{ 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 »


{ Change and Adaptation }

May 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

Traveling to St. Louis by bike, then train, then bike seemed a fitting measure for a climate adaptation conference. I got to attend a forum in St. Louis this month through a Metcalf Institute fellowship, which generously covered travel and our stay at the Union Station hotel, arranged for a tour of the Danforth Center and organized an all-day orientation to the latest climate concepts. The experience has had a surprising effect on my own career plans.

Bike Buddies!

Bike Buddies!

At the National Adaptation Forum, hundreds discussed gameplans for urban heatswells and rural ecology and how to mitigate the warming effect that nearly everyone’s feeling. The main irony being that these talks took place in rooms so cold that people drank tea just to warm their fingers, that my dresses were paired with the same brown cardigan all four days. But conferences are always overchilled, no matter the focus. At the Society of Environmental Journalists in muggy New Orleans, or at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference in already-cool Denver. No fault of the organizers. What I did appreciate from this National Adaptation Forum was the ceramic lunchware and drinkware, the utter lack of frills to the registration process. Just a program. No bag stuffed with handouts and pens and rulers I don’t want.

I’m sorry, but what does this slogan even mean?

Utilities and objects aside, the looming irony was the forum’s location in a state most emphatically unaffected by climate change. As presenters talked about sea level rise, we were an 8-hour drive to the nearest shoreline. As they talked about drought, the nearby Missouri and Mississippi Rivers ran a tad flooded. At a booth displaying St. Louis city’s sustainability efforts, I bumped into a man who works for San Francisco. He sought some insight into the host city’s initiatives, and even though I don’t live there, I felt a little embarrassed. Their sustainability plan is so basic, it could have been written by third-graders: Recycling. Getting kids outdoors. Planting more trees. Things to do with development that don’t really address climate at all. Here’s the thing, I told the man from San Francisco. We’re in Missouri, a state founded on abundance and self-sufficiency. We have mines and forests and plenty of water. If this were Settlers of Catan, we’d have our pieces on all the prime corners. « Read the rest of this entry »

{ Mosenthein Island }

March 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

First river cleanup of the year. Actually, lots of firsts. Boating through a lock system. Being on the Mississippi River. Camping on an island in the middle of it.

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Seldom seen parts of this mid-American landscape. I want to find them all and show you. I’m “working from home” now, a misnomer that actually frees me to be intentionally anywhere.

The last few weeks have slayed my spirit. This weekend reminded me how to rise and fall in full view of the sun. Here’s to moving forward.

{ Also }

Ash Wednesday
by Elvis Perkins

“Going It Alone” by Fenton Johnson (twice)
“Rotten Ice” by Gretel Ehrlich (both in the April Harper’s)

{ Cultural Flowering }

November 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

“There was a tremendous cultural flowering that took place. All flowers eventually curl up, but the significance of the flower is in the seed. And the seeds were planted.”

– Steve Gaskin on the energy of the sixties, in an interview by Michael Thurman for The Sun, 1985, republished November 2014.

{ On Creative Courage }

October 27, 2014 § 2 Comments

How do you balance bravery with practicality? When is the right time to lean toward the first? This is something I’ve been seriously processing lately.

On the bravery side, I’ve been absorbing Fast Company (this month’s issue: “Find Your Mission”) and The Intentional, and looking at art from Hi-Fructose, and all of it makes me crazy with ambition. I want to tell beautiful stories. I want to support all my closest friends’ creative and heartfelt endeavors. Someday, I want to put everything I’ve learned and everything I’m passionate about together in a super cool magazine that everyone in the country will read. I want all my friends who want in on it to help breed compassionate culture, investigate ways people interact with the environment and each other, make readers more proud of where they’re from, and give Midwest thinkers a platform to publish their writing and art and stories.

On the practical side, I currently hold a non-related halftime job. Doing data entry. At a state agency. It’s really pretty prime. It pays better than any journalism position I’ve been offered, it’s related to the river work I do, it includes a view of bridge over the Missouri River, and I’m among good people who care about the environment (“my people” and sometimes, “future sources”). I like to say it’s a “great gig” because I can listen to podcasts, the schedule is flexible, and it’s a five-minute bike ride from my home.

