aMusing(s)

An attempt to collect, sort and make sense of my thoughts.

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Design meeting.

So last night I met with my amazingly talented (designer) brother George and talked about some possible designs for my magazine mock-up. I’m getting really excited about the project now! This means also that I have to get my first drafts ready in the next couple of weeks and try to source some images from the girls that are print quality.

I explained the concept of the magazine and I had with me a copy of The Monthly and Harper’s Bazaar and told him which features I liked from each magazine. My main directives were that I wanted it to look clean and uncluttered and stylish. I showed him some examples of the types of fonts I thought looked good and also how Russh magazine treats their fashion shoots - so instead of being a full-page picture they put a white frame around it. I think that looks very modern and clean. He also came up with some ideas about working across two pages with pictures and different ways of using the magazine page.

The result of the meeting is that I will try to get him some larger images and some text but in the mean time he will use some placeholders and come up with 2-3 different design options. Once they are finished I will take them in to uni and see what the others think and get some feedback. One thing that I was unsure about is whether we should do a mock-up of the front page. The reason being that it isn’t as simple as just picking a fashion image and I’m not sure how to handle the dual nature of the magazine on the front page. One idea I had was to have a  front page and a back page. But I don’t know if this would work either. What I’m going to do is talk about it in class and see if we can get a brainstorming session going and what we come up with.

I’m really glad that George said yes to doing this because it will make the project look so much better. He is also very busy with Pause Fest at the moment so it is a sacrifice of his time. Although he did say it wouldn’t take him too long to do. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with! :)

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Interview.

So this morning I finally had the interview with the lovely Ana Diaz. It was probably one of the best interviews I have ever done. I wasn’t as awkward and stumbly as I usually am. We talked for almost 40 minutes and the whole time it was more of a chat than anything. I felt more prepared about the interview with Ana than I did about the interview with Amelia because I had done more research - well there was more research to do because her website had a dedicated ‘press’ page.

The other thing that helped me a lot was reading Harper’s Bazaar yesterday and just seeing how they write their fashion stories. Also, Ana is a really relaxed and talkative person by nature and I think she had also thought about the type of things she wanted to talk about so the end result was great! We laughed a lot during the interview so I think that’s a good sign. I always feel that the ‘better acquainted’ I can get with an interview subject the better the end result is. I have so much information from Ana that I could write quite a lengthy article out of it. At this point I am considering running it as a package spread where I would have a title like “Up-and-coming” and have the longer feature article with Ana and then run the interview with Amelia as a smaller Q&A piece as a kind of “quick read”. I guess that’s something I have to think about as the stories grow. I’ll let it happen organically.

So after the interview I have spent most of the day transcribing it all which is not my favourite thing to do but it’s part of the process. However, during the transcribing stage I had room to think about which parts of the interview I really liked and which ones I didn’t. What I might include and what can go and how I can frame the story. So in a way I guess this part of the process can be put into the ‘pre-writing’ stage.

Another thing that I have realised while doing all of this is that I need to discuss fashion writing in my exegesis as well because I feel that it is almost a different genre to other magazine writing. It’s kind of like travel writing - it’s part of journalism but a very distinct part. It has it’s own rules and styles. 

So in the discussion about my project I have on the one side - journalistic feature writing and then on the other fashion writing and I am putting them together in one magazine. I think the scholarly/academic discourse on magazines, like Ricketson’s for example, talk about magazines like Time, Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker etc And it talks about them in a very idealised way. Generally the rhetoric around magazine writing seems idealised to me because it ascribed quite a lot of power to the cultural form. Also, I don’t think they ever mean women’s magazines which seem to have a genre of their own. Women’s magazines are really only discussed by feminist scholars at length and while the others might touch on them, I feel that they are not seen as any outlets of ‘good’ or ‘serious’ journalism and are therefore deemed irrelevant. However, what I am saying is that women’s magazines can provide a platform for ‘good’ journalism however due to their form and function can also include less serious and attention-demanding pieces.

I don’t think this necessarily means that it’s ‘bad’ journalism it just has a different function to play in the media. Many have cited the ‘copious’ amount of advertising in women’s magazines as being something that influences the content but every media outlet is run by advertising dollars! Every media outlet is also in one way or another handed pieces of PR and the difference is in how it is handled. But a women’s fashion magazine is part of the business of fashion - and it is a creative business - and therefore aligns itself with the value of that business.

Also, I think there are classes within the “women’s magazine” genre. I think they go something like this: lowest are the gossip magazines like Famous and OK!, then the monthlies like Cosmopolitan and Cleo and then the high-end fashion magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. I’m not really sure where I would place Russh and Frankie…upper middle class? They are very different publications and almost speak to a subculture that is slowly emerging into the commercial world (aka Hipsters).

