Find Your Passion: Periodical Preparation
By Taylor Armer
Recent University of Alabama graduate Anna Olson has enjoyed the visual aspects of magazines for as long as she remembers.
A Thomasville, Ga. native, Olson double-majored in English and journalism and was a member of UA’s Honor’s College.
“I started enjoying my journalism classes from the start,” says the May 2014 graduate. “Because I was so interested in magazines at an early start, I was able to build relationships with my teachers. They worked with me to find a magazine slant on things.”
Meredith Cummings, her adviser, linked her with Martin Tsai, a staff assistant at The New York Times, and they met for coffee during her sophomore summer. A month later, he sent her an email about the American Society of Magazine Editors and thought she would be “a great candidate.”
“I don’t think I would’ve found out about (ASME) otherwise,” Olson says. “If he wouldn’t have emailed me, I probably wouldn’t have applied.”
Olson received an internship with Brides Magazine, a Condé Nast publication, through the New York-based organization. It picked only one student from each university that applied for consideration.
“I never expected to get [the internship] because it is so competitive,” she says. “But I was really happy that I did.”
During her time in the features department at Brides, she researched background material and product searching for the next issue. Olson also contributed to the magazine’s website and its blog.
“I would do a lot of research for our pitch to the editor-in-chief,” she said. “It was really fun because I knew everything that was in the magazine three months ahead of time.”
Since many summer internship deadlines are in the spring, Olson wanted to make sure she had a back-up plan. Olson had applied successfully to Brides for the same position but chose ASME’s program for its diverse opportunities.
“I got to meet editors at different magazines and people in human resources at Hearst Magazines,” she says. “I had a chance to be around more people who were doing different things.”
Navigating the streets of New York City and asserting herself among her ASME peers proved to be a challenge for Olson, but she adjusted to the pressures.
“I was definitely a fish out of water,” she says. “There were people there from Brown, Harvard, UPenn, and I’m from Alabama. They would be like, ‘What are you doing here? Why are you doing the ASME program?’
“At first they were like, ‘who is this little girl from the South?’ But I ended up proving myself. It was a challenge, but it was a good challenge.”
Olson was no stranger to challenges. While preparing herself for a career beyond college, she dealt with the daily challenge of balancing her course load with her position as managing editor of Mosaic, the UA Honors College magazine. At that magazine, she was responsible for its editorial content — from story ideas, to edits, to the final stories.
“I enjoy it,” she says, while admitting, “It’s a lot of work though. We have a lot of younger writers, so it’s neat to share my magazine experience with them.”
Olson’s magazine experience included interning for Atlanta Magazine and contributing to Alpine Living, the journalism department’s student-run travel magazine.
However, Olson says her most valued magazine writing experience came from Rick Bragg’s Advanced Magazine Writing class. She deems it “single-handedly the most helpful course” she took.
“It helped my writing tremendously,” she says. “It’s something about the way he teaches it; it makes you a better writer.”
As a better writer who has enjoyed learning the complex art of “creating an image using color,” Olson also recognized her professors as the propelling force of her conviction in her talent.
“When I asked, they always gave me one-on-one attention,” she says. “They would look at a sentence or a word and talk to me about it without hesitation.
“Their working with me, telling me that they really like this sentence ‘but you can change this,’ made me a confident writer, which you absolutely have to be in this industry.”
That confidence and hard work appear to be paying off. Following her graduation, Olson was hired as an editorial assistant at Brides Magazine.
Olson discovered some early success in journalism, and she acknowledges the role her English classes played.
“Reading the classics has taught me how to be a good writer,” she says.
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Taylor Armer is a May 2014 journalism graduate of UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences, where she was a dean’s office editorial intern for two semesters.
This story is part of the Find Your Passion series. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.