So. Getting a predictable paycheck keeps me from feeling desperate. But you know what? I’m actually totally okay. I don’t live a super luxe life. My frivolous spending goes toward new music, $9 wine, Kickstarter campaigns and magazine subscriptions. My rent is ridiculously cheap, my bills aren’t unreasonable, my car is paid off (currently crumpled, but paid off) and I am one of the tiny percentage of Americans who graduated college without debt.

So if anyone’s going to take this advice on creative courage, it should be me, right? Because even though my job has a lot of perks, I find myself hope-joking that I’ll leave it soon. Recounting my frustrations would be totes unprofesh, so suffice to say that 20 hours a week is a lot to give up. That’s 20 more hours every week where I could be my own boss and therefore act as supportive and positive and enthusiastic toward myself as I can handle. I could be starting a magazine, helping run a nonprofit, or writing more stories. Longer stories! Better stories!

Taking a creative risk … requires bravery. It demands embracing risk, and fighting the good fight to face your fears of financial doom without bailing at the first sign of discomfort. The discomfort is just a test. It’s a test of your commitment and enthusiasm—a test of your endurance and how much you want it. – “You Can Have An Easy Life or An Awesome One. Choose Wisely.” by James Victore

But I’m a textbook Capricorn. We scale our mountains carefully with the intention of actually reaching the peak. So I’m spending a tremendous amount of time building foundational social networks, building knowledge, observing others, and keeping a watchful eye on funding trends and possibilities. I want to be creative, but I also want to run a good business. I want my Big Picture plans to last. I want to sustain myself in the short term so big changes can come sooner. But I also know myself, and trust myself, and trust in the universe to take care of me when I feel like it’s telling me to leap.

One thing’s for sure: reading others’ stories and words of encouragement make me feel braver. I started this blog when The Great Discontent opened its Kickstarter, and just last week I finally got around to opening the digital book they produced (thanks, iPad). For those unfamiliar with TGD, it’s a magazine of interviews on beginnings, creativity, and risk. Dangerous stuff, that TGD.

Words are powerful, and I am generously susceptible to their charm. But the people in my personal life are even more powerful. They live out creative courage every day. They’re real to me. I witness their their joys as well as their struggles. Here are a few of them:

  • Madeline, one of my very best friends, keeps a full time job and still shoots beautiful weddings and engagements, schedules models just to practice her art, and photographs her fiancee’s bands like she works for Rolling Stone or something. I’m so glad we talk almost every day, celebrating each others’ accomplishments, talking through new opportunities, keeping each other accountable to our freelance projects, and just simply getting each other. I am so glad the narrow halls of Mark Twain pushed us together six years ago and that the bond of our spirits has kept us close.
  • Madeline’s fiancee, Alec, is more than a tremendous bonus friend. He’s an inspiration in his own right. On his best days, he fronts the metal band Creaturezoid and a new, visionary project called Old Scratch. He, too, is cobbling cash together to feed his artistic desires and is doing awesome at it. I am incredibly, indescribably thrilled that he’s marrying Madeline. They’re already such a powerful couple, the fact they’re committing to making each other better every day forever is extra exciting.
  • Duncan, my romantic partner and closest confidante, masters everything he tries, and then tries something new: forestry, carpentry, running a restaurant, hanging drywall, making potatoes taste like chorizo, welding, repairing vintage motorcycles, teaching yoga, oh my gosh, so many things. Never one to criticize and always encouraging, he knows that I’m secretly plotting to take over the world and lets me do it in my own necessary isolation sometimes. Other times he speaks directly to my soul with just the dose of bravery I need to recharge.
  • Becky, who follows her spirit wherever it leads her, including researching sea turtles, working at an orphanage in Lesotho, and now studying in London. The woman works tirelessly. While she performs best in a routine, she stays open to what life presents and always makes time for her friends while she’s at it. Nothing but the highest for this lady.
  • Kelsey, my friend who left a great job at Martha Stewart to start a company supporting the Maker Movement. I don’t get to talk to Kelsey nearly as much as I used to, but I definitely admire her from afar.
  • Mallory. I remember sitting in Mallory’s tiny apartment in Columbia plotting how to inject our society with more justice and positivity. Those discussions maybe didn’t manifest in tangible action at the time, but they certainly filled my soul with courage. After working for NPR, she’s now on the clock for National Geographic and does lots of photography on the side. We recently started emailing again, and it’s so nice to think back on our revolutionary days and know that we’re both pursuing those visions in our own ways.
  • Jeanie and Bob, who have been like parents to me for almost half my life, both held pretty traditional positions in teaching and school administration, but that was never enough for them. Jeanie was one of the most creative teachers I ever had and always gave her students both practical experience and plenty of room to expand their minds. She poured countless hours into running a robotics team, doing chess club, and making sure weird kids like me had some grounding in reality while supporting our fantasies. She did this for decades, and rarely without a smile on her face. Bob started soccer programs, alternative schools, and is the biggest sweetheart I know even though he carries himself like a bulldog. Together, they’re my definition of a perfect couple that loves and supports each other every second of every day.
  • Chris, Missouri’s Teacher of the Year, who I met at the Missouri Scholars Academy this year. It was the last day of MSA, in fact, when we had our first real conversation and I realized I’d met someone very special. Later in the summer he came to visit in Jefferson City and poured out his plans for a super cool journalism program for teens, kind of like the super cool spring break program he did on the Mexico border this year, but bigger. Everything he’s done and everything he wants to do is firmly grounded in a pure teaching vision, yet it’s just crazy enough to make risks worth it. Chris, whenever you need a bus driver, I’m there.

