At work with: Angharad Lewis, writer/editor

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Angharad Lewis is a London-based writer, editor and lecturer whose name will be familiar to readers of Grafik and many other design-orientated sites, books and magazines. Her latest book is published this week; ‘So You Want To Publish a Magazine’ is a pocket-sized series of interviews with publishers, printers and distributors that is set to become an indespensible guide for wannebee magazine-makers. We catch up with her as the book arrives in shops.

Angharad working 2

Where are you today?
At my kitchen table. I work mostly from home and I’ve tried a few spots around the house, but I keep gravitating back to the kitchen table. Maybe it’s the proximity to the coffee pot. The table is really long and thin and accumulates all kinds of crap, from kids’ toys to unopened post, but I just clear a space and I’m off…

What can you see from the window?
I have a view out to our little garden on one side, which is calming but also tempting if I’m feeling prone to procrastinate – there’s always a spot that needs watering or some weeds to pull up, and once I’m out there time disappears dangerously. On the other side I get a view of (or should that be, the view is blotted out by) our very large, ungainly, homemade woodshed. But we don’t talk about that.

j17

Which magazine do you first remember?
There was an early dalliance with Just17, but it was too boys-boys-boys and problem page-y. In my mind Just17 is juxtaposed quite absurdly with the National Geographics my dad had in his study – metres and metres of yellow spines and mind-blowing photographs inside.

smash hits

I soon discovered Smash Hits!, which I loved and devoured. I distinctly remember the comments from ’The Ed’ in parenthesis – it’s the first time I remember being aware, albeit in a pretty abstract fashion, of the editorial voice and the fact that there was a bunch of people sitting somewhere putting a magazine together. I was completely fascinated.

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That was about 1989, 1990 and I soon graduated through various music magazines — Select, The Face and the NME, which I read avidly in my late teens. I made the pilgrimage to my local WHSmith each and every Wednesday lunchtime when I was in the sixth form, to pick up the latest issue. Those magazines accompanied me through many rights of passage, my early gig-going days and they form a sort of papery backdrop to teenage friendship.

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What’s your favourite magazine this morning?
I’m finally getting round to giving MacGuffin issue no.2 a proper read. It’s a new discovery for me – I love the concept of a magazine inspired by the life of things (a whole  200+ pages inspired by the humble window!) and I was drawn to it’s Dutch-ness. I like magazines that poke about in corners you would otherwise never have encountered.

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Also by my side is the latest Monocle, which I bagged on a recent visit to Midori House to take part in a radio interview for Monocle24. It’s been a while since I read it but I’m enjoying getting reacquainted.

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Did developing the book inspire you to want to produce your own magazine?
Ever since Caroline Roberts and I signed off the last print issue of Grafik at the end of 2011 we’ve been hankering to get it back in print. It’s such a loaded thing though – Grafik magazine was our lives for many years and we went through a lot of ups and downs, so if it ever comes back in print it will have to be just the right moment and just the right incarnation.

Working on the book certainly got me fired up – I have at least one idea percolating. I think pulling together lots of knowledge from other magazine-makers for the book helped me to see quite clearly, and analytically what you have to nail in order to make a magazine succeed. If I ever get to a point in my life when I have the time to devote to turning those ideas into a magazine, it might happen.

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What is the single most essential piece of advice for prospective publishers you picked up?
There was such a lot of really great advice, so it’s hard to boil it down to one. Often there are slightly contradictory things like ‘plan well’ but also ‘don’t think too much – just do it’.

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The thing that really resonated with me was magazine people who emphasised the importance of the people and voices on a magazine, that you’re a gang and your magazine should reflect your time, your energy and your world. Forget what you think people want to read, or what seems trendy (if you think like that you probably shouldn’t be making a magazine, just enjoy being a reader).

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Did you note any common traits among the interviewees? Is there a typical person making their own magazine?
Bloody mindedness seems to come in pretty handy. Also people with lots of what you might call ‘social elbow grease’, who enjoy getting out and about, making and keeping interesting friends and collaborators.

What are you most looking forward to this week?
I’m going to Berlin for two nights on Friday and I can’t wait. It’s been far too long since I was on a plane and it will be the first time my husband and I have been away without the kids for at least two centuries. Friday is also the official launch date of my new book, so that is rather exciting. I’ll be celebrating with a glass of something intoxicating, somewhere fun in Berlin.

What are you least looking forward to this week?
I’ve started painting the fence in the garden. Which means I’d better finish it. Kind of a nice, meditative job when you get started but I’ll be cursing by the time I reach that last bloody fence panel.

What will you be doing after this chat?
Firing up the coffee pot for another round and getting on with uploading an article to the Grafik website, then writing one for motherland.net

‘So You Want to Publish a Magazine’ by Angharad Lewis is published by Laurence King ISBN 9781780677545

grafik.net

Angharad will be sharing some of the conclusions from her book at our 10th magCulture Meets evening on Wednesday 14 September. Book tickets.

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