Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Part of the desire to start this magazine called Letters & Journals is my love of paper, stationery, cards, notebooks, blank books, ink, journals and so on. I know there are others out there too who love the same things - spending hours in a stationery store, reading blogs of people who design and sell stationery, connecting with others who share this same fascination.

A few weeks ago I visited Paper Source in Minneapolis. A week later I went to Stillwater, MN and visited the newly discovered Pulp Fashion. Oh, what a lovely day that was. This is a picture of some of the treasures I bought at Pulp Fashion.

One of the regular departments I see in the magazine is to highlight stationery store shopping excursions to various cities. Just like the famous travel guides offer their recommendations for things to do in NYC or Paris in 1-day, 2-days or 3-days, the stationery store excursion article would do the same for 1-day or 2-day highlights for the paper enthusiast.

Here is my short list of the Minneapolis/St. Paul stationery store tour in alphabetical order. The complete article would feature highlights for each of the stores, photos and a sense of their personalities and ambiance.

Anchor Paper
Paper Source
Pulp Fashion

Friday, April 24, 2009


I love to decorate my envelopes with fun stamps. Sometimes the post office has colorful stamps like the Simpsons stamps which go on sale May 7, 2009. But I also found a great resource for purchasing older stamps (unused and in ready condition for mailing).

The picture above shows what I have on hand at this moment. They come in a variety of denominations and themes. I order mine from Errol Murphy ( Usually I will get $20 at a time. Errol sells them at face value and doesn't charge shipping. The stamps are all usable. You just need to make sure that your stamps add up to the correct postage.

You can email Errol at if you would like to order some of these fun stamps. I usually request themes (kids, animals, Disney, space, Olympics, nature, ocean, Christmas) depending on my mood. I've never met Errol who lives in CA, but having been buying stamps from him regularly for the last 2 years or so. I told him about my blog and asked if I could link to his web site. He no longer maintains a site, but said that people are welcome to email him with their orders or questions.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Two Big Milestones

The first big milestone in the last week was the initial meeting with a magazine consultant. We spent about 90 minutes talking about the direction of the magazine and brainstormed on some different revenue models. We also thought of ways to find the potential subscribers and advertisers and discussed what their expectations might be.

The second milestone was meeting later in the week with the first of 3 graphic designers who submitted a bid on designing the magazine brand, logo, templates, etc. We will plan to meet again after I've met each of the three individually.

In both of these meetings I've felt very confident in what I'm looking for the magazine and that the years I spent researching, planning and visualizing Letters & Journals has really paid off. Of course, there is still a ways yet to go, so I don't want to get too ahead of myself.

This week and next will have a first interview with another graphic designer followed by a second meeting with the magazine consultant. I'm also designing a short survey (10 questions) for potential advertisers who I will be meeting at the National Stationery Show next month. The more I can find out about their needs and how Letters & Journals could potentially help them, the better off we will all be.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Letter Writing Contest

Author Samara O’Shea is sponsoring a letter writing contest. The contest runs from April 1 to May 1, 2009, so you still have a little bit of time to enter if you're interested. Samara has gained some fame in the letter writing world as she will write a letter for you for a fee. Not everybody enjoys writing letters, but I think most people agree that letters have their own charm and who wouldn't want to receive a handwritten letter? This service is available on her web site

Monday, April 13, 2009

What Comes Now?

I feel like I have done quite a bit of research and planning these past four years. And now I am getting to where the rubber meets the road. Things are a little more daunting at this stage- finding and hiring a graphic designer for this entity that has lived only in my imagination; paying a printer for a run of sample copies; finding an affordable yet robust web site design; beginning the marketing stage. And the list goes on...

Currently my priorities are:

Graphic Designer
Right now I am meeting with graphic designers to find the one who can create the brand for the magazine and web site. Once the branding is complete I can start with getting sample copies of the magazine made and begin approaching potential advertisers.

There are two big events in May. The first is the National Stationery Show in New York from 5/17 to 5/20. This is an annual event that draws 1,000 exhibitors and over 14,000 buyers.

