Friday, July 29, 2011

How (not) to make a magazine

We. Are. Fried.

And happy.

As experts in our own (artistic) fields we are feeling the strain of jimmying open windows that are not ours. This week has seen us handover the BIG magazine document to Maree (Paper Runway) to design. It is not like we are handing over a postcard or flyer. It is sixty pages long -  and with Maree currently juggling her own magazine, a stationery line, and 3 children, we are imagining it will be another big week all round.

We have certainly experienced the making of each single text box and spent two weeks side by side in long distance lockdown to arrive in the eye of this continuing storm:

Very first drafting of BIG page order
- Hours and hours on the phone til well past midnight.
- Images cut and disappearing without a trace or saved file.
- Names and details falling over each other like rain and so difficult to pull apart.
- Page changes and re-drafts and sudden epiphany's to redirect order and flow.
- 1.30am brainwaves of links and lost data.
- The painful re-call of 9months of research saved haphazardly in early facebook messages and in the body of 100's of emails.
- The re-sourcing of high res images.
- The chasing of missing text and promised artwork.
- The madness of editing between a word doc and Indesign and losing tracks of change in both.

And so we have accepted what is possible this time. Lilly has already begun a shared dropbox with folders for our next issue: we have several incredible artists confirmed, but stop ourselves from diving into future to stay and get this first flight off the ground. It is painstaking work. Every time we think we are close, it gets further away. The designed version will come back to us for proofing, and already (don't tell Maree) we have made several changes in the main body of words. Our fabulous copy editor Karen, has fired two versions back to us in quick succession enabling us to meet our deadline with Maree. Our team is not exactly close knit in terms of proximity. I am in Perth, Lilly is in Sydney, Maree recently crossed the border to land in Queensland, and Karen is in Melbourne. We have ten children between us, and as such, the room for error and the unexpected is massive. Time-frames are tight. We work when we have the energy, and accept defeat when the small worlds running around us take over.

It is almost the end of July. We are on track for a September launch. JUST. We weigh up quotes from printers in both Perth and in Sydney and talk with potential distributors. We volley 'dummy' copies of blank paged mock-up mags to each other to check the paper stock and debate over the virtues of staples verses spine 'perfect' binding. It is relentless. And sometimes a bit impossible.

The next issue will see a different and more efficient process. But this launch edition will be literally sewn with bits of our heart-strings.

Bring on the rain.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Kids magazines we love: Alphabet Soup answers some BIG questions!

While in the thick of putting together the first issue of the BIG magazine we look with renewed admiration at the work of other editors of magazines and think HOW DO THEY DO IT?  We are currently late-night grappling with the notion of our mag sitting comfortably in both the context of contemporary art and the wider child/parenting arena. Here we feel a bit as though we are attempting the impossible, but forge ahead in the hope of cracking a few stereotypes and value judgements to fuel a new creative cross-fire and interrupt some long held hierarchies.

We are set to introduce our BIG contributing artists in the next few days, but before we do, we want to introduce Rebecca and share her wordy work with you! Alphabet Soup is a literary magazine for kids that publishes the work of children and writers and encourages a life-long love of reading and creative writing. Rebecca also writes an informative blog complete with book reviews, competitions, writing links and ideas - read her fab interview with 12year old writer Nick Black here, and take flight with this bird-inspired music list here. Alphabet Glue has a cool Undercover Readers Club for kids to join, and you can even download a few pages of the magazine for free. Rebecca assures us the first issue of magazine-making is the hardest and we are taking her word for it - she has been supporting the BIG vision from a distance while her daughter Pippa is at the frontline of our fabulous B.I.G. editorial team.

Tell us a little bit about your background and what it was that led you to landing in an Alphabet Soup?
When I was 12, I loved writing stories and poems. I wrote in a school project (‘All About Me’) that I would be a published author by the time I was 21. That seemed a grown-up age to me then. My brothers and I loved a magazine called Puffinalia, sent to members of The Puffin Club (run by Penguin). We read every story and poem, entered every writing competition and even won a few.

When I had my own children who loved books, I discovered that The Puffin Club with Puffinalia was no longer around in Australia. I considered subscribing to an overseas magazine—Puffinalia in the UK, Cricket and The Scrumbler are all fantastic. There didn't seem to be an Australian magazine publishing children's writing alongside adults' writing for children, and subscribing to the overseas magazines was expensive.

I had a Bachelor of Arts and a graduate certificate in Editing and Publishing and so I started to think about creating an Australian magazine to fill the gap. The first issue was unpacked in October 2008.

