One of the first Al‑Anon slogans I latched onto was “How Important Is It?” At first, I took that phrase to mean that I don’t have to give undue meaning to things other people say and do. However, as I grew, I came to see that often the answer to that question is—it is important. When I began editing for The Forum, it became immediately evident to me that each submission that the World Service Office (WSO) receives is important. I am still amazed at how much time, effort and collaboration go into every issue.
So, what happens to submissions to The Forum? The process begins with you, the readers who write, whether as part of a writing workshop at an Area Assembly, at a meeting, or independently as a member who wants to share experience, strength and hope. The WSO receives your sharings through the mail, email, fax or online at al-anon.org/18forumshare. Then our administrative assistants send out thank you letters for both sharings and photos and cut and paste or type them into a computer document. At this point, they make the sharings anonymous by deleting all identifying information, such as names and addresses, and send them off to our reading committee, known as the Forum Editorial Advisory Committee (FEAC). This Committee is composed of several Al‑Anon members, usually four or five, who volunteer to read 50 sharings per month—yes, for free! They each read and score those submissions for quality and, more importantly, for the degree to which they focus on our primary goal—to offer hope to families and friends of alcoholics. I base my selections for the magazine on the scores that the Committee assigns them and include the ones with high marks.
Then it’s time for me to begin the editing process, keeping in mind word count restrictions, grammar, punctuation and readability. The focus, though, is on ensuring that the author’s voice, original intent and meaning are retained. Next, the Associate Director—Media reviews and approves three of the month’s sharings to be posted online for Public Outreach aimed at reaching people who qualify for membership, but have yet to attend an Al‑Anon meeting. Once I fill the manuscript with all of the articles, ads and departments, the Associate Director—Literature reviews it for accuracy and quality. I use his feedback to make improvements and correct any errors. At that point, another WSO Staff member proofreads it, checking for any typographical and other types of errors. This step is also important because it includes ensuring that author names appear exactly as indicated by the writer.
Afterwards, the manuscript goes to the Executive Director, who reviews it and gives final approval. The final version is sent to the Staff members in the design department who are responsible for arranging the articles and adding photos and graphics. This is an exciting step because I work directly with them to ensure that each issue not only contains the kind of content readers want, but also that it is visually inviting.
The final step before each issue goes to the printer is for everyone involved to give a once-over to the designed version. This is the last chance for us to make sure everything is correct before the magazine goes out to you. People are often surprised by the fact that we work three months in advance, which means that I begin compiling and editing sharings three months ahead of publication. For example, I started work on this June issue in March. This helps to ensure that you get each issue on time every month.
As you can see, not only is a lot of time and effort required to produce The Forum, but a lot of collaboration, as well. The help that I get from everyone else involved is a good reminder that no one is perfect, and I am no exception! Then the process begins again where it started—with you, the readers. When you communicate your responses about recent Forum issues to the WSO, we try to use that feedback to make changes that will improve it. All of this effort helps ensure that readers will continue to receive Al‑Anon/Alateen’s message of hope.
By Mark S., Magazine Editor
The Forum, June 2018