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A funny thing happened at the Editors’ Association meeting last night. Biscuit and I had just arrived and we took a seat in the comfy chairs outside the meeting room to wait for the doors to open. On the coffee table was a stack of magazines. (Free magazines! Are there sweeter words? Perhaps “Free Beer.”)

The magazine was Bridge Magazine, which I immediately recognized as being the very same magazine that my mom had told me a pharmacy tech at her work was trying to start. In fact, my mom had given me the editor’s business card some time ago in case I wanted to write for them. I didn’t get around to e-mailing the woman, but here it was, Volume 1, Issue 1 of Bridge.

As someone who has thought and procrastinated on starting my own magazine for I don’t know how long, I felt vicariously excited for my mom’s co-worker. We were flipping through, checking it out when an older woman leaned in and opined “Well, they could have used a copy editor.” Smug. Another one piped up “Yes, and they don’t have much advertising.” Fellow know-it-all editor types, know two things about start-up magazines:

  1. Typos are going to happen – there’s much going on trying to get content, doing the design and putting the puppy in print that you can’t always get a stickler editor/proofreader in the mix. Does it matter?
  2. It takes some pretty serious selling to get advertisers for a first issue. Bravo for getting at least one advertiser, let alone five!

For a moment there, I thought about approaching the mag to offer my copy editing services. But is there a tactful way of approaching clients who could probably could use a little help in this arena? “Hi, I noticed you have a few spelling, grammar and punctuation errors – wanna hire me for (insert shocking dollar figure) per hour to fix ’em?” People tend to be sensitive about their writing and it’s often the editor’s job to reassure and hand-hold the editee that they’re not just going to chop copy to pieces. Although secretly, we do kind of enjoy that. Freelance Writing Jobs recently had an interesting post and discussion on tactfully, or not, pointing out client’s errors, albeit in job postings. In most businesses, I think, it’s a selling point to point out how you can help the client and your past success with helping others, not so much with editing. On my professional site, I don’t post editing samples anymore because there’s a tacit insult to clients in publicy posting their errors, right? (Although I do have samples available, if someone needs to see my work.)

Good editing and good editors, especially copy editors, disappear into the night. So perhaps the woman who came down on the copy editing was really saying “I wish I had my own magazine. I wish I wasn’t so invisible.” Or was that just the nagging voice in my own head? Volume 1, Issue 1: I salute you.

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Long Beach - Photo by Donovan

Last week we took a few days off to go to Tofino, a town on the west coast of Vancouver Island, just to watch the waves roll in. It’s funny how when you try to relax you realize just how wound up you are.

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A shocking confession: I don’t like Gawker. I don’t like the clever-clever writing that reads like the writer is poking me in the ribs saying “Huh? How about this? Isn’t this funny/cute/shocking/stupid?” Yes, Gawker, you’re cool, I get it. However, every once in a while they publish something useful.

Like many of my writer peers, I’ve got a little stardust in my eyes about the New York magazine world. Glossy pubs, prestigious bylines, and american dollars – it’s the dream. I’ve submitted a few queries so far but nothing has come of them. Oh well – as Gawker’s Hall of Shame series reveals, the only thing harder than getting into some national magazines is getting paid by them. Invoices being paid well after net 90 days are so very common, and so are stories of threatening to show up at the magazine’s offices in order to collect a long overdue cheque. Buried in the comments of one of the posts, there was a link to a story of one writer who set up a tent outside of Bob Guccione‘s office (founder of Penthouse and Spin) and stayed there until he got (most) of his money.

I used to get all annoyed with those scamsters on Craigslist who try to get people to write for their website or zine for free or those who promise abysmal rates such as $15 for a 400-word article. Then they add further insult by promising “exposure” as compensation. Honestly, if you people don’t have any money to pay writers, do the writing your damn selves.