So the next thing I am going to do is approach the Diaz interview as methodically as I did with Amelia’s and first make it a simple Q&A with an intro. The second round will be making both of them into ‘stories’ and then seeing which combination works best/how I can package them. I am meeting with George tonight to talk about the design of the magazine and see if we can get some mock-ups ready in the next couple of week because that would be sweeeeet. I am on track to meet my three-week deadline :) I just need to work on my exegesis as well. I think the next thing I am going to tackle there is sorting out all that feminist theory stuff.

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Some questions and some answers.

I have just finished a first draft for one of my fashion pieces. Basically what I have decided to do is to write a draft which is just a straight Q&A with each designer and then re-work it into a short fashion story and then see if I can package the two together as a spread. Then I will choose the piece that works best to include as part of the “final” project mock-up.

Things I have learned about Q&A’s: 

  1. Ricketson is probably right, nobody is that interesting or endlessly quotable.
  2. Also, he is right about a Q&A not being able to express the nuances of the interview. There are so many things that on the tape and during the conversation make sense but when you type them out they look strange. Nobody talks in quotes so there’s the issue there of selecting what to include in the piece.
  3. And, yes, they are a lazy BUT within the form of a fashion mag they work well because they allow the reader to get some quick information and dip in and out without worrying about continuity.

I have only used about half (or less) of the information from the interview with Amelia because there was a lot that, when put on paper, just became irrelevant or nonsensical. I tried to choose things that reflected her as a designer and were the most interesting. I think the next thing draft of this also needs a small intro par. I’ve tried to keep it short so that it work in the format of the magazine, which is something that I always keep in mind with these articles.

I bought the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar yesterday because I think they present their articles well and they have a few interviews with designers. However all the big fashion mags usually only feature big names and well-known designers unless they do a “special feature” on new talent. Reading Harper’s however has helped me from the aspect of fashion writing and getting the relationship right. What I mean by that is, that readers of fashion magazines are well versed in the language of design and fashion - designers can be referred needless of an introduction (and in some cases with big labels just by one name) and fashion terms can also be used freely because it is expected that the audience knows what these terms mean. For example, when Amelia talks about “pleating” and “bagging out” of garments this doesn’t need to be explained.

I don’t know if I will end up running this as a Q&A…I don’t think I will because it doesn’t have enough elements of storytelling and can be quite bland. It might work as a quick five-minute read but I’m not convinced. I really like Amelia’s work so I want to use it and that’s why I think this needs to be presented more as a “story”.

I’m really excited about tomorrow’s interview with Ana Diaz! :)

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Meeting with Adrian

Went well! Basically he said that a great achievement for an Honours project is to be able to demonstrate a development or a realisation. For me, this is what the project has been about anyway. I feel like there has been a development in my thinking and understanding which I will need to demonstrate in my exegesis.

We talked about the idea of the project which I was able to clearly demonstrate to Adrian, unlike my presentation to the class a couple of weeks back which was a bit muddled. I said that I like to read The Monthly and I like to look at Harper’s Bazaar. The way I read/look at these magazines is very different as well. For example, with The Monthly, I need to concentrate in order to be able to discern what the messages are but with Harper’s Bazaar I can flick through it, look at the pictures and maybe read an interview but nothing that requires too much attention. And this is exactly the point. What I am trying to do with my magazine is create a hybrid that can do both. Adrian said this is the classic sort of western Cartesian problem - the division of mind and body. In relation to my magazine the intellectually stimulating/mind aspect would be the political content. So, reading The Monthly. And the pleasure/body aspect would be the fashion content. So, reading Harper’s Bazaar.

What it comes down to in writing the articles is a matter of style. I think I have figured out a good way of going about trying to achieve a style that would fit in to the idea of this magazine. First draft - straight up. (Shaken, not stirred heehee) Taking it from hard news writing and then transforming it into something different, something that would appeal to women. Presenting it in a way that fits the form and the purpose. It is a question of style. Personal style. Which is what fashion magazines are about anyway hahahaah.

We also talked about getting a few mock ups ready in the next fortnight and getting them to class so that others could have a look and let me know what they think about them. If I get started on doing this early I can talk about the process in my exegesis. I think this would be important because it will demonstrate that I have thought about the form of the magazine as well which is important to women’s magazines.

The anxiety I have about there being very little time left (well there is) can be easily overcome. Realistically, if I write 250 words per day for the next 32 days (which leaves 10 days of editing etc) I will have written 8,000 words. Seeing that I already have quite a lot of stuff what I need to do is to edit and arrange. Especially with the feminist critiques of women’s magazines. I have a lot of information there which needs to be condensed because I don’t want to devote so much time to that aspect of the discourse.

