Angharad Lewis, author, editor and mother-of-two

A really great magazine can provide for some of life’s most satisfying pleasures – top quality writing, beautiful imagery, a lifeline of ideas, and portals onto unexpected worlds. What magazine addicts may have noticed in the last few years, however, is that the really interesting titles, and often the best quality, are no longer from the big global publishers, but are being made by tiny, super-talented teams who are completely independent.

I spent several years working on the editorial team of a monthly design magazine so I know what a demanding and all-consuming endeavour it can be, both in terms of the time you have to devote to your magazine and also the amount of head and heart space it takes up. So, when I was researching and writing a book about independent magazine-making, So you want to publish a magazine? I knew I would encounter some pretty driven and positively charged individuals.

I am bowled over by what is being achieved by independent magazine-makers who juggle publishing with parenting, and somehow keep hold of their sanity along the way

What really impressed me, however, was the level of female talent driving some of the most successful independent titles. Not only that, I was bowled over by what is being achieved by independent magazine-makers who juggle publishing with parenting (and somehow keep hold of their sanity along the way). Aside from learning how people survive the workload and the battle to stay focused and inspired, throughout my research I also discovered how the parenting role could in fact be a catalyst to new heights of creativity and better ways of working in other areas of life.

So you want to publish a magazine? By Angharad Lewis

To find out more about what it means to be engrossed in magazine-making, while also having a handle that other all-encompassing role of being a parent (and often having other commitments in the mix as well), I spoke to three mothers / magazine editors, each of which can be relied upon for an honest and enlightening view on parenting and publishing – Danielle Pender, founder and editor-in-chief of radical new women’s magazine Riposte, Cathy Olmedillas, who runs a successful mini publishing empire with two magazines for children Anorak and Dot, and Erin Spens, founder and editor of Boat, which has redefined the travel magazine.

All are mothers and all are responsible for some of the most inspiring titles out there – not only because they look and read great, but because they’re successful, stand-alone businesses too. I asked the trio about how they manage to create a semblance of work-life balance, and also about how, and with what effect, the two worlds of kids and creative publishing collide.

Danielle Pender
Founder and editor-in-chief
Riposte magazine

What’s the biggest thing that’s changed for you as a creative person / magazine-maker since having a child? I feel super inspired and ambitious since having a kid. I want to achieve the most I can for myself in my career because I want to make my daughter proud of me. Being responsible for another person and having limited time has made me really focussed, I achieve a lot more now in a lot less time than before I had a child. I don’t have the time to think very deeply about things so I’m constantly on the look out for inspiration and new ideas, this means they come in new and interesting forms.

Porridge splats on the proofs aside, do you think stuff from your life as a parent comes through in the pages of Riposte? Riposte is actually a bit of an escape from my life as a parent so it doesn’t really feature that much within the pages of the magazine. It’s my chance to geek out about non-parent related stuff and focus on other aspects of life.

What are your top survival tips for making it work as a parent / publisher?  Firstly, work out your priorities and split them up day-by-day. Set clear achievable goals that will make you feel good once you’ve done them, then go to the park and push your kid in the swings guilt-free. Secondly, don’t be a slave to your inbox. I don’t respond to any emails that aren’t urgent or from people I don’t know. This may sound harsh and I might miss out on opportunities but I simply don’t have the time now to answer everything and I don’t feel bad about it. Lastly, enjoy your success. Building something or creating something when you’re juggling childcare can be really, really draining and stressful. You should be super fucking proud of yourself when things go well or you finish a project you’re happy with. You should allow yourself the time to appreciate what you’ve achieved.

Has having a daughter altered anything about what you want to achieve by publishing a magazine for women? Yes! Having a little girl has made me more unapologetically feminist. I see inequality more and more as I look around and examine everyday life and it makes me so angry. I want to do what I can to alter the way women are represented in the media, to help raise the aspirations of women and girls. I want my daughter to grow up thinking she’s a badass and that she can do whatever she wants. I want her to be fearless and I want Riposte to be fearless.

For more check out Riposte Magazine

Cathy Olmedillas
Founder and editor
Anorak and Dot magazines

How did your experience as a mum inspire the birth of Anorak magazine? Anorak would have probably been a very different magazine if Oscar hadn’t come along. I always wanted to launch my own magazine but it is only when I became a mum that I realised that what was missing was a decent kids mag. Also, I look back at some of the early editions and they spark some great memories and adventures. They look like a scrapbook of my son’s childhood.

Anorak has been going for ten years now, how has the magazine evolved along with life as a parent? It started off as a project which I fitted in between my son’s schedule (i.e. mostly at nighttime when he was asleep) and I juggled that with a full-time job too so it was a bit hectic. As he became older and I wanted to do the school runs, I gradually dropped the day job and now I work on Anorak full-time. It’s easier because he’s 14-years-old now and during the holidays he tends to organise activities with his friends so I have become a part-time mum really.

Running a magazine is an epic effort at the best of times, what’s your top survival tip for doing it as a parent? Ah, it’s not that bad, there are parents who juggle a lot more than I do. My only survival tip is keep it fun. Laughing is the answer to all ills, I find.

What does your son think about what you do? Does he edit the magazine over your shoulder? He has always known what I do and used to say to his friends: “My mum wakes up in the middle of the night to make a magazine.” He used to contribute a lot editorially, creating games and stories too. His interests have changed over the years and now at 14, he is more into the business side of it. He also regularly begs me to take the Anorak TV episodes off our YouTube channel as he presented some of them when he was eight and he finds them deeply embarrassing.

For more chech out Anorak Magazine

Erin Spens
Co-founder and editor
Boat magazine

What are your top survival tips for making it work as a parent/ publisher? I’ve got contributors and stories happening all over the world, so my work is genuinely around the clock. Because of this I find it really hard to take an ENTIRE day off from checking emails. I’ve come to learn that I can enjoy my time off more if I don’t try to stick to super strict rules with my time. Sometimes getting up on a Sunday morning and spending thirty minutes responding to my emails (which usually just means adding things to my to-do list) means I can really relax the rest of the day. This totally isn’t for everyone, but I work better and I’m a better mom if I don’t try to put hard and fast rules around my time. Also I would say never apologise for putting family before work. If you need to ditch work – no matter how important – for family matters, never apologise. It sets a precedent for everyone around you, and gender equality will only happen when a woman’s career and family don’t feel so at odds.

What’s the biggest thing that’s changed for you as a creative person / magazine-maker since having a child? I’ve grown to love early mornings, which don’t tend to be a creative person’s favourite thing. But I think it’s a major secret that life doesn’t share with everyone. The early morning hours are the most magical.

Does stuff from your life as a parent comes through in the pages of Boat? I am one hundred per cent more empathetic now that I’m a mum. I don’t think I necessarily gravitate more towards family or motherhood ‘stories’, but for sure I am more affected by the stories of others. I think I now see everyone as someone else’s son or daughter, and knowing firsthand the connection and depth that runs between a parent and their child, it deepens their story for me. 

As well as travelling regularly to make issues of Boat, you and your partner moved to a new continent when your daughter was small. How does your adventurous spirit rub off on life as a parent? Funnily, my daughter is a total homebody. She gets her energy from being at home. She tolerates our adventures and I think mostly enjoys them, but even after a week away exploring mountains or camping on a beach or visiting family in England, when we get back into our house she comes alive again. It’s literally the opposite of me. She is the perfect counterweight to my restlessness.

For more check out Boat Magazine

For more on Lewis’s book check out So you want to publish a magazine? 

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