Exactly when we started working from home seems like a thousand years ago at this point. I’d actually kicked off my soon-to-be hermetic lifestyle, unknowingly, on March 9, when I stayed home to oversee some light construction work on my house in Troy. I was in the office the rest of the week, save for, ironically, Friday the 13th, and have only set foot in Saratoga Living‘s headquarters at 422 Broadway in Saratoga Springs two other times since. One of those times was on Wednesday, March 18, when myself and our CEO, Abby Tegnelia, met there and drove over together to our Design Issue cover shoot, which took place at Kevin and Claudia Bright’s Saratoga house. (The other was a few weekends ago, when I went there to pick up copies of the magazines and a few “personal effects,” which had been sitting in my empty office where I’d left them, frozen in time, Pompeii-style.)
To say that the last few months have been surreal would be an understatement; sure, I spent five years in the solitary confinement that was being a freelance writer, first working remotely from my Brooklyn home office; then for a spell from Airbnbs in Berkeley and Oakland, CA; then back to Brooklyn and up to Troy; but nothing could’ve prepared me for the present situation. I still don’t feel entirely comfortable or safe going outside, even for a quick walk with my wife and dog in the morning. (About five or ten minutes into our routine, we usually come upon our pregnant neighbor doing the same thing, talking on the phone with someone, her earbuds firmly in; we don’t know her, but every time we see her, we wave and smile, because she’s one of the only people we’ll see all day.)
Whereas I normally work from home in near-complete seclusion, with my noise-cancelling headphones on, door shut and blinds drawn—I think I picked up that trick from reading Stephen King’s On Writing (the idea being that, in a dark, sealed-off room, your imagination runs more wild than if you have a sightline to the outside world)—in recent weeks, I’ve kept my door cracked and raised my shades. I even Windexed my windows yesterday, so that I’d have an even clearer view of my neighbor’s side yard. I need to see the sunlight when it’s out; I need to hear my wife typing away or talking on the phone in the other room. And whereas, normally, it’s sort of a drag being interrupted by a coworker dropping by your office to tell you something, nowadays, it’s been cathartic having Zoom calls with the other editors on staff; part of the conversation is focused on how crazy life is now versus a month ago.
For most of you who aren’t privy to our company’s editorial calendar, here’s an idea of what our staff was up against going into New York State’s mandatory work-from-home scenario: We had our first issue of The Hyde Collection‘s Digest to produce and publish, the product of a brand-new partnership between our staff and the nonprofit art museum in Glens Falls; our first issue of Horsepower magazine, the yield of a second partnership with the Saratoga Automobile Museum; the creation and editing of the April issue of Capital Region Living magazine (the eventual “Hope” issue; we’ve since released our May issue of CRL, also done entirely remotely); and the creation and editing of the Spring 2020 issue of Saratoga Living magazine (the one on newsstands as we speak). Mind you, our staff had never produced a single magazine issue remotely, and we were all under a tremendous amount of professional and personal stress because of the COVID-19 crisis. And to make matters worse, all four publications were due to the printer within weeks of one another.
In order that you don’t fall asleep during this story, I’m going to only give you a peek into what the process was like creating the latest issue of Saratoga Living—the one that was completed last in our work-from-home scenario. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of publishing a magazine, you’ll know that it’s an exercise in patience; once you get all of the stories in, edit and mold them to a cohesive voice, choose the photographs and then lay them out in pages, oftentimes, what you see on pages compared to that which you read on a Word document weeks prior reads something like pig Latin.
For the past two years and change, I’ve been the editor who’s seen and edited the majority of the stories first, so it’s really up to me to “hear” them and find their common “voice.” I suppose it’s similar to being in a barbershop quartet and telling the guy to your right to sing a little less sharp to get the four-part harmony just so. Once I’m done with my initial edits, they go on to a second editor—basically, the role a dentist plays when he or she comes in at the last minute after you’ve had your teeth cleaned to see if there are any cavities or spots the dental hygienist missed. (There must always be checks and balances.) And then the stories go off to our creative director and her team, who are located in New York City and suburban Massachusetts, respectively, who lay them out, and we start the editing process all over again.