I could go on, and probably will another time. For now, I simply want to express gratitude to everyone who lives with courage, from my closest friends to the people I only know through writing. I’m so grateful for every interaction I have that shows me there’s a better way to live. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You give me so much joy.

"Perched Precariously" by flickr user Serena Epstein

“Perched Precariously” by flickr user Serena Epstein

« Read the rest of this entry »

{ Streets Named After Muses }

September 11, 2014 § 1 Comment

For four mornings in New Orleans, my eyes opened to a sunrise over the Mississippi River. That’s always a good start. I was there for a gathering of environmental journalists, but it was also a fine place to gather my own thoughts and intentions.

Each day began with a long walk. Early on Saturday, sick of the French Quarter’s storefronts and smells, I set out in the opposite direction. Passing under a highway, beyond old churches and homeless shelters, I ended up in a part of the city where the streets are named after muses. That’s another good start.

There’s a great coffee shop there, in this supposedly seedy area that raised eyebrows when I mentioned it to locals. The woman who owns the place said she came to New Orleans to help after the BP oil spill. When I asked if she was still involved in environmental efforts, she shrugged and motioned around. Her place is in the coffee shop now. She’s building roots, giving back. Making me a mocha.

A sweet little dog at Church Alley Coffee in New Orleans.

A sweet little dog at Church Alley Coffee in New Orleans.

I met a few other inspiring business owners that weekend, not to mention the plethora of conference-going freelancers. The ones doing it right are intensely focused, wrapped up in the joy of creation.

And where am I? After a spring of discontent and summer of peaceful happiness, my personal life feels complete. I’m stable again. So I’m once again ready to create art. Or commit acts of journalism. Ideally both. I’m ready to rejoin those creators.

Here’s what else I got from the conference:

  • I met and spent time with some very cool Midwest ladies and gents. Of course, cool people come from everywhere, but there’s this sub-tribal element to bonding over the same landscape and same culture. There’s talk among us of recruiting more journalists from the area and getting together outside of the annual conference. If you know anything about me, you know how exciting this prospect is. And if you’re a Midwest/lower Midwest/Texas/Oklahoma/Arkansas environmental writer, send me a line and I’ll include you in our plans!
  • I also talked to people who run field reporting trips and others who work with youth, and it got me excited again about doing that myself. I’ve planned to design a print publication class for the Missouri Scholars Academy, so it makes perfect sense to narrow it into some sort of nature writing curriculum.
  • Overall, the encouragement was overwhelming. Whether it came from award-winning writers or people in about the same pond as me, I drew a lot of energy from their stories and advice. The takeaway: there’s no single way to do this. Trust yourself.

So that brings us to now, with gray skies and an autumn breeze seeping through my windows. I’m following leads and sending emails and trying to lay down roots in my own way.

Yesterday, back in Jefferson City, I worked out of Three Story Coffee, one of those shops with a conscience. They don’t even have WiFi, which seemed strange at first, but is growing on me. I ran into the president of the local Audubon chapter and eavesdropped on cops learning about espresso blends. It feels right to return to Mid-Missouri, where my muses of nature and culture inspire me every day. And that, my friend, is always a good start.

At Three Story Coffee in Jefferson City.

At Three Story Coffee in Jefferson City.

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