39,453 Words Later: The First Year Anniversary
Pals, you know what today is? It’s the first anniversary of The Jill Margo Mini-Mag. As part of a natural evolution, my changing interests, and feedback from readers over the past year, I’ve re-designed the Mini-Mag. This transition issue will give you a meta-textual preview of the all-new Volume Two.
For starters, the Mini-Mag is now delivered on Fridays. Many of you told me you like to save the Mini-Mag for weekend reading when you, presumably, can lounge in bed like an overpriced trollop (I include the fellas in this), a croissant in one hand, your tablet in the other. Conversely, lots of you say that you like reading the Mini-Mag when the work day is at its longest. Sending it close to the weekend, but still during the day, feels like a good compromise between the two.
You can see with your own peepers that, visually, things are freshened up too. I hope the Mini-Mag feels visually richer, while still being clean and uncluttered.
Now, I know a lot of you really like the random themes, but I’ve let that constraint go. As enjoyable as it was at first to plan and write that way, it had become cumbersome. However, I suspect that future issues may have themes emerge organically through the content.
Below, you’ll get a preview of the three new columns (yes, three!) I’m introducing (including one you can contribute to), so for now I’ll just talk about what’s replacing the Making the Work column. I now think of this location in the Mini-Mag as the lead story spot, rather than a column. I’ll still write about the writing life here, but I’ll also take the opportunity to write about other things to do with arts, culture, and human interest.
For me, the Mini-Mag is at its best when it’s an extension of my writing practice and interests on the whole. Over the last year, I’ve come to think that the forms that suit me most are personal essays and narrative journalism (using literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives) mixed with immersion journalism (the writer immersed in the situation with the people involved). In other words, I’ve settled firmly on being a creative nonfiction writer and I want the lead story to be, well, a mini version of my favourite forms.
How this will manifest is with personal essays (e.g. “Finder’s Weepers”, the story about the five dollar bill) and immersive cultural reportage (e.g. “HackLab.TO Open House”), which you already know me for. Other kinds of mini-essays could appear too (e.g. “On Pocket Notebooks”). I may also consider writing humour pieces. On the other hand, there may be some pieces that are more serious than what you’re used to reading from me. I want to be free to experiment a little.
The great thing is that I have you as a barometer. You let me know—by emailing and Tweeting and filling out reader surveys—what you really respond to. It was scary starting the Mini-Mag, but letting people into my process has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself as a writer. Writing can be a lonely, volatile profession and it helps tremendously to know that one has readers. There are now hundreds of you who read the Mini-Mag and every time someone shares it on social media or does some kind of shout-out, more people subscribe. It’s been so heartening.
Las week, I added up the word counts for all thirty issues so far. The total? 39,453 words... which is about the length of a novella or a slim, elegant novel. I kind of feel like I deserve a gold star. But you should get a gold star too because it feels like we’ve been in this together. Thanks, Mini-Maggers. I hope you enjoy Volume Two.
THERE, THERE // A Reassurance Project
Over the past year, people have suggested that I should write an advice column. I’m not sure how comfortable I am giving advice. I think I’m better at commiseration—like Mary Oliver, “I have no answers, but I may have suggestions.”
So, There, There is my spin on an advice column. It’s a reassurance column. You are invited to anonymously submit a question, a confession, or a concern—be it big and hairy or mundane and goofy—and I’ll respond with an open letter that’ll feel like getting your head stroked.
There were a few inspirations for this column. Last year, I sent out a reader survey and asked, “If you were featured in the Mini-Mag, what would the article or interview be about?” One person, who seemed sincere, replied, “It’d be about how I pooped my pants at work last week.” So, I wrote an open letter “To the Person Who Pooped Themselves at Work Last Week” and readers said it was one of their favourite columns ever.
I’m also one of those community-minded people and I just really want a way to engage readers and get to know you more, even if it is anonymously. I bet I’ll get to know you even better that way.
I’m thinking of There, There as a project, because I don’t yet know how sustainable it’ll be. The thing is that it depends on your participation to work. Especially at the get-go. So, if you like the idea, I encourage you to submit—the sooner, the better!
To submit, all you have to do is visit this link. Even if you’re not submitting, go check it out because I spent time making it look nice and I’d like to know what you think. It’ll be there as long as the project lasts, which means it may be there in your time of need—whether it’s because you want to confess to someone that you pooped your pants at work, or because you’re concerned about the fact that bank tellers no longer hand you cash with the heads all facing the same way, or you want to know if it’s okay that you’re forty years old and have never cleaned an oven. I’ll be there to reassure you.
THREE THINGS // Things I Like That You Might Like
The new third column will be a listicle. This lickable-sounding term (to be clear, I’m thinking of popsicles) is a portmanteau of the words list + article, which means it’ll be a list, with only a touch of expatiation, so a quick read.
The listicle will consist of three things, with links, that are currently in my mental scrapbook—so, basically things I’m reading, listening to, watching, experiencing, and generally being lit up by. Austin Kleon, author of Show Your Work (a wee book that I’m evangelical about), calls this opening your cabinet of curiosities. “These mental scrapbooks form our tastes,” he says, “and our tastes influence our work.”
I’d include a listicle now, but I’m too busy:
- Listening to Carolyn Mark albums on Spotify because she’s my new subject for a long form narrative/immersive piece.
- Finally reading Joan Didion’s vintage essay collection, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which mainly describes her experiences in Califonia in the 1960s
- Prepping for today's return of Orange is the New Black on Netflix (which, if PR is to believed, will be the most Sapphic season yet).
THE ONE QUESTION INTERVIEW // Featuring Someone Creative and Interesting
The One Question Interview will feature some creative person, who’s in the public eye, answering one slightly esoteric question about themselves. That’s it. Nothing else, except a mini-bio and a link to something of theirs on the Internet.
The idea behind this column is to expand the world of the Mini-Mag and include other voices. Plus, it’s a way to introduce readers to interesting people doing interesting things.
Suggestions on interview subjects are more than welcome, including suggesting yourself, so don't be shy—especially if you have some kind of new project on the go. All you have to do is get in touch.