Once the painstaking process of designing and laying out each page of Saratoga Living takes place, our Creative Director creates “passes” for us. In other words, the three editors on the Saratoga Living staff (myself included) read each page in the magazine twice before a potential “final pass,” which is the last time any of us will see the magazine before it goes to the printer. Between the first and second pass, our managing editor meticulously tells the creative team, digitally, what edits and/or corrections we asked for in the first pass, and that’s how it becomes the second pass. The process starts up again for the second pass, ending with her directing the creative team a second time. And sometimes, stuff just slips through the cracks: take my cover story, for example: You won’t find the error in the web version, because I immediately corrected it when I found out the, um, error in my ways, but the Korean word that Kevin Bright named his latest documentary is spelled “Nureongi,” not “Neurongi.” (Sorry, Kevin, and kudos to anyone else who read our magazine close enough to find the other few typos.)
Once the magazine is to the printer, it usually takes about a week to get the finished copies back. And this time around, we had to pull an audible when it came to distribution: Many of our favorite drop-offs like Uncommon Grounds were closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, so we had to find alternate places to get our magazine out to the masses. You can find all four of them inside the front door at 422 Broadway in Saratoga Springs (on the first floor of SL headquarters), as well as at all Stewart’s Shops in the Capital Region. (This includes our sister publication, Capital Region Living; The Hyde’s Digest and Horsepower can be found at 422 Broadway and/or the respective museums.) The magazines are also being bundled with a number of takeout/to-go orders in the region, and our amazing COO has been doing daily runs to replenish a number of other sources. (Find a full list here.) We’ve even found a new, wonderful audience in some of the area’s nursing homes and retirement communities, which have welcomed our magazine with open arms. These include Albany’s Daughters of Sarah Senior Community and Beltrone Senior Center, as well as Saratoga’s The Wesley Community and Prestwick Chase.
Since COVID-19 struck, many of us on staff have been working seven days a week to make this all possible, with little rest and recovery in between. We’ve had few disagreements and found many reasons to smile and laugh. And, even if your social isolation or quarantine has kept you from venturing out to find a physical copy of the magazine, below, you’ll find about 90 percent of the magazine in digital form, with some cool outtakes and add-ons to make things interesting.
Thank you for continuing to read all of our great magazines.
*Cover Story: Kevin Bright, the Executive Producer/Director of hit TV sitcom Friends, and his wife, Claudia Wilsey Bright, welcomed us into their Saratoga area home. At the bottom, find a sidebar on their personal interior design man, Edmond DeRocker. Read the story here.
*Our story about the Congress Park Carousel was another one of those stories that we assigned well in advance of the COVID-19 crisis but didn’t really have to tweak much at all. The City of Saratoga Springs initially didn’t want to let us in to shoot the carousel, because it was under maintenance at the time. But the folks over there eventually caved, and the photos came out amazing. Read the story here.
*We ended up adding this feature to the editorial lineup late in the ballgame, and it’s one of my personal favorites. In it, each of us on the Saratoga Living editorial staff profiled a local artisan we were fans of. Fun Fact: Before COVID-19 ruined my morning routine, I worked out nearly every morning at 6am with a bunch of others at anatomie gym in Troy, including Jamie Wallbank from Collar City Candle. Read about her and her husband Josh’s business here.
*We hired back our former intern (and budding fashionista) Mitchell Famulare to cover the Capital Region’s emerging fashion scene—as well as the man and his fashion event series, Stitched, behind it. Read the story here.
*I know everybody’s a little worried about whether or not there’s going to be a track season this summer in Saratoga. And with the Kentucky Derby having been pushed back to September, it raised some questions about what how the Saratoga Race Course stakes schedule might unfold. We put our Sports Editor Brien Bouyea on the case, and he came up with an elegant solution. Read it here.
*Talk about wearing two hats. Brien Bouyea is not only Saratoga Living‘s Sports Editor, he’s also the communications director at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. So, he’s quoted in Jeff Dingler’s story, which provides a sneak peek of the new digital-heavy improvements to horse racing’s Hall of Fame. Check them out here.