Saturday, May 9, 2020

Anjali - Interview With the Editor of Daksha School Digital Magazine

Anjali was the editor of the second edition of her school's digital magazine, Daksha Times. I had decided to interview her about the process. Her condition for the interview was that it should not go beyond 10 questions. Here is the interview.
Job well done!
 Q. How did you get the job of the editor for your school magazine?
A. We had elections in August 2019. Before the elections, the 7th class Prefects were announced. I was looking forward to be a Prefect but my name wasn't there in the list. Then I found that I was the editor of the school magazine and was excited. I was told by Sarita aunty. Our class was excited too, they thought it was cool and they all congratulated me saying good job etc. Then I was called by Anita aunty. She told me 'You'll do a good job. Your dad's there and he can help.' I think I winced at that and Anita aunty realised I wanted to do it on my own and said - 'You'll do a good job on your own as well.' She said that Sarita aunty had suggested my name. I thanked her.

Q. Did you know what the job of an editor was about? 
A. I knew I had to get stuff, organise and create the magazine. I  knew that I had to create the digital magazine using Publisher 2013. The computer teacher  had taught us how to use it just then.

Q. How did you get going?
A. The first thing I did was to interview the Head Boy and Head Girl because the elections for the Student Council had just got over and they were still fresh with their plans. I would catch them for 10 minutes during lunch break every day and then continued the next day.

In the first week, I created posters inviting contributions and put them up on the notice board. I thought I'd get a lot of contributions but there were not many. I had to force my classmates to read the posters and contribute. Then I went to each class and spoke to them about the idea - class 3 onwards. I went to 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th. By November I finished speaking to all the classes. But by then there were a lot of other activities going on too - we had to practice for the Sports Day, holidays and exams.

Q. What was your idea about how to go about it?
A. I didn't see last year's magazine until the fourth month. It was not very colorful but well done. As a student editor I felt I'll know what students want. I didn't want to make it too flashy, flamboyant, messy. I wanted good aesthetics, classy. I trusted my sense of colour and aesthetic. I had gone through last year's magazine. Pictures etc, looked good. Last year's magazine was put together by Sirisha aunty. I was the first student editor of the school.

I told students to submit contributions by this date. But I shouldn't have told them to take time till February. I only got 30 contributions by December -I thought I'd get 100-150.  By February, however, I got roughly 75 which was a lot for me to handle. I had the least number of entries from my class..

I started writing reports for the magazine immediately after each major event so I don't forget the details. Teachers' Day, Independence Day - there were seven or more events. I took help from my friends- Mansi, Brahmani, Apurva, Yaswantt to write and type a few.

Q.  What kind of guidance did you get?
A. My contact point was Sarita aunty mainly. She is our English teacher. I bounced a lot of ideas off of her. She was very approachable. She gave me her old HPS magazine and they were really helpful. 1980s magazines. I got a lot of ideas and inspiration from that. Also some magazines from Gitanjali school.

I tried a couple of my own ideas which didn't work. I was expecting a lot of written stuff. So I gave a list of topics to each class to prod some ideas - war, corruption sacrifice, female spies, world without internet etc. I posted the ideas on the notice board. Maybe I should have been more stern. But I thought I'd give them space. I think I should have pushed it a little more.

Suresh sir helpd me with the artwork. He took pictures. Sirisha aunty gave me tips on design.
I'd ask her when I needed help. I asked Anita aunty about writing - how to keep their writing their own without making it mine. She told me to edit it to the minimum even if there are mistakes. Leave their voice as it is.

I sent her the publisher design at the design stage so I knew I was on the right track.

Q. Did you feel it was too big a project for you to handle alone?
A. Around March 1st, Sirisha aunty told me, get working on it. Anita aunty also said we had to bring it out by March end. I realised it was exam time. I had to study and prepare. Although I had done one revision, I realised I was on my own. So I reached out for help from my friends. I gave them stuff to write, download pictures, color schemes etc.

The work I did from the beginning helped. I would spend an hour after school in my free time and work on it. I think I put in roughly 150 hours or so on the magazine in all. including brainstorming.

Q. How did you organise your effort?
A. First I created a mail account dakshadigitalmagazine@gmail from your account(family link account). I don't have a mail account because I have to be 13 before I can have my own so I didn't want to break my code.

I asked contributors to type their literary contributions. artwork could be by hand. The younger ones, however, wrote their articles, so I got help from my friends to type those articles. My van kids gave me lots of entries.

