Monday, June 30, 2014

The Life and (Changing) Times

I’m about to celebrate my birthday away from home for the second time in a row. Frankly, I wasn’t wild about the idea when I realized this in April. “You’ll get to meet and network with so many cool new people!” my friends would say. “Again!” But anytime anyone brings up networking, I sort of want to puke in my mouth (because I’m awkward and unfunny, not because magazine people are particularly scary) and besides — change and I aren’t the best of friends.

Well, the times, they are a-changin.

Last year, I turned 20 on my last day in London. It felt like an impossible moment — a soft secret between myself and the rest of the world. There was a metaphorical resonance there I wasn’t quite ready to accept, I think. I had only just begun to see the beauty and joy of Bloomington, my college town, and I’d been there two years at the time. Changes were coming, though, hard and fast, all in a matter of short years. Was I ready for all of that? In the London Eye, the whole horizon looms up and over. Would I ever really know if I was ready?

I play my cards so close to the chest they might as well be in my shirt. Accepting life’s natural flexibility has always been a struggle for this closet Type A. But I see the next Big Move creeping right on down the road, just behind Senior Year of College (which is bearing down on me faster than you can say “Happy Hour or Nah,”), so living here in Washington, D.C., center of American policy and home of the wonks, has been a way to see just how far I’ve come.

It still feels sort of bizarre. But I sort of like that bizarreness, which surprises me most. I live near trees, which I didn’t expect, and the buildings aren’t so daunting or tall. I went to the gay pride parade by myself, explored Dupont Circle by myself, walked home by myself past magical, old houses. I found peace in that.

Working on Kiplinger’s Personal Finance (once appropriately called Changing Times), a magazine that takes journalism seriously, probably helps. And going into the newsrooms of idea-based publications like The Atlantic and Smithsonian certainly isn’t bad. For the first time, the idea of working for a magazine like a real adult with a real salary and real home doesn’t seem so out of my reach. It’s something I’m doing, here and now, with people who actually value my input and want me to succeed. (I knew nothing about personal finance, by the way, but after a couple weeks on the job, I can pretty intelligently explain the nuance of state tax systems, travel insurance, and cable subscriptions!) Unlike many of my peers, magazine writing was something I sort of fell into on accident, though writing, in itself, has ruled my life since I could read. It’s nice to know I might not be so bad at it in the real world— and in a place formerly unfamiliar to me.

I guess the wisdom of 20 that I hope to carry into my 21st year and beyond is this: You have to make your peace where you are. You have to take the opportunities when they appear. And you can’t let fear of the unknown rule you.

Change and I aren't besties yet. But, you know... we're getting there.

Written by Kathryn Moody, Indiana University, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance
— Edited by Kayla Elam, University of Missouri, Smithsonian Magazine

Christina Jedra: Xtina’s Journalist Alter Ego

Before becoming a journalist Christina Jedra wanted to be Christina Aguilera.

The New Jersey native and senior at Emerson College once aspired to be the singer belting out her song “I Will Be,” any time she got the chance.

Jedra further exercised her vocal cords by joining her high school choir and also performed the role of Sandy in the musical production Grease. Although she considered college musical theater programs, she ultimately chose to major in journalism, a nod to her longtime passion for magazines.

Throughout her media career she has interviewed numerous public figures including Oscar-nominated actor Terrence Howard and longtime Cosmopolitan magazine editor Kate White. Nonetheless, she would love to interview Christina Aguilera one day.

“Xtina is my girl,” she said.

This past spring semester she also studied abroad in Greece exploring her cultural heritage and further honing her journalistic skills.

“While I was there I couldn’t stop writing. I couldn’t give myself a break,” she says. “I’ve been doing some type of journalism thing since I was 15.” To satisfy the urge to write, she started her own travel blog where she documented everything from donkey rides to her packing regrets. “I would love to go back,” she said. “It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

Determined to work in magazines, she discovered the ASME program during her freshman year trolling through Google for internships. After realizing she was too young to apply, Jedra set her sights on scoring as many gigs as possible waiting for the day she could apply.

Jedra not only managed a successful travel blog, but also scored opportunities at Boston Magazine, The Boston Globe, Twist Magazine and USA Today College throughout the last three years. “To prepare for ASME I did tons of research and tons of informational interviews. I did internships and just a lot of teaching myself what I needed to know through Ed2010 and Google,” she says.