How would you describe the distance between the first gem of the  'Alphabet Soup' idea and the day you actually held the first copy of the magazine in your hands?
A steep learning curve. (Luckily, I had a lot of support and encouragement from family and friends.)

What has been the most energising part of the making a magazine journey so far?
I love that I can provide a forum for children to see their writing in print. I love the mosaic of putting an issue together—selecting the best combinations of stories and poems by writers (big and small).

It’s also a buzz to open the first box of each new issue.

And the most exhausting?!
The admin. I love the editing and writing best but the financial, marketing and day-to-day side of the magazine is endless (but necessary).

Do you have a specific daily work structure or does it depend on the will of the wind?
Alphabet Soup is a quarterly magazine so the structure of a day depends on where we are in that three-month cycle. Every day I try to get through admin in the morning (emails, paperwork, making phonecalls, chasing details etc.) After that’s out of the way I work on whatever the next issue of the magazine needs. The magazine also has a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a blog and I try to keep them updated.

Does the experience of making the mag get easier each time round or are there new challenges with every issue!?
I’m editing issue 12. Things are definitely less stressful than they were when we were preparing for issue 1.

It’s still very busy, of course, and there is often something that takes you by but handling one or two surprises is fine. Back at issue 1, EVERYTHING seemed to be a surprise.

Do you have a particular toy/activity or childhood remnant you share with your children?
My husband and I were both avid readers as children. (Actually we are still avid readers. We have too many books to count.) Our parents kept many of our childhood books, and our kids love reading them. 

My Puffinalia magazines weren’t saved, but I did buy some secondhand copies. My daughter loved them, but she was very sad to find the competition she was looking at closed in 1982.

My husband has also passed his large crate of lego on to our three. They love it.

Would you say you are now "what you want to be when you grow up", and do you have other current dreams you can share with us?
Well. According to that school project, I still have a book to get published before I grow up. I do love being an editor and I’m fairly sure 12-year-old me would let me count the magazine instead of a book, but actually I do have some children’s book manuscripts in my bottom drawer …     

Bravery is feeling afraid but taking a breath and doing it anyway.
Imagination is escaping into the impossible.
Generosity is an open hand and an open heart.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

At the edge

We stand at the edge of 60 pages and stare. Shifting articles, shifting them back,swapping images, swapping them back, looking, re-looking, landing, staring. The 'ping' of live email chat between us punctuates the work of it all when we are both here. The two hour time difference between Perth and Sydney provokes a constant handover and tag-team of 'doing'.
Lilly and I are living in each other's pockets on opposite sides of the county. And yes, I have said that before, but only now have we really wished to be in the same room, with the prototype of text and images on the floor, and tea and time to support the overwhelm. Lilly steps away from the computer to get a bit of perspective. I have another look. We ready ourselves for the next dive in.

We are weighed down with business and big decisions. With the constancy and pressure. With the need for more minutes in a day when we are already signing off after midnight. With the responsibility and the outrageous work ethic we both have. With the noticing of our usual artistic practice slightly sidelined and missing us. With the intensity and relentless BIG drive.

And then, in the middle of the too much, we laugh. We talk about kids and irreverence. And make speech bubbles for a little BIG bird who will fly comments throughout the magazine. I offer Lilly a feeble joke. She comes back with an unlikely one that tips the world on it's head for a minute.

Why did the owl say tweet tweet?
Because she didn't give a hoot.
The smile breaks our stride and we see differently. Today my little girl said Kookaburra for the first time (they are laughing everywhere at the moment), and my boys flew. Literally. Repeatedly. 
Without fear or hesitation. 
They looked. They readied. They jumped.
Lilly and I take a few running steps...

Slipstream flight and catapult treasure and tree root under challenge and repeating bark. Layer and gather, fold and repeat. Accumulate direction and tailspin potential right back to immediacy and beginning. Brave and generous leap.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sneak preview - Introducing our junior feature writer, Zali.

At last we are ready to share some sneak previews of what will be flying in the pages of BIG Kids Magazine. Hurrah! When Zali first answered our BIG invitation with a "Tee Hee!!" of excited response, we knew we had found our junior feature writer. Her enthusiasm is contagious and we are amazed at her efforts in writing her first 'feature' article. With a mission to write a tutorial to make it possible for our readers to make their own claymation animation, Zali has delivered a series of step-by-steps that will have BIG kids everywhere making mini-movies of their own (and is sure to get some bigger kids fired up about film-making too!). We hope you enjoy this BIG premiere of Zali's "Earnest and the Bird", made in response to our launch theme of "First Flight". Zali has made other claymations, including the gorgeous   Apple Tree, and has a wonderful artist-mother, Hailey Bartholomew, of the the 365 grateful project,  who took these fabulous photos for us.    

