Category Archives: Producing a monthly magazine

Powered by interns

When you run a small media company like ours, maintaining a steady stream of capable interns is the difference between muddling through and really moving forward. When you can confidently offload some of the routine tasks involved in creating and editing content for publication (for print and web), you finally find time to tackle the big-picture tasks that hover too long on the “when I can get to it” list.

So it was with a sense of excited anticipation that I returned to Phoenix after a five-day trip to Seattle (where I spent some all-too-rare time with my two brothers) to welcome two summer interns to the RAK family.

Robert Balint. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

One is very familiar. Robert Balint, son of RAK multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint, is something of a returning veteran. His first stories appeared in Raising Arizona Kids in 2008, when he was still in high school at Brophy College Preparatory.

“Girls on the Mat” was about a female high school wrestler, “When Your Child Doesn’t Make the Cut” was about young athletes facing rejection and “Physicals Keep Athletes in the Game” explained what doctors look for during sports physicals.

That same year, Robert shared insights on his participation in the Phoenix Sister Cities program and many of us followed his blog posts during that trip. (We look forward to reading the next installments in his “Daily Occurences” travel blog when he leaves in July to spend six months studying in Argentina.)

Robert, who just completed his sophomore year at Boston College, will be with us for about six weeks before he heads to South America. During his internship, he will be writing for our collaborative Sports Roundtable blog, to which my husband Dan, who missed his calling as a sports reporter, periodically contributes. Dan and Robert teamed up in the multimedia department during Robert’s internship last summer, when they produced a great video piece about a high school football lineman competition.

I look forward to working with and getting to know our second summer intern, Sadie Smeck. Sadie is a graduate of Arcadia High School and currently is attending Washington University in St. Louis, where she will be a junior this fall, majoring in international studies and Spanish and minoring in writing. Although Washington University does not have a school of journalism, she is a reporter, writer and editor for the university’s independent newspaper, Student Life.

Sadie Smeck. Photo by Daniel Friedman. I have Vicki to thank for Sadie, too. Vicki introduced me by email  to Sadie, whom she described as “a family friend from our neighborhood, a good student and a hard worker.” While she’s with us this summer, Sadie will be covering community news, education and more.

In the “small world” department, it turns out that Account Executive Catherine Griffiths also knows Sadie. When Catherine showed up at work this morning (with her mom, who’s in town for Hunter Griffiths’ eighth-grade graduation), she immediately rushed over to greet Sadie warmly.

Turns out Catherine, whose older son Harlan has Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes, was once offered some very wise advice by Sadie’s mom, who was also navigating that journey because Sadie’s older sister lives with diabetes.

Read Catherine’s story, “What I Wish I’d Known about Managing My Son’s Diabetes.”

Proofreading lessons

Is it kid’s meals or kids’ meals or kids meals? That was the sticking point in November, when we published our annual “Kids Eat Free” directory.

Today, as I assembled seven proofreaders’ corrections to our June issue, there were questions about colons, capitalizations and hyphens.

One of my proofers noticed inconsistencies in how we were treating the first word following a colon. The rule is that a complete sentence following a colon requires a capitalized first word and a list (of words or phrases that are not complete sentences) does not. So this is correct:

What they found caught my attention: Men who had good memories of their relationships with their fathers while growing up better handled the stresses of adult life. (This is from a story about how dads can build good relationships with their children.)

And this is correct:

Other examples of adaptations: placing extra straps and pads on wheelchairs and walkers or re-wiring toys so a child who is unable to manipulate them can interact by touch or use a communication device… (From a story about Southwest Human Development’s new A.D.A.P.T. store.)

Moving on to our capitalization dilemma. When is a father “Dad” versus “dad”…?

Dad is capitalized only when used as a proper noun. So it’s “a dad” or “my dad” or “time spent with dad” (because you’re not talking about a specific dad but instead using the word as one would use the phrase “a dad”) … but “Dad (as in my dad, the guy I call “Dad” ) and I love fishing.”

Another capitalization catch: Our resident Francophile Mary Ann Bashaw noticed that we had used “french doors,” not “French doors” in a description of amenities at a hotel listed in our June issue’s directory of family-friendly resorts. The capitalized version is correct, as is French toast and French fries and French pedicure.

Another story in our June issue mentioned a “six-and-a-half pound baby.” It was missing a hyphen and should have been “six-and-a-half-pound baby.”

Enough for today. And by the way, it’s “kids meal.”