Preparations paid off as toys and friendly faces now surround Jedra, interning at Parents magazine this summer.

“I really feel like Parents is the place for me,” she says. “I think my qualifications match up perfectly with what the magazine does and I’m blown away at how nice everyone is.” Jedra is enjoying the familial atmosphere, taking all the assignments she can and has been blogging for the website. Interns tend to have horror stories, but at Parents, she feels like an integral part of the team.

Describing herself as driven, Jedra can see herself living in New York after graduation working at either a women’s service magazine or a general interest magazine. But no matter where she goes, she aspires to make a positive difference in people's lives through her writing.

Written by Alexis Reliford, Northwestern State University, ESSENCE 
Edited by Dora Grote, University of Iowa, Washingtonian

Friday, June 27, 2014

Every Fact Counts

This past Monday, while everyone else was easing into the work week, I was running around Times Square in search of a 64 oz. bottle of laundry detergent.

As an intern at Real Simple for the last four weeks, I’ve learned that accuracy is a priority for the magazine. Most facts are pretty easy to confirm. The spelling of a name? A quick phone call. A person’s professional title? An official website will suffice. But when an expert recommended a specific detergent that she prefers because of its smaller length and width than other bottles, I knew I had to get creative. That's how I found myself at the Duane Reade on the corner of 51st St. and 7th Ave. with a measuring tape in hand (the intern gods were on my side—I coincidentally had a tape measure in my bag that day), receiving a handful of weird looks.

It may seem trivial to put so much effort into such a small fact, but it just proves the importance of being factually correct is still alive in the magazine world—an industry that is sometimes misrepresented as a gossip mill. As the weeks at Real Simple have gone by, I’ve realized the purpose of a women’s service magazine is to actually be of service, which can only be done if the information we share is accurate.

The thing I love most about Real Simple is the compassion that each and every staff member has for the readers. Sure, I crave the excitement of covering a red carpet event that some of my peers get to experience. But then I imagine one Real Simple woman poring over the magazine to ease her anxieties during the planning stages of her Fourth of July barbecue and another seeing a response to the question she wrote in that begged for help with her obnoxious mother-in-law.

These women see Real Simple as their BFF, the one source they can confide in that totally will not judge them for questioning the difference between chiffon and dupioni silk (and whether each fabric is machine washable). The fact that I get to spend my internship making sure the information we give these women is truthful makes confirming every single fact—no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential—worth it.

-Written by Lindsey Murray, Temple University, Real Simple
-Edited by Kristin Doherty, Drake University, The Knot

Jane Claire Hervey: Crushing Creepy-Crawlies

There is a cockroach in the apartment.

It’s the East Village in the summer, all sun-soaked sidewalks and rose-tinted skies. Sunglassed, shoes clicking, people stroll the streets with the glamorous nonchalance that can only exist in soft-focused New York.

And there is a cockroach in the apartment. A glassy-backed, furry-bristled cockroach.

The girls go running. But Jane Claire Hervey faces it down, unflinching.

She’s the unequivocal exterminator, the de facto Grim Reaper of rancid roaches. People joke that when we’ve successfully polluted our world to the peak of inhabitation, all that will remain are landfills and cockroaches. Maybe it’s because of their enduring black-armored shells. Maybe it’s just because we’re all too squeamish to go after them.

Hervey is not afraid of cockroaches.
*  *  *
She makes friends with strangers on the street. Day and night, she’ll find someone new to connect with. Laughing, she says that’s contingent on how much she’s been sleeping and how much she’s been drinking. She doesn’t sleep much.

She breezily refers to the people she meets as her friends, and they are. At a party the other week, Hervey met someone who works in the same building as she does, where she spends the days working at Reader’s Digest.

They’ll be getting lunch tomorrow.

She walks into random open mic nights to sing. Before she decided to study journalism, Hervey dreamed of being a songwriter, particularly drawn to the bar atmosphere. New to the city, she walked into a bar and up to a microphone, guitar in tow, to lay her lyrics on the line.

“That’s not really a viable career,” she says. “But it’s always been my love.”

She boldly tells people that they need her help. Just a few weeks ago, she picked up a subculture magazine and found it riddled with errors. Instead of tossing it, she took up the chance to pitch in.

“I emailed the editor saying, ‘Hey, your issue is full of mistakes. Can I come into the office and talk to you about it?” she said. Now she’s coaxed it into a new internship for Friday afternoons and Saturdays.