                                          Earnest and the bird. from behappyblythe on Vimeo.

Zali flying her bird for the BIG animation "Earnest and the Bird"
Earnest and clay Earnest

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Our BIG (childhood) beginnings

We shift the BIG content around on virtual pages, dancing ideas and stories, images and artists between us in the late evening hours and found minutes of each day. We are finally coming in to land with the BIG 'pagination' and watch as the pages fill up with visible renderings of our BIG dreaming come to life. We talk in quiet calm as we barely contain our excitement at the artwork and articles flying in from our featured kids and artists. We focus on what needs to be done, and occasionally remember to breathe. By Sunday the first draft will be complete. It will be almost 9 months from when we first began. We are, right now, making a magazine. It feels like we are at the beginning of the next BIG chapter. And so, we take this opportunity to introduce our own beginnings:

Following an early childhood in Zululand imbued with dance and song (my mother was a folk singer) I landed in Australia and looked over the fence at my new world. Her name was Emily, and she was older than I with 2 small siblings. Together we created a world under her house which kept our secrets. When I wasn’t peeking under the circus tent across the road I was scrawling in journals and taking my dolls for walks in the washing basket on wheels. I first quit ballet at the age of 5, but by 15, I knew dance would be my career. My passion is improvisation and yes, I am good at making it up as I go along - earning a Master of Arts degree on the subject which I plan to finally frame on the BIG wall somewhere!

Jo and Emily's little brother watch the circus roll in

When I was 10 I directed a Circus  performance under the liquid amber tree in our backyard. I illustrated  the invitations and hand delivered programs to the neighbours inviting them for pre show spiders. There was a tightrope strung up under the washing line, clown acts and my younger brothers famous magic show. I was the ring master both behind the scenes and on stage, conducting the enthusiasm of siblings and cousins, trying to keep them interested in the rehearsal process when they lure of the pool became too great. None of the neighbors came, but the day is remembered as a great success and preceded hundreds of shows and exhibitions in makeshift tents and on bedroom walls. In fact,  my life today looks incredibly similar!

Lilly and her younger brother, pre-show (a few years prior the mega circus production)

Friday, July 8, 2011

An Interview with Kathreen Ricketson and

Following on from our 'Action Pack' feature post,  we are thrilled to introduce Kathreen Ricketson. Kathreen is a dynamic force of generosity and creative living, she has recently celebrated a milestone birthday and here she answers some BIG birthday questions to give us a behind-the-scenes peek into her life and work.  We absolutely love the Whip Up manifesto which expresses so clearly Kathreen's deep valuing and importance of creativity in the hectic lives of both adults and children.

Tell us a little bit about your background and what it was that led you to Whipping up the world?

I am an artist/mother/designer/maker/writer, I went to the Canberra school of art and studied photomedia, then stayed at home for a few years to raise my children, during that time I connected with likeminded makers and creators online. I started which showcases on a daily basis my passion for all things handmade and creative. introduced me to the publishing world and Chronicle books gave me a wonderful opportunity to launch myself as as a writer. Whip Up Mini Quilts was published in 2010 and Little Bits Quilting Bee will be coming out in October this year. I also have been working with Australian publisher Hardie Grant who asked me to curate and edit a series of craft books for kids. At the same time, with the help of my husband and two super children we launched the Action Pack series of E-magazines for children.

How would you describe the distance between the first gem of the  'Action Pack' idea and the day you pressed 'publish' on the first issue? 

Oh very short, when we have an idea we just go for it. And online publishing is so instant and gratifying, you can test out a concept and see if it works without a huge investment in money. My two kids, Orlando (8) and Otilija (11) and my husband and I all work on these as a creative team, taking turns to come up with ideas and to create the projects. My background in magazine publishing and photography have been a huge help here and my husband loves to invent and illustrate in his spare time - so we make an amazing team.

What has been the most energising part of the Whip up and Action Pack journey so far? And the most exhausting?!

The most energising part is the creative bit - thinking up ideas and making the projects together. I also love taking photos and even the layout and design is fun. The most exhausting is probably editing and testing and marketing - only because its not my forte and my brain really hurts during this necessary process.

Do you have a specific daily work structure or does it depend on the will of the wind?

