Better journal

Larry Meyer

Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
As someone who has written for Wooden Canoe and read it a long time, I have opinions about it. I have eagerly awaited it, moderately enjoyed it, and been indifferent to its arrival in equal measure. When new editorial direction premiered in a recent edition I was ready to deploy my battery of opinions on the resulting product.

My first impression of the first edition was very critical. I was seeing a lot of styling changes, but not much substance. I am a word guy. I would take literate bathroom graffiti over mundane English in engraved copperplate every time. Therefore I hold the first duty of an editor is to cultivate good writers. Handsome font and lay-out won’t overcome pedestrian text. It just coddles the eye along to the next text. I’m afraid my first impression of the new Wooden Canoe was just that.

I recall the end of my short career writing a bit for AMC Outdoors. Editors changed and they were urged to produce a magazine geared to a more youthful readership, a readership that didn’t want to read. Two to three paragraph pieces with lots of panache awash in informational pablum. Expertise was out. It was off-putting.

The most recent Wooden Canoe has achieved a better mean. There was stuff in it I found myself wanting to read. I see my old buddy Steve Lapey has been drafted to contribute a regular column on woodcraft. As someone who has earned some money writing I marvel that Steve, whose prose has not been infected by academia or professional communication training, has the nub of Hemingway-esque prose in him. There is not a wasted word or obscure meaning in his text. I lingered over another text mentioning John McPhee. That name will catch a word guy’s attention. Literary click-bait. The piece on dug-out canoes also had enough teases to hold my eye.

So the point I am making is I am a bit more hopeful about the new direction of Wooden Canoe. Now that format has been upgraded, attend to my first dictum – cultivate good writers. Of course that is a two-way street. Writers have to try. No one should be promised column inches. Punch the text up. Tell stories, introduce characters, craft a plot, induce a laugh. As Mark Twain said, go for lightning, not the lightning bug.