Tefillah. This comes before, during, and after the mammoth process — at every stage there is so much help we need from Above
A standard magazine closing overtakes a very extended workday — from early in the morning until long after business hours. A Yom Tov closing is a different animal. Our Yom Tov package has so many parts, pieces, and pages that the closing spans a several-week period. The most intense days come at the end, when we send the main magazine to print. More than one staff member has described that period as being in a tunnel, when the outside world almost ceases to exist and all we think, do, and breathe is finalize and send off pages to the printer.
Over the years I’ve learned that to get through this closing, you need a survival kit. Here are the main components:
Tefillah. This comes before, during, and after the mammoth process — at every stage there is so much help we need from Above. Perhaps most daunting of all is the initial stage of creating something from nothing — seeking the perfect idea, source, or inspiration. But the last part of a closing, when deadlines come crashing noisily down on could-haves and should-haves, needs plenty of davening too.
Flexibility. Lists and Excel sheets are vital in this job — there are so many pieces, writers, photo shoots, and layers of editing to track that there’s no way we’d manage without them. But anyone overly tied to their charts will not make it through a closing. When articles fall through or writers don’t deliver or crises happen, you have to be ready to develop Plan B, Plan C, and sometimes also Plan D.
Positive reinforcement. When you’re asking someone to work on yet another draft, or proofread another round of captions at 11 p.m. with a stack of papers still to tackle, the only way to keep them motivated is with positivity. Our team is incredibly dedicated to putting out the best possible product, but you can see people visibly perk up and summon more energy and effort after a compliment.
Caffeine. Some years the entire team has just stayed straight through the night until morning — I remember one year when a few staffers went straight from closing to Selichos at the Kosel — but more often, it’s late night after late night after late night, without the adrenaline rush of a one-and-done. There’s lots of coffee and Coke Zero helping us through.
Music: There are different opinions about this, as the different timbres, rhythms, and genres wafting out of the various rooms will attest. We have classical aficionados, Ishay Ribo and Akiva faithfuls, Naftali Kempe fans, and I’ve heard Yamim Noraim chazzanus quite a lot these past few weeks. Of course, there are rooms where silence is the preferred background accompaniment.
An appreciation for irony: One of the prime rules of a Yom Tov package is FIFO — first in, first out. The first piece to be submitted, edited, and designed is almost always the first to be bumped. I’m not sure why, but it’s become our own twist on Murphy’s Law.
Faithful colleagues. This package is a team effort in every sense of the word. Decisions have to be made at every point, but it’s so helpful to have colleagues you can consult when you need a second opinion, have a tough grammar question, want to hunt down an elusive photo — or need to unload at 2 a.m.
Stability. We’re so fortunate that alongside our talented, ambitious, and dare I say moodily artistic content department stands an unbelievably gifted, stable, and reliable production and logistics department. Either they find the resources and tools to make our dreams come true, or they gently bring us down to earth with frank conversations about budgets, deadlines, and print parameters.
A family that understands. A Yom Tov closing can’t happen without families who understand, or at least tolerate, prolonged absences and distractedness of a prime figure.
A focus on the endgame. And that endgame is the reader. Behind every decision we make is our consideration of what will move, inspire, or entertain our readers best. As one of our veteran writers just emailed me as we put the finishing touches on his piece, “Our readers deserve the best and I always enjoyed the end game of the process that makes a piece really look invested.”
We hope you sense that as you page through this Mega Edition — because it’s the motivation behind every page we put out.
Wishing you a joyous Succos,
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 980)
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