But at least they’re honest about being a non-paying market, unlike prominent magazines and book publishers who pay their freelancers last and sometimes only if absolutely necessary. It’s one thing to decide not to write for free, it’s another to discover you have just giving away hundreds or thousands of dollars away in free content. What writers have to do in this situation is identify deadbeat pubs and refuse to work for them again. If possible, shame the offenders so others know to steer clear: Writers Weekly e-zine runs a forum called Whispers and Warnings that helps get the word out about scammers and deadbeats.

Cynically, editors know one thing about writers: there’s always more of them out there. So let’s be smart about who we write for. And stick together, kum-ba-ya.

Let’s see: multiple looming deadlines must mean it’s time to…. drive around in the fog and buy magazines! Add in browsing time and a few stops at grocery and drug stores open on Sunday evening, and I spent about an hour and half to buy, oh, two magazines. I had more but got impatient at the checkouts and realized an inexplicably expensive knitting magazine I was about to purchase (that would be Knit.1) didn’t really have anything worth making.
However, this month’s issue of Food and Wine with a gorgeous chocolate cake on the cover should give me much reading, if not actual cooking, pleasure. My theory as to why I am buying food porn without having full and proper access to my regularly stocked kitchen is that I need some sort of domestic feeling even when stuck in temporary quarters. Some people take drugs, I drool over the Gingerbread Roll on Last Page, luxury kitchen money shots and shiny panini grills. Oh, and read the recipes, anything involving shrimp, crostini or wasabi.
Cruising the racks, I also discovered a new and entertaining magazine called Radar. Among it’s articles deconstructing celebrity culture are how-to’s on hiring a celebrity (so that’s how they can afford all those clothes without appearing to do any worthwhile music and movies – they get paid!) and a comparison of America’s Next Top Model with cult recruiting techniques. I think it’s a magazine aimed at guys because all the magazines with interesting, snarky articles are aimed at guys. Apparently, I’m supposed to be interested in fashion and Angelina Jolie’s humanitarian whatver whatever every month. However, since I’m supposed to be working (hello, genre analysis) I’ll have to read them later.

On Wednesday night, I was dragged kicking and screaming (thanks, Maktaaq) away from my weekly ritual of America’s Next Top Model to attend a launch party for three of UBC’s literary magazines and anthologies. It turned out to be worth the trip.
The magazines were Chameleon (Children’s and Young Adult fiction), Fugue (a literary non-fiction anthology) and Wreck (fiction, poetry and drama), all of which feature work by MFA students in UBC’s creative writing department. Lovely credentialed individuals all, but I’m afraid I tuned out the poets reading in monotone. The girl across the way shot dirty looks when I giggled at the way the reader put on that expected poets’ voice that turns downward at each line so we can all sense the weight of the thought.
I just made a fishing metaphor. (silence)
As I have become very interested in creative non-fiction essays and journalism, the readers of those pieces really caught my interest. Tony Liman read from “Mountain View”, a seamy-underbelly-to-the glamour-account of working at the famous Chateau Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. He didn’t name it, of course, although the pseudonym “Mountain View Hotel” does remind me of The Overlook. Intentional? No idea.
The last reader of the night (I’m afraid her name escapes me) got the whole room choked up with “Push Me Pull You”. The essay told of what life with her young daughter is like, a girl who was abandoned at one week and spent the first year of her life in a Chinese orphanage. It was about loving something that is destructive and angry, yet loving and energetic and impulsive. It was beautiful.
When the readings had finished, I bought a copy of Fugue and I bolted outta there to catch the cruiser with the rest of the losers. Caught the Seabus with 43 seconds to go on the clock, got home and enjoyed Tyrant Banks’s addictive show sans commercials. God – it looks hard to wear clothes and walk while someone takes your picture.

Is it December already? I remember getting chocolate advent calendars that I would put up beside my bed, and wait to start opening the little doors that counted down to Christmas Eve. My sisters ate most of their chocolates right away, I rationed mine sensibly. It was just in time too, for the Halloween supply had usually have diminished to a few pieces of generic crap candy.

