Author Archives: Emily McMackin

Emily McMackin

About Emily McMackin

Emily McMackin is an editor, writer and perpetual storyteller with an incurable addiction to coffee, magazines, Neil Diamond and Caribbean travel. She resides in Music City USA (that's Nashville, Tenn., ya'll!), where you'll find her staking out live music, salsa dancing, scouring town for the best latte and working on her first No. 1 (book that is).


Riveting Reads: What Makes a Magazine a Page-Turner

rivetingread2.jpgYou know it the instant you’ve found it–that magazine you just can’t put down. It compels you to do something you normally wouldn’t in your rushed, hectic day: lose track of time. You open it up, and hours pass until the next time you check your watch. You get so distracted reading it in the grocery store checkout that the cashier must signal for your attention. Even when the timer on your stove buzzes, your iPhone rings or your bedtime passes, you keep reading. 

For a magazine to be a page-turner for me, it must have five things: an intriguing cover, clever headlines, stunning photography, creative design and well-written (preferably tearjerker) stories. But enough about what I think. We asked magazine junkies to share the secret to what makes their favorite magazines page-turners. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Unforgettable stories

Jamie Roberts, Nashville, Tenn.: “I’m addicted to the New Yorker magazine, and not for its photography or design. I read it cover to cover for its consistently intelligent writing–the writers always tell such fascinating stories, even about topics I didn’t think I was interested in (like how the UPS works or a profile on a random musician).”

Bill Hudgins, Hendersonville, Tenn.: My favorite magazine is Garden and Gun because of the quality of writing. Its writers all seem be masterful storytellers, from singer Marshall Chapman to humorist Roy Blount, and I have to believe the editors are expert story ‘listeners’ who help the writers hone each tale to near perfection.”

Nancy Posey, Hickory, N.C.: “If I could take only one magazine, it would be Oxford American (the Southern magazine of good writing) because of–you guessed it–the good writing. I love the fiction, the essays, the poetry, the features–and I can’t wait for the annual music issue. I give copies for gifts.”

2. Cool perspectives

Carol Birth, Little Rock, Ark.: “It has to have cool, artistic photos (like the ones in W magazine that Brad Pitt took of his family using an old camera). Also, polls on interesting topics, such as what people are listening to, reading and watching.”

Amber Owens, Huntsville, Ala.: “Human interest and everyday hero kinds of stories. I don’t care much for high fashion or celebrity gossip, but show me how an average Joe is making a difference in his community, and I’m in.”

Aly West, Nashville, Tenn.: “I like pretty pictures–that’s why Vogue magazine is my favorite. I love the fashion photography, especially when the magazine shows a series of photos that tell a story.”

3. Catchy covers

Dianna Gee, Nashville, Tenn.:  “I’m most likely to pick up a magazine if: a) Matthew McConaughey is on the cover; b) The headline promises that I can lose 50 pounds before the next holiday; c) Some psychoanalysis article about relationships catches my eye. I consider myself a self-learner, so anything that makes me want to create positive change within myself or serves as eye candy, I’m buying it!”

4. Impressive design

Megan Morris, Murfreesboro, Tenn.: “My favorite magazine is Rolling Stone. While it’s mostly because of the content (music news combined with witty writing on current events), the way it’s presented keeps my interest. The features are long enough to make me feel like I’m reading a story, but the photos and pull quotes dispersed throughout break it up so I don’t get lost in a sea of black and white. It also has awesome photography–you can always count on seeing a musician in a unique light.”

5. Relevant content

Cheryl Gangl, Madison, Ala.: “Good photography and topics that relate to where I am in life. I read magazines for practical advice more than entertainment. For me, page-turners are articles with an interesting lead-in and short bits of useful information, so I can scan for what I want to know.”

Roslyn Rosales, San Antonio, Texas: “Along with the cool fashion photo spreads in Vogue magazine, I love looking at all the ways outfits can be put together with accessories, belts, shoes and bags. I love reading Rolling Stone magazine and learning about up-and-coming musicians, band reunions, and what underground artists have finally become mainstream.”

Kathryn George, Washington, D.C.: “Quick reads interspersed with a few in-depth pieces; interesting columns and valuable takeaways; human interest and relate-able content. Favorite magazines are Real Simple and Washingtonian.”

Katy Beth Lewey, Florence, Ala.: “I recently subscribed to Marie Claire magazine after reading two issues cover to cover. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the articles were and how well they relate to the ‘young professional woman.’”


Magazines I Would Want on a Deserted Island

desertedisland1.jpegI look forward to going to the beach every year, and not just because I love the sun, sand, water and waves. I love beach trips because they are the only time I can catch up on my magazine reading. I wait all year for the chance to lay under an umbrella with a fruity drink by my side, the sound of waves crashing nearby and a pile of magazines on my lap.

