[Editor’s note: Mary K. Chelton and Dorothy M. Broderick are the founders of VOYA Magazine. They graciously submitted this piece for our first Profiles article.]
Why We Did It
When Dorothy and I started living together in the mid-1970s, we were both active in YASA/ALA. She was on Council and I was YASD president, and in the midst of all this, there was a feud going on between YASD (now YALSA) and CSD (now ALSC) over their shared journal, Top of the News (now two separate division publications, the YA one being YALS), which we witnessed. The two volunteer TON editors at the time did no apparent article development and just seemed to take whatever came in, which was mostly articles on children’s services, to the point that YASD was ready to mandate a count of pages devoted to YA services in exchange for the division’s continued support of the journal. At one point while this was going on, we were waiting in a corridor, probably in the Palmer House in Chicago, and overheard one of the TON editors say, “Oh well, those people don’t have anything to say.” The person wasn’t speaking to us, but to say that this was the equivalent of throwing down the gauntlet is a vast understatement. Dorothy decided that, without a voice of our own, YA services could not survive, and the idea for VOYA was born!
How We Did It
We rented the YASD membership list and mailed letters to it, asking for a $10 contribution from anyone supporting the idea. This netted $400. We then took a $4000. personal bank loan which was used to purchase a Gestetner Duplicating machine. The first issue was 70 pages and we invited friends for dinner if they would collate 50 copies, so we had all these people eating spaghetti on their knees because the pages of VOYA were stacked on the dining room table. They just walked around the table to collate.
We then hired a teenager from the local youth bureau to help. He came a couple times a week after school. His photo is in one of the early issues, I think.
At some point we discovered offset printing and camera-ready copy because of Post Office requirements for whatever class mailing permit we needed that we did not think Gestetner was printing, which was fine until the printer burned down with one of our issues in it, so the entire issue had to be reconstructed over a particularly stressful weekend.
Then I got a teaching job at Rutgers so we moved to NJ, but our printer was still in NY, so we would mail copy to him and then drive over to pick up the finished issues, ruining at least one pair of shock absorbers in the process, to mail the magazines in NJ. While all of this was going on, we had a zillion review books arriving in a residential mailbox, which led to an intimate acquaintance with postal carriers in several locations. I worked at Rutgers and Dorothy stayed home and did the magazine.
Money got tight and Dorothy was offered a one-year substitute teaching job at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa library school for someone on leave, which she took, so then we tried to do the magazine long-distance, which was a problem because I was then expected to do all the things in NJ she was good at and I wasn’t. We also had a library school student working for us by then.
This was during the time that the library school part of Rutgers started merging with communication, and faculty relations were truly dreadful, so I told her I was miserable. By that time, Alabama wanted her to stay so she got a full time teaching position, and I left Rutgers to move down there with her and our menagerie. I worked on the magazine part-time, taught a couple classes for Alabama and decided to go to the University of Alabama in Birmingham’s School of Public Health because of my interest in youth-related health issues, health education, and censorship. While I was there, I heard a graphic designer speak and realized that’s what we were missing in the magazine, so we hired her and improved the look of it quite a bit.
The problem with getting an MPH is that, with 2 Masters degrees, I became vastly overqualified for the health education jobs that interested me, and without an MD or RN, I felt unqualified for other public health jobs. I also felt like James Baldwin who went to Paris to realize he was American. I think I went to public health to realize I was really a librarian, so we then moved to Virginia Beach where I worked for the public library, and where we finally incorporated the magazine, and it was ultimately purchased by Scarecrow Press with Dorothy as editor and me only as a kitchen table consultant. This pattern continued with our move to Montgomery County in Maryland, my return to Rutgers for a PhD and Scarecrow’s being sold to University Press of America, after which Dorothy retired to cope with heart trouble, among other things.
For the last ten years, we’ve lived on the South Shore of Long Island in Suffolk County with our dogs and, at time, cats, where I commute to Queens three days a week to teach as part of their faculty and Dorothy monitors sports and world events, and public affairs at home. She has had two open heart surgeries, a pacemaker, a carotid artery procedure, several serious falls and is pretty much an invalid these days with diminished vision from glaucoma. These infirmities in no way impede her great brain, sharp tongue, and well-honed political instincts.
I spend my off-work time gardening and doing things with our two Vizslas—Amber and Nugget, and art collecting Hmong needlework and Northwest Indian art.
In retrospect, we were very stupid about what it takes to produce a magazine, especially a review magazine, but it needed to be done to prove a point about the vibrancy and diversity of YA services and the important differences between child and adolescent development, and we don’t regret it one bit. Youth advocacy is such an inherent part of YA services that it is nice to have it taken for granted now. That was not always the case. VOYA was our gift to the profession and we hope it has been welcome as such.
Mary K. Chelton, March 29, 2010