Last fall, publishing company Bayard, Inc.
announced it was taking its 76-year-old publication, Catholic Digest
, in a new directionin addition to an updated
format and focus, the Catholic-media stalwart would also be receiving a new
editor: award-winning Catholic author and blogger Danielle Bean.
A mother of eight, Bean is the author of My Cup of Tea: Musings of a Catholic Mom
(Pauline 2005), Mom to Mom, Day to Day: Advice
and Support for Catholic Living (Pauline 2007), and (with
Elizabeth Foss) Small
Steps for Catholic Moms: Think. Pray. Act. Every Day. She is also a
co-host on the CatholicTV Network show The
Gist. She recently spoke to CWR about her work as a writer and editor and
about the future she sees for Catholic
Catholic World Report: Going back a bitwhen and how did you decide
to pursue a life of writing, editing, blogging, and wordsmithing in general?
Danielle Bean: I think God kind of decided that for me, and
I’ve just been along for the ride. I have always enjoyed writing and I thought
I might like to do some freelance work someday, but when I started sending out
submissions via snail mail almost 10 years ago, I could never have envisioned
what it might lead to. The Internet was in its infancy and most of us were just
beginning to figure out what kind of tool it might be. When my freelance work
led to a regular column and my regular column led to a book, I tried out some
online stuff as a way to promote the book and connect with other Catholics. It
was an exciting time to try out new things and meet new people through new
media. I was blogging for about a year before I even knew what a “blog” was.
CWR: What have been some of the highlights, so
far, of your career in writing and editing?
Bean: When I made the move from freelance writer to
part-time editor (at Faith & Family magazine) that was a big change
for me, and an opportunity to develop some new skills. As a writer, I had a
limited view of what an editor does. As an editor, I really enjoyed learning
about the creative process of not only bringing out the best in other people’s
work, but also seeing a larger picturea way in which many smaller works and
images can come together in a magazine to encourage and inspire the reader. It
is a real challenge and I enjoy that process very much.
Also, being named editor-in-chief of Catholic
Digest, a publication that I grew up reading and that has such a long and
respected history, is a real honor. Though these are challenging times for the
publishing business, I think God has big plans for us. I am committed to doing
my very best for Catholic Digest and its readership.
CWR: What is most enjoyable about writing and
editing, and what is most difficult? What pithy advice would you give to
aspiring writers and editors?
Bean: I always tell aspiring writers to just do it.
Stop waiting around for all that free time to open up in your schedule so that
you can start writing, because it is never going to come. Early on, I had to
force myself to believe that I could write in 20 minutes at a time, in small
spots that I found in my days.
We writers are also some of the most
self-conscious and insecure people on the planet. We waste a lot of time
wringing our hands and cringing at the thought of other people reading our
words. It can be hard to get there, but I really think it’s important to detach
ourselves a bit from the things we write. That might sound odd, because so
often what we write is deeply personal, and that’s the reason for the cringing.
But with practice, you can do it. I’m not perfect, but I am better at doing
this myself. It begins with involving God in the process of your writing from
the very beginning. Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire you and dive into your
writing with confidence that the project is in God’s hands. Then, when you send
it off or share it, pray that God’s will be done with it. That might mean
hitting your target audience with words that move and inspire them, but it
might also mean that you are rejected or criticized in a way that helps you
grow in humility and shift the focus of your work. We probably would never
willingly choose the latter for ourselves, but those kinds of experiences have
been some of the most helpful for me personally in my writing career.
CWR: Catholic Digest has been published
for nearly 80 years and you read it growing up. How did you arrive at being
editor of Catholic Digest?
Bean: Last year, Bayard Inc., the publishing company
that owns Catholic Digest, bought Faith & Family magazine,
where I was serving as editorial director. In the months that followed, they
made changes to the publications and determined that it was time for a
re-design and re-launch of Catholic Digest, with a new focus and a new voice. I was honored that they
chose me to take on the re-design and we re-launched in March 2012, with our
first issue of the new Catholic Digest. I really want the new magazine
to serve our readers’ needs, so I am eager to hear from readers about the ways
in which we can better serve them and encourage them in faith and family
CWR: You've noted that your debut as editor of Catholic
Digest also marks some other changes to the magazine. What are those
Bean: First of all, the magazine has a new size, a slightly larger 6”x9”. It’s
still small enough to tuck into a purse or bag, but large enough so that we can
add some new design elements and visual appeal to the pages. We are also moving
away from reprints in favor of filling the magazine with the voices of
contemporary Catholic writerspeople like Steven Greydanus, Simcha Fisher,
Daria Sockey, Rachel Balducci, Susie Lloyd, Hallie Lord, Lisa Hendey, Marc
Barnes, and Amy Welborn are featured in the new Catholic Digest. I also believe that beauty is an important part of
a magazine reader’s experience, and I hope to use the beauty of words and
images to highlight the attractive truths of our shared Catholic faith.
CWR: How would you describe the content, focus,
and goal of Catholic Digest today to both readers and potential readers?
Can you give some examples of articles and columns that can be read in the
Bean: My goal is to encourage and support many different kinds of Catholics,
from many different kinds of backgrounds, in their faith lives. It is my hope
to publish content that encourages those who are just beginning to learn about
their Catholic faith as well as content that supports those who are facing
challenges in their faith lives and maturing in their faith. The variety of
voices and experiences within the Catholic Church inspires me and it is my hope
that Catholic Digest can be a source
of unity and inspiration for all of us.
Our March 2012 issue, for example, featured a
thoughtful piece by Daria Sockey about getting through times of spiritual
dryness, current movie and DVD picks from Steven Greydanus of DecentFilms.com,
an article about grandparenting across the miles, a fun and insightful article
by Hallie Lord on communication between the sexes, as well as some adorable
ideas for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day as a family. We also have a look at the
liturgical year with ideas for feast days and a new section, just for men, that
we call “His Turn,” featuring content by, for, and about Catholic men.
CWR: The world of magazines and newspapers has
changed a lot in the past decade or so. What are the challenges involved in
publishing and editing a print magazine in general and for Catholics
specifically? What are some ways in which you will take on those challenges
with Catholic Digest?
Bean: All print publishers face the challenge of meeting readers’ changing
needs in a more and more digital world, and Catholic Digest is no
exception. But I firmly believe there is a place for print publications, and
magazines especially, in today’s publishing world. Magazines offer a reading
experience that inspires and encourages through beauty and quiet in a way that
online communications simply can’t. As someone who started out writing online,
however, I am very aware of the ways in which digital communications can enhance
our readers’ experience with Catholic Digest. I am currently focused on
making our print publication the very best it can be, but I do have future
goals of growing online and making our content available in digital form.
From the very beginning, God has been good to me
through my work as a writer and editor. My personal challenge as I take on Catholic
Digest is to make sure, in all the editorial decisions I make, that I am
putting God first. Whatever the future holds for Catholic Digest, I want
this to be God’s work and not my own. He hasn’t let me down yet!