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Farewell and best wishes

Essay by Martha And Ed Quillen

Colorado Central – February 2009 – Colorado Central Magazine

AFTER 15 YEARS AND 180 editions, it’s time for Martha and me to bid something of a farewell to Colorado Central. We founded it in 1994, and we’ve run it ever since. Now it’s getting a new owner and publisher, Mike Rosso of Salida.

Mike will doubtless introduce himself in the next edition, his first as owner and publisher. He’s got plenty of media experience, and I’ve known him for several years — memory seems to fail as to the exact time our paths first crossed, likely at a gathering of the now-extinct Salida Single Malt Sampling Society.

For Martha and me, Colorado Central has grown into an awkward size — too big for a hobby, and too small for a full-time business. But we believed back in 1994 that our part of the world needed a way to define itself as its old economy — mostly the mines — faded away. We knew that local writers and artists could use a regional platform, and that there was a lot of interesting stuff happening in our ramshackle towns and our spectacular but arid landscapes.

And I think we’ve helped define a regional identity, something that might stand up to the invasion of Generica. We like our small-town ways and our ma-and-pa enterprises and want them to endure.

Over the years, there’s been a lot of hard work, as well as the inevitable errors and mistakes. We published one edition where we messed up so much stuff that I feared we’d never live it down. But our readers have been great and forgiving people; they often write to remind us of our mishaps as they should, but generally in good spirit.

And there have been ample rewards. One is that I’ve been able to meet, and work with, some wonderful people I might never have encountered otherwise, be they contributors or advertisers. I hope to continue those relationships.

As for what comes next for Martha and me, we have no immediate plans to leave Salida. We have writing and editing work beyond what Colorado Central provided, and in addition Martha has a part-time job in town. But I hope we’ll be able to get out a little more, to visit friends in Saguache and Westcliffe and Leadville and Gunnison.

When we started, I was a mere lad of 43. Now I’m 58. I don’t have the energy I had 15 years ago, when I was able to write something coherent after 8 p.m., which is nowadays too close to bedtime. Rotten weather — those cold and windy days — bothers me a lot more now than it did then, and the temptation to hole up on a wintry afternoon, rather than get out and hustle some ads, is often hard to resist.

I’ll still be involved with Colorado Central, at least for a while. I plan to work closely with Mike during the next couple of months to smooth the transition, and he wants me to write a column. I’ll be glad to write for the magazine; there are quite a few stories I’ve wanted to pursue, but just haven’t had time to go after — magazine publishing at this level involves a lot of clerical and computer work that eats up potential writing time and energy.

As for the magazine’s future, doubtless changes lie ahead. The magazine has changed a lot since we started it, and it would change even if we stayed with it. Our communities and their economies have changed and will change some more. A magazine that tried to reflect its area has to change too. That’s the nature of this world.

Mike has energy and ideas. He faces a challenge that can be rather daunting at times, especially in this economic climate, which has been extremely hard on print journalism. So give him all the encouragement and support you can, as will we.

— Ed Quillen

QUITTING Colorado Central is a lot scarier than starting it was. It has become a part of our life. Magazine work is what I think about when I’m hiking, bathing, doing the dishes, or riding in the car. And I’ll miss it. But Ed and I have known that this day was coming for quite a while. One of the things we agreed upon when we started, was that the magazine wouldn’t interfere with Ed’s writing. Of course, it has. But in the interest of pursuing both our writing and publishing careers simultaneously, we kept the publication simple.

Although we bought most of our articles from local writers, we never had any employees. We worked in our kitchen but had no central offices; instead we met potential writers and advertisers at local caf├ęs. We relied on free-lancers and columnists for content, on Kathy Berg and our daughter to sell advertising (for a little while), and on proof-readers to give the finished product a fresh review.

For the most part we did the lay-out, editing, production work, ad sales, bookkeeping, addressing, etc. And when utilities and gasoline and taxes and life got more expensive, we took on other jobs — until we were working ourselves into a frenzy.

Colorado Central has grown, in pages, subscriptions, calendar items — and (we hope) in quality. And we have a lot of dreams for it: better paper; better graphics; higher pay for writers; a flashier website; a broader range of articles, including more well-researched pieces about local jobs, development, government and medical care, and about river sports, and mountain climbing, and living sustainably, and about locally available services and opportunities….

But a few summers ago, when the ads increased, the calendar expanded, and the magazine fattened — as is usual during the summer — we realized something had to go. And sadly, we started to conclude that something was us. (For some reason, Ed didn’t think it should be his column-writing or my wage-producing job.)