She’s got a litany of aspirations that stretch from here back to her native Texas. After the summer ends, she plans to head back to the University of Texas at Austin for just one more semester, graduate early, freelance forward and begin her own magazine on music festival culture. She’s the first to admit it’s a risk, but she’s setting her sights out and up.

And with a flick of her plucky peroxide-streaked bob, a twist of her Jeffrey Campbell lookalike booties, she’ll crush down any obstacles along the way. Especially when they’re glassy-backed and furry-bristled.

—Written by Gabriela Riccardi, Syracuse University, Family Circle
—Edited by Varun Nayar, Grinnell College, Fast Company

Thursday, June 26, 2014

On Building Homes and the Pursuit of Things

Last year, I left New York on a Tuesday morning, before the city had fully become itself. In the taxi, my driver hummed and lilted to the cracking radio but all I heard was the drumming of rain on aluminum. Because he may have seen a piece of himself on my skin, he asked me where I was from, and after giving it some thought, I retorted, "originally?"
We carry our homes so many places we go—bend them into pictures and postcards, emails and long-distance phone calls. Although I have a house in New Delhi, India, I have had the fortune of calling a litany of places ‘home.’
During my first week in New York City, I revisited all the places I loved last summer, from the Central Park Reservoir, to Dumbo, to a small bar on 23rd and Lexington that still remembers my face. I built tiny homes in all these places and all these places built tiny homes in me. That’s what places like New York give you ultimately, if nothing else—stories. It truly is the city’s odd paradox; it can mean so many things to so many people, but still remain utterly and irrevocably yours.
On some level, I will always be a writer first, and then a reporter. In my teen years, I spent most of my time lolling around my home and dorm room, ruthlessly inhaling page after page of Carver and Chekov, of Barthelme and Munro. On the simplest possible level, I was hypnotized by the worlds these authors fabricated from just their minds. I was drawn to journalism as a result of a similar impulse; the pursuit of new worlds, ones created and ones being lived.
Jump ahead to high school, the boarding school I attended (atop a remote hill range in southeast India) had a small but resourceful library that carried outdated versions of two magazines: Rolling Stone and The New Yorker. Between classes (we weren’t allowed to use cellphones during weekdays, go figure), I’d comb through issue after issue, my slow but growing obsession wasn’t the least bit stifled by the fact that I probably wasn’t the core demographic of either.
Jump to last summer, as I sat on the 18th floor of the Time & Life building in New York as an intern for Fortune, I continued my obsessions in the form of introductory emails, armies of them, sent to Conde Naste and Rolling Stone, the subject line always the same—please love me back. Naturally, I never heard from them— there was nothing ‘human’ or ‘resourceful’ about the auto-reply emails that suffocated my inbox. Through time, I convinced myself that there was more to magazines than Jann Wenner and David Remnick. I loved working at Fortune and met a team of amazing reporters and editors who, later, were happy to see me get into the ASME program and continue pursuing magazines.
Jump to today; I sit in the heart of the Financial District, working for a magazine that I didn’t know existed three months ago, but now am completely in love with. Working for Fast Company has given me a broader perspective of what a magazine can do for people. As I’ve learnt time and time again, a magazine isn’t just the words written inside it, it’s a package.
Two weeks ago, I got in touch with John Dioso from Cosmopolitan and asked if he’d like to get lunch. Within an hour, he responded and we met the next day. When I asked him what he thought got him into Rolling Stone, he laughed and told me “among other things, going to that barbeque where I met the photo editor of the magazine.” So much depends on chance that it can often be disheartening for an aspiring writer and journalist to even dream—there is no fixed formula for serendipity. But just over the course of this past month with the ASME program and the people I’ve met through it; I’ve been constantly reaffirmed of the fact that if you write what you love and love to write, things will be all right in the end. The summer is only half over, but my plans to come back to the city after graduation have already begun to take form.
Honestly, I don’t really know where I’m going to end up five years down the line—whether in magazines at all. But I can take comfort in the fact that I can trust my gut to take me to new places where I can continue building new homes. That’s the basis of my love for the practice really—to keep writing, keep experiencing, keep learning, and above all else, to keep pursuing.

––Written by Varun Nayar, Grinnell College, Fast Company
—Edited by Dora Grote, University of Iowa, Washingtonian

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Editors Are People Too

Every time they walked into a room all I could do is stare. I tried my hardest to look calm, cool and collected, but on the inside I clammed up in awe, each time one was near me. I, a mass communication major, could never find a single word to say and frozen there I stood.

