How To Build a Magazine

You will be in a very Yes-Centered phase of your life. You will have just made a personal pact with yourself to not say “no” to anything because of fear. Your dear friend who throws her whole self into her ideas will approach you and ask if you want to start a magazine with her and another woman who lives her life full to overflowing with ideas.

Your instinct will be to say, “Haha. Yeah right.” But you’ll catch yourself and know that you’re in safe hands and that you’re capable and brilliant in and of yourself and so, instead, you say, “Whatever happens, I’m here for it.” And you mean it. And you start telling people, “we’re starting a magazine” even if you’re not entirely sure what that means.

And as the weeks roll on, you’ll tell more people about it and you’ll be shocked at how many people really pick up on your vibe. They’ll resonate so hard with your concept that when you ask for submissions, you’ll have more than enough in just a few days. You’ll fill your pages with such delicious content that you’ll wonder if you’ll ever be able to do it again for the next issue. And you’ll also know with your whole heart that you’re totally going to be able to do it again. Because as excited as you were about the first issue, you’re twice as thrilled about the next one.

You’ll have stress dreams and have to start taking sleeping pills to make sure that you don’t wake up in the middle of the night, stare at the ceiling and wonder where we’ll come up with the money for the printing and shipping costs. You’ll wonder if you’ll make embarrassing mistakes that you over looked no matter how many people you had helping to proofread. You’ll wonder if anyone other than your parents will want to buy a copy even though you kind of really don’t want your parents to get their hands on a copy.

You’ll be so proud that sometimes while you’re sitting in a coffee shop, looking over the proofs, you’ll try hard not to cry until you just pack up your computer and leave to go weep in the comfort of your own vehicle in a car wash so that no one can hear you.

You’ll explain to someone what your magazine is and what it will be about and he’ll say, “Oh, so it’s like a woman thing?” And you’ll be so filled with rage that everything in your field of vision starts to go kind of white and your face gets hot and all you can muster is, “N–uh–um–no?” But what you really want to say is, “Get your dirty, disgusting gender roles off of my baby!”

And you will go to the printer and fill your car with boxes of 250 copies of this magazine that you’ve created with some of the best people you know and you won’t be able to drive because you’ve never actually known what pride feels like–not for something that you can hold in your hands.

And you will be overdressed to the party where people will come and buy their issues and celebrate with us.  Because this year has been long and this year has been hard and this year has been all about seeing yourself as a beautiful, worthy person.

I am worthy to stand in my pride. I am worthy of being seen. I am worthy of taking up too much space in this room–in the photographs. I am allowed this and I will celebrate it.

Then we will all go home and start brainstorming for the next issue and running to the post office to mail out all the copies. And people will stop you in the store to tell you how good your project is. And they’ll tell you not to stop. And you’ll say, “I can’t.”

If you want to order your own issue of &/Both Magazine, click here. Or if you happen to live in Central Kansas, you can pick it up in stores. In Lawrence at The Raven, in Salina at AdAstra Books and Coffee House, in Hutchinson at Bluebird Books. And hopefully in other spots, too.

Follow us on Instagram and Facebook so you can keep up with when we’re taking submissions and what the latest issues will be about/ when they’ll be released.


(Photos in this post were provided by Jennifer Randall, Kalene Nisly, and me.)

Only When I’m Telling the Truth

One of the most natural and acceptable getting-to-know-you questions for college students is, “what’s your major?”
“English,” I’d say.
Then they’d ask a question that was all at once boring and also deeply triggering if you, like me, didn’t have a real answer. “Oh, so what are you going to do with that?”
“I’m not sure,” is what I said for years. Then in my senior year I decided that I should start putting out there into the universe what I actually wanted. “I want to write for a living.” Pipe dreams. Everyone knew it.

Last night I sent some pieces of writing to a friend of mine. Something that I wrote without any audience in mind so I was able to be more free than usual. I was writing just to get this experience down on paper. Just because it was begging to be written.
This morning she texted me, “seriously, your writing is beautiful.”

I’m going to sound so arrogant right now but this is a compliment that I’m used to. It’s easy for me to not hear it and just say, “thanks” because I’m embarrassed by flattery. But I knew that she meant it. I knew that she was saying that something I said landed with her. My routine, robotic, “thanks” would have disregarded her. So instead of responding right away, I decided to hop in the shower and think about what that means. Because I don’t always write beautifully. I don’t always write in a way that connects with people. As I’m doing it I can tell, “this isn’t going to work. No one is going to hear this.” And I’m usually right. I don’t know how I know, I just know when it’s right and when it’s not.

What I wrote last night was vulnerable and even a little scary. It was all truth.

Right after graduation, I did get a writing job. My first grown up job. In Brookings, South Dakota at SDSU. This was great because I got to stay in a comfortable university setting but I’d get to be one of the grown ups! A department hired me to assemble their course catalogue and put it online. The writing part? Oh, I’d get to write the course descriptions. Yeah… that’s utilizing my talents! I’d spent the last four years writing whatever people asked me to write, I could do it and get paid for it for sure. Then, when the catalogue was up and running they asked me to write pamphlets for different courses and tracks and stuff like that.

It was the worst. I was terrible at it. In addition to not understanding the basic structure of how a public university operates (I went to a private school), feeling like a complete outsider, living so far away from the people that I loved (though my best friend did live with me at the time and that was an actual life-saver at times), writing because your life depends on it is horrible. I got the worst writer’s block. And not only that but this was stuff that I just didn’t care about. Which made it infinitely harder to dredge up any damns for the task at hand. I don’t care about the classes you have to take to keep your teacher’s certification. Some people do, I do not. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t force it.

When I was fired after six months, I was relieved more than anything. I vowed to never have my life depend on my creativity. It took me years to get my magic back. But my magic is back, don’t you think? I’ll be cocky, it’s fine. My magic came back this summer.

I do write for a living, now. But “for a living” means something totally different. More like: to stay alive.

After my shower, I picked up my phone and responded to my friend’s text:
“Seriously, your writing is so beautiful.”
“Only when I’m telling the truth.”

That’s the one. That’s how I know whether or not you’re going to hear what I’m saying. When I’m just filling space. When I’m hitting an arbitrarily self-imposed deadline, you don’t care. You don’t! You just don’t and that’s fine. In fact that’s good. That keeps me here in this honest space where I want to live forever.

Thank you for keeping me here.


[Feature photo by Jessica Dixon on Unsplash]