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Longtime Brain, Child magazine reader Marcelle Soviero was dismayed when she learned it would cease publishing. So she bought the Virginia-based business.
Marcelle Soviero, a mother of five, is the new owner of Brain, Child.
Brain, Child is a quarterly parenting magazine for mothers.
Brain, Child is a quarterly parenting magazine for mothers.
Subscriptions are $22 per year, $37 for two years. Individual copies are $6. A one-year digital subscription is $20.
To subscribe, visit www.brainchildmag.com/bcshop/subscriptions.
Monday, January 14, 2013
After having her submissions rejected time and time again by her favorite parenting magazine, Marcelle Soviero figured out how to get published.
She bought the magazine. I don't mean just one edition, either. She bought the entire business of Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers.
"It was quite an expensive byline," she said.
That's a joke, actually, because Soviero is a successful writer, editor and teacher who didn't need to buy her own magazine to see her name in print. She bought the Virginia-based Brain, Child in order to save it.
For a dozen years, Brain, Child was one of independent publishing's greatest success stories. First published by two moms in Lexington and Charlottesville in 2000, the smart, funny, literary magazine for mothers racked up readers and awards by showcasing high-quality writing from famous authors, first-time writers, working women and numerous mothers who wanted more from parenting magazines than just snack tips and top-10 lists.
The headlines ranged from "No, The Cat Didn't Go To Heaven: Raising Kids Atheist" to "Rock Steady: Mama's in the Band." The articles were often edgy and sharp. Filled with great writing and even a few cartoons, Brain, Child was like a New Yorker for mothers.
"We were on the front end of the modern movement toward writing about parenting that wasn't all hearts-and-flowers soft-focus sentimentality," said Stephanie Wilkinson, a Lexington-based writer, restaurant owner and mom who started the magazine with her Charlottesville friend, Jennifer Niesslein.
"We aimed to provide a venue for great writing about one part of the human endeavor that too often - it seemed to us - got soft-pedaled, politicized and shrouded in cliches. And for 12 years, we think we did a pretty good job of it."
That, they did from the start. The very first issue in March 2000 featured essays by best-selling authors Barbara Kingsolver and Susan Cheever . Over the years, the likes of Anne Tyler, Jane Smiley, Antonya Nelson, Barbara Ehrenreich and other writers contributed essays, features and fiction to the quarterly magazine. A few dads wrote articles, too, but the magazine was geared toward women.
Brain, Child won numerous awards, which included prestigious Pushcart Prizes and two Utne Independent Press Awards. Some of the magazine's works were included in "best-of" anthologies, as well.
However, in early 2012, Wilkinson and Niesslein decided it was time to put the magazine to bed for good. The publishing industry had changed and the women were considering turning from magazine to book publishing.
"We were feeling like we wanted to escape the routine of the quarterly magazine," Wilkinson said. "We knew that we could keep going if we wanted to, but we started to think that we'd like to try something slightly different.
"The magazine industry is definitely in transition and the rise of online publications and blogs has changed the way parents get and share information and experiences - and that definitely made putting out a print publication a little harder - but we didn't decide to stop publishing the magazine primarily because of that."
So, the spring 2012 edition of Brain, Child was the last - until Soviero saw the news.
"I thought, 'This can't happen,' " Soviero said.
Subscribers stayed on
Soviero, who lives in Connecticut and teaches at the Westport Writers Workshop, had been a subscriber since 2000. She had been an editor at Popular Science magazine and published periodicals for nonprofit groups. She had never owned her own magazine, however, until now.
Wilkinson said that "Over the course of a couple of weeks, we came to mutually agreeable terms for the sale, she and her husband drove to Lexington, loaded up a U-Haul with the contents of our offices, and voila! She was in business. It was pretty unexpected and pretty fast."
Soviero, 45, a mother of five, published a new edition of Brain, Child on Dec. 1. The magazine looks identical to what readers have come to expect and still will be published quarterly. She said she has been able to retain nearly all of the previous subscribers, about 36,000 in all.
She said that she will embrace the Internet and its publishing potential by unveiling a revamped website as early as this week (www.brainchildmag.com) and offering a digital edition for downloads. However, the magazine will continue to publish a print edition, which still is how most people read Brain, Child, Soviero said.
"Personally, I believe in print," Soviero said. "People believe I'm nuts. The shakeout is happening, but print magazines that have survived still have a chance, along with their ancillary digital products. If you can make it through 2013 [with a print publication], you're in good shape."
The toughest thing for Soviero hasn't been wrangling writers or editing copy, it has been the logistics of physically putting a magazine together. A staff of seven people, who work from their own homes or offices, has helped navigate the magazine minefields of postal rates, cover stock weights and paper quality.
"I came up to speed very quickly," Soviero said.
Readers might not even notice a difference. The essays are there - the comeback cover story, "Playing God" by Tracy Mayor, is about the need of religion (or no need of religion) in children's lives. The magazine also has a new feature called "Double Take" in which writers tackle the same subject from differing viewpoints.
"The idea is a magazine for parents that is more than just how to buy a baby stroller or how to pick a sippy cup," Soviero said. "It has a literary bent. We've got a wonderful array of writers. It's still best in class."
Wilkinson and Niesslein are staying busy. Wilkinson co-owns the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington and helped edit some of the winter issue. Niesslein lives and writes in Charlottesville and authored the 2007 book, "Practically Perfect in Every Way" (Putnam).
"And I am really happy to report that I am completely content with our decision to sell the magazine," Wilkinson said. "I didn't know how I'd feel, six months on, to be honest. But I find myself looking back at our run with pride and nostalgia and feeling grateful to Marcelle for giving Brain, Child a second life. It's all good."
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