We’re in the home stretch of finishing up our next special issue, Big Steam is Back, due from the printer in June, and its companion DVD, available at the same time. To get this or any magazine out the door, we rely on two pieces of paper to see us through: A dope sheet and a planning sheet. The dope sheet is the document that gives each story a place in the pecking order and a page allocation, as well as the editor-and-author pairing. I like to think of it as sheet music for a publication. Follow along and you can read the score from beginning to end. The planning sheet adds in the designer, and I staple it to the back of the dope sheet so they’re always together.
Because this 100-page magazine is our big special project this spring, I taped my dope sheet to my desk just to the right of my keyboard so that it doesn’t walk away no matter how busy I get or how much stuff I cram onto my desk. So far, that’s worked. It’s not strayed from arm’s reach.
As you can see my dope sheet is decorated with stains from my hot tea (consumed from a Warrior Ridge Club mug given to me by my friend Bennett Levin), highlights (indicates the stories I’m editing) and green ink (the color of hope, as one editor described it to me, and also the color of my favorite, Southern Railway) scribbles of information that I need to keep straight: When I filled in caption data, when I completed copyfitting, when the story was sent to copyeditors for proofing, which stories have late images because something is going on with the subject just before deadline (No. 611 and No. 844 are on the road; No. 1309’s work is moving along).
Next month, when we ship the special issue I’ll hang onto this battle scared and tattered paper. When Big Steam is Back comes back from the printer, I’ll tuck the dope sheet inside my copy, a keepsake of the hard work that went into it.