Previously, I've written a bit about how 91 Magazine came about, its evolution and how I run it, but as all indie magazines do it differently, I've decided to run a series of interviews with other independent magazine editors to find out a bit more about their passion project - the story behind it and why they dedicate so much of their time to producing a print magazine. First up, I chat to mum of two Helen Martin, founding editor of Lionheart - a lifestyle publication featuring style, culture, stories, interviews, travel, photography, craft and illustration.
PH: Hi Helen! Welcome! So, what was it that inspired you to launch Lionheart magazine?
Helen: I wanted to communicate inspiring, unique and intelligent good feeling through words, images and design, plus the tactile aspect of holding an uncoated book in your hands, bending pages, cutting out pictures. It’s for browsing, reading, figuring out and doing with however you please. Women/humans are so complex, multifaceted and interesting, not one dimensional. We are constantly changing, reacting, growing and learning and I wanted to make something rounded that reflects this, inspires and nourishes from the inside, ticking all the boxes. Interviews, stories, books, beauty, style, interiors, wellbeing, illustration and photography. A massive ask and the only way to not be massively overwhelmed has been to always follow my instinct 100%. Ignore the dishes/bills/other influences/‘targets’/coffee cups/setting sun. All I want to know: what makes something sing, what gem is in here? Is there some sort of answer to a question/moment/life? The good is when you perhaps understand or gain an insight into something real and true, you can identify and it stays with you. Does this make sense?! Sorry, my answer was longer than intended!
PH: What is your background? Do you have a lot of publishing experience?
Helen: I started out writing creative first person pieces, as well as interviews, fashion and music. I did a lot of interning and freelancing for various independent and other mags, while also working in a whole host of part time jobs, from a call centre to fancy dress shop. I soon worked part time at the local newspaper while I did my NCTJ and also started a blog, then began working as the music editor and reporting on some really fun things like London Fashion Week for Amelia’s Magazine. I probably learnt the most about production while I worked as a f/t editor for a publishing company before having my first baby. Flexible working was out post-babe, so I returned to work at a different company as a lifestyle editor, before becoming freelance. I like freelance writing and have also worked for some lovely brands doing their digital marketing and putting on events. But throughout all of this, has been Lionheart! Since 2011.
PH: How do you go about planning your issues and sourcing contributors?
Helen: It starts with notes on my phone, Pinterest, screenshots. Plus lots of tear outs and a notebook. I still use scrap books! It’s pretty convoluted for a month or two and then whoosh. Everything suddenly gears up and I contact everyone – old and new contributors that I have found or they’ve found me – and start things moving. Holly Giblin, my designer and I work closely and slowly things start to flourish (can’t think of a better word) I guess! It all starts to fall into place and the buzz is magic and shared with contributors. I have to admit that I am really bad on the page plan and always do this last. GASP! I would only ever, ever do this with Lionheart. It just works this way! (Sorry, Holly!) It’s the best feeling seeing it all come together though, all these ideas and visions in one 96 page magazine.
PH: What is the most rewarding part about running an indie mag?
Helen: 1. That people enjoy it. 2. Seeing something you have imagined in print. 3. Working and meeting with brilliant and inspiring people. 4. The community of independent print magazines, I’m so proud to be a part of it and I love magazines like 91 Magazine so much. 5. My daughter pretending she runs a magazine.
PH: What is the most challenging part?
Helen: The bit just after the ‘flourish’ when it’s all there, staring at me on my laptop and I go - uh oh! Too close to it, too scared, too everything. It’s terrifying printing on your own, it really is. Like releasing any product of your own. But once through this, it’s back with NO, I LOVE this! This is what it’s about. Exciting. You have to have the highs and lows, I think. Also, I wish I had learnt a little more about business at school. I hope more schools and colleges emphasise being self employed as an option, as it will only increase I’m sure. Luckily though, there’s lots of help out there, such as communities like Doing it for the Kids. Plus inspiring business owners. You don’t have to muddle through things, ask for help.
PH: Why make a print magazine instead of a digital product?
Helen: I think probably for the same reasons as you print 91 Magazine, print is more attainable – it’s real with vivid colour, words and beautiful design. Importantly, it’s also something to keep and return to. I love going back to a magazine and re-reading it, getting something new from it or reinforcing a feeling. Like listening to a favourite song. Paper for me, can’t be beaten, whether a book or a gorgeous independent magazine, as a whole it has a strong impact.
PH: Do you think running a print magazine will ever be your sole income? (is it already?)
Helen: So totally not! One day, I hope so. Then I can also write a book and learn French!
PH: What are your dreams and goals for Lionheart?
Helen: Just for it to continue for as long as I love creating it and people would like it in their lives. Even though I say I might stop it sometimes, I can’t ever imagine doing this. I don’t think I can. Lionheart roars deep inside!