings” last month, there’s a clever excerpt from Ways of Curating, a new book by Hans Ulrich Obrist. He is the codirector of exhibitions and programs and of international projects at the Serpentine Galleries in London. I love what he said at face value, but it also struck me in regard to my own future projects:

“Boetti told me that if I wanted to curate, I should under no circumstances do what everybody else was doing—just giving artists a certain room and suggesting that they fill it. More important would be to talk to the artists and ask them which projects they could not realize under existing conditions. Ever since, this has been a central theme of my exhibitions. I don’t believe in the creativity of the curator. I don’t think that the exhibition-maker has brilliant ideas around which the ideas of the artists must fit. Instead, the process always starts with a conversation, in which I ask the artists what their unrealized projects are and then find the means to realize them. At our first meeting, Boetti said curating could be about making impossible things possible.”

As I meditate on running a platform for writers and artists, especially in a region where they aren’t very well cultivated, this kind of thought has come to mind: By providing a space for expression, it becomes your joy and responsibility to help artists realize their vision. (Obrist again: “I think of my work as that of a catalyst – and sparring partner.” And, “It’s worth thinking about the etymology of curating. It comes from the Latin word curare, meaning to take care.” And, “I think a good curator is like a good chef. They understand the city’s needs – and fulfil and challenge them.”)

I also think about this kind of think as a writer and an artist. I have so many ideas. Creative projects, collaborations, cultural dissections and juxtapositions, ecological solutions proposed in new and interesting ways. Now, I don’t usually pitch these ideas to established publications. What’s the point, right? I know the drill: front-of-book, feature well, back-of-book. There are prescribed formulas, and especially as a fairly unestablished writer, anything other than the standard format seems unattainable.

Of course, as I write this, I think, “Geezus, Casagrand, way to be defeatist.” The one time I did suggest something out of the ordinary, it was accepted and made into something. So . . . maybe writers should act bolder, too.

Either way, it feels right to establish something fresh on the foundation of “making impossible things possible.” I think that’s an alright start. « Read the rest of this entry »

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