{ How to run a one-man magazine show }

September 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

Kai Brach is founder and publisher of indie mag Offscreen, a print book about the tech world. On its website, Brach blogs often about magazine making in a much more informed and succinct manner than I. He also gives talks on his process, and I’ll dissect one because I listened to it this morning and loved every minute.

Things he does that are different and/or practical and/or rad

  • Make a spreadsheet of the content plan! Ah, if only I could zoom into that video.
  • Use Google Docs as people enter their contributions.
  • Make a calm, sophisticated, thoughtful, approachable and friendly layout, to counter the hyperlinked world of the Offscreen audience.
  • Use 100% recycled paper! It even has woody debris?
  • Replace advertising with unified sponsorships. A reader told him they read every single word of the magazine, including the advertisements. Brill. Eee. Ent.
  • Go through stockists rather than traditional newsstands. I have put blinders on the idea that distributors take 20% of your cover price, and retailers keep another 40%. Plus, once it’s off the newsstand, the issue is sent to the crematory. “I don’t want to see my babies destroyed,” he said. Neither do I!!
  • He asks his subjects for photographer suggestions. Since this is an international title, it makes sense that you wouldn’t have a robust global network, especially at first. Could still apply to a regional magazine.
  • He also, somewhere in there, mentioned that he found people much like I’ve been finding people: Twitter, clicking links, reaching out. That’s encouraging, too. 🙂

And here’s a more recent talk, just as open and interesting as before.

Offscreen is donating $10 of all single issue purchases to help refugees in Europe, hopefully through the rest of the day (it’s already Thursday in Melbourne, oops).

Kai! You’re an inspiration! Keep doing what you do, and I intend to join your print club soon. « Read the rest of this entry »


{ 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 »

{ 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 »

{ Lesson: Here’s why you should pay writers. Assignment: Go pay writers. }

July 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’ve been living under the roof of a car for two months and didn’t realize Belt Magazine is running a Kickstarter until I checked their website today. Belt is one of the Midwest’s finest publications, both in terms of journalistic integrity and literary quality. And they’re raising money to keep that going! Just 22 hour left! So go fund them, PLEASE (I know they’ve reached their goal, but more money = more quality writing)!

On the Kickstarter page, they shared what writers say about working with Belt. Here are a few of my favorites:

Belt is essential reading for anyone interested in compelling essays and reportage about one of the country’s most fascinating regions. For writers, it’s a venue that offers thoughtful editing and dependable payment, both of which are rare among online publishers. –Jeremy Lybarger

Thanks to Belt Magazine I was able to find a home for a fascinating story about Midwestern history, a story that’s still relevant today but has been largely forgotten. The editors were great to work with, did a great job with the story’s layout and they paid me promptly. Can’t say enough good things about them. –Debbie Carlson

“Because Belt paid me, I was able to make time to interview authors of special interest to the region, and hopefully the coverage helped them get paid, too.” –Zoe Zolbrod

“Writing for Belt is a great experience from pitch to payment. The process is smooth, the feedback is helpful, and the editorial staff is all-around quite pleasant.” –Ryan Schnurr

When I read articles by other Belt authors, I find myself marveling at the writing and wishing I could have turned a phrase like they did. The words are chosen aptly and they convey moods so nicely. We need good writing in this world, and for all the technological changes — print, web, tweets — writing still communicates feelings, the complexity of the human journey, and entanglements of our lives in ways that nothing else can. Belt keeps the spirit of writing vibrant, and for those of us who adore the written word, this counts for quite a lot. –Rick Perloff

“Belt paid me to research and write a story about the state of colleges in the midwest, which have a huge effect on the economy and culture in our region. This is work that other publications pass on, because they are focused on the coasts.” –Ann Logue

“Belt is an undeniably special place. The fact that a magazine exists where quality, experimental journalism can have a home, be paid, and go home with its dignity, is a testament to the amazing staff that Belt employs. At Belt, an important, well-told story has real monetary value. Their unwillingness to succumb to cheaper quality work is what keeps their readers loyal and their writers ambitious. When click-bait grows up, it wants to be Belt Magazine.”Zoe Gould

And finally, if you feel like you really need to get something out of this deal, the perks for the campaign are quite reasonably rated. I’m getting a copy of The Cincinnati Anthology for just $15! Although given my environmental interest, you’d think I’d go for Redhorse, their nature magazine, but nope. I’m really really interested in their treatment of an entire community. Bring it on, Belt!

You can read a conversation I had with Belt founder, Anne Trubek, here.

{ 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.

2015-07-09 19.21.58

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 »

{ “Refurbish Our Fleet” – Report from the Countdown }

June 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

As I write this, there are 42 hours left in Missouri River Relief’s IndieGoGo campaign. I helped them start it. We’ve raised more than $10,000—enough to replace one van that’s in the worst shape—and for that I’m grateful. I have a lot to reflect on how we could have made it better, raised that extra $20,000. Put another volunteer in charge while one is teaching at a summer camp, for starters. Cough, cough. That would be me.

For now, I’ll say, there’s still time to raise $20,000. If the four readers of this blog donated just $5,000, we’d make it there in no time! You can visit the campaign page for more details, but here’s the situation in brief:


Our vehicles have more than 1.5 million miles on them. We’d already raised about $55,000 from donors to replace the first couple of trucks, but they’re honestly all in bad shape. We turned to our supporters for help. And that’s where you can come in.

If you read this blog for a while, you know the kind of impact this organization has had on my life. They help elevate my purpose, so I’m not just picking up trash by myself, but I’m helping facilitate education and service opportunities for others. They make a meaningful difference in the trash load on the river. And most importantly, the staff and crew have become like family: they’re my camping friends, my source of soul-baring talk, my people who will drive down to Jeff City for all kinds of ridiculous parties. I care about them dearly, and I want them safe on the road.

So, please donate if you can, and come to a cleanup regardless. See you on the river! « 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 »