TELL US ABOUT YOUR INTRODUCTION INTO JOURNALISM?
Splash Magazine for The Sun Times (now part of The Tribune) was my first real internship. I was a freshman in college and had gotten that internship after being given a class assignment to interview a Chicago based journalist. At first, I didn’t know who I wanted to interview, so I kept reaching out to television professionals because at the time I thought I wanted to do TV. Each and every one of them turned me down. I also love magazines and began to reach out to professionals in that field as well.
That’s how I met Susanna Homan, founder of Michigan Avenue magazine and a former columnist for The Chicago Sun-Times, who was later asked to start Splash Magazine. Within the Chicago fashion scene, she’s like the top person to know and the fact that she gave me 20 mins of her time was amazing and all I needed. She enjoyed the interview, gave me a tour of the space, and asked me if I wanted to intern there. Honestly, getting an internship as a freshman is very unheard of, especially in journalism. So, I always tell people I owe my start in journalism to her. It was there that I learned the operations of a magazine and how to develop my writing voice.
After that summer, I didn’t do another internship until my junior year for the Chicago Reader which was a very different environment. Outside of learning the ropes there, I would utilize all of my extra time freelancing and perfecting my craft. Reflecting on my time there and reminiscing on my internship at Splash, I knew that I wanted to do this for myself, and that’s when I decided that I wanted to do CIRCUS.
WHAT IS YOUR PRIMARY ROLE AS AN EDITOR?
When it comes to running a magazine, however, you have to know a little bit of everything — what’s good design, what’s good photography, who’s a great model and most importantly, what makes a good story. I’m constantly searching for stories for the site and for the print component and then figuring out the best way to visually tell that story. You also oversee every little thing which can be exhausting—you are the first and last person to see a story be produced from start to finish. To be a very good editor you have to be able to spot and make changes and you need to be comfortable with helping other writers grow — I’ve had a lot of editors help me grow within my craft, and I want to do the same for those who I mentor.
“When it comes to running a magazine, however, you have to know a little bit of everything — what’s good design, what’s good photography, who’s a great model and most importantly, what makes a good story.”
I SEE YOU TEND TO FOCUS ON A LOT OF WOMEN. DOES THAT IMPACT THE TYPE OF CONTENT THAT YOU PRODUCE; WHAT IS THE PRIMARY FOCUS FOR CIRCUS MAGAZINE?
The primary focus of CIRCUS is featuring trending and undiscovered creatives and how the work they create intersects with the art, fashion and music cultures of today. We feature a lot of fashion designers, illustrators, painters, musicians—you name it. If you’re doing cool shit, we’re featuring it.
The content we publish depends a lot on the type of contributors that submit. In terms of male focused content, most of that goes through our music section because that’s the type of male contributors we have— mostly music writers. People tell me all the time that I need to showcase more men on the site but I’m kind of ambivalent about it. I honestly just feature who I think is the best of their category at the time and right now women are simply killing the art game. The print issue features 100%, female artists. I think that’s amazing.
WHAT SETBACKS HAVE YOU ENCOUNTERED BUILDING CIRCUS?
The hardest part, especially in the beginning, and the hardest part still to this day is having consistent collaborators in terms of writing. I never had problems with collaborating with photographers, models, or stylists who want to shoot with us. Visual people always wanted to contribute something to the magazine, on the other hand, writers are a lot different. It boils down to, if you’re not getting paid or not writing about what you want to write about, it’s really hard to make a writer write something, and I know that because I’m a writer myself. Even though we are bigger than the team of 7 that we started with, still to this day I do 90% of the writing on the site. That factor alone is still the hardest part to me.
AS ARTISTS, OUR MESSAGES AND OVERALL VISION OFTEN GET LOST IN TRANSLATION. DO YOU FIND IT DIFFICULT EXPRESSING YOUR VISION?
I think most of the time I’m really lucky to work with artists who can translate that for me when I can’t say it myself. So sometimes I’m not able to get it out with words, but I can say bits and pieces for them to construct the puzzle together. I want to stress the importance of mood boards, that’s why they’re so important.
HOW DO YOU PLAN TO EVOLVE CIRCUS IN THE NEXT YEAR?
One major milestone we have this year is having our first full fledged print issue which I’m completely funding myself, and it’s so beautiful. It’s my life’s work so far. In the next year, I do want to push for us to have steady funding so I can pay all of my contributors as well as continue to produce issues. We’re really lucky that our current covergirl Ilse Valfre has over a million followers. That’s huge for us. The fact that she said yes gave me the confidence to say hey we can continue to push for bigger artists.
I’ve also decided that a physical, brick and mortar CIRCUS headquarters will be on its way. I’m wanting to further invest in this brand that I’ve built in order for us to reach bigger and better markets as time goes on.
IF POSSIBILITIES WERE ENDLESS, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD LOVE TO CREATE?
I would love to create an experience that people can walk away with from. Some type of creative conference. The only one I can think about right now is Create to Cultivate which is more so for bloggers. I’m imaging an area where artists can come together and do something for their community for their art, their culture.