Story by: Lisa Marie Corso
Photographer: Amelia Stanwix
Sophie wears: Big Sur Shirt (shop) + Eclipse Top (shop)
The job of a magazine editor and orchestral conductor is much the same. Their job is to bring a multitude of talent into single harmonious formation. The only difference between the two is sound: one produces loud theatrical music and the other quiet reflective pages. Sophie Kalagas is editor of frankie magazine and in her editorial orchestra is an ensemble of writers, photographers, designers, art directors, copy editors and marketers to name a few. It’s Sophie’s job to bring all of these people together in each issue of frankie that she expertly edits.
Since landing her dream job at the independent title five years ago as assistant editor, Sophie quickly moved up the ranks to become editor of the much loved magazine. The urge to publish, streamline and coordinate has been embedded in Sophie since childhood, where she self-published books to read to classmates. Not much has changed since.
As editor of frankie, Sophie’s aim is to produce a product that is inclusive and inspires. She wants her readers to feel their aspirations are within reach and that reading frankie might act as the fuel to their creative fire. We recently visited Sophie at frankie’s HQ in South Melbourne to check out the upcoming issue, chat about the publishing process and find out if one of her favourite interviewees ever, comedian John Waters, really is as funny as legend suggests (the answer: yes).
Let’s go back to the very beginning, what were you like at school and did you think you would end up in the publishing industry?
I actually wanted to be a vet because I loved animals, but when I look back, I think publishing was always in my future. I wrote so many stories as a child that my teacher would give me extra projects. I remember writing this story in grade two – everyone in the class wrote theirs on construction paper, but I typed mine up on an old-school Macintosh, then printed it, illustrated it and bound the story into a book. I recently found it and thought, this was my very first publication! In high school, English was one of my favourite subjects, and I also worked in a newsagency so was always surrounded by magazines. At the time I didn’t realise I would end up doing what I do now for a living, but all my interests were leading me down this path.
Becoming a professional writer and magazine editor is not as straightforward as some other professions where you graduate and instantly find a job. Can you tell us a little bit about your route into publishing?
I studied PR at university as part of a communications degree, and it was during a group assignment that I realised I wanted to get into editing. I was putting together everyone’s individual work, and really enjoyed making it all flow smoothly – I thought, maybe there’s something to this editing business! I spent some time doing internships in Melbourne and Sydney, at places like Pacific Magazines and Bauer Media; those opportunities really helped solidify that this was something I wanted to do. Around that time, my brother was working in an ad agency that also produced a magazine, and he got me in to chat with the editor and see how my skills might be of assistance. I started doing some freelance work, and eventually that led to a permanent editorial role on a new website they were launching.
And how did you come to work at frankie?
I saw a role advertised online and was like: “Oh my god, this is my dream job!” I was so happy at my other job, and had literally said to my friend a week earlier that I would only ever leave it if there was an opportunity somewhere like frankie, so maybe I willed it all to happen. I applied for the job and got it. It’s now been five-and-a-half years! I’ve gone from editorial assistant and online editor, to assistant editor, where I was more involved in producing the actual print magazine, to, eventually, editor.
What advice would you give to emerging writers and editors who want to make a career in the magazine industry?
Gather as much experience as you can! I know the idea of volunteering is controversial, but honestly, the unpaid placements I did were invaluable for me – I learned so much. As an intern, I learned about the different roles in publishing, got to do hands-on editing, receive feedback and make contacts. To me, interning is great as long as you do it for as long as you’re getting something out of it – when you feel you’ve stopped learning or are being taken advantage of, it’s time to move on. As for writers, read a lot of different styles and get your work out there – submit to publications and seek out valuable feedback that will help you grow.
As editor of frankie, what is your vision for the magazine? What overall message or feeling do you want to convey in your pages?
We really aim for a feeling of inclusivity, so no one feels left out or ‘othered’. Our content is more inspirational than aspirational – we want people to feel like they can go and start their own creative business, or change careers, or begin whatever project is on their mind. Or at least, learn something from the people and stories we share. We want to inspire our readers in a realistic way.
As readers, we’re lucky to hold and read issues of frankie in our hands, but what is the process of putting an issue together?
Frankie is published bi-monthly, and we go to print about a month out from our on-sale date. Basically, as soon as we send an issue to print, we’ll start on the next one straight away. There’s usually a little bank of ideas that I have lined up, but mostly we’ll start from scratch and do lots of research, brainstorming and come up with new ideas (‘we’ being myself, our assistant editor and designer). I try to be really organised. Some issues, everything goes to plan with commissioning content and plotting out the mag, while others don’t come off so easily, so it’s my job to plug holes and find the right content to fit in the mix.
How does your role as editor fit into all of this?
As editor, my job is to oversee the magazine from start to finish. A large part is managing people, including external writers, photographers and illustrators, plus working with our in-house assistant editor, designer and marketing and advertising teams. I also research content and do some writing for the mag. Once commissioned stories come in, I work closely with our designer on the best visual treatments and layouts. Then we proof the magazine, which is where the eagle eye has to come out – searching for any mistakes and making final tweaks before we send it to print. As a magazine editor, you have to be comfortable multi-tasking, and interested in lots of different parts of the job, not just editing and writing.
So how do you feel when all your hard work comes to fruition and you see a new issue hit the shelves?
I still get butterflies! I started at frankie with issue 54, and now we’re up to issue 86, but it’s still a really proud moment. Sometimes I just want to whisper to people in the shops: “I edited that!”
Is there an editorial policy you live by?
We have a rule that if we’re not excited by it, we don’t run it. That way every article feels really strong.
Over the years you’ve interviewed countless people, but who have been some of the most memorable?
My all-time favourite interview was with my creative hero Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and Portlandia. She was so beautiful to talk to and very open with what she shared. John Waters was also incredible. We did a story where he was an agony aunt, and I proposed all these hypotheticals to him – his advice was hilarious and suitably gross, which is what I was hoping for. I also did an email interview with R.L. Stine, the author of the Goosebumps series, and receiving an email from him signed off as ‘Bob Stine’ was a career highlight.
Do you have a daily ritual that’s essential to your creative practice?
I drive to and from work, and find listening to podcasts is the best way for me to unwind. I love what I do, but find it hard to check out when I leave the office – listening to a podcast is a really good way to distract my brain and create a bit of essential space.
And what podcast is on high rotation for you at the moment?
One of my favourites is called Risk. It’s a storytelling podcast with the tagline: ‘True stories you’d never dare to share’. It’s got a real mix of funny, heart-wrenching and sexy stuff, it’s great.
What’s your daily work wardrobe involve?
The most important thing for me at work is to be really comfortable, so I mostly wear loose pants, floaty sack dresses and, I know it’s a bit of a fashion no-no, but leggings. I have lots of cute patterned leggings (that I wear with long tops, don’t worry).
And lastly, how would you describe Gorman to a friend?
Gorman clothes are a super-fun way to express your personality. They take fairly simple shapes and make them interesting and playful with their distinctive bright colours, patterns and artist collaborations. It’s basics, with a cheerful twist.