By Janet Conroy-Quirk, Editor in Chief
About this time last year, I pitched a story idea to a magazine editor who tweeted that she was accepting submissions. I was told to send a follow up email to her. I crafted a more extensive pitch and submitted it. I received a response that read: “I’m not interested in this.”
Freelance writing is not easy, and rejection is frequent. The language used by editors to tell someone their idea has been rejected varies. I suppose some would say there’s no “right” way to do it. But I disagree.
My thoughts, as I read the response, weren’t doubts like, “What about this does she not want? Why doesn’t it interest her? Am I a bad writer?” If I thought like that, I’d never get anywhere with my work. No, my reaction was, “If I ever get to a position where I am making decisions about what content to share in my magazine, I will never tell someone that I’m “not interested” in their story.”
Here we are, a year later, and I am making decisions about Bold’s content, every day. Of course, in that time, I’ve rejected pitches. I hate doing it, and I try my best to have a conversation with the writer first about how to expand the topic, or explore something else. I have critiqued style. I’ve adjusted language. I’ve asked for more detail. But I have never told another writer, another human, that I am not interested in their story.
When I took over as Editor in Chief of Bold in February 2020, I was lucky to build on a strong community of engaged, vocal readers. I also knew that I had a lot to learn. Additionally, I knew that we were up amongst the fatphobics of the world, who try their best to silence the plus community, with no success. As I learned, I focused a lot on integrating the things I know best – social work, advocacy, language, and a bit of the arts. I like to think that Bold grew with the year, which was one of the most challenging that most of us have ever experienced.
Growth will always result in resistance. We’ve received some pushback about our focus on social justice and our answer has been (and always will be) that body politics are pieces of a bigger mosaic about representation, bigotry, discrimination, abuse, injustice and equality. Bold will continue to support all efforts and movements that promote change and challenge oppression.
Yesterday, I came across an Instagram comment from Carolyn, a very talented artist from the UK who contributed her art for one of our articles, as well as her views on cultural perspectives of fat bodies. She wrote many wonderful things about working with Bold and ended with this simple sentence that moved me to tears: “One of the best parts of 2020 was discovering your magazine.”
We are all aware of how much we lost this year. It can feel almost uncomfortable to consider the good moments. But they happened. In addition to reading Carolyn’s beautiful comment, there have been many other moments when I was able to appreciate Bold’s impact. In the spring, deep into lockdown in New York City, one of my friends sent me a picture of her two young girls, ages three and two, looking at Bold. She is a straight-sized individual and an excellent ally. To see her making the effort to expose her children to body diversity at an early age was incredibly moving.
I have many similar instances to share from my personal life- friends asking for input and resources on how to support their children’s body insecurities, or how to talk about diet and exercise with friends in a sensitive way; a childhood friend reaching out on Facebook to say that our work helps with her own body image; friends sporting Bold shirts in social media; and my family in Massachusetts placing calls to their elected officials to support proposed legislation that would prohibit weight-based discrimination. Seeing all of that, plus the positivity and confidence of our readers reminds me that we are making a difference.
We’re getting there. We were somebody’s “good thing” in 2020, and it’s because of stories. Every photo of a fat person loving their body is a story, as is every interview or piece of art we feature. I believe strongly that when we share a story about our life experience, we leave a piece of ourselves with the person who hears it. There is tremendous power in that, which is why it requires a great deal of vulnerability. To me, to be vulnerable is to be bold.
I owe a lot of thanks to the Bold team. Katiee McKinstry, who tolerates my technology frustration, also inspires me with her gentle approach to advocacy and her unmatched patience and problem-solving ability! Our Bold Bosses are a diverse mix of brilliant individuals who have come to feel like old friends. They root for each other and they empower our readers. And of course, my gratitude to Christopher Salute, CEO of Bold Holdings, for trusting me with this very valuable magazine, for giving me everything I need to make it work, and for reminding me of what’s important.
I am optimistic about 2021 because I know it will include you, our Bold community. I look forward to sharing even more of your lives, images and ideas- your stories. They will continue to matter to others. And they will always “interest me.”
Happy New Year.
Janet Conroy-Quirk, MSW