So seeing as I have about 50% of a Lit Review, pretty much all of that theory and a few blogs that I will use in my methodology I think I should be OK with the exegesis part. Like Adrian said, it’s not going to be perfect but as long as I can demonstrate that I have done the research and that I have developed the project there will be a positive outcome.

We also talked about what I want to do next year. Umm…well…at this stage I still don’t have a clear picture really. I’m not as interested in being a reporter as I was in Undergrad, or going to work in Mildura for a couple of years to get some brownie points in the Journalism industry (which is competitive) to then be underpaid and work hard. They type of writing I like to do I can do freelance anyway. PR is something that seems like a somewhat better and easier option. There are a lot of Media and Communication jobs floating around which require a number of different skills. Adrian pointed out that the skills that I have would probably be better suited to a job like that anyway. There are a few options that I have been thinking about. a) PR/Media Comm jobs b) Doing an internship at a magazine while I continue to do some casual work c) PR/Media Comm job and freelancing.

So I guess I will see what happens next year in terms of jobs, for now I’m concentrating on finishing my project/exegesis…but first I’m going to go get some lunch!

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Another day, another edit.

So column…we meet again! Today I worked on making the argument of the piece more obvious and rearranged a few paragraphs. I decided to completely get rid of the historical political revolution/fashion argument because it created a lot of clutter and was a bit confusing. It also didn’t really prove anything and it raised too many questions even by me about the validity of the argument since I didn’t have anything in the next paragraph to explain the details. So I think I am getting closer to the gist of it. Laura has now read both of the copies and she was positive about the edits I made.

I’m having a problem with the lead however. Since I’ve cut the first one in the second edit the lead refers to The Devil Wears Prada and I think this might be a bit confusing given that I have a quote by “Carrie Bradshaw” at the top of the article. So I am going to try and re-work the lead. I’m also considering getting rid of the quote since it will be problematic to put it in the magazine as a pull-quote since it’s not part of the article. Maybe I should put it in the article? Perhaps absorb it into the lead. I’m not sure…I’m going to work on this a little bit more and then see if I can move on to the Amelia interview.

With the fashion articles I am going to try and do two versions of each. I’ll do a straight Q&A format and then a story version of each and the third will be a combination of some sort that will be a package story about up-and-coming fashion designers. I haven’t worked it out completely. So I will see how it unfolds soon I guess. My only problem now is that it is 3.30pm and I am sleepy as per usual. Must…last…till…5pm for that second energy burst.

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A little bit of YAY!

First draft of the column…FINISHED! A small achievement but nonetheless makes me say YAY!

I approached this as a proper draft, almost as a pre-writing experiment, where I just wrote down all the ideas that I had about what I wanted to say with the column in no particular order. I don’t want the column to be long so I am keeping it to about 600-700 words. The reason being that most women’s magazine articles are kept to a page, and even in newspapers columns are literally that.

Since this was only a draft I elaborated on the ideas a little bit and I was concentrating on writing it the way I would say it so that my personal voice and style were obvious in the writing. One problem that I had with this was ‘my academic voice’ kept coming through. This is probably because I have been doing a lot of exegesis and essay writing lately. The good thing is that I became aware of this while I was writing.

The other problem that I have encountered is that I haven’t got a cohesive argument but a bunch supporting points. So I need to work on making it more cohesive and clear. Also after printing it out and doing a physical edit I’ve realised that I need to swap some paragraphs around to make it a more cohesive argument. So basically, I need to restructure this draft.

I found it helpful to give the draft to Laura to read. She gave me comments that were pretty similar to my assumptions of what needed to be changed but it was good to hear it from a peer - after all if my audience doesn’t get it then I definitely need to change it. So…on to re-writing.

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Progress

I’ve finally gotten down to writing the articles. YAY! I need to have first drafts ready in the next couple of weeks otherwise this ship will sink. Everyone is a lot further ahead in their projects than I am, so I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do. The good thing is I have done lots of research and now it is down to writing. Well, almost, I still have a couple of interviews to do. I think over the next couple of weeks I will be using this blog as a sort of journal of the writing process so that I can use that in my methodology later.

So, I initially wanted to start with the longer feature article but I keep feeling like I haven’t done enough research to start on that. Instead, I have started drafting the column :) I wanted to see what was out there on the interwebs on the topic so I typed into Google “politics and fashion” and it came up with a number of interesting listing. One was a paper by W.J.T Mitchell, entitled “Revolution and your Wardrobe: Fashion and Politics in the Photography of Jane Stravs”. It mostly focused on the photography and art aspect but had a couple of useful observations. Then I decided to check out a few blogs and found Theatre of Fashion by Amber Jane Butchart (ENG), The Style of Politics by Christina Logothetis (USA), Political Style by Laura Emily (USA) and the more well known Politico (USA) and The Huffington Post (USA). As yet I haven’t found any Australian blogs. I skimmed through the blogs but they were mostly talking about what people in politics wear rather than the similarity of the political world to the fashion world.

