Juliet Rix, Tonic
This week award-winning writer, editor and broadcaster Juliet Rix answers our questions about her role as editor of indie travel/drink magazine Tonic.
Juliet won Highly Commended in last year’s BSME Awards Independent Magazine category, the judges praising the magazine’s longform writing and stories from across the world. She discusses her magazine influences as she shares her working week.
What are you up to this Monday morning?
Drinking coffee at my desk while doing my emails. Boring response, I know, but it’s the only way to start the day. I’m reaching slightly awkwardly for my keyboard. My scribbled (but utterly indispensable) to-do list is right in front of me, getting in the way. I need to be better at desk ergonomics!
I’m about to review my contents list for the fifth issue of Tonic, the independent drink and travel magazine I’ve edited since it’s second issue. Launched in lockdown by my lovely, brave (or crazy) independent publishers, Robert Ellison and Benita Finanzio (above, with Juliet), Tonic is an almost book-like collectable print magazine full of the weird and wonderful stories behind the concoctions we (and cultures across the world) call drinks. The variety is astonishing—from elephant conserving craft beer in the Okavango Delta to unique Albanian wine born of the nation’s iron curtain isolation (both in Tonic four), from ‘the queering of beer’ (Tonic 3) to an historic British hangover cure (coming in Tonic five).
Where are you?
My desk, I’m afraid, is in my bedroom. Not ideal but this is a London flat and the other rooms are occupied by other members of the family who are also (since the pandemic) working from home. Mine is a big desk though, beneath a large North-facing window, quite chilly on a winter morning so I’m scruffy in a fleece-lined hoodie (which I might or might not remove for Zoom meetings).
I do get out and about, thank goodness, both for Tonic and for the other work I do as a freelance, mostly for national newspapers and magazines, writing about health, travel, and the arts.
Which magazine do you first remember?
Do comics count? If so, The Beano and Dandy, although my favourite comic was actually the much less well known, Topper. And Look and Learn—full of those odd facts I still find so appealing. The first magazine I noticed for its design was unquestionably The Face.
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
Aside from Tonic (obviously), I read The Week—which lives in the bathroom where it is read while cleaning teeth and well, any other sit-down moments. A perfect way of catching up on the weeks news when I haven’t had time to properly read the papers. And Private Eye, which I would subscribe to even if I never got around to reading it (which I do!) because I think it matters that it is there to dig around where others do not. It so often has a story months, even years, before it turns up as an ‘exclusive’ in a newspaper.
I’ve also been writing occasionally for another independent travel magazine, Wanderlust, which I enjoy because the magazine format allows for longer articles than in newspapers and better reproduction of my and other accompanying photographs.
Describe Tonic in three words.
Delicious story cocktail. Or preferably, ‘delicious cocktail of stories’ if I’m allowed an old-fashioned manual word-count that doesn’t take notice of tiny words like ‘of’!
How is the magazine funded?
Haha. Like many another young independent magazine, on a wing and a prayer, a lot of goodwill, and an enormous amount of hard work by the founders/publishers. A mix of subscriptions, cover price and sponsorship.
The brief to cover alcoholic drinks from across the world is a vast one; how do you research and manage the process?
There are so many good stories out there this isn’t a big problem. And although the magazine is relatively new, it gained a good reputation very quickly–and we were Highly Commended in the British Society of Magazine Editors annual awards 2022 Independent category (sponsored by magCulture!)–so writers, and occasionally PRs, approach me with ideas. Writers like that we give them a decent amount of space, and features look great with striking design and loads of photos. The main problem is having to turn things down.
It is amazing the tales there are behind the booze in our bottles. Did you know that NASCAR—American stock car racing—grew directly out of the crazy cross-country driving of the prohibition liquor producers running moonshine in souped up cars to escape the ‘revenue men’? Or that the one thing US founding father Thomas Jefferson could not do—and really, really wanted to!—was make a decent bottle of wine?
What one thing do you hope the reader will take away from your magazine?
Enjoyment first and foremost. A pleasure in discovering new things—new drinks, new ideas, new stories from all sorts of places, people and cultures. Different angles on the familiar. And a magazine that can be kept and still be worth reading next year and the year after.
What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
Knowing I’ve got the content sorted for the fifth issue of Tonic—then sitting back and waiting for the articles to come in (I’ve got one already edited and ready). Then starting to think about issue six…
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