I’m Rosie, Editor of Life Is Short Magazine and founder of Rosie’s Magazine Creation Academy.
I’ve always suffered with itchy feet (and inky hands from writing and painting). I couldn’t wait to travel, so once I hit 18 and finished basic schooling I sold some paintings, crafts and did whatever necessary to buy a train ticket out of Ireland and across Europe. I then went to the States and bought a 20-year-old camper van, which had orange pile carpets on the ceilings and the floors, for $300 with five other girls. We travelled from Chicago to Florida, then I travelled by Amtrak across the States. During the two years of travel I worked for non-profit organisations and charities where I was trained in fundraising and event management.
It was while I was in the States I saw a street paper sold on the streets by the homeless with half of the cover price going directly into the pocket of the homeless vendor. I thought the concept was brilliant and knew that’s what I wanted to do.
I went back to Ireland, did a journalism course and started my research. That year (1992) three homeless people died of hypothermia in my town so it spurred me on all the more. I met with a guy who had a similar street magazine idea; we pooled our research and in 1994 started The Big Issues Magazine in Ireland. We also fell instantly in love with each other and got married two years later.
The magazine became a vehicle to influence people to take small actions that made huge differences to other people’s lives. Not only by buying a magazine from a vendor who had fallen on hard times but also by doing things that didn’t cost any money – whether it was donating a pencil for a rescued child soldier in Sierra Leone or picking up the phone and reporting a sighting of missing person.
For instance, I used the magazine to start a sleeping bag appeal where people could donate sleeping bags and winter clothes to be distributed to the homeless during the winter months; it was a huge success and became an annual appeal driven through the pages of the magazine. I did training with the missing person’s helpline in London and we started a missing person’s page and helpline, helping to connect loved ones and support families of the missing. I used the pages for appeals for school supplies for ex-child soldiers in Sierra Leone and for sanitation supplies during the Kosovo War to stop the spread of disease in refugee camps. We sent thousands of items such as soap, toothpaste, etc. donated by our readers.
I started a creative writing group for the homeless vendors of the magazine and dedicated a section of the magazine to publishing their fabulous stories, poems, reports and drawings. Also, if there were a few of the vendors interested in the same thing we helped them follow their passions – this resulted in art exhibitions, craft shows, theatre productions and school educational programs. These were very successful as we could use the pages of the magazine to advertise them and tell readers about projects we were working on.
I found that publishing a magazine was a great way to inspire people to make a difference. These things didn’t cost money to do; they just involved creative thinking.
At its peak the magazine was selling 60,000 copies per month, had a staff of 103, 11 offices nationwide and a couple of thousand vendors.
At 21 I was given the gold President’s Award by President Mary Robinson for starting the magazine and then at 24 I became the youngest woman to receive the International Women In Publishing Award in 1996. I couldn’t go to the prestigious award ceremony in London as I had my first baby that day too. I was a lucky ‘chosen one’ to get magazine editing training with Reuters News Agency in Fleet Street London.
After about eight years my husband and I felt we had done all we could with the magazine and decided to move on to other dreams. We moved to the country where we now raise our two children and three dogs.
The street magazine is still going today and 20 years later it has put millions of euro directly into the pockets of the homeless and long-term unemployed.
I went on to produce an uplifting, inspiring magazine for hospital patients and this developed into Ireland’s first glossy Health and Lifestyle magazine, inspiring people to live healthier happier lives. I also taught magazine production at third-level, published some books, started a wedding planning business, was an international correspondent for a cult magazine, created online magazines and guides for businesses, was a director of a PR company and I created a massively successful viral campaign called The Ultimate Job In the World.
Through my Magazine Creation Academy I want to show people how to create online magazines that they can use as commercial entities, to create incomes for themselves to improve their own lives, share their passions and use them to help other people change their lives for the better.