Have you ever wondered how each issue of Honest History is built? From inception to publication, there are plenty of creative decisions being made. Our just released Issue Ten, A Portrait of India was a delight to create, so we thought we’d give you a glimpse into the thought process of co-founder and editor-in-chief Brooke Knight, from how she determines each issue’s theme to why she believes giving children a glimpse into history is so important. Brooke also shares what she loves most about her job, challenges along the way, and even her own favorite historical era!
Our plan is to give you more behind-the-scenes insights on the blog, in the newsletter, and on the HH app so be sure to follow along. And, as always, send any and all questions our way at [email protected].
Brooke, as the co-founder and editor-in-chief, tell us about your daily responsibilities with Honest History.
Since we are an independent publisher, I wear a lot of hats! My working title as editor-in-chief means it’s my responsibility to come up with the idea for each issue, source and work with writers and illustrators, and conceptualize each page of the magazine. I also spend time leading several other projects that we will be launching later this year. It’s a lot of work, but it’s so much fun and I feel very lucky to get to do the thing I love every day.
Where did the idea for Honest History stem from?
A few years back, I decided it was time to pursue my dream job at a children’s publication. I’ve worked with children and in education much of my life and it was my dream to continue this work with a children’s publication. When I went to see what jobs were out there, my search results came back very bleak. Jokingly, I told my husband that I should just start my own children’s history magazine, and he thought the idea was brilliant. Now, three and a half years later, we are on our tenth issue!
How did you go from idea to production when you first started out?
When starting out, we had no idea what we were doing. We had a mission and general idea of what we wanted to include in the magazine and how we wanted it to look. From there, I just started researching and writing every day. We found our first illustrator, the talented Sarah Walsh, and I began working on conceptualizing the illustrations and putting it all together. I’d say the first two issues were definitely trial and error and by Issue Three we really found our groove. Also, having our staff historian, Heidi Coburn, join the team was hands down the best decision we ever made. We honestly couldn’t run the magazine without her!
And today, how does the magazine come together?
Today, the magazine comes together thanks to a combined team effort. We are a small and mighty team, so we spend a lot of late nights sending emails, researching, and coming up with a game plan for the future. We have dedicated roles split between editorial and business, but at the end of the day, we all have our hands in everything. It’s taken time, but we are getting closer to a streamlined system that allows us to dedicate ourselves to creating each issue while still making time to spend with our families.
How do you decide what theme to focus on for each issue?
During our team meetings, we decide on the topics of future issues. We ask that everyone on the team present a topic and then brainstorm and do preliminary research to see how that topic will unfold. We also take into consideration what our young historians are asking for. That’s part of the reason why we love getting mail from our young historians! They are always providing us with the best ideas! There are also times when we love a certain topic, but we aren’t able to find enough substantial information to create an issue about it, so we put those ideas away for the future when we hope to uncover more facts from our research.
Why do you think it’s so important for kids to learn about history?
As someone who traveled a lot throughout my childhood, I found that knowing a lot about history really put me at an advantage among my peers. History is a unique topic because it covers every single subject and point of interest, so knowing a lot about history can open a lot of doors. I think history is often an overlooked subject in traditional education and we hope that by creating Honest History, we can empower educators and students to dive deeper into fun and exciting history outside of the classroom.
What is the best part about your job with Honest History?
The thing I love most about my job is getting to work with so many amazing creatives and the opportunity to do what I love: research. I’m a self-proclaimed history nerd and getting to read and expand my base of knowledge on a daily basis is a dream come true. That, and I absolutely LOVE getting mail from our young historians! We actually just had several kids write in all requesting the same topic and it just so happened to be a topic I’ve been wanting to pursue. It makes me feel like we are doing our jobs well when we hear that our readers want to learn about a topic that we already have in the pipeline.
What is a challenge you’ve had to overcome on the path to creating Honest History?
Finding time for everything is always a big obstacle and is something we are constantly trying to solve. Balancing our families and the magazine is a challenge since we are still such a small team. As most entrepreneurs can attest to, doing all of this while not burning out is incredibly difficult at times. I imagine many of our followers think we are a bigger publishing house than we actually are, which is fantastic and means we are doing our jobs right, but at the end of the day, I always try to remember that I am a wife and mother first and foremost and a business owner second. There have been many nights where I needed to hit a deadline but one of my young sons was sick and needed my attention, so naturally, he was the priority. It’s hard in those situations knowing that even a small pushback could delay the production of the magazine, but, at the end of the day, my role as a parent will always be my number one job.
What advice would you give others on pursuing their creative dreams?
Go for it and give it everything you have! We launched the magazine the same month my oldest son was born and becoming a mother while trying to run a magazine for the first time was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There is never a good time to pursue your creative dreams, you just have to go out and do it. As long as you have the support of your family and friends, you can do anything!
Who/what is your favorite historical person/era/event?
This is such a difficult question! As far as historical figures, I enjoy studying all the early kings of England and ancient history in general. I also absolutely love to study 20th century war literature. It’s probably one of my favorite topics to discuss because it encompasses both war history and literature, which happen to be my two biggest passions in history.