Over the past five odd years, SET Magazine has become a staple within the communities we appear. Writers from all over Columbia, Tennessee, the Shoals, and central Alabama have been given a platform and a voice within our pages, and I am so fortunate to be able to garner new talent with each issue.
For this month’s feature, I wanted to focus on writing and reading in partnership with the 2017 Reader Riot Book Festival, an event to be held at the Florence Public Library. The miracle in all of this is that writing and reading are the keys to introspection. Writing and reading help most people discover parts of themselves that they didn’t know were there. We are so lucky to have a platform like SET Magazine, and in this month’s feature, I caught up with past contributors to find out how the magazine impacted their lives.
First, let’s buy one of the most expensive plane tickets in existence and head Down Under, where former contributor Alicia Threet has been living for the last few years. Alicia Threet is a backpacking maven. A backpacking queen, even. For the past few years, she has been traversing New Zealand and Australia. When she was a contributor, she was a full time student, part time server, a marketing intern at Singin’ River Brewery, singing herself here and there… “The list goes on,” she said.
“A couple of weeks after graduating from the University of North Alabama in 2015, I took a one-way flight to New Zealand (I have no idea what led me to NZ but I have no regrets!),” she said.
“I backpacked for about four months: hitchhiked, lived out of my car, and camped. I lived the absolute dream. I need to write a book of my experiences!”
“I then went flat broke and moved to the capital, Wellington, and worked two jobs for about six months. Then, being the nomad I am with the WORST travel bug ever, I hopped over to this lovely island known as Great Barrier Island in NZ,” she said.
“I did some work for three different, lovely hosts in exchange for housing and food over a two-month period. I lived by the beach, in the bush atop a mountain in the absolute wilderness, and also alongside this beautiful bay filled with crystals in the sand. Words and pictures do it no justice.”
“I had the experience of a lifetime. That island changed my life – I will be back one day. No doubt.”
Alicia currently resides in Melbourne, Australia. Life has been an absolute roller coaster for her, “But I would not change any past moment for the world,” she said.
“I have recently started a new journey in a different country – it’s time for a clean slate. I’m broke again, go figure, but I’m slowly getting there. I have hopped around 3 different couches over a month with barely enough money to even eat, BUT, here I am with 2 jobs now and I’m moving into a sweet apartment by the beach this month,” she said.
“As busy as I was with my jobs and school, SET Magazine was an outlet for me to express my love for writing and creativity,” she said.
“I’ll never forget the time SET asked me to write an article about the time I hung out with an Amish friend from Tennessee. It was literally one of the coolest days of my life.”
“A lot of young people can relate to and appreciate the content that SET brings to the table. Especially in such a cool area like the Shoals, it only makes it cooler!”
Moving back across the Pacific Ocean, we come to Kali Daniel. Kali is a page designer and copy editor for Gatehouse Media in Austin, Texas, The Life Music Capital of the World (all right, all right, all right).
“The Center for News & Design is composed of about 300 people who work with editors to build newspapers around the country,” Kali said. “It’s kind of funny, actually, but the paper I build the most is The Gadsden Times in Gadsden, Alabama. I recently began designing Florence’s TimesDaily.”
Kali was a busy bee when she was a student at UNA, “I really stretched myself thin, but looking back I have exactly zero regrets because I loved doing all of it.”
“When I was writing for SET Magazine, I actually had a lot of stuff going on — too much. I was a full-time student at UNA studying journalism, I was the editor of the student newspaper, The Flor-Ala, I did graphic design for UNA Student Engagement and I was a graphic design intern for the university,” she said.
Kali utilized the platform that SET Magazine presents to its writers as a way to further her career and deepen her portfolio.
“When you’re trying to work in the journalism field, it always looks good when you’ve written before. That’s something I never understood in college — I had countless peers who were graduating with me that had never written a news story, a press release or a magazine article,” she said.
“Putting myself out there was one of the scariest things I felt I could ever do, but the editor at the time (Linley Mobley) gave me a chance, and later editor Andy Thigpen pushed me to do a centerpiece on Firekid. That story later won an award, and when you can put awards on your resume or stories in your portfolio, it shows potential employers you know your stuff,” she said.
Kali is also an artist, and with the help of SET Magazine, she was able to apply her skills in art to the magazine.
“When I started, I was asked to provide art for the stories I wrote, so it really pushed me to learn how to use a camera, which is a skillset I probably wouldn’t have pursued otherwise,” she said.
“And I’m not a big people person, but I loved the opportunity to collaborate with other writers.”
Jumping across our beloved Tennessee Valley, and up the East Coast and to The Big Apple, we meet Catherine Counts. Catherine is the store director of the West Village location of Billy Reid, named of course after the famed Shoals fashion designer and clothing creator.
When Catherine began writing for SET Magazine, she was earning a degree in marketing while working as sales associate for Billy Reid in his flagship location in downtown Florence.
“I had always been an active reader of SET, but never thought of being a contributor until I was hanging out in the commons area one afternoon and joined in on a meeting to see what it was about,” she said.
“I found it really inspiring being around a lot of young creatives like myself and hearing their ideas bounce off each other!”
Catherine relocated to New York City last year to continue her career within Billy Reid as the store director in the West Village.
“I’m extremely grateful to have the opportunity to grow with such an awesome company that is (truly) close to home for me,” she said.
“I love coming to work every day and sharing all the exciting happenings in Billy Reid & Florence, ALA with our customers.”
Seeing articles in print was Catherine’s favorite part of being a contributor. “I found SET Magazine at a time when I was very hungry for a creative outlet that was different from the day-to-day class projects. I loved the energy of all the contributors brainstorming, then seeing our ideas come to life into an issue.”
Being a contributor of SET Magazine helped Catherine understand and develop her communication and leadership skills.
“SET pushed me creatively as a writer of course, but also helped me understand how to be a successful leader in a larger scale team environment – which is very crucial to my current role.”
Anyone can be a writer, with practice and the right coaching. And just in time for Spring, the Reader Riot Book Festival is celebrating all sorts of writers, and of course, reading. Famous authors at this year’s festival include R.L. Stine of the Goosebumps series, Melanie Benjamin, time Crothers, Frank X Walker, and many, many more.
The Reader Riot Book Festival will be April 28 and 29, 2017 at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library and starts at 10:30 a.m.