We start the week off with Cathy Olmedillas, editor of the lovely magazine for under fives, Dot. Best known as the founder of much-loved Anorak Press, Cathy decided to create Dot for the little brothers and sisters of Anorak readers. Now Dot is onto its fourth issue and is about to celebrate its first birthday. We catch up with Cathy to hear about the new ‘Sound’ issue.
Where are you today?
I am at my new desk, which happens to be located at the back of magCulture shop! It smells of magazine ink and the challenge every morning is to pass by the shelves bursting with new mags really quickly so I am not tempted to stop and browse for hours.
What can you see from the window?
I am not sitting by a window but if I went to the front of the shop, I would see the Islington Museum. Every day, I make a mental note that I must visit it, as it is one of the only London museums I have never been to. When I work from home, I can see from my window Mile End Park and Canary Wharf. The view might be ‘swish-er’ at home but I am happier surrounded by magazines.
Are you a morning or evening person?
I am 100% a morning person, much to my teen son’s despair. By the time I arrive in the office around 9am, I would have achieved the Herculean task of waking up and sending to school a sleepy teen, written a story or two, answered emails, made countless lists, prepared my lunch and cycled 5 miles to get to work. I usually experience a little concentration dip around 4.30/5pm but the bike ride back home re-energizes me a bit. Evenings are for relaxing in front of Netflix and eating!
Which magazine do you first remember?
I read a lot of comics as a young kid but the one magazine I used to be obsessed with, was Podium, the French equivalent of Smash Hits. When we lived in Morocco, my father used to bring it back from France as he popped regularly popped back. It was the late 70s, we had very little access to pop music and we had no TV. Podium was, for me, a beacon of cool, with all its interviews of exciting pop stars I barely knew! I used to read it cover to cover aloud so I would read it slower, and spend hours copying the lyrics into one book.
What’s your favourite magazine this morning?
I have just received issue two of Lunch Lady and it is just as inspiring as issue one. It is designed and published by the duo who launched Frankie, Lara Burke and Louise Bannister and is edited by an amazing food blogger, Kate Berry. It celebrates food and family in a way that I have not seen done before, with great upbeat interviews and a brilliantly playful design. Oh and the recipes are yummy!
But my head is still filled with the amazing stories and non-fiction I read in the latest Granta all weekend. I recently re-discovered Granta and I can’t recommend it enough!
Who is your favourite illustrator this morning?
Branche Coverdale. He is a NYC illustrator who I recently discovered and commissioned for a story for Anorak about a sick yeti. His work is just stunning, and I find myself checking his site very often to pore over his drawings!
What have you learned about the under five market since you started Dot last year that you didn’t expect?
The process with creating every issue of Anorak is hugely instinctive because I have now been doing it for over 10 years, so I don’t ask myself too many questions, I just make it. Dot is a relatively new process as it is only one year old and therefore I have to think about it a bit more!
What I realized is how tricky it is to do something simple. Surprisingly, it takes me about the same amount of thinking time to create and write Dot, which is 36 pages as with Anorak which is double the size! Because it is aimed at a much younger audience who either don’t read or are just learning to, I had to think about the relation between words and images more. Anna Dunn (Dot’s chief designer) and I have now done four editions and I think we have now found the perfect dynamic between visuals and words, but it took some exploration.
Oh and the other surprise is how great the response has been: we have sold over 9,000 copies of issue one!
Dot’s themes are abstract (shapes, numbers), unlike Anorak’s, which can be more specific (museums, cities, circus, etc). Why did you think that looser themes would be better for a younger readership?
I guess because Dot is primarily about learning and Anorak is mostly about culture. Also, Dot’s audience is much younger and I feel that we needed to start with the basics, introduce those in a fun way before they are taught at pre-school or at home. At that age, kids are insatiable when it comes to learning and exploring so we just want to tap into that natural curiosity.
The latest issue’s ‘Sounds’ theme came from me visiting a pre-school last year and walking into an impromptu ‘concert’ put on by a bunch of two-year olds. They were making sounds mostly banging on stuff and I admired how much fun they were getting out of it! It made me think about all the sounds we hear all day long but don’t really register, like the humming of cars, buses etc.
The next issue will have a more ‘specific’ theme by the way – in fact it will be the same theme as Anorak! I am working on both of them now and it is really fun to juggle the two with each having different perspectives.
What has been the most memorable reader reaction to Dot so far?
A desperate Dad emailed me last week to say his son was driving him insane as he had made up a Dot song, which he sang all day!! It fundamentally had just one lyric, i.e. Dot repeated (or rather shouted) over and over again! Oh dear. I told him we may recruit him to do a Dot jingle if we ever do Radio Dot!
What are you most looking forward to this week?
Volume four has just been sent out to the shops and our subscribers so I am hugely looking forward to seeing them in the wild, on Instagram, in the hands of kids and on shelves, it’s the best feeling ever!
What are you least looking forward to this week?
Nothing really, except maybe all the admin tasks that publishing two magazines involve!