Silver National Magazine Award Winner 2009
I worked with
Co-editor: Michelle Kelly
Designer: Steve Balaban
Photographer: Matt Barnes
In service stories, the Cottage Life editorial team was more comfortable preventing foreseeable problems than reacting to unexpected ones. We just didn’t like facing an emergency. Medical crises, in particular, are an editorial challenge because the consequences can be deadly. And while cottagers should have some first-aid knowledge, they don’t like reading about it—too gruesome, too earnest, too pessimistic. Sometimes, though, the story readers don’t want is the one they really need.
Michelle Kelly and I developed “Captain Cottager,” a package of short items related to cottage emergencies. We decided first to approach each incident as an opportunity for success, showing how cottagers can be heroes. We’d leaven the dire medical emergencies with lighter crises in our other traditional service categories, including plumbing, cooking, and boating. Cottagers would see situations that would be real (except perhaps UFO abduction, one of the pieces I wrote). Each would need immediate action, giving the package drama and urgency.
Packages of diverse elements can fall apart; the editor’s challenge is to knit everything together. I suggested we write short, imperative sentences for all subheds. To avoid a bossy and repetitive “do this, do that” pattern, we added occasional adjectives or phrases to keep the display playful and varied.