Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Calling All Designers to the Alberta Magazines Conference!

If you haven’t already heard, AMPA has scored an amazing art director to speak at this year’s Alberta Magazines Conference (register now; early bird deadline is March 1, 2012!). Alice Cho is currently an art director at Wired magazine in San Francisco, but she has Alberta roots, hailing from Edmonton and graduating from the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) in Calgary. She has worked on several magazines, including Print and the ever-fabulous SEED.

She’ll be giving two sessions at the conference. The first is about apps—Improve your App Aptitude, which will be a session focused on an art director’s view of apps. “I think apps are incredibly important to the future of magazines,” says Cho. “While I don't feel like print is going to disappear any time soon, its app counterparts will play an increasingly larger role. I think the design of apps is just as important as the design of the print magazines. The apps should get as much attention to detail as anything else.” She’ll give you the low-down behind designing apps for Wired, and what tools are needed for these mobile designs. “I'm hoping to share a bit about the app-making process and why it might be important to magazines that haven't made the leap yet.”

Her second session about tactile design will resonate with those who consider magazines paper arts, as I do. But it’s also a must-do for those designers who haven’t explored much beyond their desktop or have forgotten that magazine design doesn’t only happen on a computer. Cho will share handcrafted design ideas that work well on the page or screen, and most importantly, convey clear relevant messages to your readers. “I'm hoping that people will be inspired to look past the computer to communicate ideas,” she says. “I hope to share my enthusiasm for craft and maker culture in an industry where we spend a bit too much time behind a monitor.”

To ensure you get some face-time with Cho, be sure to register today for the Alberta Magazines Conference, taking place March 22 to 24 in Calgary. Early bird deadline is Thursday, March 1, so don’t hesitate and you’ll also save some bucks. 

--- Colleen Seto
AMPA Blogger-in-Residence

Monday, February 27, 2012

2012 Alberta Magazines Conference : Register by March 1 and save!

MARCH 22-24, 2012
Calgary, Alberta
Final deadline to register March 15

Hear industry experts from across the continent speak on timely topics in all areas of magazine publishing, and connect with old colleagues, new contacts and potential mentors.

Dine and celebrate the industry’s best at the Alberta Magazine Excellence Gala on Thursday evening. 

Preview this year’s Showcase Awards entries—including the new category for Best Online Presence.

Spend a full day Friday soaking up ideas, inspiration and tricks of the trade from industry leaders at professional development sessions, including:
  • Improve Your App Aptitude: An Art Director's Perspective, with Alice Cho
  • Stet: A Return to Good, Old-Fashioned Editing, with Charlene Rooke
  • Building Community Post by Post: Blog Case Studies, with Kat Tancock
  • Gold-Standard Design, with Domenic Macri
  • Big Circulation Ideas for Tiny Budgets, with Faith Drinnan
Find out why quality content counts at the Friday keynote luncheon with Gary Stephen Ross, editor-in-chief of Vancouver Magazine.

Meet the country’s top printers at a free panel discussion, and find out how they can help you generate revenue.

Follow AMPA on Twitter @albertamags #AMC2012 for real-time updates during the conference and the chance to win prizes.

Get insider insights on current media issues at the free Alberta Media Summit Panel discussion on Saturday, moderated by Jacqueline Howe.

Check out full session and event details, and register today at!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Q&A with Alberta Magazines Conference Keynote Gary Stephen Ross of Vancouver Magazine

This year’s Alberta Magazines Conference (AMC) features keynote speaker Gary Stephen Ross, noted author, editor, publisher and screenwriter. He’s currently editor-in-chief of Vancouver Magazine and editorial director of Transcontinental Media West.

I had the opportunity to hear Ross speak in Toronto a few years ago, and picked up some good advice regarding feature writing. I have no doubt that he will provide many pearls of wisdom at the 2012 AMC. I asked him what people could expect at his luncheon keynote address. Here’s what he had to say:

Q. Your keynote address is entitled, "Style Needs Substance: In Defence of Content"; why do you feel content needs defending?
A. Because quality of content has slid down the list of what many media proprietors think is important. In the rush to embrace all things digital, and to recycle/optimize/maximize content they’re forgetting that whether that content is any good—has real value, is original, thoughtful, provocative, insightful, skillfully delivered—is the fundamental question.
Q. People have been saying content is king for what seems like forever—what's something new or critical that you will share?
That quality (not hype, not sex, not free, not gossip) actually sells. That’s one reason why publications like The New Yorker, New York Times, Vanity Fair, The Economist, Financial Times, are not merely surviving the tough times we’ve had since ‘09, but thriving in them. They deliver quality. Music equivalent: in the end, it’s Adele—original, genuine talent, the real deal—who wins the Grammys and sells the music and will endure, while Katy Perry—unoriginal, a packaged confection—has her manufactured moment, then gives way to the next Katy Perry.

