By Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
The call came out of the blue… “after Feb. 15, we won’t need you as editor any more. We’re moving all of the work in-house…financial concerns” or something along those lines, words from the publisher, followed by my long silence.
“Are you there?” he asked.
“Yes. Just taking it in,” I said.
That was Jan. 15. Happy New Year.
Since then, I’ve been getting all of the Excel sheets (I hate Excel) and other documents in order to make the transition as easy as possible for the main office and my writers. Yes, my writers. The writers, supporters, teachers and idea machines for the four magazines I edited: Iowa Gardener, Michigan Gardening, Minnesota Gardener, Wisconsin Gardening. I feel connected to and grateful for all of the writers.
Five years ago, I inherited Wisconsin, which had been published about a year, maybe two, under another editor. The other three, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota, I started from ground zero, finding writers, developing the story budgets, making assignments, editing, getting photos, all in about three months, for that first issue. And from then on, four, 68-page magazines, six times a year, assigned, edited, proofed. Yes, I felt a sense of ownership…or at least birthing an enterprise. Thank goodness for my membership in GWA, the biggest pool I could pull from to get the magazines up and running. Valuable networking, indeed.
Periodically during this past month, twinges of worry began eating into my existence and this week, they are consuming me. This job, although not exactly a high-paying one, provided a regular income and lots of opportunities to learn from the writers. How was I going to be able to fill up this rather large gap – about 40 percent – in my income.
I’ve always had several revenue streams, chips in my mosaic existence, I call them. This is the loss of a big chip and it will take lots of little chips to fill it all in. GWA networking comes into play, again.
During this month, I’ve had a phone interview with another magazine and provided clips of my writing. The lead came from a GWA member. Hopeful for some freelance work, at the least.
I’ve picked up a couple of blogs, at least one posting for one in March, and monthly postings for another.
Fortunately, I’d already been working with a GWA member to help me expand my speaking opportunities, developing a one-sheet, culling email lists and preparing templates for weekly announcements to point social media followers to websites where they will find my tips, suggestions and articles. I’ve been practicing Facebook Live for periodic updates to give tips for gardeners. Building the brand.
I’m probably going to advertise my four-season container planting service in a local community paper to pick up some clients.
I’m working on a proposal to do social media and events at a large (80,000 square feet), independent garden center, where I’ve worked in various capacities for about 20 years. I will ask another GWA member who already does this for a garden center to review my proposal. Making this proposal a reality will go a long way to restoring some of my financial health.
It will be a while, though, before my mental health and spirit are restored. I still have a weekly garden column in The Indianapolis Star, for which I’m eternally grateful because it keeps me connected to my community. And I will continue to write for Indiana Gardening.
But a big chunk of my professional identity is gone and that has been very painful, the kind of pain that brings tears of mourning.
Still, the optimist in me says this is an opportunity and that’s how I’m trying to embrace it.
Meet the Author
Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp has served GWA as a regional and national director, secretary, treasurer and currently is vice president of the organization. A contributor to Indiana Gardening and Edible Indy magazines, she edits (until mid-February) Iowa Gardener, Michigan Gardening, Minnesota Gardener and Wisconsin Gardening magazines. She has been writing a weekly gardening column for The Indianapolis Star since 1989, and is a popular speaker and frequent guest on television, radio and web broadcasts. Jo Ellen is also the co-author of Indiana Gardener’s Guide; author of The Visitor’s Guide to American Gardens; and a recent contributor to The Gardener’s Garden (Phaidon Press) and The Oxford Companion to the Garden (Oxford University Press). She blogs at hoosiergarden.com.