|Issue #61 • January/February, 2000|
Deadline has just ended as I sit down to write this, the last remaining page of this issue. The staff has gone home, and, except for Silveira who has fallen asleep in a chair near his desk, I am alone in our Gold Beach office. With a calming Guinness by my keyboard, it gives me time to reflect on all the other stressful deadlines I’ve been through in the 10-year history of Backwoods Home Magazine. I cannot remember an easy deadline, but I can remember many post-deadline exhilarations, with editors shaking each other’s hands or giving a whoop of triumph at having beat the clock again. After we dropped this issue’s editorial package into the hands of Federal Express at 12:15 this afternoon, Jean L’Heureux quipped, “Great! Dave will be in a good mood again.”
This is a tough business to be in if you are hell-bent on doing a good job. As I reflect on issues past I wince at the times we blew it, like when we published the names and addresses of several outlets where readers could buy inexpensive prescription drugs. I had bought the article on deadline, rushed a contract to the writer, and published it without checking that the outlets were legit. None of the outlets even existed; I had been had by an overzealous writer who didn’t check his dated information. I apologized to readers for months, and I vowed I would never be had again.
But I remember far more times when we got the articles right, when we published important information by writers who had never been published before, or when we recruited pros like Yeager, Williams, Ayoob, Blunt, Thomsen, Fallick, Geissal, Evangelista, Hooker, Modeland, Harris, Waterman, Shober, Sanders, Clay, Hackleman, and many others. Great information couched in great writing.
The best find of our decade has been Silveira, who has been with the magazine since the beginning as a writer, then as part-time editor, then finally as the main editor. He is our “walking encyclopedia” in the office, able to call up facts from the deep recesses of his mind to confirm or refute an article’s assertions. He and I have wrought miracles on deadlines, extracting order from chaos as the clock ticked down. And his historical pieces have anchored many issues.
The magazine has had its serious financial ups and downs, but each year we have grown a little stronger so that today we are financially strong, even able to provide a medical insurance plan for our employees. We have also fought the political wars, being banned by some bookstores because of our libertarian slant. We were even banned (and remain so today) by The Mother Earth News and other magazines who feared us for political and economic reasons. And Like Ayn Rand of Atlas Shrugged, we never got favorable press from the media, but we grew strong anyway on a wave of readers who sought our information, and either tolerated or embraced our libertarianism. We didn’t care which because we weren’t going to change.
But we never lost focus of what our primary objective was: publish high quality how-to self-reliance articles in a high quality magazine. Writers always came first, which is not so with most magazines. Writers got paid before I did. Some writers were too expensive for us, so we bartered with them with advertising and products. Anything it took to get the articles we wanted.
As a rule we accept about one of every ten articles submitted to the magazine. Some of the rejected articles get printed in other magazines ( I saw two yesterday at the local market). But we often buy articles that no other magazine would touch because their editors can’t see the crucial information hidden under the unsophisticated prose. We extract the information, work with the writer to retain his “voice,” and behold, an informative gem that could only appear in Backwoods Home Magazine is born. It is a skill John Shuttleworth, founder of TMEN, and I have talked about. “In 10 years of publishing Mother,” he once told me, “I never found anyone who could handle copy the way I wanted it handled.” I found John Silveira.
It is a relaxed, humor-filled atmosphere here at BHM, with one-liners the rule of the day. But we work like dogs on deadline, and I run deadline like I am Captain Ahab of the Pequod. Rather than a great whale, I chase the great issue and I am sometimes not fun to be around then. But when deadline is done, my harried crew realizes we have produced a good magazine, and they are justly proud of their exhaustion and their achievement.
So what’s in store for us for the new decade we embark upon today? More of the same. We will change if we can improve the product, and we will continue to grow by word of mouth. Thank you for subscribing.