Before I found my way into children’s books, I wanted to work in magazines. In my teens and 20s, I interned for three magazines (Texas Monthly, Rolling Stone, and — yes, indeed — Sassy) and subscribed to tons more.
The potentially powerful connection between a magazine and its readers appealed to me deeply, and I hope that a similar relationship will develop between my books and the young people who read them.
Magazines are on my mind these days because of the role that two of them — and their affect on two particular boys — played in bringing The Day-Glo Brothers into existence.
In the early 1930s, Joe Switzer was a teenage reader of Popular Science. In its pages, he read an article that changed his life. And mine. And yours.
The article was in the December 1932 issue, and it carried the headline, “Homemade Ultra-Violet Lamp Produces Magic ‘Black Light.'” Not long after he saw that how-to article, Joe and his older brother, Bob, built their own UV lamp. Thus began the experiments that led to their invention of the daylight fluorescent colors commonly known as Day-Glo. Your world would not look the same, and I wouldn’t have a book, if not for the inspiration Joe received from Popular Science.
Three decades later, a pre-teen named Gary Hoover received his first issue of Fortune magazine. Here’s Gary from a post last week for his new book-filled blog, HooversWorld:
[E]very year beginning in 1963, when I was 12 years old, I have received the new Fortune Magazine list of the 500 largest companies and dashed off to study it â€“ who’s up, who’s down, which industries had a good year and which ones had a bad year, who merged with whom.
I discovered my first Fortune 500 issue â€“ and still have it â€“ when I was a kid trying to understand General Motors, by far the most important force in my hometown. Back then it took a lot of work to find out information about companies. So I went down the list, name by name, and found out what they did, and a bit about their history. If I didn’t know anything about them â€“ which meant most of the companies on the list â€“ I went to the library or the local stock brokerage office to bury myself in Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s Manuals, and later Value Line and other sources of company data. I took page after page of notes.
What does Gary’s love for Fortune magazine have to do with The Day-Glo Brothers? It was his resulting passion for business research — combined with his later experience as a bookseller — that inspired him 28 years later to found a publisher of business reference books.
And it was as an editor for the subsequent online incarnation of his company, responsible for combing each day’s business publications for news worth including in our company profiles, that I encountered Bob Switzer’s obituary in The New York Times in 1997.
If not for Fortune, I wouldn’t have seen that obituary and gotten the idea for my book, and if not for Popular Science, there wouldn’t have been a story for that obituary to tell in the first place. And who knows how many other examples there are of weeklies or biweeklies or monthlies having that sort of impact on their readers, and on the wider world?
No wonder I wanted to work in magazines.