Producing Protégés

Christmas, 2009 / No. 23

To say that small magazines live in a bubble, unaffected by poor economic conditions such as the ones that have taken their toll on many larger, more commercial magazines over the past year, would be a bit of an exaggeration. Generally, though, small magazines make such little money from things such as advertising that they aren’t affected in the same way bigger magazines are when times get tough, often relying instead on government arts grants to pay the bills.

But while it often paints itself as something of an outsider, Taddle Creek feels a strong camaraderie with its fellow magazines, and watching many of its friends throughout the industry suffer over the past year has been unpleasant, to say the least. Good magazines folded, talented people lost their jobs, and a number of internship programs were cancelled, giving the industry leaders of tomorrow a significantly smaller number of entry points into the publishing world. 

Taddle Creek has never had an internship program because, frankly, given its low frequency, there’s not a lot for an intern to do around here. Oh, the magazine could have someone sit around the office and praise every move it made, writing anonymous fan letters to Derek McCormack and making cherry Cokes and chocolate malts for the staff, but recent events got Taddle Creekthinking that maybe it could, and should, do more.

Earlier this year, the magazine decided to create a protégé program, through which young would-be magazine makers could learn from industry professionals. Taddle Creek asked nearly two dozen friends, representing more than ten publications, a few presses and publishers, and a handful of other organizations, if they’d each be willing to spend at least an hour with a Taddle Creekprotégé, and try to give them a rudimentary understanding of their area of expertise—from editorial to art to production to circulation to advertising. It was no short order, but every single person Taddle Creek asked said yes. And so, out went the call for the first ever Taddle Creek Protégé Internmentship. The magazine was not looking for the most impressive résumé or the hugest batch of clippings, but rather a genuine show of enthusiasm for magazines (not just literary) and all they had to offer, plus at least a passing interest in bowling and an ability to drink. 

Dozens applied, a surprising number of whom were qualified. (An even more surprising number claimed that their bowling skills increased significantly the more alcohol they consumed.) Taddle Creek met some lovely people during the interview process and, in the end, couldn’t pick just one protégé, so it picked two: Kasey Coholan, a political science and peace studies graduate with a master of globalization from McMaster who interned at the Walrus earlier this year, and fell in love with magazines as a result; and Jennifer Marston, a lawyer who decided recently that family law wasn’t litigious enough and opted for a life in the crime-filled world of publishing. 

During the initial six-month-intensive portion of their internmentship, Jen and Kasey learned how to pitch a story, to fact-check, the difference between copy-editing and proofreading, to read a bar code, what those little numbers mean on insert cards, and so much more. They were also able to watch and take part in the process of putting together this issue, and along the way even managed to prevent Nathaniel G. Moore from burning down the backyard of the Jet Fuel at the summer launch. Both protégés have expressed interest in hanging around for another six months (the internmentship is very part-time) to put some of what they’ve learned to use on the next issue, and maybe even learn a little more while they’re at it. They’ll leave Taddle Creek in June with a more rounded understanding of the magazine industry than the average journalism graduate, a small honorarium, a lovely selection of gifts (some courtesy of the program’s sponsors, Steam Whistle Brewing and Magazines Canada), a bunch of leftover business cards (especially Kasey, who seems hesitant to hand them out), and the satisfaction of a job well done. Don’t take Taddle Creek’s word for it: follow their adventures at 

The Taddle Creek Protégé Internmentship has been so rewarding for the magazine that it’s going to try it again next year. Would-be protégés should keep an eye on internship in early 2010 to find out more about how and when to apply. Start practising your bowling now. 

Sink-or-Swim Time

About those arts grants mentioned above, the ones that allow small magazines to weather economic storms. Well, earlier this year, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore decided small magazines should sink or swim, and proposed killing a grant that helped so many arts magazines grow and, in some cases, stay afloat. He also proposed serious limitations on which magazines would be able to apply for Heritage funding in the future, including a long-standing postal subsidy, without which the cost of mailing periodicals becomes incredibly prohibitive. 

Taddle Creek certainly feels there’s a time and a place for sink-or-swim mentality, but the fact is, in a country with the immense size and small population of Canada, publishing an arts magazine of decent quality is nearly impossible without grants. So the question is: Do arts magazines serve any purpose? Should the federal government support a sector its citizens can’t or won’t sustain on their own, or are only mainstream commercial arts desirable? 

As a magazine about to lose about forty per cent of its revenue, Taddle Creek obviously is biased in this argument. But if this is a subject of interest to you, the magazine encourages you to read up on it and, if so moved, drop a line to Minister Moore and tell him what you think of him, be it good or bad. It doesn’t cost anything to mail him a letter (must be nice!). And if so moved even further, consider sending Taddle Creek twelve dollars for a two-year subscription—the price is probably going to have to go way, way up soon.   

Goodbye Isn’t Farewell

Taddle Creek is sad to report that the Halloween, 2008, issue officially was the last for its in-house illustrator, Ian Phillips. Ian has been with the magazine since its second issue, published in 1998, and it’s safe to say that, through his work, he has been the public face of Taddle Creek. Along with his work in these pages, Ian has illustrated the magazine’s Web site, its merchandise, its in-house documents, and a very successful direct-mail campaign. Ian’s a busy guy these days, with illustration work and book design projects a-plenty, and he tells Taddle Creek that, after ten-plus years, it’s time to move on. Taddle Creek can not stress enough how important Ian has been to its look, its feel, and its success. Thankfully, Ian will continue to draw Tad, the magazine’s beatnik mascot, and Taddle Creek hopes to get him to draw a cover or two in the future as well. Ian is going out on a high note, with a co-nomination at this year’s National Magazine Awards, in the Words and Pictures category—alongside Thomas Blanchard, Kevin Connolly, Grant Heaps, and Conan Tobias—for “Night of the Sewist,” a photo spread of Halloween costumes designed by Ian and Grant. Best of luck, Ian. Taddle Creek is sorry to see you go.

With this issue, Taddle Creek is also saying goodbye to Mr. Andrew Daley, the magazine’s associate editor. Andrew has been with Taddle Creek since Issue No. 1, when the magazine published his first short story. Andrew filled in as a guest editor for two issues in 2003, when Taddle Creek was between associates, and the magazine liked him so much it asked him to stay officially. Andrew has the keen ability to spot a good story in the submission pile, and also to spot a potentially good story and offer up just the right editorial suggestions to make it great. He’s also a damn fine salesman and bowler. The magazine has seen a lot of growth and success during Andrew’s tenure, and Taddle Creek would be remiss not to give him some of the credit for that. Andrew’s a great guy to have around, and he’ll be missed. He assures Taddle Creek he is not leaving altogether, just reverting to his original role of “contributor.” So readers can expect to see his byline again in the future . . . provided his work makes it past his eventual successor.   

Andrew’s position likely will be filled by a series of guest editors for the time being, while the job of illustrator will be held, beginning this issue, by Matthew Daley, who, in the nicest of coincidences, happens to be Andrew’s long-lost cousin.