The wind, the children, the mood, the air - yes indeed. I do try to have a work routine - a couple of hours of emails and writing on the blog, then time working behind the business - marketing and advertising and PR and all that sort of thing. Then I might get some time to work on my own ideas and projects ... I tend to work creatively in spurts rather than any daily sort of routine.

The latest issue of Action Pack has recently been released - does the experience of making the mag get easier each time round or is it more like labour where no two births are the same!? 

Each one is different -- although I am starting to get a routine going. The last one was a bumper issue and so while it was three times as big as the regular ones, we did give ourselves a bit more of a break in between. We are gearing up for the next one - preparing and researching and testing our ideas.

Do you have a particular toy/activity or childhood remnant you share with your children? 

My two teddies from my childhood have been passed on to my kids - they have one each - and they treasure them - which is lovely. We moved around a lot when I was a kid so my memories from my childhood are fragments and difficult to pass on - which may be why I am so keen to help my children create meaningful memories and really treasure their childhood.

Would you say you are now "what you want to be when you grow up", and do you have other current dreams you can share with us?

Having recently turned 40 I have had a bit of a time of pondering this question. And I can say that I am satisfied with where I am at - I like my life and love my kids and enjoy what I do. But of course I still have dreams and am on the path towards them. We all feel quite strongly about living a more sustainable life closer to the earth and nature and so we are planning a move to the country - don't know when or where but we are dreaming about it more and more. And we also really want to spend more time discovering this great country of ours - so we plan to take a year out of our lives and go camping around this great big land - take off on a big adventure. As for my work and career - that seems to have a life of its own ...

                                     Bravery is... just getting on and doing stuff - following your dreams.
Imagination is... thinking outside the usual.
Generosity is... giving without expectation.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Downloadable kids magazines: Action Pack and Alphabet Glue

The second issues of two amazing kids e-magazines have recently been released. The two creatives behind these zine scenes have delivered incredible energy, insight and activities in their (not so) mini-mags. Australia's well known and loved Kathreen Ricketson, the brain-child of the indefatigable Whip up, is behind the aptly named Action Pack, and Annie Riechmann from the sweet US blog Bird and Little Bird, is the maker of Alphabet Glue. Both magazines are very easily downloadable for only a few dollars each, and both are so worth diving into.  The Action Pack 'all hands on deck' approach is irresistible to kids, who will love the excuse to head to the beach to create some awesome 'ephemeral art', while Alphabet Glue's brilliant book lists bring the greatest (and unusual) of reads to the fore and feature simple tutorials on making your own mini-books and detective gear. Check them out, and before you can read them from cover to cover, we'll have another making-of-a-magazine story ready to share in the form of a behind the scenes look at the creative life of the Whipup woman herself, Kathreen.

Action Pack Issue 4, click here to read more and download

Alphabet Glue, Issue 2, click here to read more and download

Monday, July 4, 2011

Animated work stations - ALSO builds the BIG ship

We have a special introduction to make about a small team of people currently working to animate our BIG dreams. Lilly and I sang out in agreement when my find of the 'designers of our dreams' matched Lilly's bookmark of the most 'beautiful website in the world' (the now closed Charmingwall). We laughed when we realised I'd ordered two books that unknowingly turned out to be authored by them ( The Exquisite Book - where 100 artists play a collaborative game, and Drawn In, an irresistible inside invitation into artists' sketchbooks).

All roads seemed to lead to ALSO. And now ALSO is in the midst of building the road that will lead to BIG.
Jenny Volvovski and Matt Lamothe are in Chicago and Julia Rothman is based in New York, together they design, build and play. And right now they are playing with us and putting the finishing touches on our BIG landing page. YAY!

The process has been divinely responsive and generously collaborative, with ALSO taking our ideas, images, links and sketches and re-playing them back to us in ways that made our hearts leap and breath hold in unison. It has also propelled another landing for the ongoing collaboration and responsive creative process between Lilly and I:

One night ALSO needed some fish for the underwater BIG ocean, Lilly created said fish and sent them to me for response...

...I drafted the word-fish I saw swimming in her school...and swam them back to Lilly...

