September 19, 2010
This is a gratuitous advertisement for PineStraw. Writing it is unconscionable, since I also contribute to the magazine.
Never mind. Truth need not be clouded by ethics. More important for you to appreciate the quality of this publication.
I don’t know the complete backstory, only that I started noticing PineStraw three years ago while visiting the area. How unusual, I thought, to find a format featuring local writers exploring their experiences in relevant, sometimes profound, other times naive, often humorous stories.
My comparison would be efforts I pick up in other towns and cities where content falls into two categories: “canned” or charmingly non-professional. There’s nothing canned in PineStraw. Furthermore, the writing – even by non-professionals – displays high standards.
The clincher is how the magazine looks, feels. When Academy Awards are given out for set decoration, costumes, cinematography, make-up, editing and the like I usually duck out to make tea. In a magazine this is different. You feel the paper, satiny and thick on the covers, substantial inside. Quirky fonts are properly spaced and bold enough to prevent squinting. Illustrations and photography – well, they take my breath away. Even if you don’t read a word simply looking at this magazine is delightful. A writer wonders, apprehensively, how his story will fly since layout and illustration can make or break it. I wrote a first-person piece about settling into a new house, which appears on page 21 of the Home & Garden section of September PineStraw. I lead with an Oscar Hammerstein lyric. The simple, elegant photo illustration and how the lyric presents made me gasp. Ditto the evocative photos accompanying Summer Skin, a poem on page 29, a column on page 71 about Kindle’s threat to real books and the sweet, gritty portrait of handyman Al Dunham on page 17. These are big-time visuals. Even the advertisements tempt beyond commercial message – especially Carolina Hotel’s chef, the Pottery Plus Auction, Aberdeen Exterminating’s feet-up bugs and a full page announcing the world’s lightest beer which makes this stubborn beer-hater thirsty. Sayer Photography ads are frameable.
Previous issues remain equally stunning long after their content stales. This whole is fueled by ideas. I won’t specify who’s because if I name one name, I must name them all – and I’m in enough trouble already. What I do know is that a stack of PineStraws disappears from the rack at Fresh Market in hours with restocks going as quickly. Obviously, our modestly sized population “gets it.” All of them: the outdoorsies, artsy folk, fashionistas, chatelaines, foodies, old-timers, newcomers, New Agers, academics, boomers, cranks, greenies, damn Yankees, genteel Southerners and armchair philosophers. There. I said it. Broke a few rules...but feels good.