This was how I used to react whenever I saw or met a magazine editor. Blame the "Devil Wears Prada", "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" and those other magazine T.V. shows and movies. I’ll admit it — I was intimidated. But after being accepted into the ASME program and being surrounding by editors from magazines near and far, I now know editors are people, too; they’re just like us.

Okay, well maybe not exactly like us. Professionally they are what we as interns aspire to be, but they’re also just regular human beings. They consume gallons and gallons of Starbucks coffee. They watch "Orange is the New Black" on Netflix. They’re just as into reality TV shows as we are, and yet they still manage to run a magazine.

Day-by-day I learn more about the editorial side of magazines, but through ASME I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to meet and form a real connection with editors, an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

I’ve been amazed at how candidly editors share stories about their journey to their respective job titles, their family and their interests outside of magazines. Learning more about the individual editor not only relaxes my nerves a little, but it also makes me want to read the magazines they lead. I strive to uncover how the editor manages to merge their personality with the brand.

If you had told me this would be happening to me six months ago, I would’ve said you were crazy. Never in a million years would I have dreamed of meeting the editors of some of my favorite titles, let alone getting to hear details about their lives that Google couldn’t tell me.

This is why ASME is so amazing. The program provides a whole new perspective on this career field. It’s not just about the paycheck or the résumé line, or even the clips; it’s about networking. Networking and relationship building are key stepping-stones in this industry. It’s all about who you know and the more I learn about the individuals the more connected I feel to everything.

So now when the editor of Essence walks into the room, my heart might skip a beat, but then I remember she’s just like me, sipping on Starbucks and trying to save the world with one feature story at a time.

Written by Alexis Reliford, Northwestern State University of Louisiana, Essence 
Edited by Jessica Fecteau, Central Michigan University, People

A Midwesterner Takes a Bite Out of the Big Apple

Anna Hensel is midwest maiden looking to make her mark on the magazine industry in New York City. As a rising senior journalism major at Creighton University in Nebraska, Hensel was thrilled to accept her spot in the prestigious ASME program, but wasn’t so keen in calling the big city her new home.

“I had visited New York City only once before, in my junior year of high school and I didn't hate it, but I definitely didn't love it either,” Hensel said. “I thought it was going to be this super cool cosmopolitan city and we were in Times Square and there were so many people and I was like ‘I don’t like this, it’s dirty, it’s crowded, it’s just not what I like.'”

Anna Hensel on her first day of work at Inc.
But something happened to change her mind this second time around.

“Before I got this internship I never pictured myself living in New York City. I honestly just didn't think it would ever happen for me. All of those movies are like, ‘if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,’ so I was like, 'oh I’ll never get a chance to work there.' But now that I’m here, I’m like 'okay, maybe I really can do this after all.'”

Hensel said walking to the front of her new dorm apartment and seeing how homey it looked in comparison to some of the other parts of town was a pleasant surprise that helped aid her moving process.

“When I got to my dorm the first day and I saw it I was like: ‘Okay, there are like normal size buildings around. Okay, I can do this. This looks like a place where people can actually live.’”

It wasn’t until stepping inside that she reached her next speedbump.

“We found a cockroach in our apartment on the first day,” Hensel said. But after a little extermination and exploring her neighborhood, Hensel grew to enjoy her new habitat.

“I’ve actually really liked it, surprisingly,” she said. “I like the neighborhood and being able to walk to a lot of places. I don't really like how expensive it is, but it’s been pretty good so far.”

Hensel’s twin sister never doubted her success in the Big Apple.

“I think Anna has always liked living in bigger cities, with a lot of bigger topics to learn and write about,” Angela Hensel, Anna’s sister, said. “Part of this is surprising because we've grown up in the midwest, but it’s cool because we've travelled a lot more in college and we are realizing that there are other places in the world. It’s really surprising to learn that about yourself.”

While both sisters said it has been tough living so far apart, they noted that it’s nothing they haven’t done before. For one semester, Anna studied abroad in Denmark while Angela lived in New Zealand. Angela is also a journalism major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, so they have “kind of learned to thrive” on their own.

Anna said the ASME program is another resource that has helped her make the best of this new environment.

