The Quilt Scout

by Mary Fons

Everything Is Late and On Fire Again

Column #6

First issue of Quilty magazine ever, in my hands for the first time. Photo: MeOutside of waiting tables at Pizza Hut for two years in high school, the hardest and most rewarding job I’ve had so far in 22 years of work was being a magazine editor.


The task is Sisyphean. As you sign off on one issue, the next has been on deck for weeks. You need to be slating articles and quilts for the issue after that, too, or it will creep up on you and smack you on the back of your neck, rolled up like a bat. Items on your to-do list:


  •  Select 10-12 quilts to publish.

  •  Gather from technical writers the patterns for the quilts. If these are not correct — 100% correct every time — you and the entire team will be in a world of hurt in a couple months when quilters discover the error(s).

 Hexies? Again? I'm leaving.” Anna Wintour, 2010. Photo: Wikipedia •  Schedule photography for each issue; you need “beauty shots” as well as flat shots for every quilt. Seek and approve photo locations from a shrinking pool of people who allow a photo crew to spend two-ish days in their house.

  •  Collect and edit articles from writers who, by nature, must be pestered (ask me how I know.)

  •  Select the best of the quilt style shots, sometimes from a lean group of options.

  •  Write blurbs that will encourage — nay, make — the consumer purchase the magazine.

  •  Copyedit. Unless you’re the New Yorker, you will not have a copy editor on staff, so it’s up to you and the team to find typos, missing text, etc. Failure awaits.

  •  Use Kodak In-Site (most likely) to sign off on each issue and try your best not to strike your computer as you do; Kodak In-Site was designed to finalize magazines for printing and inspire white-hot rage.

  •  Please the publisher, the owners/stockholders of the parent company, the reader, and yourself, too: your name is on the thing, after all.

Racing to get my Letter From the Editor done in time several years ago — do people read the Letter From the Editor? — it struck me that publishing is in my blood.


Rejected cover of final issue of Quilty. I would've made a few tweaks -- but not many. 1977 Berkeley Barb magazine. Photo: Nancy WongMy mother was a magazine editor for years. My grandmother on Mom’s side started the small town newspaper where she lived. That’s three generations of women with ink on their hands. Media magnates we are not, but across the decades we’ve shared the love of the process of printing words on paper. I hadn't realized it.


It is a thrilling thing to get an actual newspaper or magazine in your hands when you were an engine behind it. Until that moment the publication was a smudged pasteboard, a big pile of glossy copies, or a digital file. You made it. You made a thing. You wrangled copy and images to make a magazine, in my case, and I love magazines.


I bend them, fold them, tear pages out of them, curl them up and stick them in my purse, throw them away, and buy new ones. I love the ephemeral nature of magazines, the fresh issue, and the absurd task of making something hopelessly out-of-date on contact.


Making quilts makes no sense, either: we take perfectly good fabric, tear it up into a million pieces, and sew it back together again. But every single quilt, when you turn the last of the binding, is enough to make you cry. You made it. You made a thing.


And then you turn to the one in your lap.