The other thing I did was find the exact quote from the Sex and the City episode that was the inspiration for the idea of the column and put that at the top of my document to refer back to as the source of inspiration and to keep me on track about what I wanted to say. Then I wrote down all the ideas as they popped into my head on the topic. The next thing to do here is to shape the text and join all the ideas so that they make a cohesive argument.

So…off I go then…

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Sit down. Shut up. Write. Smile.

So after freaking out, as per usual, I am back in a cycle of goodness with one major change in my attitude. I have accepted that the only way I am going to figure anything out is to sit down and write and read and think and write and read and think and repeat that process until clarity strikes. One thing I have found helpful is to think about what I am asking and then write brief answers to those questions. This is like a summary of what I know about my problem as well. So here goes:

Q: What is the content of women’s magazines?

A: Feature articles make up the bulk - discussing Ricketson and others will help inform my writing and the choices I make (e.g. type of article I will write). Understanding the journalistic values and features will help in informing my style. Knowing the devices of my discipline will let me explore and perhaps expand them, this will add to the existing body of knowledge.

Q: How do I create content for a woman’s magazine that proposes two different fields of interest, i.e. politics and fashion?

A: To answer this question I need to explore/research by writing the articles and playing with the style and tone.

Q: Why would I create content for a woman’s magazine that proposes two different fields of interest?

A: Because I am not entirely satisfied with the content of women’s magazines. Since I am critiquing these magazines I need to take into account other critiques, such as feminist criticism, but discuss how it is relevant to my writing.

Q: How does my project classify as research?

A: Learning how to write as a journalist requires that you practice that type of writing (Like Adrian said you learn how to make a table by making a table) and since I am researching the ideas of voice, tone and style within feature writing I need to perform the writing to complete that research.

I am not entirely sure that these are the right questions or the right answers but I guess this is what makes it a research problem and not a research answer.

Another couple of questions have also cropped up for me recently: Why women’s magazines? Why not just call it something else? and Is it important to think about this or should I just concern myself with the style etc?

The answer to the first question would have to be because it is the media that I mostly consume, and it is important to me because of that. I like some aspects of these magazines and I don’t like others and I want to try and combine these two and see whether that works. Not in commercially but stylistically. This is a way in which I am liming this to the scope of Honours.

The second question is more of a doubt whether I am on the right track - but if I were to just present a series of articles and talk about style I would surely be questioned about the context. Why am I doing this? My understanding of it is that Honours isn’t just about writing some articles and making a folio it is about researching a problem and finding (or not finding) a possible solution to that problem. I have a problem with women’s magazines and I want to do research to see whether I can solve this problem so I need to talk about them and I need to consider critiques of women’s magazines if I am making one myself without making it the focal point of the exegesis. 

Still unsure if I am proceeding in the right direction but I am going to keep writing and reading and thinking and hopefully it will sort itself out.

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Did someone say freak out? Don’t mind if I do.

ARRRRGGHHH!!!!!!!!!!

That pretty much sums up how I feel right now.

And on with the rest of life… let’s see so we had to answer three questions. Here is an attempt:

1. Who is my audience?

I guess I have a few different types of audiences - for example the audience for my potential magazine would have to be women ages 24 and up in the AB demographic who are interested in politics and fashion. More realistically, my audience is potential job-givers so other journalists and even more to the point my audience would be my examiners.

2. What are their expectations?

A clear and concise argument with supporting research and good quality and interesting writing in the articles.

3. How do I know this?

I know this because of all the research I have done, what I have been told and my experience as a media producer and consumer.

Here is yet another version of the abstract:

Magazines that feature stories about current world affairs or politics are usually niche publications and assume a predominantly or completely male audience whereas women’s magazines fall into a different genre that is seemingly mutually exclusive with any political analysis. I will investigate the problem of creating magazine content that coherently combines these two areas of interest and proposes a different type of magazine. I will be tackling this problem via a project, which will present a number of articles that will make a proposition in the discipline of magazine/feature writing and also the content of women’s magazines that includes serious political commentary as well as fashion writing. Undertaking this as practice-led research is important in understanding the nature of journalistic ideals in the category of feature/magazine writing and thereby allowing me to create high quality articles that will explore the two areas of interest in a cohesive way.

So in other news, spoke to Josie and she is going to be giving some notes on my exegesis tomorrow which is good and hopefully I can work out some kind of writing plan with her in order to avoid mental breakdown. Also, today I did my first interview with one of the fashion designers - big YAY!

Here’s to the next three months!