“Kid’s meal” means a meal that belongs to one child. “Kids’ meal” means one meal that belongs to a bunch of kids (and I would not want to negotiate that sharing lesson). “Kids meal” means a meal planned/prepared/priced (or whatever) to be appropriate for kids.

A pleasant detour

I’m usually pretty eager to get straight home on a Friday night but this time I decided to make an extra stop.

I had spent all afternoon getting caught up on recent contests we host through RAK Giveaways. I updated our list of winners on the website and emailed everyone to let them know their tickets were coming.

Claudia Magdaleno of Phoenix was particularly excited to hear that her family had won passes to SEA LIFE Arizona, and a chance to see the new exhibit, “CLAWS: Creatures of the Deep.”

“My daughter’s birthday is on Tuesday, so it will be perfect,” she wrote.

Our mail had already gone out for the day, so I told her the tickets would go out in Monday’s mail. But as I walked out the door I felt a nagging sense of worry. What if the tickets didn’t make it? I decided to make a detour on my way home so I could drop Claudia’s tickets at the post office.

Nothing I had on my evening’s agenda was more important than the chance to make a little girl’s day.

The more things change…

In April of 1990, we published our second edition of Raising Arizona Kids. The members of our staff (all six of us) were young mothers. We wanted to do everything right. For us, that meant being responsive to what we were being told was a looming environmental crisis.

We printed our fledgling magazine on recycled paper. And we planned our second issue around the concept of parenting with environmental sensitivity.

Our cover story that month was “The Dirty Diaper Debate.” It offered sobering statistics (“18 billion diapers…are thrown in the trash each year”) and talked about options including cloth diapers and biodegradable disposables. Hard to believe — 21 years and at least 378 billion disposable diapers later — but the Arizona Legislature that year was actually considering a law to ban the use of non-biodegradable diapers. Clearly, it wasn’t widely supported.

Another story, “I Can Recycle This!” offered environmental tips for parents and described a Phoenix Clean & Beautiful mascot named Recyclesaurus, who was then conducting school visits. (I’m happy to report that a “Recycle with Recyclesaurus” program still visits preschool and early elementary classrooms, though under the auspices of the renamed Keep Phoenix Beautiful.)

My family didn’t have curbside recycling back in 1990. Now we do. So I guess that’s progress. But I don’t get the sense that disposable diapers are any less popular than they were in 1990. I get discouraged when I buy Costco toilet paper in bulk (hoping to avoid excessive packaging), only to find that both the package and the individual rolls are wrapped in plastic. And while I finally developed the self-discipline to carry cloth bags into the grocery store, I’m as guilty as anyone about using too many plastic water bottles, though I do reuse them several times before I recycle them.

I worry that our focus on the environment goes in and out of fashion depending on whatever else is grabbing our collective imagination and attention. Especially when I go back 21 years to find that nothing much has changed.

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P.S. Some RAK “small world” trivia: The baby on our cover in April 1990 was Colleen Burns, then 11 months old. Her mom, family law attorney Annette Burns, was interviewed by Vicki Louk Balint for our January 2011 article and podcast on “Why divorce attorneys stay married.”

Our story about Recyclesaurus was written by former RAK staff writer and editor Lisa Sorg-Friedman, whose husband, Daniel Friedman, took the cover photo of Colleen. After many years with the magazine, Lisa eventually moved in other career directions. Dan left professional photography for several years to pursue public school teaching but is now back on our staff as a writer and photographer.

Make my day: feedback

I was out of town most of the weekend, so I missed Saturday’s cover shoot with our 2011 Mother’s Day Cover Mom Contest winner. I’m eager to hear about it from Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams and Photographer Daniel Friedman when I get back to work on Monday.

Michelle notified our winner (whose name shall remain a secret until our May issue comes out). My job was to contact the two moms who were the runners up. They both wrote fabulous, heartfelt essays about their commitment to raising children who respect and protect our environment. So I felt very apologetic as I wrote to tell them they almost won.

“Your essay was a runner-up for our cover mom contest,” I wrote to each of the moms. “So while I’m sorry that you and your [son/daughter] won’t be on our cover, you will be receiving a gift certificate from Desert Ridge Marketplace/Tempe Marketplace.”

I wasn’t sure what kind of response to expect, but the messages that quickly came back were gracious and completely appreciative.