Since I won't have a web site or a sample copy yet, my plan is to create a brief web survey asking stationery designers and store owners how this magazine can best serve them. This will introduce them to the future publication and will ideally partner with some them in the future to promote letter and journal writing.

I will also get names, addresses and email addresses from potential subscribers since many of these people probably have the same affiliation for their product as I do.

The second event is the Minnesota Magazine and Publications' Association annual Summit and Expo on Thursday, May 21 in Minneapolis. I went to this conference last year and found it very worthwhile. I listened to Samir Husni speak about everything to do with magazines and I took away a boat load of great information and action items that I was able to follow up on.

Monday, April 6, 2009

How Do You Start a Magazine?

When I tell people my goal of starting a magazine, the question sometimes gets asked "Where do you start and how do you know what to do?" I respond with "I start with the end and work backwards." In this case, the end would be a printed magazine sitting for sale on a magazine stand. As I write this blog, I have not yet achieved my goal, so I can't say that what I have done works or is the right way to do it. But I can share with you what I've done to get this far and what my plans are for my next steps.

I started by reading books on how to start a magazine: How to Start a Magazine (James B. Kobak), Starting and Running a Successful Newsletter or Magazine (Cheryl Woodard), Publish Your Own Magazine, Guidebook, or Weekly Newspaper (Thomas A. Williams).

I also visited various websites and blogs by googling different words on starting a magazine business. Some of these resources are:
Mr. Magazine (Samir Husni)
Magazine Launch (free help for small businesses)
Women Venture (based in St. Paul, MN)

Once I did the initial research to find out the basics of what needed to be done, I made a list of things I could do now. This list included things that I had the ability to do, things that were not too complicated for a beginner and things that were free or nearly free.

Find people who have done this and talk to them
As I read magazines and blogs, inevitably I came across references to people who have done this before. Three of the people I contacted each spent a good hour answering my questions and offering advice based on their experience. The magazines of the people I spoke with are
Performing Songwriter
Toy Farmer Magazine
Today's Groom

Join pertinent organizations and take advantage of their networking
I researched the different organizations in my field (magazines, publishing) and decided on which ones I would join based on cost, offerings, etc. I joined these two associations in 2008 and already have attended 2 seminars that they sponsored and found them both very beneficial.
MN Magazine & Publications Association
Women in Periodical Publishing

I've been reading a lot of inspirational literature- Stephen Covey, Anthony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, Napoleon Hill, Zig Ziglar, etc. and they all say not to limit your goals and dreams by your current situation. Dream BIG. Visualize. Plan. Strive. Believe. Write it down. Do it.

Break down the BIG DREAM into manageable goals
Once you have your big goals written down, start by prioritizing them and breaking them down into manageable tasks. For example, one of the bigger steps for starting the magazine was writing a business plan. Not having ever written one, it was a little overwhelming where to start. And once I found some existing business plans specifically for magazines, I was still stunned into inaction by the enormity of the task. But then I read or recalled the advice to keep breaking down a task until you get it in manageable chunks. Here is what I did with the business plan.

1. Print out the business plan
2. Start with the easy sections
3. Write freely just to get the thoughts out (What did I know about it? Why do I feel it can be a successful venture? Why was I the best person to make it happen?)
4. Once the easy parts were done, I realized that I was about 75% done with the plan
5. Seek outside help/guidance for the remainder of the plan handling one section at a time
6. When information is unknown, use your best guess. This should have a high end and a low end with a plan of action for identifying how this can be realistically determined. My example would be answering the following questions?

How big is the world of letter writers?
How big is the world of letter writers who would buy this magazine?
How big is the world of journal writers?
How big is the world of journal writers who would buy this magazine?

Start working on those goals. Still too big? Break them down some more
Have a list of goals
Have a timeline
Be flexible
Be committed
Do something every day to support your dream- even if it's visualizing, writing, planning
Help others achieve their dreams without thought of recompense. It will come.

Why Now?

