Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Such a tease...

I don't usually do the "sorry, can't blog right now" thing, but... we're in the 11th hour of a move from Seattle to Tacoma, with all the requisite late nights, stress, and general chaos that comes along. And uh, well... sorry, can't blog right now.

But I do want to tease the write-up and photos from Sunday's Livestrong Challenge, which will receive my full attention, once we're settled in our new home. Let me just say that this ended up being the most rewarding 8 hours I've ever spent on a bike seat. I'm proud of my Dad for gutting it out, and so glad we got to do this ride together. My wife and kids cheered us across the finish, and I pretty much felt like the luckiest guy on Earth.

But yeah, details to come. Right now there's a teenager's room to pack. Wish me luck... teenagers are not known for their cleanliness and organizational skills. Dis gon' be ugly. (photo below taken at the finish)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Wend Story: Part 2

In Part 1 of our interview, Wend Editor Stiv Wilson talked about the magazine's unique personality, its early days, and told us why Portland makes such a great home base. Let's hear about the people who work so hard to bring us this gem of a magazine. Enjoy!
Part 2: Wend People

MSB: Who turns the gears at Wend? What's it like in your office?

SW: We're four business partners and one employee, though our employee has equity in the company. We also have a few independent contractors for accounting, ad sales, copy, etc. and a couple of interns who rock. Our office is pretty kick ass. It's a big industrial warehouse space with toys everywhere: surfboards, skateboards, snowboards, split-boards, tents, skis, snow shoes, bikes, backpacks, beer, day packs, you name it. We have a ping-pong table, and a rule that when tension strikes, you have to pong it out. Beers get cracked a lot at 4pm, and there is a lot humor. I speed to get to work.

Normally, in a traditional publishing model, you get an editorial hierarchy, which often suffers behind an editor who wants to exact his or her own vision, but can't because he or she is a slave to the advertisers and "the perception" of what the brand is at present. Tension arises because the executive officers who hired the editor have made the magazine a whore to those advertisers, which too often means you get a men's fashion magazine with an outdoor feel and a bunch of internal hypocrisy. I mean really, c'mon, you have the nerve to put a Hummer ad in your annual Green Issue? I understand the bottom line and all, but have some dignity.

This isn't how we do things editorially at Wend, nor is it how the people we've stacked on our board of directors look at our model. I want to reflect my reader's vision and values, and I want to know what my other editors are thinking, uncensored. Because my other editors are brilliant, I don't give a crap who's great idea it was, if it's better than mine, we're rolling with it. At the end of the day, I control what's in the book, yes, but you'd be hard pressed to find a story that my other editors don't fully back. My right hand editor is a woman, and I defer to her about how women get portrayed in the magazine. Yes, men like to look at women, that's true. But I don't want women portrayed as an object, but rather an agent. Men don't own the world of badass-ed-ness, but most outdoor editors make it appear that way. Basically, I'm not an asshole or a hypocrite, nor is anyone I work with, which means the product we create comes from the heart with honesty, critical thought, and mutual respect. Readers feel it.

Ian runs the marketing/branding show, Melissa is the ad sales manager and money bean counter, Zach is the design/aesthetic of the brand, and Anna and I are the wordsmiths. Anna is our only true employee and we'll pay her weight in gold and equity to keep her around. She rocks. Kyle is our main intern who we'll hire as an editor once he's out of grad school.

MSB: Your writers and photographers are consistently, for lack of a better word, awesome. How do you find them? If someone wanted to contribute to Wend, how would they go about it? What do you look for in a story?

SW: Awesome is an awesome word, and I dig it, so thanks. I can't really tell you how we do it, as it's not one particular mode, and there are some trade secrets I don't want to divulge, for fear of being copied, yet again. But let's put it this way; we are the only magazine in our market that understands how modern journalism really works, and we've brought that understanding into our publishing model. And we're not arrogant about it, so I think we attract a lot of talented people to our project who might have otherwise been dissuaded by the pomp so many others display. Magazine publishing has suffered too long because at the hand of New York style hubris, and we flatly reject that kind of crap. If you own a $1,000 camera and a good eye, you can be as good as almost any pro photographer.

I think the old model magazines are so used to having people come to them, that they cease to look out into the world to see what's really going on.

Being a first person, narrative driven magazine, means that by nature, Wend is going to be more personal. Our three other competitors always write 'about a person' and we publish stories written by the people they write 'about.' A good story is a good story and the writer's byline is only two words in it. I grew up skateboarding, and in skateboarding there's a code: the biggest badass talks the least and their ain't no such thing as a celebrity. I take those values to heart with regard to Wend.

If you want to contribute to Wend, check out the writer's guidelines at And be patient, please. As Editor in Chief, I won't be a dick to you, but I'm in the 150-200 emails a day club. If you're passionate and qualified to write your story, you'll get in. And to sum up what I'm looking for in one word: Authenticity.
Next Installment: Ethos

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Looking good for Missoula...

Regular readers might recall that I planned to do my first marathon at the end of June, Seattle's Rock-n-Roll shindig. Missing my chance to enter that race, I think, is going to end up being a blessing-in-disguise. Now, I can cap my family's annual Montana summer vacation with the Missoula Marathon.