Initially, I wasn't happy with the contributions because they needed a lot of editing. There were a lot of errors. I spoke to the authors about their errors, checked if they were ok with the changes, emailed the changes I made to them. Google helped me a lot. Google drive with separate folders for poetry, jokes, art, files for the articles with errors and those which were corrected. Once I deleted a wrong file by mistake and had to edit the whole thing again.

Some people's work was very impressive. Harshini wrote a very detailed piece, I don't think I could have done that' Jeevana did a good one on 'The Undiscovered'. 'Unity always Wins'by Heeba was another. Then there was the artwork.
By this time I felt connected to the students. They were talking to me about everything. Some didn't write their names but I could tell who it was. I was so involved. They were talking to me.

Q. What was your guiding principle?
A. I was clear that all submissions must be original. Nothing from the net. I didn't take a few because they were copied. I asked them if they were copied and they confessed. So I told them to write their own and gave them time. Class 1 was the most original.
I also realised that it was not easy to represent everyone in the school. Everyone has their own ideas. I can't please everyone. I listened to everyone but I had an idea. If the suggestion made the idea better, I took it.
I didn't add a lot of my own things, stories. In poems. students kept the language simple. We got all sorts of poems. Rohan Sai's poem was poignant. Pragnya had a light one. What I learned is that the same emotion can be expressed in so many different ways - stories, poems etc.
Mainly, I was clear that it was not about me. This was about the school, the contributors.

I didn't refuse anything. I rejected a few because they were copied. But they gave me alternate pieces. I wanted everyone to contribute so their names can appear in the magazine. Everyone feels happy when they see their name in the magazine. I wanted everyone to contribute.
I saw everything, went through every piece. I asked the younger students what their artwork meant and they explained their art in detail - the concept, the idea - a lot of effort by them.

Q. What were the main challenges?
A. Getting contributions was the first. Only a couple of students in each class would participate. So I told each and every class.
Balancing school and studies with the time I spent on the magazine was a challenge. When it became too much I asked for help. My friends really helped. I am very grateful to them.

Q. What were the learnings?
A. Learning from the efforts of everyone. Everything has its own beauty. So many different types of stories, each with a message. They put their heart into it.

If you want help you have to ask for it. Don't expect them to come. They're waiting to help so ask.
The student council supported, my classmates.

If I set my mind to something, I can really accomplish it!

I wanted it to be my own thing. I put my thought, my inputs. Wanted it to be how I imagined, didn't want ideas to clash.

Q. How was the response to the magazine?
A. Happy and surprised. Teachers supported me Sarita aunty, Sirish aunty, Anita aunty. They kept telling me you can do it. Most importantly they gave me space. Didn't influence me. I feel that was important. I feel honored that they trusted me so much with such an important thing. They didn't know what was happening at my end, but they trusted me.

I got a lot of compliments. Anita aunty, Sarita aunty said good job. You worked hard. I wanted it to be bigger. I got messages from Indira aunty, Shakuntala aunty, Durga aunty, Radhika aunty. Mansi told me -thank you for being the editor. Kaniyan, our vice head boy mailed me and said- thank you for making such a beautiful magazine. They reached out to me  and I appreciate that.

Q. How do you feel?
A. Good. Relieved but sad that it's over.

Well done Anjali. I did like the way you went about doing justice to the magazine without ever making it seem like it was a big burden. The ideas of creating posters, weighing the response and then reaching out to the students by talking to them in their classes was nice. Organising your effort on the computer was quite impressive too - I don't know how to use Publisher but you went ahead and organised the contributions, edited them and put the final ones into the magazine. Never once did you ask for help, nor did I hear you complain, even when you deleted the edited file. It was all done so smoothly that I only got to see the final copy. I liked the sensitivity you showed the contributors because every creative work is a result of an individual putting their heart and soul out there. Asking for help, and your other learnings were beautiful. I think the key was that you realised it was not about you - its about the school, the contributors.

I really enjoyed discussing the process with you. Well done.


Anita said...

I am so proud of the effort put in by Anjali. To be the editor of tbe school magazine is a painstaking task. It needs a lot patience and perseverance. To involve all the children while maintaining high standards of writing is a challenge. Anjali came through beautifullt! She brought in her own ideas that added a freshness to this edition. Kudos to her on her initiative and hard work!

Harimohan said...

Thanks Anita. Much credit to you and your team for giving the children these responsibilities, trusting them to handle it and supporting them while giving them their space. The outcome is the best thing of all - in the end, making them feel better about themselves through this effort. Great job by Team Daksha.