James McQuiston, Editor of Celtic Guide magazine, was not only kind enough to take time to answer a few questions about his long and intensive publishing career, he included an article of mine in the December issue. Thanks, Jim, for sharing your fascinating journey from all aspects of newspaper production to publishing and authorship!
1. How does being a writer/artist help you choose a theme and corresponding articles for your issue?
Just as with many artists or songwriters, the inspiration for our themes come from many sources. Some ideas are sent in from contributors who have a great story to tell; some appear as questions in emails from our readers; some we determine based on current events or documentaries we have recently watched; and finally, some are driven by the month and what is traditionally celebrated or commemorated during that month. For instance, March leans towards St. Patrick, towards holy men and women in general, towards Ireland and other related events or stories. The same is true, to some degree for April, during which National Tartan Day is celebrated, and July, during which the Battle of Red Harlaw (the bloodiest battle on Scottish soil) took place. Of course, you have the Halloween/Samhain issue and the year-end issue, which is usually a free-for-all of “gifts” from our contributors to our readers – non-fiction and fiction, poetry, music and the like.
2. How did you get into the publishing business?
At age 20 I was working outdoor construction and was offered an indoor job for the winter at my local newspaper “running a camera.” I had visions of Jimmy Olsen, from the Superman series, with his Speed Graphic box camera out there getting those last minute important shots. Instead, the job was operating a 14-foot long production camera that made negatives for the newspaper pages. This was near the beginning of the more modern offset printing process, and I was totally amazed by it all. I fell in love with print that first day. I was sent to school at Kodak headquarters in Rochester, NY, and learned along the way.
There have been many ups and downs, but I spent 43 successful years in print and publishing before semi-retiring to the Celtic Guide and other web ventures. In that time I handled just about every type of job you can imagine in this field. I went backwards to the old handset types and hothead type machines. I delved into newspaper production, high-quality print production, silk-screen, gravure and flexo printing, becoming very well-rounded in the trade. I even did a four-year stint as a Journeyman in the Graphic Communicators International Union, the highest verification of skill level in the industry.
I spent many years in management, overseeing teams of one hundred or more craftspeople. I wrote a few books. I wrote for Highlander magazine and for the Scotch-Irish Society newsletter. I produced work for the likes of Disney and Trump and many other recognizable names. I owned my own newspapers and a printshop for awhile. Mostly, I stayed up on current technology through the computer and web eras. This along with my long love of Celtic music, and Scottish-Irish heritage brought it all together in the pages of Celtic Guide.
3. Where do you find writers for your publication?
I have been so lucky that my writers, for the most part, find me. In only a few cases have I approached someone based on something they had special knowledge about, or something they had just recently written that interested me.
4. How many unsolicited proposals do you get a month?
I probably average three to four per month from new contributors. Many are accepted but some are off-the-wall, or are too fiction-based. We tried to stick with non-fiction history or at least legend except for our free-for-all issues, published once a year.
5. If you could have dinner with any writer(s)/photographer(s), who would they be and why?
I am going to assume you mean living or dead. If so, the answer is Jack London. I grew up being shocked by his on the edge portrayal of life in the Yukon, on the South Seas, wherever humans took on the elements and survived. He plays a considerable role in my book “Captain Jack: Father of the Yukon.” I think he pushed the envelope of “writing what you know.”
6. Have you ever read a proposal and was so intrigued that you immediately contacted the writer?
Yes, this happens often. I have tried to stick to taking care of business right away, so the leads or project don’t pile up. I always want the proposer to know if I am not interested, or that I am very interested, as soon as possible.
7. What is the most unusual proposal you have ever had?
Well, there have been some that fell by the wayside, but one that I did my best to cooperate with was a request for help by a group in South Africa who are trying to keep the Afrikaans language alive.
Also, I helped a Pict re-enactment group in Chile, I did a feature on a Romanian Celtic music group who is trying to organize the first Celtic Festival in that country, and in just this past December issue, I worked with a Celtic singer-songwriter from Austria. We have had collaboration with folks from 15 countries to this point, something I never would have imagined three years ago, when I started this publication.
8. What is the best way for a writer to submit to your publication?
I would say to look at the final page of the most current issue for the announcement of the next two or three themes, then send me an email with your proposal to email@example.com. All contributions are volunteer, though we do make trade arrangements for advertising where applicable. Most aren’t concerned with that part of it, but I always try to be fair in providing an appropriate amount of ad space in return for their long-term contribution to the Guide.
A little background on James McQuiston:
I grew up on Celtic music. My uncle began Scottish-Irish music sessions the year I was born and continued them until I was 21. During that time I also found Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers, and other Irish songsters. Though most of my music career has been spent in commercial music, I have performed Celtic music hundreds of times over the years. I also have met many of the top Celtic performers.
Meanwhile, on a parallel track I was being exposed to all types of print and publishing, as explained above. In addition, I was enamored by my own family’s very long and detailed record of history and genealogy. Finally, I traveled extensively to Scotland, Ireland, England, Nova Scotia and other European countries with Celtic backgrounds. The Celtic Guide has given me the opportunity to combine all of this into one enjoyable monthly project.
Of the books I have written, “Captain Jack: Father of the Yukon” is the most substantial. It is available at Amazon and other online booksellers. I was aided by nearly every living Yukon historian and even took a trip to Dawson City, Yukon, and Eagle, Alaska, which included a float down the Yukon with a First Nations member in a fishing boat with NO lifejackets. I was told that even though it was August, I’d never make it to shore, even with one. It was a wonderful trip and a wonderful experience writing the book.
I have other websites, which sorely need updated. Some perhaps to take a look at are:
I also have more in the wings on Andrew Jackson and other subjects, as soon as time allows. Again, these all need work. Time is the enemy, I guess you could say. In the middle of all this I moved to a new house, built a fireplace, did a bunch of other remodeling and found a wee bit of time for my sailboat. As they say – There are no flies on me!