Despite my best efforts, I never seem to make it all the way through my stack. Even at the beach, there are just too many interruptions and not enough time. I’ve often fantasized about what it would be like to do my beach reading with no time constraints or people around. That got me thinking: If I could spend a week reading magazines on a deserted island, which ones would I take? Here are some of the magazines I would pack:

For escape:
To really get away from it all, make-believe helps. I’m not a big fashionista, but I would definitely take Elle and Vogue magazines to my deserted island because they stir my imagination and encourage me to immerse myself in another world. With their candid celebrity profiles and fanciful photo shoots, both magazines are masters at setting scenes that transport me to another time and place.

For entertainment:
A week at the beach isn’t complete, of course, without a celebrity magazine or two. If I wanted to waste the hours away getting my Hollywood gossip fix, People magazine would be my first choice, with Us Weekly running a close second. For pure fun (and practical fashion tips), I would throw a few teen magazines into my beach bag, too. How else would I know how to wear my sarong 10 different ways?

For inspiration: 
Celebrity and fashion magazines are fun to read, but nothing compares to real stories about real people. For articles that motivate me, put me in touch with my intuition and challenge me to reach beyond myself, I would bring along my Ladies’ Home Journal magazine.

For stimulation:
Once I start craving more of a substantive read, I’ll delve into my Vanity Fair,  Oxford American or Harper’s magazines for a quick dose of fiction and insightful scholarly pieces on cultural or political issues.

For nourishment:
When the sun and reading material gets too intense, I’ll take a quick dip in the ocean, then replenish myself with Sunset magazine and its emphasis on the mind, body and soul. It will teach me everything I need to know to survive on my island–from tips on organic eating and using vegetation to build a shelter to how to truly appreciate and commune with nature.

For laughs:
Between spontaneous storms and strange noises in the night, a week in the wild can put you on edge, so I’ll need some magazines to keep it light. For a good chuckle, I’ll kick back with one of the zany stories in Reader’s Digest magazine or flip through Glamour magazine for one of its witty features.

For comfort:
Life on a deserted island can get pretty lonely after a while, I imagine. In case I get homesick, I would pack Southern Living magazine, so I can read about crepe myrtles, Elvis, lemon ice-box pie and all the quirky comforts that remind me of home. Until I make it back the mainland, I can even dream up some ideas for sprucing up my place and throwing the perfect end-of-the-summer backyard bash.

What about you? What magazines would make your deserted island reading list?


And the Tiara Goes to: Why Glamour Magazine Deserves Its “Magazine of the Year” Crown

glamour_july2010.jpgOK, I have a confession to make. I almost didn’t get
around to writing this entry, and it’s all because of Glamour
. Every time I sat down at my keyboard to write, my eyes would
wander over to my July 2010 issue, which recently arrived in the mail. It’s been only a few days since I finished my June
issue, and I follow the magazine’s daily Twitter updates, so it’s not
like I haven’t had my Glamour fix. Still I couldn’t stop sneaking peeks
at July’s story lineup and skimming my favorite columns along with the
celebrity profile (Jessica Biel).

When people ask what my
favorite magazine is, they’re usually surprised to hear me say Glamour. Because I’m a magazine writer by trade, I think
they expect me to choose something more intellectual (Time),
global (National Geographic) or literary (The New Yorker). While all these publications have their merits, they don’t give
me the burning desire to stand in front of a newsstand rack until my feet hurt just so I can browse the features, or rip into an issue before I ever make it back from the mailbox.
Glamour magazine does.
Magazine industry insiders were just as surprised
recently when Glamour took the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME)
top honor at the 2010 National Magazine Awards, winning the coveted and first-ever “Magazine of the Year” award. Glamour’s win was quite a
coup, considering that women’s magazines have been traditionally
underrepresented among ASME winners.

With print
magazines going out of business as fast as last season’s harem pants,
fashion glossies are struggling to stay relevant in a market where
digital and social media rule. So what did a glossy, female-focused fashion magazine
like Glamour do to earn such a prestigious award? Here are the top three reasons why I think Glamour
deserves its “Magazine of the Year” title.     

  1. It keeps it real. Yes, you’ll
    find all the topics you would expect most woman’s fashion magazines
    to cover–beauty, fashion, health, men, love and life–but
    you’ll also find relevant stories that are rare in other magazines,
    like details on what every woman should know about health-care
    reform, how to dress rich on a real girl’s salary and secrets to staying classy in a society where etiquette is a lost art.

