Sunday, December 24, 2006

Magazine Dreams

“I bought a magazine,” Robbi Hess said as we sipped fruit punch at Lift Bridge Books' annual Local Author Celebration.

Robbi writes and edits for a medical journal, a business magazine and a weekly newspaper as well as doing loads of free-lance and editorial work. Somehow she squeezes in time to teach writing classes and, along with co-author Marcia Layton Turner, has just published A Complete Idiot’s Guide to 30,000 Baby Names. You’d think a person with so much going on in her life would be a better conversationalist, but there she was, telling me she had bought a magazine. Because she is a friend and because I have long supported the efforts of the socially inept, I simply nodded and stated that just that very morning I had bought a newspaper and a Diet Coke and that I could thus truly understand her bubbly enthusiasm over her magazine purchase.

“Not an issue, you idiot,” she said. “A whole magazine.”

I don’t believe she actually called me an idiot, but her one eyebrow did twitch in a way that indicated she was thinking it.

Robbi is now the very proud owner of ByLine, a monthly magazine aimed at freelance writers, novelists and poets (both published and pre-published), stuffed with excellent how-to articles, short stories, poems, contest information, essays, motivational pieces and great humor. It’s been helping writers hone their craft for more than 25 years and how I’ve gotten where I am without it is a fine example of dumb luck.

As we downed Dixie Cup after Dixie Cup of that punch, Robbi told me about her plans and there was a twinkle in her eye that I have seen my friends flash as they recount the alleged joys of parenting. Fans of ByLine – and they are legion – can sleep well at night knowing that the magazine they love will only get better with Robbi at the helm.

Now all this got me thinking what kind of magazine I’d like to own.

At first I thought it would be fun to run a magazine where people who were writers could come and share their stories, offer advice, show off some of their work and alert fellow writers to little-known opportunities in the field. But then I realized that that was ByLine and I didn’t think Robbi would appreciate the competition.

Then I thought about owning a mystery magazine, the kind that published short stories and reviews. And it wouldn’t be stories by the Big Guys but by folks just getting started, newbies testing their skills and seeing their work in print for the very first time, a magazine that these writers would then feel indebted to the rest of their career, coming back after they really were one of the Big Guys, just to publish with the magazine out of love and respect. It’s a good idea. So good that Babs Lakey came up with it years ago when she started Futures Mysterious Anthology.

I mentally listed all my hobbies and interests, trying to think of an overlooked market begging for its own journal. Then I matched that list against magazines already on the racks. This was a good idea since I never knew there were magazines devoted to moving overseas (Transitions Abroad), learning to play the saxophone (Saxophone Journal), recovering stolen art (IFAR Journal), martinis (Modern Drunkard), pirates (No Quarter Given) and burlesque (Shimmy). My search went on for days but every time I came up with an idea (ska bands, camel racing, the worship of Zeus) somebody had beat me to it.

Then it hit me.

If all goes well, sometime next year you’ll be able to stop by your local newsstand and pick up a copy of Blank Page Magazine.

I’ll cut you a deal on a subscription.



L.L. Bartlett said...

I can contribute plenty to your Blank Page Magazine. Let me know your deadline!

Rick Blechta said...

Hi Charles,

Working in the magazine trade as I do (designing those annoying subscription cards that fall out of your issue or open it to the same damn page every time), I can only warn you that there's a lot to learn.

It is sort of a neat idea, though...

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Ganger H said...

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Ganger H