A word (or two) about What’s Up Yukon

With not one, but two new editors now in harness at What’s Up Yukon, our loyal readers may be wondering what that means and how their magazine might be changing.

To answer those questions, here’s part of a cyber-chat between Meg Walker in Dawson City and Ken Bolton in Whitehorse.

It has been edited, of course, because that’s what editors do.

KB: Why don’t we start with what you like most in the magazine as it is?

MW: I’ve only been reading What’s Up Yukon for a couple of years, but I’ve enjoyed seeing how different columnists have built their thoughts into a collage of ideas over time.

There are lots of examples, but I’m thinking of how Jessica Simon has developed a portrait of Whitehorse’s literary scene, and how Michael Kulachkosky and Rachel Finn can provide so much information in a smart, hilarious way in their Beer Cache column.

KB: I know what you mean. I was never much interested in star-gazing until I started reading James Cackette, but it’s hard not to get infected by the passion he brings to his subject.

MW: Passion. That’s the key word, isn’t it? I think of Nicole Bauberger’s passion for the visual arts, Sarah Lindstein’s passion for music, or Brian Eaton’s passion for film.

KB: I’ve been reading What’s Up Yukon since the beginning, and there has been such an abundance of good writers I really can’t pick my favourites. But I will admit the first thing I read every week is Didee and Didoo. I love Allan Benjamin’s warm, quiet humour.

MW: Yes. There’s a lot going on in those simple poems and drawings.

KB: Allan is also an editor’s delight. He never misses a deadline. In fact, his stuff comes in by mail from Old Crow weeks in advance. Which brings up another point: as editors, what should we expect from our writers?

MW: There’s no question that the writers who have given so much to the magazine are the main reason to pick it up and read it again each week.

KB: Let’s not forget the photographers. There have been some outstanding images that have told really clear stories, by photographers such as Rick Massie.

MW: So true. It’s important to recognize what has made the magazine thrive over the years and build on that. Our readers have come to rely on what we offer, and we need to respect that.

KB: I’m really glad you said that. We just met a few days ago, we come from different backgrounds, we live in different cities. The readers – and our contributors – deserve to know we’re not planning to kick over the apple cart and change everything just for the sake of change.

MW: Absolutely. So getting back to the question about what we should expect from our writers, what I like most are stories that show people who are passionate about what they do, whether it’s painting or dancing or growing vegetables or downhill skiing. A good writer gets below the surface and shows what makes people hum.

KB: It’s the old maxim for writers: don’t tell me, show me.

MW: That’s one reason I like reading interviews in the question-and-answer style. It’s unfiltered and authentic. The way the questions are framed is a big part of how successful the interview is. I’d like to see more of those.

KB: One thing I like to tell beginning writers is not to be afraid of taking risks. Even if a question seems dumb, don’t be afraid to ask. You never know where it might lead.

MW: We also run a lot of reviews and opinion pieces and humour columns by witty people like George Maratos and Anthony Trombetta. What would we look for from writers who are doing more subjective pieces like that, especially if they’re new to the game?”

KB: Wow, where do we start? I like to read copy that sparkles with energy and commitment. Articles with clear logic and a distinctive voice, like Jerome Stueart’s theatre reviews, for example.

MW: Isn’t that a lot to ask, especially for people who are just getting started?

KB: Sure, but the great thing about this magazine is that it provides such a broad canvas. Many, many writers have had their start here, and their talents have matured and blossomed over time, mostly because they know so many people are reading their stories.

MW: Can we say something about some of the new features we’re thinking of introducing, the new areas of interest we want to explore? I think our readers want to know what new directions their magazine might be taking with two new editors. I’m dying to see an occasional fashion column.

KB: What about a horoscope, or a Yukon crossword puzzle? And lots more outdoor stuff. The trouble is, we’re out of space and there’s so much more to talk about. Let’s keep the conversation going for awhile, OK?

MW: Sure, and let’s expand it, too. We need to invite the readers into the discussion. What’s Up Yukon isn’t just about writers and editors. We’re here because of the readers, so we should ask them what they think and what they would like to see.

KB: Check. Not on a hit-and-miss basis, either. So let’s open up a forum. And if you’re ever in Whitehorse, let’s do lunch.

MW: You got it. Anything but a breakfast meeting.

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