Missoula's long been my favorite Montana city. Always said if I couldn't have lived in Seattle, that's where I would've gone after leaving my hometown of Helena. The marathon is only in its third year... my cousin Kiefer actually won the damn thing in its inaugural running.

I'll be nowhere near his winning time of 2:43, but I am feeling strong. On a 22-mile run yesterday, at training pace, I finished right around 3 hours. Gives me hope that a marathon around 3:30 is not out of the question.

In any case, I'm excited to be doing my first "big one" in the motherland with friends and family there to help ease the pain. Here we come, Mizzou!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Thanks Bobby!

Bobby Gonzales is an old friend and classmate from my University of Washington VCD (Visual Communications Design) days. Can't believe that qualifies us as "old friends", but hey, it has been almost 10 years since we donned the purple caps and collected that $30,000, suitable-for-framing piece of paper.

Big-ups to Bobby for sponsoring my 100-mile ride in the Livestrong Challenge. Thank you! It's time for a class reunion (and I know who will be bringing the poker chips).

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Wend Story: Part 1

I love Wend. There is nothing else like it on news stands. Back in the day, when I believed I might shoehorn more hours into the day and launch an outdoors website, it seemed natural that I would write about it.

So, I reached out to Editor Stiv Wilson, and asked if he might help a brotha' out. He got back to me right away and agreed to an email interview. I spent a couple days crafting some questions, getting things just right, and fired it off. Then, I waited.

Quite some time passed before I (somewhat reluctantly) sent a reminder. Last thing I wanted to do was be the pesky 6-year old kid tugging at the pant leg of my respected elder. But tug I did, and Stiv was indeed "stirred" to reply.

His email was abrupt, chastising me for including in my first question the line, "I was surprised by how quickly you answered my interview request". Stiv felt he hadn't responded quickly and that my statement was disingenuous (had to look that word up). He proceeded to make it clear that he wasn't interested in letting me prop-up my business on the Wend name. Humble pie, anyone?

As tough as it was to accept that electronic slap on the wrist, I now appreciate the forthrightness, and am really excited to publish this interview (albeit not on the kick-ass outdoors site I had envisioned). The story of Wend, its culture, the environmental ethos it lives, breathes, and feeds... and yes, its outspoken and straight-shooting Editor are infinitely interesting.

Over the coming installments, I hope you'll find a similar fascination, and maybe gain some insight and inspiration.
Part 1: Roots

MSB: Thanks for taking time to share the Wend story. Your magazine comes across as uniquely personal… like a friend spinning stories over a cold beer. Is that sense of accessibility something for which you strive? Perhaps something you thought was missing from other magazines?

SW: Being uniquely personal is definitely something we strive for. To me, outdoor adventure stories should be a slightly more refined version of the kick ass story your buddy tells you around a camp fire. All the other mags in our market use the age old rockstar/hero formula (Lance Armstrong is on the cover again!) and after reading about these dudes (and I say dudes because they barely, barely cover women unless they're 'uncovering them') you just feel like you’re 'never going to be that good.' I've met a lot of badass adventurers in my life, and all of them, besides being great athletes are in fact human and as such, are imperfect. I like to draw that out in our publication because those aspects are what our readers can empathize with. Our heroes are people who go into the wild for a purpose other than their own bragging rights. The humility I approach our editorial with comes from being a surfer and realizing no matter how good I get, the ocean is always going to remind me how bad I suck. Nature isn't something you conquer, it's something you respect. Adventure is a state of mind, and a way of life. I'm sick of the cabal that exploits and deifies it in print, and then sells it with tits. Those people aren't real, they're airbrushed and they sure as hell ain't you and me.

MSB: What was the catalyst for creating Wend? Does the story begin in a basement with a PC and a pirated copy of Photoshop, or did you hit the ground running and land, glossy paper and all, in 7-11 stores everywhere? Tell us about the early days.

SW: No comment on the Photoshop, but it wasn't a PC, it was a Mac. Ian Marshall, our [then] publisher and founder, was approached by an investor and Ian developed the concept, brought his idea to me, and I was stoked to get involved. He figured out how to sell it without selling it out, and I figured out how to get it written. But we had issues with the initial investor's business ethic/aesthetic sense, and we left him in the spring '08, and forged out on our own. We worked for nothing in the early days, and when we took control, we structured our own pay below market value so we could be printed on sustainable paper, as we wanted to be putting our money where our mouth is.

MSB: Every journey needs a home base. How important is the city of Portland as yours?

SW: Portland is awesome; everyone lives here to get out of here on the weekends. You have every kind of adventure sport within 60 miles of downtown, and you have a city full of enviros who want to protect the wild places where they play. It's like living in the Platonic form of your demographic. Not to mention there are a lot enviro outdoor brands here too. Also, Oregon has every kind of climate that the continental US has, and since we do all our stock photography in house, it's helpful to have mountain, desert, and ocean a short drive away.
Next Installment: Wend People

One more call to y'all...

Well, the day is nearly upon us. And while I'm not really in the kind of shape a guy should be in to ride 100 miles, I couldn't be happier that my dad has signed up to ride the Livestrong Challenge alongside me. In fact, the ol' turkey has out-fundraised his son!

Thank you to everyone who has pledged their support to this point. If you haven't stepped up, please consider it. Visit my Personal Challenge Page and make a donation! Any amount is appreciated.

Thanks all. Watch this space for a ride report at the end of the month!