Below is an advance of my editor’s note from the May/June 2017 issue (which mails to subscribers April 12 and is on newsstands April 25). I want everyone (subscriber or no – but you really should subscribe!) to know that we welcome queries from any and all woodworkers, and that I’d love to see more diversity in our pages. But it’s a two-way street.
I’m about to break a self-imposed rule about keeping “politics” of any sort out of the magazine. Avert your eyes and turn the page now if that rankles.
A recent social media post from Laura Mays, director of the fine woodworking program at the College of the Redwoods (which becomes the Krenov School on July 1), called attention to the lack of representation in woodworking magazines of people other than white men.
She is not wrong – in this and the other mass-market woodworking magazines, the majority of the articles are written by white men.
I can speak only for myself of course, but I suspect at least most of today’s woodworking editors would agree:
We welcome queries from any excellent woodworker – women and men (cisgender, transgender, gay, straight, bi-sexual, asexual) of all ages, races, nationalities, religions and political persuasions. The queries we develop into articles reflect the best techniques and builds that are appropriate for our audience (and in our case, by those who can also supply high-quality digital photography, and a SketchUp model…or a good napkin drawing).
At every woodworking show or event I attend, I actively encourage queries from those who are underrepresented in our pages (as well as those who aren’t). I contact women whose great work I see on Instagram and other social media, and invite them to talk with me about a possible article. After that – and perhaps a follow-up email or two – it is up to that woodworker.
If someone doesn’t have the time and desire to write, I’m not going to beg. It’s not that I’m too proud – it’s that I’ve never read an inspired and inspiring woodworking article by an author who wasn’t excited about the subject. (I’ve read some OK ones by less-than-eager writers – but I want better than just OK.)
That’s not to say all of our freelancers are stellar wordsmiths in addition to stellar woodsmiths (though many of them are); my job is to take a raw article and make it sing – and I do compare it to music. I’d much rather listen to someone with an interesting voice or unexpected intonation or surprising approach or new sound than to a trained vocalist with a three-octave range who can hit notes perfectly but in a blasé or expected manner. (Why yes, I do like Bob Dylan.)
But for many people, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” That is, it is encouraging to see someone who looks relatively like you doing the thing you want to do – particularly if you feel unwelcome due to, say, eons of patriarchy or racism (or both). It’s been a long time since the first woman or first non-white maker was featured in this and other woodworking magazines – but it does remain relatively rare.
So if you’re an excellent woodworker from a group that is under-represented here, consider this your special invitation to step up…if you want. Again, I’m not going to beg.
We’re going to continue buying the queries that represent the best in woodworking – no matter who writes them. But it would be nice to hear some new, interesting voices. PWM