Last night, I had the opportunity to attend an event hosted by my graduate program, A Talk with Pat Carbine. Carbine is a magazine woman and has worked at many magazines over the years, but she’s most well-known for co-founding Ms Magazine.
There were many things I took away from the talk, but when I went through my notes again this morning, one thing stuck out the most in my notes.
Be worth listening to.
It’s actually a bit out of context – Ms. Carbine was speaking about coherence and arranging language carefully when she talked about it – but for some reason, that one fragment of a sentence stuck in my mind and has been sitting there all night. What makes a person or a writer worth listening to? Why do I listen to (or read) the people and writers that I enjoy?
These things, I think, are all important to consider, especially as I think about my future career as a writer, editor, and/or publisher. I want to know I’ve done my job in the most complete and thorough way, especially since what I’m currently doing is about giving an underrepresented group better access to things they’re interested in.
Another thing from last night’s talk that stuck with me was when Ms. Carbine talked about magazines that draw people in just with the headlines of articles, transforming a one-time reader into a regular subscriber:
When that happens, editors have done what I think is the magic of publishing: given you something you didn’t know you wanted to read until you saw it in front of you.
That is also magic: being able to define something I’d thought or even known for a long time without having any real definition. I have always thought of publishing as magical, especially in terms of books, because many of my favorite books are ones I didn’t know I wanted or needed until I read them for the first time.
Towards the end of her talk, Ms. Carbine discussed the launch of Ms Magazine and the way she and the rest of the staff conducted their market research: printing thousands of copies of the magazine and setting them on newsstands across the country. They received 20,000 subscription cards and letters back, which – Carbine said – told them that despite what the staff had been told, Ms Magazine had a national market.
The thing Ms. Carbine mentioned about the letters themselves – that women were writing in to say “I’m not the only one – I’m not alone” – speaks to me as a writer, as an editor, and as a reader. When I read, I want to read something that shows me I’m not alone in the things I think or the things I feel. As an editor, that should be my main objective: to find manuscripts that show readers they’re not alone, either. That, I think, is what makes any writer really worth listening to.
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