Often when I'm directing a play, there's a moment early on when I take stock of everything that has to happen and think, "Hm. There's a good chance this may not come together. It's too much." But then opening night, as the cast and crew accept their justly earned praise, there's me in the back of the house smiling quietly to myself because I see now the enormity of what we've accomplished. We built and decorated a room including furniture, we built or found costumes and props, we generated print and video content, we learned 80 pages of material so well we have actual emotions about it...It's easy to lose sight of that gestalt "when your head's down over your pieces, brother."
So it is with OLY ARTS. When Ned Hayes recruited me to be the editor of that publication, we had less than two months to hire a staff while creating a brand, a media kit, an entire website including a functional calendar, a social media presence, a weekly newsletter and not one but two print publications. (The first was a 12-page demo edition seen only by advertisers.) It seemed impossible--but then we got to work and forgot how impossible it was. Then, seeming days later, it was finished and holy...We actually managed to pull this off! Look at everything we got done! When our first official issue of OLY ARTS rolled off the printers in the nick of time for Lakefair 2016, we were so proud and excited we couldn't contain ourselves. Look at it: 16 whole pages! With advertisements, some of which we hadn't given away free in order to build business relationships!
If you have one of those copies, keep it; it's a collector's item. We "sold out" the entire run of that issue, but it wasn't easy. No one knew what we were trying to hand them. Several venues didn't want to let us in. I encountered residual bitterness from years as a theater critic. Here we were, though, hawking a magazine that looked like a real, honest-to-Dionysus arts magazine. Now the question that loomed, it seemed, was this: Could we possibly maintain that level of quality issue after issue?
Flash-forward ten months. Now when the spring 2017 issue arrived, I was so busy stuffing it into our new downtown office that I barely snapped a look at the cover. ("Yes," I thought, "it's bright green. That should move.") Then came Arts Walk. Our distribution team handed out many thousands of copies, a much easier job this time because people came asking for them. Olympia knows us and likes us now. I was told people read the issues cover to cover. We're entirely advertiser-supported, including the five podcast episodes we produce every week (84 to date). Our advertising and business managers, new acquisitions since the summer edition, are both aces. Not only is our spring issue over twice as long as the Lakefair 2016 issue, I'd say it's at least twice as good--but we produced it in less time.
As crowds gathered for Procession of the Species, I saw hundreds of people reading their copies and showing each other photos and articles. Ned drove past Starbucks and saw a line of people absorbed in OLY ARTS as they finished their lattes and Unicorn Frappuccinos. One woman told me she noticed my writing and would look for my books. That's good for us, it's good for local business, and it signifies an important fact about our publication: It gets read. I walked around downtown Olympia after the Procession and, of the thousands of copies we gave away in two short days, I found exactly two lying in the street. Instead what I saw was copies rolled up and tucked into back pockets. People kept OLY ARTS as an ongoing entertainment reference. When I offered a copy to one guy, he said, grinning, "I already have one sitting on my coffee table at home."
So this is me expressing gratitude to everyone who contributes to OLY ARTS, from our writers and photographers to Tabitha the ad champ to our outstanding distribution team to, of course, publisher Ned Hayes. I can look around and see what we've accomplished now. I see the house we built rather than the rough spots I need to find time to sand down. Our writers already have their assignments for the summer issue, our sixth print edition, coming just in time for Lakefair 2017.
If you'll excuse me, I need to get to work. I have four new articles stacked in my inbox, and those need to be edited and posted this week. Tomorrow's StoryOly podcast episode is edited and ready to take live, but I've barely started Thursday's installment of Sound Stages. With a well-deserved mini-vacation coming next week, I need to make two of everything by Sunday, not to mention ensuring our employees get paid. Duty calls...but oh, what a thing we've all managed to build here, and what a community we've built it to serve.