What If…? Just asking.

This is what a magazine looks like about 30 minutes before it goes to press. I’ve learned so many lessons about magazine publishing in the past (almost) three years. One of those lessons is that once it gets to this point, if there are any typos, grammatical errors, name misspellings, or anything else that makes you look sloppy, it’s too late. Once it goes to the printer after this final press check, you get what you get. And you don’t throw a fit. You can take all the courses in publishing that any university offers, but that can’t compare with diving in and actually doing it. In the winter of 2009, four co-workers  – three dear friends and I –  uttered those crazy, dangerous, and exhilarating words: What if?”

What if we did a short run of a women’s magazine that focused on storytelling?

What if we approached some advertisers and asked them to take a chance on an upstart magazine?

What if we told women that every one of us has a story and to send us yours?

What if storytelling could bring us together and help us focus on what unites us instead of what divides us?

What if  we just did ONE magazine? If it didn’t work out, at least we would be able to say that we tried. And, we would have one beautiful magazine to hold in our hands as a reminder of what we believe in.

Guess what? We have 10 issues spanning almost three years to hold in our hands. We have a circulation of 10,000. We have advertisers that believe in what we do, but more importantly we have readers and contributors who believe that storytelling just might be the glue that finally holds us all together. I believe in humility, I really do, but dang it –  I’m proud of this magazine. And I’m proud of the women who have consistently brought each issue to life every quarter since June, 2009. Together, we’ve cried, laughed, cheered, moaned, questioned, argued, and sometimes collapsed in exhaustion after the issue went to press. But there hasn’t been one minute when I’ve regretted asking what if?

I’m not much of a what if? person if you want to know the truth. Those words bring with them just a hint of risk and the possibility that the proposition might not work out. My friends and I had a very exciting list, but we could have easily made a very long and scary list of other what ifs:

What if no one believes in the importance of storytelling?

What if no one wants to write for our magazine?

What if no one wants to read our magazine?

What if we end up looking like amateurs who have no business launching a publication?

What if technology is causing the world of print to slowly disappear?

What if the economy gets even worse (remember, this was 2009) and we lose big money?

The list could go on, and unfortunately, I am a person who is prone to making these kinds of lists and then ringing my hands over them until I talk myself out of whatever wonderful what if possibility is before me. But this time, I put the list aside and decided that one beautiful short run of a printed publication filled with women’s stories was worth it. I’m so glad I did, but it does cause me to wonder what I’ve missed out on in life because I couldn’t trash the scary list. I do believe in evaluating the pros and cons, but sometimes that’s just a smokescreen for chickening out. I’m easily swayed away from ideas that are risky and I’m too quick to abandon actions that have questionable outcomes. I like the safe and sure path. But every now and then an opportunity comes along that forces me to swing my arms out wide and dive forward with absolutely no guarantee of what is beneath me. All I know is that there is no net and no promise that I’ll be caught and carried to safety. I just might crash. But if I don’t, the exhilaration of the dive  will be so, so worth it. I have a little framed saying in my house: “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

The journey of Mia never came with promises that we wouldn’t crash land on our back ends or our faces. But the destination wasn’t what caused us to be brave enough to ask what if? It was the journey. And what a journey it has been. I’ve met amazing women and been privileged to help bring their stories into print each quarter. I’m sorry if this post sounds like a marketing piece for Mia. It isn’t. It’s just the ramblings of someone who is so very thankful that she took the dive. That she trashed the scary list. That she decided to enjoy the journey even if she didn’t know the exact destination. So now that you know what a magazine looks like 30 minutes before it goes to press, you can click on our website and see what it looks like after it’s hot off the press.

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