Mag Mob Monday: Kazoo Magazine
By Meg Wachter
You come from a background in publishing and working for major glossies. What lead you to leaving and striking out on your own with Kazoo?
I'd worked at Conde Nast for about 18 years, and my most recent gig as Editor-at-Large at SELF was up. The print magazine was folding. I’d planned to take some time to work on a book idea I’ve been thinking about for a while, but then life intervened. I took my then 5-year-old daughter to the bookstore, and we stopped by the magazine rack on our way out to see if there anything cool there for her to read. That day, we were faced with a wall of titles featuring dolls, little girls in makeup and princesses. We left empty-handed. She was bored. I was mad. Was this really the best we could offer our daughters? For weeks, I kept thinking, Someone should really do something about this. And then I realized, if I want to see change, I’d have to bring it myself, and as a long-time magazine editor, I knew I had the skills to do it. I wanted to make a magazine for girls that celebrated them for being strong, smart, fierce and true to themselves. How radical! We launched a kickstarter, and by the time it closed, we had become the highest funded journalism campaign in crowdfunding history. And now, two years later, we’re just sending issue #9 to the printer, which will go out to our subscribers in 47 countries!
Growing up, who were the powerful role models in your life as a young girl?
My grandmother, Hilda McFall, was a force. Widowed at a young age, she raised two kids alone, studied piano at Juilliard and was one of the first women elected to a county office in Pennsylvania. As a child, I took her strength and independence for granted, and now I can only imagine how hard she had to have worked for everything she had. I also loved Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman.
Kazoo became he most successful journalism campaign in crowdfunding history--why do you think this resonated with so many parents of young girls that drove your dream to success?
Because there really is nothing like Kazoo on the newsstand, and if you’re a parent who wants to show your daughter a world full of possibility and world where she’s encouraged to have interests int things like science, engineering, comics, art and adventure, then your options really are limited. Also, we work with such amazing women. Every story in Kazoo is either developed or inspired by top women in their fields. Imagine your child having the opportunity to learn about writing directly from Margaret Atwood, or about space from astronaut Peggy Whitson or about drawing from Alison Bechdel or speaking her mind from Senator Elizabeth Warren. That’s what we offer, in addition to original fiction from top women authors, like Meg Wolitzer and Joyce Carol Oates, and smart, fun, clever activities. We also illustrate all of our experts as they were as kids, so our readers can more easily identify with them. "What does a future astronaut/engineer/scientist/senator/athlete look like? She looks just like me!” You’ve got to see it to be it, and our readers see it on every page.
What do you have planned for future issues? What has been or is your biggest hurdle in self-publishing?
Our Summer issue is our "Small but Mighty" issue, and we’re featuring comedian Sarah Silverman, chef Alice Waters, poet Eileen Myles, WNBA player Ivory Latta and so many others. I’m really proud of it. I want our readers to feel, by the time they put down this issue, more powerful than ever.
Who is your dream person to have involved with Kazoo and what do you want them to share?
My dream is coming true in our fall issue, The Action issue, which is all about changing the world. I asked Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be a part of it, and she said yes!
What do you hope for your daughters' future?
I honestly feel so worried about their future right now, given the state of our politics and our planet. It keeps me up night! And I realize my generation stopped paying attention, which is how we got here. But I think now we’re awake. And, I hope that we will do the hard work to help work toward a brighter future for our kids. But beyond that, what I hope for my daughters is that they can be free to be who they are and to pursue their own dreams, whatever those may be. My daughter has a t-shirt that says, “Future President.” And I’d very much like the world to a place where that is actually possible.
Anything else you want to add?