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Kerry Slavens, Editor-in-Chief, Page One Publishing

YAM magazine | Douglas magazine |Spruce magazine

How did you get your start as a writer and editor?

I have my Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Victoria’s School of Writing where I was fortunate enough to be exposed to many genres of writing, from poetry to non-fiction. UVic really brought me face to face with the art and the craft of writing, and the rigorous workshopping process removed any notion of ego, so I learned to really listen to criticism and to offer it in constructive ways. This would later be key to my work as a writer and editor.

I have a naturally curious nature and a love of language, so by my fourth year at UVic, I knew I wanted to work in publishing in some capacity. There were so many paths I could take, and truthfully, I wanted to explore them all.

I got my first job posting as an assistant editor at New Star Books in Vancouver where I worked with some exceptional and very experienced editors, helping to edit books about everything from nuclear proliferation to pregnancy. At that time, I thought a career in book publishing was in the cards for me, but after moving to the East Kootenay region and falling into the job of newspaper reporter (and very quickly becoming editor), I developed a love of news writing and especially feature writing. Even then, my favourite gigs were writing for magazines about everything from skiing to environmental and social issues. I love feature writing because it allows you more space to exercise your creativity and to get deeper into a topic — to tell a story.

How did you make the transition to magazines?

That started in the Kootenays, but it kicked into high gear when I moved back to Victoria and was hired as assistant editor and then editor for the magazines Focus on Women and It’s a Woman’s Business. I knew right away I’d found my calling! All my life I’ve been a magazine junkie — I just get magazines because I grew up reading them and, as a teen, I spent many hours in the drugstore reading everything I could get my hands on before they would ask me to buy something or leave! A lot of my allowance went to magazines — everything from Vogue to Rolling Stone to Time.

Today, you are editor-in-chief at YAM, Douglas and Spruce magazines, Victoria’s most successful magazines. What do you love about your job?

I love my job because each issue is like a puzzle you put together to match an overall vision. It’s a job that requires huge dedication, a passion for the genre and the ability to collaborate with the entire team, from the art director and designers to writers and photographers. It takes all of us to put together great magazines, issue after issue. Every day is a mix of strategy and creativity, where we all push each other to be at our best. I love that because it helps me grow as a writer, as an editor — and as a person.

What are the challenges of being editor-in-chief?

My big challenge is always deadlines! I think everyone struggles with those. It’s a huge stress point for me, but I also love the energy of an entire team pushing to get an excellent product to press. Fortunately, we have a fabulous production manager who helps to keep me on track. We all need to be accountable, right? The other big challenge is that there are never enough pages to run all of the stories I’d like to run. You have to curate, curate, curate — and it’s that process that shapes the magazine and helps to make it the best it can be. You have to really focus on what will appeal to your niche audience, because a magazine is really a conversation with them.

What is required to be successful as an editor?

You need the ability to envision the big picture and also to narrow down to the tiniest details because once you are at press, you can’t turn back or change your mind. You have to get it right. I think editors today also have to be multi-channel people who can write a social media post, do a TV interview or podcast, give a TEDx or PechaKucha talk and understand how to grow and promote brands. A big part of my work is engaging with our readers and the community. I really want to know what people think and what matters in their lives. A magazine editor should never expect to just sit at a computer — it’s a people job.

I also want to give special thanks to Athena McKenzie, who is deputy editor for YAM and Douglas, and editor for Spruce. It’s a pleasure to work with someone so talented, who has this deep understanding of magazines and their importance in our culture. We’ve worked side by side for about seven years, and I’ve rarely met someone with such an intuitive approach to magazine editing and writing.

Why do you think local magazines like YAM, Douglas and Spruce have been so successful?

At Page One, I think we really understand our niche and we don’t try to be all things to all people. We seek to communicate deeply with our readers. We value independence in journalism, and our readers know they can rely on us to be authentic and factual. Our entire team, including our sales team, respects the division between editorial and sales. I think this is a big strength because it leads to stronger editorial. We hear from many of our advertisers who value this authenticity, and they know that when we write about someone or something, it’s because it’s a great story that will appeal to our niche. At the same time, we appreciate the support of our advertisers and honour that support with great customer service, something that should never go out of fashion when it comes to building a successful publishing business.

As local newspapers cut back and digital expands, I think people still want authentic, local touchpoints. So many readers tell me that they love curling up with YAM or Spruce on a Sunday afternoon to read about the latest in lifestyle and homes, or sitting down in a café with Douglas and highlighting all of the business tips and leads and ideas to make their businesses or careers better. Magazines are personal. At Page One, we get that and we respect that.

What does the future look like for local magazines?

It’s pretty tough to imagine what the world will look like in five years, but I do believe people will continue to crave a quality magazine experience like we offer. We will need those authentic touchpoints that we can’t get through digital alone. Local magazines like YAM, Douglas and Spruce anchor us to where we live and the things we care about. They are personal — and I think there will always be a need for that kind of connection. At the same time, we can’t ignore shifts in technology and culture. We need to leverage those shifts to reach readers and advertisers, and we do that very well at Page One, working in concert with our online and social media teams. It’s never, ever dull — and I love it!

— By Krissy Bublitz, Langara College Library Technician Practicum Student with MagsBC, March 2013; updated September 2019.