Monday, December 1, 2008

Behind the Scenes: Abdul Ali

As part of its makeover, this blog is going to be doing a semi-regular feature called "Behind the Scenes." In this feature, Writer's Center staff will discuss what they do at the Center and what it's like to work for a small nonprofit. Hint: it's deeply rewarding, but it's also challenging. Not to mention humbling.

Abdul Ali, Managing Editor of The Carousel, seems like the perfect way to begin. After all, our new and improved Carousel was published last month. We're pleased with how it turned out--though we know there are some things we missed (yes, there are typos, and we deeply regret those) and things we'd like to do better next time. But overall, this is what we wanted: a consolidated brochure/newsletter that brings you interesting content plus the workshops. One neat, tidy package. Abdul is a big part of the process that brought the publication to life, and here he is to talk about it:

It all starts with an idea. Let’s take travel, our next issue’s theme, for an example. The floodgates open and I think of all the ways the notion of Travel can connect with The Carousel, The Writer’s Center, and the writing life. It becomes an overnight obsession. That’s right, sweaty rashes, no showers, just brainstorming until the balloon pops. As writers, we tend to see things in layers. Of course, I do. When I think of travel, there’s the physical act of traveling and there’s the mental flight our minds make when we engage a work of literature.

Most of what I do is quite routine until it quietly builds into a supernova, a crescendo. As the deadline looms, emotions erupt, hair falls out, my eyes turn colors (not from alcohol, I promise.) Most of the routine comes in the form of following-up with authors, lots of back and forth e-mails, tracking down potential advertisers. It can sometimes be mind-numbing.

But then there are those moments—twilight ones--when an idea you have for an article or column pops out of the ether, flows through your mouth at a staff meeting, and everyone is on your bandwagon. You immediately e-mail a writer who you know is perfect for this assignment. And, they say “of course, I’d be happy to do it for free” and the rest is a wrap.

Aside from the hours that go into making The Carousel happen. A lot of it is collaborative, such as the design portions, or the conversations that make certain decisions definitive, the editing, the proofing, etc. Or the interns who make great pains to help me with this publication. It’s heartening to see members with a Carousel rolled up under their arm. Or, letting me know what they thought about a particular article. Because so much of what I do is in a vacuum, it’s lovely to hear outside voices. I’ve even created an e-mail account for this reason. It all begins with an idea so if you have any or would like to see yours into print, drop me a line,

1 comment:

C.M. Mayo said...

Hola Abdul, I'm working on that piece about the travel writing workshop for you!