“I love the ASME program so far,” she said. “I don’t know why every journalism student doesn’t apply for this program. Like Sid [Chief Executive of ASME] said on the first day, it’s really a holistic internship program. They really take care of you to make sure you know how to succeed and how to navigate the magazine industry.”

And so far this summer, Hensel has been working hard to do just that.

As an intern for the business publication Inc. Magazine, Hensel has been working with a fellow intern and freelance editor on a large fact-checking project. She said she plans to work on even more editorial stuff in the future such as pitching and writing stories. She also admits that the “business-y” subject matter, which was at first a challenge, has now become quite interesting.

“What I love about journalism is that you get to learn about stuff that you’ve never studied before,” she said. “I really like being exposed to this completely new field, because it’s a business magazine and I have not taken a business class in college. But it’s all just really interesting.”

Having adjusted to life in New York, Hensel said she wouldn’t mind coming back for a while after graduation.

“I could see myself out here for a few years or maybe more, although I do really like it in the midwest. I love Minnesota!"

But for Hensel it really all boils down to learning and taking on new experiences.

“Really, I just love learning, and that's why I became a journalist. I don't want to spend the rest of my life doing the same thing day-in and day-out. I just want to work for a magazine where I can do and learn a lot of different things.”

––Written by Kevin Schultz, Northern Kentucky University, Scientific American
––Edited by Lindsey Murray, Temple University, Real Simple

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ideas, Unimpeded

At Family Circle, I'm lucky enough to be in an environment where I'm seen as a coworker with something to contribute rather than just a mail-collecting intern. My additions are appreciated. My thoughts are respected. My input is valued. So it's not uncommon for an editor to pop her head over our shared cubicle wall or shoot me an exclamation point-peppered email to ask me for story ideas. I've been able to pitch to three sections for our October and November issues so far, and it's been a thrill. 

But even while engaged in the most energizing tasks and brainstorms, I notice that my creativity can stagnate when I'm locked into routine. And as I currently slog through my morning commute, I'm feeling it: the sluggish pull, my mind dragging itself from thought to thought. Wake up to my car-horn alarm. Haul myself to the 7:30 NJ Transit bus. Pull into Port Authority, dully wander on the train across town if I'm feeling languid. Four stops. Slosh through the bodies of the subway station and finally, finally emerge above ground in the blinking sunlight. 

Slog, slug, slosh. These are not the onomatopoeic zingers I want to begin work with. And they’re certainly not going to help this intern perform at top speed or get published. I want my thoughts to flow, my ideas to spring, and my pitches to flood. So I’ve schemed up a few tricks to unblock my brain and let the tide of ideas stream in.

Start the day with a creative challenge. The first thing I do when I come in every day is write up a to-do list to boost myself for the day ahead. But I toss in an extra task: begin the list by making it look entirely different from the last. Now, three weeks’ worth of to-doodles sit on my desk, each a reminder that it’s always possible to find a new way of expression. I’ve found that when words are drifting listlessly in my head, I can coax them into order by first stretching out with visual thinking. Consider them cranial calisthenics. 

Surround myself with inspiration. Since that 7:30 bus usually gets me into the office before the rest of the staff arrives, I've taken some early-morning time to decorate my workspace. When I find myself in a mental snag, I glance to a vintage poster of the Duomo on my right and think of my last semester studying abroad in Florence -- the easygoing Italian lifestyle and the openness I had developed to simple, unhurried wandering for discovery. I've stashed a screengrab of Klimt's Beethoven Frieze behind my computer, the golden, paradisaical exultation in a journey completed. They both remind me to pull back on the pressure to produce, produce, produce. Ideas will come, and I'll celebrate when they do.

Cloud, doodle, and freethink. For those tip-of-the-tongue but not-quite-there moments, I prod my brainstorming along to eventually find the words and ideas that I hope for. Sometimes it takes clingy one-on-one time with my web thesaurus, and sometimes it takes furious scribbling with every word association I can scrawl on my notepad. But usually, the digging I do helps me find the sprout of an idea. Thinking "July" led to sun, which led to beach, which led to the beachside reads idea I suggested as a poll for our Facebook page.

It isn't always easy to unstifle a sleepy, routinized mind, but I've found my little ways to keep sharp while interning and trying to put out the best work that I can. Block, consider yourself busted.

Written by Gabriela Riccardi, Syracuse University, Family Circle
Edited by Anna Hensel, Creighton University, Inc.