  2. It also breaks the rules. The magazine has its share of lifestyle features and fashion shoots, but editors
    aren’t afraid to shake up the formula and experiment with content. From
    monthly departments like the “How to Do Anything Better Guide” to June 2010′s “Bridesmaid’s Bill of Rights,” stories follow a fun, interactive format. In June’s feature on
    finding a swimsuit for every body type, the magazine opted to use mostly plus-size models rather than stick-skinny ones.

  3. It speaks to all women (through all kinds of media). The magazine does a great job of linking its print content to its website
    and finding creative ways to drive readers online. It finds women where they are, at whatever medium they prefer, and uses social networking websites Twitter and Facebook to connect to them, solicit feedback and ideas, and inspire them to pick up
    the magazine.  

So what do you think? Did Glamour magazine deserve its big win?


Off-Limits? Celebrity Spotlight Increasingly Turns to Brad and Angelina’s Kids, Other Stars’ Children

lifeandstyleweekly_shiloh.jpgUs Weekly reported Monday, June 28, that actress Angelina Jolie confesses in the August issue of Vanity Fair magazine that her 4-year-old daughter, Shiloh, “wants to be a boy.” The fact that this statement from a wider-ranging interview is sparking headlines and such reader response on celebrity blogs is indicative of a growing trend in entertainment news.

From Shiloh and Suri to Zuma and Nahla, you can pick up any celebrity news magazine these days and find plenty of stories devoted not only to stars but also to their kids. Whether in Us Weekly, In Touch Weekly, Life & Style Weekly or Star, magazine articles offer more than a paparazzi photo or two from an extravagant birthday bash, a red carpet premiere or a shopping excursion with Mom or Dad. The stories actually delve into the lives of these tots: their emerging “style,” their budding personalities, their perks and privileges, and occasionally the pitfalls of having to share their celebrity parent (or two) with the rest of the world.

Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and their brood of six are the subject of a large portion of these stories. From speculation on how they discipline their kids to why they never take their twins out in public, nearly every celebrity magazine in recent months has featured some kind of article on the unconventional family.

In fact, the cover of a spring issue of Life & Style Weekly magazine (pictured above) included a story about Shiloh (then age 3) and her transformation from blond locks and sundresses to a more masculine style of shirts, trousers and a pageboy haircut. With the headline posing the question, “Why Is Angelina Turning Shiloh Into a Boy?” the article explored Shiloh’s tomboy style and Brad and Angelina’s role in encouraging her transgender look. Though the consensus seemed to be that Brad and Angelina are simply trying to allow their little girl to express her individuality, psychologists debated how this might help or hurt Shiloh as she grows up and establishes her identity.

Though the issue was a head turner and the article was intriguing, I’m not sure that Shiloh’s style switcheroo warranted a cover story. It was a little too voyeuristic for my taste, and if I were buying a copy from the grocery store, I would feel a little creepy about picking it up.

Clearly the interest is there from readers, though, so don’t expect magazines to scale back such coverage. In fact, here are a few other creative, edgy ways celebrity magazines are covering stories about Hollywood’s little starlets:

  • Hollywood’s Kids In 2020: With the help of age-progression computer technology, Life & Style magazine predicted what famous tots like Shiloh and Zahara Jolie-Pitt, Suri Cruise and Kingston Rossdale would look like as teens.

  • Copycat Cuties: This feature was about kiddie stars and the clothing that inspires them. Us Weekly magazine’s Fashion Police cited Violet Affleck for mimicking Paris Hilton and Honor Warren for dressing like Bj√∂rk.
  • Fashion Formula–Suri vs. Shiloh: In Touch Weekly magazine’s side-by-side comparison of Suri’s girlie glamour and Shiloh’s tough tomboy look reveal big style differences.
  • Little Lovefest: Us Weekly magazine follows Kingston Rossdale (whose mom is singer Gwen Stefani) and Ruby Maguire (whose dad is actor Tobey Maguire) on a play date.

I’m not sure where this trend of covering celebrity children got started, but I find it fascinating (though a little ridiculous at times). I wonder if it stems from family-oriented reality shows like “Tori & Dean” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” or simply from America’s growing interest in celebutantes. What do you think? Do you enjoy reading stories about celebrity kiddos, or are they too much? Share your opinion by posting your comment below.


Survey Says: Woman’s Day Magazine Asks, What Makes You Happy?

WomansDay_summer.jpgWomen say they’re happy enough, but winning the lottery would make them even happier. Even up against those odds, most believe that happiness is a choice and tend to find their fulfillment in love, family and spirituality. Still, if you press them enough, what makes most women the happiest? I can just picture thousands of women blushing and smiling slyly as they whisper, “Me time.”