So Ed started asking writers if they wanted to buy a magazine. But I suspect Ed was only half serious at first. After all, Colorado Central is our baby. But she’s grown up, and in order to thrive she needs fresh graphics, imaginative ideas, and to go in new directions.

Although Ed and I would like to see the magazine progress, that’s not some place we can take her. We’re old newspaper people who figure the Wall Street Journal and Nation Magazine have gotten exceedingly picturesque in recent years. We could hire someone to redesign her, but we don’t really have the time, energy or knowledge to oversee such a project.

Mike Rosso knows photography, and graphics, and websites. Over the years, we’ve gathered together some great writers, whom Mike Rosso intends to retain, and we’ve gradually started to convince people that our region is the center of the universe. Central Colorado is where it’s at; it’s a place well worth talking, writing and reading about.

WHEN WE STARTED Colorado Central, people asked me what kind of magazine we had in mind, and I’d say a magazine like the New Yorker, with a touch of Newsweek and Time tossed in, except , of course, featuring art, ideas, and news about our region rather than about New York or Washington. And many people openly scoffed: “Yeah, sure, right, like you can do that here.”

Well, it’s still a work in progress, but yes, I think it can be done here. Our lives, concerns and interests are just as important as those of people living on the Eastern seaboard and can be just as compelling in print.

And our writers have been great. At this point, my inclination is to gush like someone winning an academy award — even though I hate those endless speeches. But it’s true, “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

So thank you Hal Walter, for sticking with us month after month and year after year. And George Sibley, not just for writing, but for Headwaters and being such a community activist. And Marcia Darnell for introducing us to the Valley. And Allen Best for being so diligent and prolific. And Steve Voynick, and Lynda La Rocca, and Virginia Simmons for lending their expertise and prestige to our pages on so many occasions. And John Mattingly for bringing us something new and funny. And John Orr for keeping us informed about water. And thank you Slim Wolfe, and Roger Williams, and Andy Burns, and Charlie Green and all of the other writers who have kept our correspondence section interesting. And Jennifer Dempsey, and Kenneth Jessen, and Patty LaTaille, and Ken Wright, and Sue Snively, and all of the others who have repeatedly contributed to our pages.

And a hearty thank you to our cartoonists, Monika Griesenbeck, Jack Chivvis, and Clint Driscoll for all their hard work. And to the artists who have lent their work for our cover. And to Writers on the Range for supplying informative and entertaining articles for Western publications. And to all of the local newspapers and Chambers of Commerce who collect the everyday information that residents and writers rely on.

Before I give up this barrage of personal messages, I suspect I should also issue some apologies. Lately I’ve been haunted by all of the things I haven’t gotten around to — letters, emails, reviews….

ONE ACT OF NEGLIGENCE that particularly bothers me involves Mary Lee Bensman, a reporter for the Chaffee County Times. She brought me her book to review shortly before Christmas one year and suggested that Aaron Thomas might enjoy it. So I called Aaron, but he was working on his master’s thesis, so that was out. I tried Lynda La Rocca, but she was leaving to visit her family. I tried Marcia Darnell, but it wasn’t her kind of book. Nor Ed’s. So I considered reviewing it, but it was fantasy, and dragons and fairies are really not my thing. In fact, I haven’t even managed to finish the first Harry Potter book after several tries, which clearly shows that I’m no judge of that genre.

By the time I found reviewers interested in reading a work of fantasy, it occurred to me that Bensman’s book might not be available any more, and I was too embarrassed about neglecting it to call her — a mistake to be sure. And so I apologize, not just to Ms. Bensman, but to all of those whose books we never got around to reviewing, or whose mail we’ve misrouted, or whose emails disappeared in cyberspace as they so often seem to do.

I tend to be pessimistic. I’m not sure Barack Obama or anyone else can stave off financial disaster; I fear for the future of Iraq and Afghanistan; and I doubt anyone will mend Israeli-Palestinian relations anytime soon. But I’m not pessimistic about the people who live here.

I hear a lot about how modern Americans are lazy, and obese, and watch too much television, and spend too much money, and use too much oil, and can’t or won’t ever change. But I find that almost impossible to believe.

After fifteen years of following local news and events, I’m in awe about how many people it takes to man the voting booths, work the hospices, replenish the food banks, organize the art fairs, host the literary events, tutor the kids, rescue the lost hikers, collect money for the noble causes, give the free concerts, bring food to the sick, and find clothes for the poor. Yet our tiny communities manage to do those things.

It has been a privilege to produce a community publication in a region where so many people are so kind, generous, and dedicated that it makes me feel like I should do better — each and every day.

So thank you all.

— Martha Quillen