I think the creatures resist definition. i think they have echo's of elongated quiet beasts and the character who lives in the cave and comes out with a swirl once a year to proclaim the secret password to wherever. I think she, that cheeky run-n-jump highleaper is unafraid of the leap of faith and holds all of her arms close to her sides with a toss of her sea hair, magnifying glass and sail fins. I think that guy fish you drew with the Mohawk fin up top is just too cool for fish school. I think the long nose nervous seeker of treasure-traps leading the pack is one-eyed in focus. I think they have a lot to say, and a little attitude, but not too much as to trip the focus from the flying fish birds and magic of the flagship.   I see a couple of the others are actually facing each other in a Mexican co-authored stand off. Nose to underwater nose. I think the unseen one is a little too relaxed at the ravine and with fishwings behind cats ears rests too long on his laurels and is tripped into joining the catapulting scene. I think there is a little crawly creature with a cane and backpack of history deep-walking in the opposite direction and nodding his head against the tide. I see the hairy many-scaled fish with a wink and a comb and oh too many questions and choose your own adventure answers under each of his post-it note scales. And oh I hear the chatter about them in the water, in the world. Here we come, they say, here we come.

Lilly responded with a new school, and in this way we found the BIG fish to swim to ALSO...

The ALSO BIG site will soon be revealed, and we will pack you all up with us and board the winged ship that will take us to launch day. Hooray!

Friday, July 1, 2011

An interview with tiny and little (and teeny) magazine

Natalie named tiny and little magazine after her first two children - she has since had a teeny addition and we think maybe this THIRD gorgeous issue is dedicated to him. Natalie sent such generous responses to our tricky BIG questions, and we are thrilled to share them with you here to celebrate the launch of The Food Issue. It truly is a scrumptious read. 

Tell us a little bit about your background and what it was that led you to tiny and little?
I held the dream of working in a creative role for as long as I can remember. However instead of trusting the voice within, I allowed myself to be led from one place to another on the advice of others, until I found myself lost in the corporate world. It wasn't until I started maternity leave with my first child that I had a break from working. I took the time to think about my future and my dreams, and the seed was planted.

It was my own experiences as a parent looking for information and inspiration - and not being able to find what I was searching for - that helped the seed to grow. I found myself thinking of communities where ideas and advice are handed down from one person to the next. Of villages where many families band together to bring children up in an extended family style. I wished there was a community I could turn to and it inspired me to think of the magazine as my contribution to that.

How would you describe the distance between the first gem of the 'tiny and little' idea and the day you pressed 'publish' on the first issue? 
I took the time to weigh up options for the magazine between idea and issue. An aspect of it would come to me, which would see me journey off on a tangent, and I would reach a point where I had to make the decision whether to pursue it further. At the time, it felt like I was moving slowly because I wanted to get the magazine out, but now that it has been published I look back and am amazed at how far it came in a relatively short time.

What has been the most energising part of the tiny and little journey so far? And the most exhausting?!
The most energising moment was on January 1, 2011. I had decided that I would start the new year by launching my website to announce the magazine. I had a buzzing joy reverberating through me that day as I publicly took the leap to follow my dreams. That happiness, passion and energy from doing what I love that keeps me going.

The most exhausting part of the journey has been those nights when I'm working until the well after the midnight hour, moreso when my little ones are unsettled or unwell. I have three children under school age and stay at home full time to enjoy them at this lovely pre-school phase, so I work when they sleep or are with family on the weekend. Each issue takes considerable time to put together and some nights that means putting in a number of hours to keep things on track. The challenge of being a mum and a business owner, and wanting to do my best for both, is utterly exhausting some days. 

Do you have a specific daily work structure or does it depend on the will of the wind?
I am with my children all day and work when they sleep. I usually work three weeknights and all day on the weekends, although Saturday and Sunday times will change depending on how much work there is to do that day. If I can take a day, or even an afternoon off, to be with my family I will.

You have been madly in the middle of compiling and readying the 3rd issue of tiny and little; is the experience easier with each subsequent issue, or is it more like labour where no two births are the same?
The experience is easier than the first issue, but at the same time I find it more difficult to finalise it for publishing. The first issue was so wonderfully received that I find myself fearful when it comes to hitting that publish button in case it's not enjoyed as much. I hope that things continue to become easier as I finetune my rhythm with each issue that is published. 

What was your favourite childhood activity?
One of my favourite activities was playing my clarinet and I was always excited to take it out of its case. I lived out of town and spent many an evening playing while sitting on the water tank at dusk, watching the setting sun light up the sky in vivid peach and red above the mountains my home looked onto.

Do you have a particular toy or childhood remnant you can't wait to share with your children? 
I loved The Muppet Show as a young child and recently shared my Kermit and Miss Piggy dolls from when I was five with my little ones. The most adorable moment was watching my four year old ask to wash Miss Piggy's hair because it had knotted from being stored for so long. He was incredibly loving and gentle, and it reminded me of how I cared for her when I was little.
Bravery is... giving your dreams wings to take flight
Imagination is...whatever you want it to be
Generosity is... giving with love, kindness and no expectations

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