Saturday, August 14, 2010

Publishing as a passion

When I was at school in Iran there was a tradition of producing a magazine like publication on a large sheet of paper, which was pasted on the wall to be read by the pupils. Despite the fact that neither my handwriting nor my spelling was any good I started producing such a magazine at my school.

I was a thin, shy kid and was not comfortable joining in the conversations in the playground but would pick up the chatter among the other kids to feed into the following week's magazine. I would also recycle some the teachers' more interesting words in the magazine.

I would get a great rush of excitement as my schoolmates awaited for the magazine to be posted on the wall at the start of the week. They would add their own comments and graffiti and I enjoyed the interactive nature of the medium. My poor spelling was corrected by small pieces of paper being pasted with correct spelling over the original. Some times the corrections were corrected! Once I saw a teacher doing the correcting. Another time a teacher told me that if I could not spell properly I should not be doing the school magazine!

By the end of the week the magazine looked nothing like the original sheet I had pasted on the wall at start of the week. For one thing it was thicker in most places and for another it had grown to twice the original size.

I am not sure why this project appealed to me so much at such a young age. Maybe the shyness or maybe because my other hobby was to use the same large sheets of brown paper to make kites which I could sell to rich neighbors. The same table, the same paper, pen and glue was used for both.

The "weekly news" posting in the kitchen at Intellect's Bristol office reminds me of that school project each day.

As the editor of my school magazine I was entered into the national student competition in Tehran. Each team was given a day to produce a magazine with equal amount of resources. My school had not won this competition before as it considered itself focused on academic excellence, journalism was not considered worthy of attention.

When my team came second in that competition that achievement pleased the school and my school fees were waved that year. However, I believed we could have done better with a little more preparation. Instead of reentering the competition the following year I set myself the task of coaching a new team to enter. They won the first place that year with such ease and margin that it surprised everyone.

It became clear to me that I could achieve excellence through supporting others when I may not be able to do it myself. In a strange way I was comfortable with that.

When I arrived in England in 1975 for my university education my first port of call was the office of the student union's magazine office. I explained that although my English was not yet good enough for me to write for the magazine I could at least assist with the layout.

Those were the days when the magazine was laid out on a sheet of paper called the Camera Ready Copy (CRC) using "letterset" typefaces. This was then turned into a metal plate that was used on the printing press in the basement of the student union to produce 8 page sections that were stapled together.

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