The calendar on the day these words will first appear will read January 27, 2012. But in our Yankee editorial offices here in Dublin we are already deep into the winter of 2013. Our colleagues at the Old Farmer’s Almanac, just down the corridor may already know about the weather next winter—but they’re not letting on. Anyway, our job at Yankee is not to make snowfall predictions, but rather how to make next winter’s issue unpredictable.
And more than that. Fun and useful, entertaining and maybe even provocative. That process takes time. And a lot of talking. A lot of bad ideas that may start discussion about ideas that may work.
Each Wednesday morning the editors squeeze into a small conference room. On one wall hang the covers from the last few years, reminders in a way of where we have been. On another wall we see the designed layouts for the issue we are working on—now May/June. Each day more pages hang down, like watching a garden grow, except faster. But those words have already been written, the photos already shot. What we talk about, instead is the future. Winter months from now. In a sense we live constantly in a form of time travel, two winters at a time, winter squared.
Each issue is part quilt, part jigsaw puzzle, fitting fragments and pieces together until something coherent, and at times, beautiful emerges. But getting there can be messy—with scraps strewn here and there like so many strays.
Here’s where we are so far: we think there will be a story about wool, another about sleighs, something about the challenges of teaching children how to ski, something about snowplowing, There’s lots of other ideas clambering to get in—but so far they keep sliding back, as if on an icy slope.
Sometimes a story keeps pestering us. It may begin as a vague notion, but if the idea is good enough it never lets go, jabbing at us meeting after meeting until we relent and figure out how to do it right. Whether we succeed with the winter of 2013 issue won’t be known until the spring sun melts this year’s snow, then the summer crops come up, and the leaves turn, and finally, the early dark comes back and the wood is stacked, and you look in the mailbox and there is our new winter issue.
By then, of course, in this world of winter squared, we’ll be deep into 2014.