Thursday, October 22, 2009

Magazine Soapbox

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Magazine Soapbox on Tuesday, October 20th at the TRUCK Gallery!!!
Editors Anne Burke from The Prairie Journal and Leah Gillis from FreeFall talked openly about the ins and outs of small, independent magazine publishing. Both editors voiced the many possibilities for emerging and established writers and visual artists to contribute to local arts and literary titles and are keen to explore new and innovative ways to partner with creative people to enhance the cultural landscape in Alberta.

When Burke recalled the history of small, literary magazine publishing in Alberta and more specifically Calgary, she remembers Dandelion stood alone on the shelves. Now, more than 20 years later Dandelion is accompanied by publications such as AMPA members Prairie Journal, FreeFall, filling Station and Other Voices to name just a few. Although the landscape of literary magazines has grown, working in the industry is not for the faint of heart. Both Burke and Gillis agreed, "It is a labour of love" but with hard work also comes rewarding work. For both editors, one of the biggest rewards is the ability to expose writers and visual artists by giving them a platform to share their craft with the world.

Reader Geo Takach talked about the importance of magazines as contributors to the creative and cultural aspects of our communities and noted the importance of researching various types of publications to see where your work fits best. "When you have an affinity for a publication, your writing will most likely make sense within it."

Kim Firmston gave an emotionally charged reading of her latest piece of fiction, Life After War that is published in the Fall issue of FreeFall.

Thanks again!!!

For more information on AMPA's Arts and Literary members, visit

Friday, October 9, 2009

Paul Tough Q & A

AMPA is pretty stoked to be hosting a session by Paul Tough - New York Times Magazine editor, Slate, GQ, Esquire and New Yorker contributor, and author of Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America.

Tough will be in Edmonton on October 23rd for The Inside Story on Magazine Features: Q & A with a Magazine Pro, at the Stanley Milner Public Library in Edmonton.

Paul will discuss how to develop a killer feature story, plus it's your chance to pick the brains of this star editor. So bring your questions and get ready to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

Cost: Free for AMPA members and students if registered by October 15th; $10 for AMPA members and students after October 15th.

$10 for non-members by October 15th; $15 for non-members after October 15th.

To register, email with your name, phone number and email address.

See Tough's answers to some of our questions in the next MagaScene, coming out Wednesday October 13th.

If you had the chance, what question would you ask Paul Tough?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Reality Bites - Re-cap of A Realistic Approach to Creativity in Magazines Panel

On Monday October 5th, as part of Read Alberta Magazines Month (RAMM), we invited panellists to Mount Royal University to speak on the subject of creativity and its role in the business of publishing. The discussion was passionate, insightful, but perhaps most importantly, a fierce reality check for those who think they can cut it in the magazine industry without burning that midnight oil.

The panellists were Veronica Cowan, art director at Where Calgary; Kathe Lemon, editor of Avenue Calgary; and Jack Newton, publisher of Where Canadian Rockies, speaking to a room made up mainly of aspiring designers with a sprinkling of writers-to-be. The panel was moderated by AMPA Executive Director and freelance writer and editor, Colleen Seto.

The Creative Process
Editor Kathe Lemon spoke of creativity as a process, rather than the popular notion that creativity is chaos. She said that this shift in perception is a necessary one, because at a monthly magazine, one must be creative consistently, day after day, month after month. But creativity shouldn't simply be limited to extravagant ideas, it has a practical application in a workplace where "nothing ever goes as planned." Things go wrong all the time. So, be creative in your problem-solving.

Art director Veronica Cowan suggested immersing yourself in all kinds of art. For herself, she looks at sculptures, paintings, and anything that can inform her design. But, she emphasizes that knowing how to use design software like InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator is important as well.

It's okay to take chances with art, but be able to back your vision up to the editor. Cowan said that showing the editor two versions of an ad (ex: version A is what the editor wants, version B is what the art director envisions) can help inform decision-making. Lemon, on the other hand, disagreed, noting that compromise between all parties is necessary, and that time constraints often mean that mocking up multiple versions of something is not possible.

Don't Be Boring
Publisher Jack Newton said that one of the most important skills a person can have, is the skill to "not be boring." True story. Being boring is the death of the growth of anybody in a creative industry.

Writer/editor Colleen Seto said that being flexible is key to getting work again. Meet your deadlines. Comply with re-writes. Communicate. Offer creative story ideas. Do all these things and more, and you'll be able to find work.

For those looking to get started, either as a writer or designer, remember this: Know the magazine you're pitching to, inside and out. Who is the magazine's audience? Read back issues to see if your topic's been covered already. You're not only selling your idea, but you're selling yourself--what makes you the best person to write or design this story? All panellists agreed that demonstrating you've done your research is key to making your first inroad.

The panel recommended that students participate in an internship with a magazine. All of Where Calgary's editorial staff were former interns. Many interns have also been hired on-staff at Avenue Calgary. That said, interns need to do a number of things: a) apply at the magazine(s) they wish to work for directly, b) demonstrate they are the right candidate, c) show they are critical thinkers, and d) be keen, keen, keen.

AMPA provides publishers with subsidies so that they are able to offer a valuable work experience to students or recent graduates. Find out more about internships.

Most students and newbies are most concerned with how to "get started" in the industry, failing to realize that longevity and staying in the industry is the true test of success.

While it might not have been the most glamorous, praise-laden diatribe on the industry, I thought the panel's honesty was most valuable. Magazines require hard work, so if you entered the industry on the premise of an easy ride, you'd do best to reevaluate--stat.

Don't miss more exciting panels and events during October. Check out AMPA's events page for details.