The clock is ticking (no, not that one) now! Down to the Big C. Decorating to be done, parties to plan (no potluck!), outfits to pick out (with shoes), gifts to make, crowds to elbow, showings of It’s A Wonderful Life to avoid (I’ve always hated that whole alternate universe Pottersville), and families to not kill. And lets not forget making time to gorge on Dad’s homemade smoked salmon! Yum!

I am making some of my gifts this year, but haven’t yet started knitting those manly scarves and hats I have been planning for my husband and my grandpa, whose name I got in the gift exchange. What on earth do you get for Christmas for a retired cowboy who is diabetic and unlikely to state a need for anything? He could use a warm wool cap for his morning trips to the general store for coffee. Luckily, there are two Stitch’n’Bitch sessions coming up this month to get my ass in gear. I almost wrote beer.

In other news, I just picked up the new issue of Bust, which contained the happy news that my favourite quarterly ladies magazine will now be out bi-monthly.

Happy Hurrydays and Merry Cashmas, let your wallet be light.

Cruising the web while temping, I came across Ripe Magazine. This Kitsilano Braintrust actually wants writers to send them money ($10) for the honour of submitting! To pay their costs and provide “exposure” to new BC writers. They don’t pay anything, natch.

A submission fee is standard for most literary contests, but at least you have a chance of getting some money and accolades, and they usually give entrants a subscription or something. So, what I want to know is whether you have come across any other markets that expect you to pay for having work considered?

These folks claim that they work as a volunteer collective and that no one is making any money from the project. I know a life of letters isn’t a moneymaker, but why do it if you’re really not pulling in anything above and beyond the costs? Could it be – a SCAM?

In the course of investigating these shysters via Google, I did come across Writers Weekly, an ezine that looks to be an excellent source of writing and market info.

My new copy of GEIST arrived in the mail today, and I have had just a chance to skim through it. My favourite thing in it so far is a piece by the late Mary Meigs. She wrote a beautiful essay on being old, and in between the pages of that article are examples of her freewriting.

She and other writer friends would get together and choose a phrase or line from a poet they admired. Inspired by that, they would each write freely and continously for 10 minutes or so. I have tried the exercise today, and here is my attempt, inspired by one of my favourite sentences from The Great Gatsby:

Like rose petals blown by sad horns around the floor. we are so young still and yet each day there is a nudge to do something before its too late. the music of today we turn to yesterday, seeking out more familiar music on the radio. i want to be where the people dance, a beautiful life of imagination. friendly and sad. knowledge wihout unhappiness. the weather is turning colder outside, i seek comfort. i feel the snapping at as yet ungloved hands as i walk to another day, wishing i could set aside a whole day to stare at the trees before they drop all their leaves. Hitchcock would know how to photograph a tree at exactly the right time. i would like to create something that lasts too, to walk and think, yet not so heavily that i would forget the joy of dancing and a perfectly turned cliche. Every paragraph a smartypants yet not so true as i would like it to be. and i almost erased it and started again.

Lets enjoy freewriting! I want to read your attempts in the comment box! Note: I think its a good idea to choose something that you don’t know all the words to, so as not to let the original writers work impede your own.

In the latest issue of SubTerrain, along with a tasty centrefold photo essay on roadkill, there is an interview with Nikki Gemmell, the anonymous author of the erotic novel The Bride Stripped Bare. In the article, she quotes Gabriel Garcia Marquz as saying everyone has three lives: a public one, a private one, and a secret one. And of course, in the novel, the latter is what is being fully exposed, the naked underbelly of all our pretenses and appearances. But its got me thinking, and obsessing – what if I don’t have a secret life?

Which begs the question, what if I am just a wide, flat surface, despite all the sparklers on the cake? I don’t have any secret life. There are no nocturnal, Anais Nin-like wanderings and adventures hidden in my darkest depths. You can see right through me. I am just here.

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