When I first joined the Lifestyles team last year, I really wanted to get to know our readers. In writing to such a dynamic demographic (and one I wasn’t a part of), it seemed vital to forge an authentic connection with our readership if I was to ever provide fresh content that you all found truly valuable. I wanted to understand your core values, share in your life experiences and glean from all the insight you learned along the way.
In pursuit of this lofty goal, we created a little column called “Share Your Story“, which poses one engaging question to readers each month, as an invitation to share their stories, opinions and wisdom.
I never could have imagined the deep, heartfelt – sometimes even hilarious – responses that the Share Your Story column would inspire since its advent in early 2016. In July’s issue alone we featured a full page compilation of animal adoption stories sent in by various readers whose lives had changed from rescuing pets. These tender adoption stories ran right alongside reader responses to past Share Your Story questions that continue to elicit replies up to six months later – everything from opinions about what fashion trends reveal about gender roles, to incredible tales about finding love the second time around.
The outpouring of essays we receive from readers continues to amaze, amuse and inspire the whole Lifestyles team. They remind us all that everyone has a story to tell.
This month’s issue features more reader-submitted content than ever – like vibrant tales of exciting travel adventures and even the story of a rescued pet rooster. It’s been so rewarding to connect with your personal stories, and it’s equally as exciting to help give readers-turned-writers a platform to share original work they’ve written about their local community, like arts and culture expert Kathy Megyeri’s feature on Hungarian artist Willy Pogany’s work at the Ringling mansion, or former school board executive Madonna Wise’s piece on local gardening efforts in Lake County.
All of this collaboration makes the August issue of Lifestyles your issue – full of content you created. Inside you’ll find opinions, reflections and information about exciting local happenings covered by community-minded readers. Right alongside stories by our readers, you’ll find pieces by our amazing freelance team, the likes of which include a lifelong local journalist and a successful published author.
Watching it all come together this month has given me a new appreciation for the traditional African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” The phrase is widely borrowed by Western culture when examining the partnerships and cooperation required during the process of maturation, and how the efforts of all shape a more dynamic outcome.
For the past nine months, Lifestyles After 50 has been my baby, nurtured with love, attention, discipline and devotion.
Expanding the magazine’s content to include so many more authors has presented opportunities and challenges; the privilege to showcase the work of others and the challenge of letting go. Circumstances this month taught me I truly couldn’t do it alone…and I realized that I really shouldn’t. Engaging strong partners in the content creation process has made this issue a more diverse and dimensional reading experience, and it has reminded me that raising almost anything is better when approached as a communal effort. When a wider community gets involved, it is often the final product – whether child or publication – that benefits from a larger pool of ideas, collaboration and ultimately, unity. Won’t you join us in creating a local resource full of the “Voices of Lifestyles”?