From Karen O’Regan of Clarkdale, adoptive mother of 12-year-old David:

Thanks so much!  I’m so pleased!!!  It is very exciting to be a runner-up! I have been a subscriber for years and appreciate your magazine. I especially appreciated the recent articles on adoption and handling grief.

From Molly Costa of Phoenix, mother of 1-year-old Keira:

How fun, that is so exciting we are a runner-up! I saw the [Facebook] post about the contest and figured, why not? It came at a perfect time because I’m just experiencing all of these “firsts” with my daughter and her enjoyment of nature and being outside. It is the best — amazing at what your kids teach you, right?

We give away a lot of great stuff each year — from cover opportunities to trips to tickets to new movies and live performances. We don’t always hear back from the people who win. So it’s very gratifying when we do. Shortly after I received those lovely messages from Karen and Molly, I heard from a mom whose family won tickets to the “Born To Be Wild 3D” movie sneak preview Saturday morning at the AMC Desert Ridge IMAX. (It opens to the public April 8.)

From Dana MacComb of Phoenix:

We had a great time! The movie was moving and lovely. We felt like we were right next to the animals.  I cried almost the entire time, very moving.  All of us agreed that it was a great family event.

And it was a great email weekend.

Make my day: Feedback

Writers and editors put a lot of information out into the universe each day and never quite know how and where it sticks. So feedback, both positive and negative, is what we live for. It tells us people are paying attention.

The following message came from Melanie Rogers, who wrote our April issue story, “The Kid’s Speech: Finding Support for a Child who Stutters.”

I had a stack of mail to go through last week, and didn’t realize the magazine was out until I received a wonderful email from someone I know who saw it. I quickly went through my mail and am so pleased with the fantastic job your editors and art [director] did with the story. Nate was thrilled to see his picture in your magazine, and I am so glad to get the word out about stuttering support.

Thank you so much for allowing me in your magazine. It’s been a favorite for years, and I’m tickled pink that I had an article published by you.

Giving positive feedback, I’ve discovered, is just as satisfying as receiving it. So I wrote back:

Glad you liked the spread, Melanie. It was nice of you to write to say so! I thought the article (which came out just after “The King’s Speech” won the Academy Award) was very timely and full of helpful information for parents. I also really enjoyed watching the video you and Nate put together…what a great thing you are doing by empowering your son to educate others about his stutter.

The video I’m referring to appears on the home page of the National Stuttering Association:

100 mompreneurs and counting

It was longtime Raising Arizona Kids contributor Brittney Walker who came up with the idea of running a weekly feature on our website about local mothers who are running businesses.

Hard to believe we’ve already profiled 100 of them in our Monday RAK Mompreneur feature.

Brittney wrote the section for awhile, until she took a break to focus on family, community and church responsibilities. (We’re happy to say she’s got the writing bug again and has several assignments in the works.)

We gave the assignment to Brooke Mortensen, who interned with us right after she graduated from college in the spring of 2010 and continues to write for us as a freelancer.

Between the two of them, Brittney and Brooke have covered a wide range of mom-owned businesses. They’ve profiled photographers, jewelry makers, cooks/caterers/bakers and candy makers. They’ve interviewed moms who make fitness fun, moms who help other moms stay organized, moms with a knack for fashion — or finding deals, or dispensing advice — and even a “multi-mompreneur” who runs several businesses concurrently.

Certainly these moms are not lacking in energy, creativity or drive. They are a diverse bunch from all kinds of backgrounds. Each has a unique and interesting story of the journey that brought her to this place in life. But there are two things  that unite them all: passion for what they do and the desire to live life on their own terms so they can keep family as their first and most important priority.

As one of the Valley’s veteran mompreneurs (we started Raising Arizona Kids 22 years ago in my then-2-year-old’s nursery), I have great respect for those priorities and a deep and empathetic appreciation for how terribly challenging it can be to live up to them.

There is nothing harder than being a mom. And there are few things harder than running a business. When you’re trying to do both, your highs are very high and  your lows are frighteningly low. On your worst days, you are ruled by questions and doubt. You wonder why you keep at it. On your best days, you feel enormous pride and a deep sense of fulfillment.

And when you’ve been at it as long as I have, you start to gain a sense of the bigger picture. It’s not just about building a business. It’s about building a community — a family of people who care about something just as deeply as you do and sometimes even more. People who have developed their own threads of friendship and meaning within a context of shared purpose that wouldn’t even exist if someone hadn’t thought, “I wonder if I could…?”