Tagged: mary ruth yoe

Eight questions for Laura Demanski

uchicoverLaura Demanski is coming up on her first anniversary as editor of The University of Chicago Magazine. We celebrate the occasion by getting her answers to the UMagazinology questionnaire, which she completed from her sickbed. Now that’s an alumni magazine trooper.

How long have you been in your job?

I’m a month shy of one year at the magazine. For seven years before that, I worked as a writer and editor of other alumni communications for the University of Chicago, including our twice-yearly college supplement, The Core.

What has proven to be the most significant thing you had to learn to do that job?

Remembering to stop and think. On an eight-week cycle, the issue on deadline demands so much, and it’s tempting to give it every second you have. It feels like every five minutes of work you can put in will make it better in some concrete, measurable way. Meanwhile time spent chasing down a story idea for an issue to be published months away may be a dead end, but it has to be done. I’ve had to train myself to borrow time from the most immediate tasks to research potential story leads, read the alumni and faculty books that come in, and, sometimes, just sit and think.

What has been your best experience at the magazine?

No question, it’s coming in every day to work with a staff that’s highly invested in the publication and in each other. Everyone who works on the magazine is imaginative, smart, hard-working, and funny. We crack each other up. I love that.

What has proven to be your biggest frustration?

I’d like to write more. I’m hoping that the better I learn the job and the more stories we can lay in for future issues, the more I can contribute as a writer, especially features—and hoping I remember how. I also dislike turning down good work that isn’t right for us.

What part of your magazine never quite satisfies you, despite everyone’s best effort?

I’m not sure there’s any one section that consistently vexes us. I’d like to find more of a groove with the editor’s notes, which can be so inviting when done well. Tina Hay’s notes in The Penn Stater and our executive editor Mary Ruth Yoe’s notes when she edited the magazine are both models for me—poignant without hitting you over the head with it, easy to read, and funny. I always remember a line from Mary Ruth’s notes on jigsaw puzzles: “Some people—my younger daughter and I, for example—like to do jigsaws. Other people—my older daughter and the dog—don’t. ” How could you stop reading after that?

What story are you proudest to have published?

That’s a tough one, even with just five issues under my belt. I’m always proud to publish anything by our talented associate editors, Jason Kelly and Lydia Gibson—Jason’s profile of Martin Luther King Jr.’s mentor Benjamin Mays and Lydia’s story about investor William Browder and the murder of his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky stand out. I was also delighted with freelancer Michael Washburn’s profile of Caitlin Doughty and the attention it received, including on UMagazinology. But since I commissioned it, I’ll say an alumni essay by Jessica Burstein, “Academic Envy,” her first and hopefully not last piece for us. It struck a chord with many academics, among our alumni and beyond, and has a voice all its own.

If you could commission a story from any writer in the world, who would it be?

I’m drawn to writers who glory in the details. John McPhee and Lawrence Weschler spring to mind.

If you weren’t an editor, what would your dream job be?

Something with more numbers, but still with words too. I was a member of the National Puzzlers League for years, which trades mainly in word puzzles but is full of mathematicians. Since I can’t say editor of The New York Times crossword puzzle within the bounds of your question, I’ll go with puzzle constructor or formalist poet.

UMag inbox

Told you we were back.

First, congratulations to editor Amy Braverman Puma, executive editor Mary Ruth Yoe, and The University of Chicago Magazine for being the newest recipients of the Robert Sibley Award as alumni magazine of the year. I find this hard to believe, but according to my list from CASE this is Chicago‘s first Sibley since 1957. (Third overall.) Congratulations also to Cathy Shufro, who scribbled the article of the year, “The Bird-filled World of Richard Prum” for Yale Alumni Magazine.

Betsy Robertson’s crew at Auburn Magazine had some fun with their 100th anniversary issue. Love the retro cover, and a class note from the first issue a century before that recorded the hiring of alum J.M. Moore to organize “pig clubs” around the state. I’ve been to a few pig clubs, but I’ve a feeling it meant something different in this context.

Wake Forest Magazine (Cherin C. Poovey, managing editor) made its summer issue all about writing. The school counts among its literary alumni Maya Angelou and A.R. Ammons. Laura Elliott, author of young-adult historical novels,  is quoted as saying, “The fun part about being a writer is you get to pretend all the time.” Yes, you do. You get to pretend that someone, somewhere is paying attention to you, and pretend that you’re making money.

Swell cover illustration from Concordia University Magazine. Howard Bokser edits.

And while we’re on covers, a couple of killer designs from Sarah Lawrence Magazine and Middlebury Magazine. Yum.

Eight questions for Jason Kelly

Jason Kelly scribbles as an associate editor at The University of Chicago Magazine, and scribbled answers to the UMagazinology writer’s questionnaire.

How long have you been a writer?

I still don’t have my license, but I’ve been writing on probationary status since high school, when a few encouraging teachers wound me up and set me off in this direction.

Of all the things you have to do to produce a story in the magazine, what do you enjoy most?

Discovering that I have the information to reconcile Mary Ruth Yoe’s sharp (in every sense of the term) edits. Also, I’ve heard the legend of something called a “snick,” which is the moment when the shape of a story you’ve been stewing over suddenly comes into focus. I think it’s a myth because I’ve never actually experienced it, but if it exists, I bet it’s pretty great.

What has proven to be your biggest challenge?

Inertia, self-discipline, finishing what I . . .

For interviews, notepad or recorder? For writing, legal pad, typewriter, or computer?

For interviews: recorder for quotes, notepad for details of the subject and the setting (or pretending to scribble while trying to think of what else to ask). For writing: computer, but I like to imagine that it dings at the end of each line like a typewriter.

What do you wish you were better at?

Everything. But if I have to pick one, I wish I was a more perceptive and diligent reporter. Notes and interview recordings inevitably reveal a detail or a comment I let pass that could have led to something deeper if I had been more present or persistent in the moment. Of course, there’s usually still time for that famous “extra phone call,” but now we’re back to the biggest-challenge question.

What story are you proudest to have written?

Looking back at them always gives me a “what was I thinking?” cringe like a bad yearbook photo. So, I guess I’d say, every one that hasn’t prompted a correction, and I’m proud to say that’s all of them. (Correction: almost all of them.)

Who among writers have been your exemplars?

Kerry Temple, as a writer and a teacher. I covered sports for a long time, so the Smiths, both Red and Gary, and Frank DeFord. Dan Barry writing about New Orleans after Katrina or the closing of the Fulton Fish Market—or anything, really. Gene Weingarten, for his operatic range and his conviction that every story is about the meaning of life. Lydia Gibson, fellow sufferer in the next cubicle over who sets the bar for our magazine. And there’s an E.B. White quote that I like: “I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.”

If you weren’t a writer, what would your dream job be?

Guinness taste-tester. Is that a thing? I’m probably overqualified for that, though.