I’ve Been to Venus and Back: How I’m Finding My Voice Again

I’ve been writing other people’s stories for so long that I’ve forgotten how to tell my own. But I know I’ve got it in me. The story is still there, I just haven’t put it into words onscreen yet. Until now.

Me at age 20, in East Lansing, Michigan. Photo taken by Julie Showers.
Amy Sedaris on the cover of a 2006 edition of Venus Zine
M.I.A. on the cover of Venus Zine
Missy Elliott on the cover of Venus Zine
A scan of a Chicago Reader story about the Venus Zine staff, featuring from left: Charlotte Robinson, Candice Nobles, Krystal Hagan, Nicole Radja, Amy Schroeder, Lauren Kessinger, Jon Mahalak, and Margaret Wappler. Photo by Jim Newberry

The big breakup

My second attorney who helped me close the deal warned me that selling a business and working for the new owners rarely goes smoothly and usually results in disaster. But I didn’t want to believe him. I wanted so badly to hand over the hard stuff and feel a sense of relief. The first year or so of being an employee of the new publishers was pretty good, and I appreciated earning a consistent paycheck. In general, we got along and saw eye to eye on most things, though I remember questioning one of the publishers’ reactions to the bankruptcy of Tower Records, one of Venus’ newsstand retailers. “I’ve been through bankruptcy, and I bounced back,” she said. “I bet Tower Records will too.” They didn’t. This was the emerging age of iTunes, Pitchfork.com, and Amazon.

Building a new life in New York

Eventually, I got not just one but two job offers, and decided to take them both. I worked by day for a well-known nonprofit and by night for an established book publishing company that was entering the digital age. I believe that the more you have to do, the more you get done, so I stayed focused, managed my time intensely, and built a savings account. From there, I went on to work for a digital agency, West Elm, and Etsy, and in some of those roles, writing my brains out, behind the guise of an anonymous brand voice for big companies. In other roles, I either ghost-wrote or co-wrote for others to help tell their stories or command an audience.

Fast-forward to now

With twins, the four of us quickly outgrew our one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment and now live in the Chicago area, near family, who helps us tremendously. It really does take a village to raise kids, especially one who has special needs. I’ve been lucky enough to work full time for an awesome company that lets me work remotely, and while I still enjoy telling other people’s stories, I’m ready to start sharing my own again, so thank you for reading.

What happened to Venus?

I don’t feel qualified to tell the story of Venus’ final days because I wasn’t there, but I can summarize what I know in a nutshell: After a year or so with the replacement editor, the publishers decided to sell the company to another Chicago publisher. By that point, I’d done all I could to look the other way and wasn’t paying attention to what Venus was up to, until I heard from the publishers. During the breakup, they disrespected me, but now that they wanted to sell, they practically poured sunshine on me. It was the weirdest mindfuck. Why all of a sudden were they so nice? Because, what I failed to tell you earlier, is that the publishers hadn’t completed their buyout payment to me, which meant I still held the keys to Venus’ heart. I held the final decision-making power of whether to re-sell Venus to a new owner. When the publishers asked me to support the decision, part of me wanted to say, “Fuck You.” But the other part of me knew that other people’s jobs were at stake, so I took the time to meet with the interested party, and said yes to the deal. I was optimistic that the new publisher could take Venus to the next level and breathe new life into its future. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and you can read part of the story here in The Chicago Reader. Venus folded in 2010.

Head of Content, Jumble & Flow + Community Manager for Fable. Bylines in Abstract, Etsy, Minted, Pitchfork. Get my newsletter: jumbleandflow.com/newsletter

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