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even longer (was: re: ceramic magazine articles (long))

updated fri 24 may 02


Dave Gayman on thu 23 may 02

As a former magazine editor (metalworking manufacturing, not clay), I can
tell you, yes, repetition is the norm. Reasons:
-- you audience is constantly changing and new additions tend to be
younger, at earlier stages of their careers
-- certain basic things suddenly become very important at a given stage
of your development -- and *your* staging happens randomly in relation to
that of all the other subscribers... centering is a total mystery when you
begin, glaze dipping is a voyage into the unknown a long time later, and
regulation of fuel and air a thorny issue yet further on... covering all
three in one issue is not a bad thing
-- good veteran practitioners rarely beef about reading up on basics,
because they are the things you tend to forget (at your peril, in some
cases)... in the same way, every major league batting practice tends to be
repetition of the basics... and major advances in almost everything
technical have occurred when someone has added a tiny wrinkle to a
long-known basic, dramatically shaking up traditional views of things
(think how the knowledge that clay matures as the result of both heat and
time led old professor Orton to develop the pyrometric cone, and how the
cone has changed the way we fire)
-- there are only so many things you can actually write about, and
technique lends itself to more or less objective description, where
inspiration or spirituality, clay philosophy and other real but intangible
aspects are very tough subjects

Most importantly, editors study and weigh a fascinating spread of things:
-- the learning process involved in becoming a professional practitioner
and try to pick out areas that would make good articles
-- the fact that most contributors have something to sell or a
larger-than-ordinary ego to itch, and you try to think of creative ways to
minimize the artifacts of these things (which are largely uninteresting to
most of your readers) and turn the subject around to an article that
readers want to pay attention to
-- anything the editor can learn about the audience (the magazine I
worked on had readership surveys that over time showed topics and handling
that consistently garnered the highest readership)
-- input from the best practitioners to make sure that new or
hard-to-face or "difficult" areas (which would never show up with a high
ranking on a readership study) get the coverage they deserve

Editors always try to get good material, and how any one editor defines
that is complex.

You, as a magazine writer or contributor, are positioned between the editor
and your subject. You need to serve both of these constituencies by doing
justice to the subject and by slanting your story in a way that makes sense
for the editor.

How do you find what editors want? While some editors are not
approachable, and all at one time or other are immersed in deadlines or
finishing up copy, the majority take the time to talk about potentially
interesting material.

Call up the magazine you have in mind and spend time on the phone with as
many editors as you can reach to see what they want to cover. Find out
what sorts of supporting exhibits they like (photos, charts, sidebar
summaries of studies, etc. that support the points in the article). If the
magazine has an editorial calendar, that will show you the main points the
magazine wants to cover for a year... but know that the calendar is only
33-50% of the total content, and new stuff is always welcome.


At 12:25 AM 5/23/2002 -0400, you wrote:
>As I read more and more about ceramics as each issue of the magazines I
>subscribe to appear at my door, and as I go back and look at old back
>from over a decade ago, I notice a lot of repetition. Not repetition of
>artists profiled.......
>I've recently begun noticing the repetition of wood firing and descriptions
>of wood firing processes as well as the abundance of repetition about how
>people saggar or pit fire.
>Anyway, I'm not really complaining, I'm just wondering if this is normal