Originally, it was my intention to create it all online, as were the previous Babel Babble incarnations. That is, similar to what most other online magazines have: an index of articles which link to different pages with the entire article there. For the modern age, these also should have social networking buttons so people could share the articles with other people easily. A comment section for each article would also have to be included. None of this was going to present a problem; it just meant some initial programming.
However, the new UniLang magazine had been planned to be a PDF version online. They considered doing a web version as well to be too much work. I thought that having a PDF version, looking like a professional magazine, complete with cover and the ability to turn pages for reading it online would be fantastic. Downside is that I had no experience in magazine layout or in creating PDFs like that. The most I had done is creating basic documents in OpenOffice and exporting them to PDF, but creating an entire layout, complete with coloured images? Nope!
For those who have read this far, hoping that I would actually teach you something useful about magazine publishing, you are about to be rewarded.
If you intend to work in publishing anything, make sure you get the proper tools for it. I knew that OpenOffice Writer (or Microsoft Word) were not going to give me the power to make a magazine. They are designed for documents, not publications. So I looked online for a free alternative software package. I found Scribus, which is an Open Source desktop publishing program. It is completely free and is very powerful without being difficult to install.
Scribus allowed me to put in the text I had written for articles while also having a system for laying out columns and images. The text editor isn’t as powerful as a document editor like Word or OpenOffice Writer, because it is a publishing tool and not intended as a writing tool. It does take some time to learn it, but the essentials are that you select your document size, then start adding “frames” to the pages. A frame contains either a graphic or text, and can be placed anywhere, even overlapping others. Text frames can have multiple columns, their own margins, and span several pages, as well as having all their own settings for the text, like fonts, font sizes, colours and even shapes.
Even with all the flexibility of Scribus, I still needed to design a layout, so I started looking at other magazines, both in print and in PDF formats online. I also wanted to be able to read the PDF online, like a real magazine, complete with page turning. Both these searches led me to a free, self-publishing platform called “Issuu“. The concept is simple: you create a PDF, upload it to Issuu, and they will convert it to a page-turning version for everyone to read freely. People can also download your publication and share it with others via social media. More options exist if you pay for a premium account, but since the free service gives me everything I need, I don’t know what the extra value is for those premium accounts.
The contents of Issuu are generally amateur created, but that doesn’t mean they are poor quality! Besides magazines, you can also find catalogues, papers, and comics, many of these in other languages. For the role-playing geeks, I’ve even found the Dungeons and Dragons Player Handbook v3.5.
You can find Parrot Time on Issuu here.
Pulling it all Together
After studying several magazine layouts, I realized that pretty much anything goes, so I took some elements that I liked from various publications and set up my style. Then I just played with colours, text and images to get a foundation look. After that, it was just a matter of writing and publishing!
The last problem was the title. Actually, this wasn’t the last thing I worked on, since I had planned to do a magazine years ago and had already come up with the title, but for many, this might be the last step, because they will be finalizing the style of their new publication at this time.
I like the title of things I produce, from web sites to books to short stories, to have clever double meanings. For example, “Parleremo” looks like the name of real place, but for those that know Italian, they will recognize it as “We will speak”; a fitting title for a language learning site.
Like Parleremo, I didn’t want a title that had “language” or “lang” in it. My mind crawled over several possibilities, even to animals. The parrot is the one animal we really credit with the ability to speak, even if it just mimicking human speech. The name of a newspaper or magazine for a region, in English, is usually something like “journal”, “daily” or “times”. When I was testing out “Parrot Time” in my head, I heard something else and laughed. I knew I had found what I wanted.
Since I started the magazine, only one person has been able to grasp the secret behind the title, and no non-native English speaker had recognized it, so perhaps it isn’t so clever. If you say the title “Parrot Time” out loud, giving the “t” sound a harder pronunciation, similar to a “d”, you have the word “paradigm”. This is a rather elitist and pompous sounding word for “a theory or a group of ideas about how something should be done, made, or thought about”, as in “Nigel’s philosophical paper on the nature our existence is a paradigm shifter!”. To help clue in to the extra meaning, or to give someone who understands it already an extra “a-ha” moment, I gave the magazine the subtitle “The Thinking of Speaking”, referring to how the contents would relate to the speaking of languages.
The publishing of Parrot Time hasn’t been smooth. As I figured, it is hard to find anyone to contribute to it. I use fake names for the authors of most of the articles, hoping to encourage others to write (that is, they don’t see just me writing). To date, only one person had written any articles for the magazine. Not surprisingly, he was also a contributor to Babel Babble.
As also expected, while I intended to have the magazine be a monthly publication, after a few months of almost constant writing, I became aware that I simply couldn’t keep up the pace of producing around ten articles a month and still have time for anything else. I changed the format to bi-monthly, allowing me a little more wiggle room to work on other projects.
That choice is one I have seen other publications face after they have been around for a while. Either the lack of time or lack or materials forced them to publish less frequently. Monthly periodicals become bi-monthly, quarterlies become semi-annuals, and so on. Some people even suggest that, rather than having a fixed deadline, such works only get produced when they have collected enough material. This may sound like a good solution, until you understand that human nature is to procrastinate. A person is most likely to put off a task for as long as they can. If something is due on Monday, you can be sure they will wait until Sunday night or even Monday morning to do it. With no deadline at all, people can always tell themselves “Oh, I don’t need to write that article now. I have plenty of time to write it later.”
Given all that, I will continue to produce the magazine, and I hope that, as attention to it grows, more people will not only read it but also contribute to it. I put this out for the larger community to enjoy, and thus I want it to be a medium for that community as well.
The magazine started with basic advertising, mainly for my projects and fake ads, promoting the learning of a language or the visiting of a place. Recently, I have been including ads for others’ websites and blogs, hoping to use it as means of promoting them as well.
If you wish to have your language related blog or website advertised in the magazine, at no cost to you, please contact me. I can put in an advertisement you create, any size from quarter to full page, or I can work with you to create one.
I hope you enjoy the magazine and tell your friends about it!