When I was in college, I did what every aspiring journalist did back then, in the dark ages of the 1970s-I would research and write an article, type it out on my portable electric typewriter, put it in an envelope, lick a stamp, and mail it off to a glossy magazine in hopes of getting it published. How quaint every step of that process seems now, right down to the stamp. Writer’s Market was my bible, a fat directory I’d leaf through to get editors’ names and addresses for the magazines in which I longed to appear. Oh, to have my words printed on the pages of Esquire , the Atlantic , Saturday Review , or that pinnacle of sophistication and beautiful prose, the sanctified New Yorker .
The first national publication to respond positively to my earnest submissions wasn’t quite in the league of my idols, but it was enough: Modern Bride . When I heard yesterday of the magazine’s death as part of Condé Nast’s economizing excisions, I grew nostalgic-remembering, as it were, my first time. Remembering the thrill of that moment, standing at the mail table in my apartment house in Evanston, Ill., opening up my own shiny copy of Modern Bride , finding my own article and my own unfamiliar, newly-married byline-a moment both delightedly public and very, very personal.
With that Modern Bride article-called, I cringe to admit it, “How To Write Your Own Marriage Ceremony”-I felt like I was on my way as a journalist. This was how I became validated in my chosen career. This was how I started satisfying my ambitions.
My two daughters and my nephew are journalists now-something in the blood, or the genes, or in having them see by my example that living a life devoted to words and ideas is not only gratifying, but possible. But today I’m wondering, What have I done? Will any of this be as much fun again?
The loss of four big Condé Nast titles, including my own one-off, first-time outlet, drives home for me how different journalism will be for the next generation. Whatever niche Modern Bride filled seems to be more than adequately filled by blogs and websites; my older daughter demonstrated that when she planned her wedding last year by devotedly visiting (and posting to, and seeking guidance from commenters on) IndieBride -and not once cracking a bridal mag. But what about the niche these magazines filled for aspiring writers? When the half-life of everybody’s first-ever piece of published writing is measured in days, or even hours, what happens to the thrill? When your clipping file is a series of links instead of a drawer full of manila folders stuffed with yellowing pages, is that as satisfying? I don’t want to sound like an old fogey-hell, I outgrew that electric typewriter decades ago, and I facebook (is that a verb?) with the best of them-but it makes me sad to watch the old magazines fold. Because as they disappear, what’s also disappearing is the chance to have something hefty and shiny and tangible that lets you know you’re on your way. The loss of Modern Bride and the others reminds us that what is passing is not just a magazine, but something important in the life of a writer.
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