Q. Bottom line, why should people come to see you? What will they walk away with?
A. Publications need editors with broad knowledge and critical ability and relationships with excellent writers, not just editing chops (I can cut 84 lines in 3 minutes) and administrative skill. Owners/publishers need to invest in improving their products for their customers (readers and advertisers) rather than constantly seeking to do more with less, when that means less hamburger and more Hamburger Helper in their publications. That’s what I’ll be trying to get across.
Clearly, Ross is all about the real deal. And I personally love his analogies to music and Hamburger Helper, and am eager to hear others. I hope you’ll join us and register today to hear this real deal in real life. (Ross will also be giving a seminar entitled, “What’s the story? Tools for narrative.)
--- Colleen Seto
AMPA Blogger-in-Residence

Monday, February 13, 2012

Feature Writing with Dan Rubinstein of Canadian Geographic (Part 2 of 2)

Dan speaking to a riveted group at the Feature Writing seminar in Calgary.
Photo credit: Sandra Markieta, SAIT student and AMPA volunteer

As promised, I bring you part two of my recap from AMPA's Feature Writing seminar with Dan Rubinstein of Canadian Geographic. Missed part one? Check it out first.

So as I was saying...

There are different styles magazine features can take. Consider what style you are using. A couple include:
  • Informational – commonly used for how-to’s; good for when the story needs to be objective and there’s no need for you as the writer to be in it; most stories have informational passages
  • Anecdotal – telling the story of something that happened to you; if your anecdote is strong, you could write an essay
Dan emphasizes the importance of “show, don’t tell.” Paint the picture; don’t just say “conditions were bad.” Use sensory details to make it known without having to say it. He recommends going to the actual site(s) of your stories wherever possible to gather the details so you can bring the scene to life. “‘God is in the details’ really rings true here,” he affirms.

You are the storyteller; it is your job to tell the story in a way the audience will receive—you have to speak to the magazine’s audience, but you also have to be you. Dan suggests that you act as "the tour guide; be in charge and authoritative, but don’t lecture.” And remember to pay attention to pacing; slow down so thoughts can linger and build.

Reader Reward Unit (RRU)
Dan defines an RRU as something that will make the reader smile, shudder, think, etc. It could be a clever turn of phrase, alliteration or some other literary device. He ensures that every feature has enough RRUs to make it shine, but there’s no specific formula.

He wraps up by affirming what we all know about great magazine writing. He points out that 80 percent of good writing is just clean straightforward storytelling. Thanks for a great seminar, Dan!

--- Colleen Seto
AMPA Blogger-in-Residence

Friday, February 3, 2012

Feature Writing with Dan Rubinstein of Canadian Geographic (Part 1 of 2)

It was nice to see Canadian Geographic editor Dan Rubinstein back in his old stomping grounds this week. Dan hasn’t been back to Alberta since he moved to Ottawa for the CG gig so it was perfect for AMPA to bring him out to host a few webinars and seminars in Calgary and Edmonton. The room was full of eager writers and editors ready to hear Dan’s pearls of wisdom. And this 2009 Alberta Editor of the Year Award winner definitely delivered. 

 Dan accepting a National Magazine Award on behalf of Kris Demeanor, 
whose winning feature he edited for Unlimited magazine.

If you missed the feature writing sessions with Dan, not to worry. Here’s a recap (just Part One for now).

Dan began by discussing what magazine articles do—the main goal being to take readers on a journey. Common ingredients he cited in a good magazine feature include:
  • engaging opening scene
  • nut paragraph (hints at central theme, lays down map for readers as to the path you’re going to lead them down)
  • history of evolution (important background info to understand the topic)
  • roster of characters
  • vivid details
  • sense of closure
He then made a critical point: “If you want to be a great magazine writer, you should read great magazines. You should have favourite magazine stories. Deconstruct them. Why do you like them?”

Dan speaking to a riveted group at the Feature Writing seminar in Calgary.
Photo credit: Sandra Markieta, SAIT student and AMPA volunteer
Strong Openers
Dan references an Esquire article by Mike Sager as an example of a great feature with a strong opener full of vivid detail. (Love the man-purse reference as a revealing detail to show how out of place he is.) “A strong opener is critical; you need to hook the reader.”

He uses a cinematic analogy to illustrate a good lead. “Think of openings as James Bond movies. They really pull you into the narrative with details, action, excitement, then fade to black and the real story begins."

“Conceive of your story as a series of scenes,” Dan advises. Before you even write a story, you should be able to block out scenes or create an outline. You can also take an essay approach (opening, three points, conclusion) or use dramatic juxtaposition to jump between two ideas.

Stay tuned for Part Two where I’ll go over Dan’s advice on styles, tone/voice and other helpful writing tips!

--- Colleen Seto
AMPA Blogger-in-Residence