These are just a few of the results of a recent survey conducted by Woman’s Day magazine and AOL Living, in which 12,000 women were asked about their pursuit of happiness. With the release of Gretchen Rubin’s book “The Happiness Project”–a memoir about a woman who spends a year testing out theories about how to find joy–happiness is becoming a hot topic. Each month,
Woman’s Day magazine does its own version of the project: In the April 2010 issue, the focus was on money and how to be happy with (and without) it; subsequent months have zeroed in on being mindful and conscious of the present (May), on order and how to achieve it (June), and on reconnecting with your spirit (July).
So, what else did the survey have to say? Here are a few highlights, the results of which were published in Woman’s Day magazine‘s April issue:

  • Are you happy? Call me Pollyanna, but I was disappointed with the results of this one. Only 11 percent of woman said they were blissfully happy. The rest were either happy enough (67 percent) or not happy at all (22 percent). Boo!

  • Do you wake up happy? Surprisingly enough, most women (56 percent) said they bounce out of bed in a good mood. I’m not a morning person, so I would likely fall into the remaining 44 percent of women who aren’t chipper in the a.m.
  • Can money buy happiness? The majority (65 percent) said no; yet when asked what would make them the happiest, 56 percent put winning the lottery high above losing 20 pounds (22 percent) or having a great sex life (22 percent). Hmm, do I detect a bit of sarcasm here? With the economy still in bad shape, I suspect those who chose the lottery over their looks and love life were just being tongue and cheek!
  • What are the keys to happiness? Relationships ruled on this one! Love (28 percent), family (18 percent) and spirituality (16 percent) topped the ranks. Less popular answers included (in descending order) contentment, gratitude, money, a sense of control and time alone.
  • What makes you very happy? For 31 percent of women, it’s “me” time. (Shh, don’t tell!) Children (23 percent) come in second, with friends, faith, marriage and jobs rounding out the list.
  • Is happiness a choice? This one was nearly unanimous (78 percent)… yes!

What do you think? Where do you fall on the happiness scale? What brings you the most joy? Weigh in and join the conversation!


Lady to Lady: Ladies’ Home Journal Interview With Laura Bush Paints Insightful Portrait

ladieshomejournal_june2010.jpgFor eight years, former first lady Laura Bush led a privileged but public life as hostess-in-chief of the biggest fishbowl in the country, the White House. Despite winning the admiration of most Americans, she endured the constant criticism of her husband, who was judged harshly for his handling of the war in Iraq and the economy. On Jan. 19, 2009, as she and former President George W. Bush climbed aboard Air Force One following Barack Obama’s inauguration, she stepped back into a much more private chapter of her life–and she hasn’t looked back since.

With the release of her memoir, “Spoken from the Heart,” Laura Bush granted Ladies Home Journal magazine editor-in-chief Sally Lee a glimpse into the new private world she has forged for herself in Dallas. In her first interview since her husband left office, Laura Bush discusses everything from her most trying days in the White House to what the future holds for her and her family. The exclusive chat, published in the June 2010 issue, includes excerpts from the former first lady’s book and a photo shoot with daughters Jenna and Barbara.

When I first saw the cover, I wasn’t particularly eager to delve inside. While I respect Laura Bush and appreciate the attention she has brought to literacy in America, she has been in the public eye for decades and her story has been covered from every angle. I doubted that I could learn anything new or earth-shattering about her. But as I started reading, I was pleasantly surprised. Here are five insights I gained about the former first lady from picking up this article:

1. She is one committed woman. Laura Bush has always been quick to jump to her husband’s defense when confronted with criticism about him, but her faith in him goes even deeper. Even during his struggles with alcohol in the early days of their marriage, she never considered leaving him. “We were two people who did not have divorce in our DNA,” she says.

2. She is a homebody at heart. Despite leading a glamorous life that has taken her across the country and around the world, home is her haven–and it always has been. As a child, she recalls feeling “my greatest sense of contentment lying on the couch in our den. I had no desire to stray too far from home….”

3. Even she had to adjust to her mother-in-law. The tart-tongued Barbara Bush used to scare the bejesus out of her soft-spoken daughter-in-law. It wasn’t until years later that “Bar and I came to know and love each other,” Laura Bush admits.

4. She always wanted more children. Though she was thrilled to give birth to twins late in life, Laura Bush longed for more babies and is still haunted by the memory of her infertility struggles. “My heart was deep enough for more,” she says. “There remained that twinge of what might have been.”

5. She tells it like it is. From her polite but pointed barbs about her husband’s critics (she’s talking to you, President Obama) to her thoughts on a television star who bragged about stealing towels from White House restrooms, Laura Bush doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind. It’s the way she does it–with a kind candor–that makes readers want to stand up, cheer and maybe even throw out a “You go, girl!” or two.

So, what did you think of the interview? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.