(Updates and later comments are in red).
How To Produce
A Kickin' Local Newsletter
Cthulhia of Coppertree, Pennsic xxiii, Summer 1994 c.e.
10/96: I wrote this over two years ago.
I am no longer the local editor. Much of my following recommendations here
have succeeded in keeping our local newsletter great, and other newsletters
have followed suit.
The advice might prove useful to you outside the context of the
Society For Creative Anachronism. The general
ideas apply to all local community record publications. At least, they were
well received when utilized in the two local papers I produced. I was hired,
in part, due to the success of this non-commercial newsletter.
Following my own rules for concise formatting (which are essentially
impossible to maintain here due to the nature of the WWW), the original
paper handout was edited down to one page, and was meant to be used as
reference for my lecture. I will expand explanations here as asked. If
you have any recommendations, typos, etc., they are appreciated.
Much of this is modern legal information,
accepted corporate policy, regional policy or someone else's
copyrighted material. Learn from the direct source, not me. If you
find relevant links, please let me know.
- Know SCA requirements for an unofficial SCA Publication.
- Coordinate financial end with local exchequer.
- Know special requirements for Baronies.
- Know your kingdom's laws & policies.
- Be aware of Copyright Laws.
- Understand technical stuff, the "natural laws" of desktop publishing.
(See article in Knowne World Handbook & "The Care & Feeding of a
Local Newsletter", By Susan Carroll-Clark, in Tournaments Illuminated,
Issue 110, Spring 94)
Beyond the Basics
(This is where this class really begins)
- Consistent location of regular information: Phone #s, maps, directions, calendar, disclaimer, submission & subscription information should generally be in the same places every issue.
- Consistent type or fonts: Avoid calligraphy, even heralds can't read it. Limit yourself to 2 or 3 styles of legible, even if boring, type. Too many fonts looks sloppy. The rule here is; "Less is More."
- Consistent visual look: Number every page, have a common header that includes page number and a line rule separating standard information from features.
- Use a computer: If you think you don't have access you aren't looking hard enough.
- Format is nothing without content. It's the garnish, not the meat.
- Map and directions: to local and nearby regular meetings. Newcomers and less active members will use these.
- Phone list: include everyone active in your group, include regular visitors and addresses of people away at college or stationed overseas.
- Event announcements: demos, local not-really-events, historical societies schedules, annual craft fairs, rummage sales, weddings, concerts, graduations, parties, non-SCA things that local people do plan around.
- Event reports: gossippy stuff, what people wore, how was the feast, fancy or silly presentations that won't be in the court report. Write it ASAP, before the quirky details get fuzzy. If it's worth an announcement, it's worth a report.
- Reviews: of movies, books, restaurants, etc.
- Modern local news: Record local community events as they relate to the SCA.
- Columns: We've had an "Off Board Report" and "Ask St. Elvis"
- Quotes: People love to hate to be misquoted. It is the first thing they read. Always have pen & paper nearby, quotes aren't convenient. Listen in on the list field, high table and practice. Eventually, people will start deluging you with quotes. Some annoying people will go out of their way to get quoted, save these quotes for when you run short.
- Lists: Top 10 Lists. Top comments at an event. "You know you've been in the SCA too long when" (You're currently reading a list.)
If you are secure in your ability to be forsooth or use literary devices for emphasis and continuity, then go for it. If you try to impress the slugs with many references showing how well read you are, you're probably going over the heads of anyone who'd be impressed. Most everyone else will just think you're being pompous.
- The TI said it, the Kingdom & Regional newsletters said it, and it's all over the Internet, so you probably don't need to mention it. You could be using that space for something original.
- Use original art. Wean yourself off Dover Books. Learn to draw if no one else will. Note the doodlers and usurp their doodles. Always credit your artists. Use photographs if you can. Learn to be a photographer.
- Be a concise writer. This is essentially news reporting. Say what is necessary to recreate what happened at an event, using the least and/or simplest words possible. Stick to the facts. Break up long stories with subheads.
An Opinion: Unless you don't have enough stories, and need the filler, refer serious A&S articles to a regional or kingdom A&S issue. They are begging for the stuff. Don't test run locally before going to the Kingdom. Test run at Kingdom before going to the Society. If you're wrong, there will be a larger & more diverse selection of readers to help direct you to better resources.
(This is where the Kickin' begins)
Your local newsletter is where you preserve the local history of the SCA. Unlike the broader publications, you have room for this. You are writing for the locals in 5 years and people like Syr Hak in 20 years.
- That geekie newbie might be a cool peer in 5 years. Or two years, apparently.
- A new member will want to know the history of the group in order to catch up. Establish regular connections to the modern time line. Pennsic 19 was the beginning of Desert Shield. Lucan & Jana were crowned the day after Musician Kurt Cobain died.
- Record the names of everyone who was there. Some will drop out and the newsletter may be the only way you'll remember them.
- The royalty receives your newsletter, and they probably DO read it. Mention the great people who don't travel or otherwise don't get noticed, and why they're so great. That will give them name recognition should someone (you?) write them in.
So you want to try your claw at satire? I get my inspirations from the styles of Douglas Adams, P.J. O'Rourke, Russell Baker & Spy Magazine, to name a few.
Terry Pratchett, New York Magazine (which is still, at heart, a local newsletter) - always look for new good writers, and regularly read similar periodicals.
- Don't take anyone seriously.
- Especially, don't take yourself seriously.
- Be savvy & know the exceptions to rule #1. There are issues and negative comments even I won't print. Some people refuse to laugh at themselves. Some people refuse to admit that they are taking sides & are being more vindictive than funny. Some people see it an invasion of privacy. I can't emphasize enough your need to be aware of such things before you go to press.
- Reread what I said about being concise. Don't let your sense of humor take you on too many tangents. I still get quite a few "huh?"s after some of my favorite articles.
How to be Savvy. (or Tastefully Tasteless)
Get involved in everything. Volunteer wherever they need you, including for the royalty. Especially Chirurgeon & Security at Pennsic. This not only gets you more stories, but often helps you determine if an issue is too delicate. You will also be useful, which helps people forgive you.
Honor thy parents, other SCAdians-by-association and whoever else may happen to see a copy of your newsletter on the coffee table. Is it something you'd want them to read? You don't need the vocabulary of Andrew Dice Clay to be funny. Although, it may be pretty interesting if you use the period translations of his characteristic terms.
A Local Chroniclers Cheer: Other SCA publications record our awards, laws, offices, event announcements & what we consider valid academic & political issues. There is little room left to explore & record the quirky details that make being in the SCA a wonderful experience and the ironies of being Creative Anachronists. Only serious and politically "appropriate" comments get into the broader newsletters. More than academic articles, this is the stuff we need to test run with the people we live with. Unless you submit to TI and get that little bio of you and your persona, or you're highly ranked, this is where your persona's history is recorded as anything much beyond a membership number.
Convince yourself of this, then go out and convince the rest of your local group. Maybe they'll become more cooperative about getting you articles & quotes.
Compiled by Julia of Dunblane (aka Julia Tenney)
(Common Law) Copyright 1994, 1996.
Please respect this. Permission granted to reproduce this article in local SCA publications, or as SCA class handouts, ONLY if full credit is given to the author. Do not otherwise reproduce this information without my consent. Please let me know before you link or mirror this page. Thank You. Julia
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Beyond the Basics
A Local Chronicler's Cheer