Some people ask "You want to start a magazine now? Don't you know the publishing world is falling apart? Print is sooo yesterday." And others comment, "A magazine on letter writing? Are you crazy?" But the fact is some people do write letters. Granted, not everybody, but somebody.

My favorite analogy is Cigar Aficionado. Not every one who smokes cigars will buy this magazine. And a lot of people who don't smoke cigars will buy the magazine. With Letters & Journals you get the same mix. Not everyone who writes letters or journals will want to read the magazine. But a lot of people who don't write letters or journal, will buy the magazine. Maybe they like the ads (all to do with this world of writing, letters, journals, mail, postcards, stamps). Maybe like the image and feelings that a world of letter writing portrays. Or maybe they can't get enough about the world of journaling. Somerset Studios recently published Art Journaling in 2008 and it sold out at newsstands.

With Letters & Journals there is so much more subject matter than 'how to write a letter' or 'how to start a journal'. Here are some potential story ideas:

A Stationery Lover's Guide to Paris (NYC, San Fran, you get the picture)
How do you start a Stationery Business? A Look at some people who did
Postcards from Around the World-
Highlights of famous people's journals
Fan Mail- Do Movie Stars Still Get it? Let's Take a Look
Letters in the Attic? Genealogy
Let's Peek in Your Travel Journals
A Teacher sends a graduation class the letters they wrote to themselves when they were in the 5th grade
365 Letters- A Woman Writes a Letter a Day for 1 Year

And think of the advertising partnerships! Stationery stores, stationery designers, pen companies, notebooks, journals, dayplanners, post office, Hallmark, and the list goes on!

I believe the internet is helping to bring letter writers together. There are groups for letter writers, penpals, writers, blogs about blogging, postcards, mail art, stamp collecting. I also think that this type of personal writing also can play a part in genealogy as well as scrapbooking, for those hobbyists pursuing those interests. All potential buyers for Letters & Journals.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Starting a Magazine

It is my dream to start a magazine on letter writing and journal writing. It will be called Letters & Journals (imagine those words in over-sized script font). It will be all about letter writing today, the history of letter writing, the future of letter writing, all kinds of journal writing, to do lists, books on letter collections and books on letter writing, profiles of letter writers (famous and not famous), mail art, penpals, stationery stores, stationery products, blogging, using art in journals, fan mail, the Christmas letter, circle journals, postcards, stamps and so much more.

Curious about the state of letters in the technology of the 21st century, I decided to do my master's thesis on the history of letter writing. While doing this I came across hundreds of articles about the lost art of letter writing. Who were all of these people as enchanted by letters as I am that they missed them and bemoaned their loss?

One of the most intriguing finds in my research was this quote from a book on letter writing called The Lost Art that was written by Dorothy Van Doren in 1929:

It is often said that the days of the great letter writers are over. The typewriter has done away with the pen; a machine age, which was to have provided leisure, demands more hours in service to it than did the time of hand crafts and long working days. The motion picture, the radio, the motor car, the washing machine are jealous masters. We telegraph now instead of writing letters, and when we neglect to telegraph there is always the long distance telephone.

So it's been 80 years that we have been calling it the Lost Art? When was it lost? Where did it go?

I think it's better to think of it as an evolution. We don't send letters by the morning and afternoon post announcing our intention to call on friends and relatives like we did 100 years ago. We don't send children in the mail like we did in 1913. Yet some things are the same. We still send fan mail to celebrities, we still mail letters to armed service personnel, we write to relatives and friends, penpals, politicians, etc.

Granted, not everybody writes letters. But that has always been the case, so it's nothing new now. There is no argument that email, social networking and cell phones have removed much of the need for personal letters and yet they persist. I think that's a good thing. A wonderful thing~ this persistence of the noble letter.

My plan for this blog is to outline my vision and progress as I move closer to making my dream for this magazine a reality. I will add links to blogs and interesting articles on these subjects and I hope that anybody reading this will send me anything of interest that they may find in their day to day travels in their neighborhood or the world at large.

I can be reached at