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.


  1. How generous are you to feature another player in your own market. Sounds BIG to me!

  2. I love Alphabet Soup! It puts children's literacy front and centre, and does so in such a fun and fascinating way. Kudos to Rebecca for holding tight to her dream!

  3. Thanks for having me. And the first issue is definitely the hardest work. You'll be old hands in no time, I'm sure! :-)


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