Behind the Screen and Scenes

by Barbara Barnes

Hello Heirloom readers.

This is your new Heirloom editor Barbara (Barb) Barnes. Although I’m new to this editor role, I’m not new to writing for the Heirloom publication. I’ve created the monthly Babes with Books announcements since 2006. Yet, in terms of my new position, I agree with all of you – we will miss Russ Araujo as he retires as Heirloom editor and HUUC webmaster. I have very big shoes to fill after Russ’s nearly ten years of piloting both of our church’s mainstays. Thankfully, those two huge tasks have been divided between two people – Antonio Ciolino and me. Antonio will drive the HUUC website while I steer the Heirloom. Since we’ve now divided the two roles once filled by Russ alone, it will take a bit of adjustment before Antonio and I work out the balanced dance integrating our two jobs. Be patient with us as we learn all the new skills, steps, timing, and how that all interacts with you.

Perhaps you’ve never considered how the Heirloom and intertwine. The current Heirloom structure pulls from numerous posts on our website. As a result, creating the newsletter and managing the website are highly interrelated.

Long gone are the days when the Heirloom editor alone wrote much of the publication’s content or people provided the editor a handwritten slip with an announcement. Back then, the Heirloom’s team physically typed the copy on paper, then cut and pasted the pieces into a final mock-up for copying, collating, addressing, and snail-mailing to the congregation. Those efforts required several devoted volunteers to make the then biweekly publication happen. I pass along kudos to that team.

The modern Heirloom requires more than a detail-oriented newsletter crew, who knows how to write and type, armed with sharp scissors, glue, and a Xerox. Today, the “copy and paste” tasks take different forms. An editor also needs fluent knowledge of publishing legalities and several software packages to assure that the most correct articles and images appear in the Heirloom and on the HUUC website.

I applaud Russ who prepared lengthy document guides for exactly how to put together the current Heirloom using today’s technologies. It takes longer than someone might think to create the modern versions. Did you know that Heritage is one of the few UU congregations to publish both a printable PDF and electronic version of their newsletter? It nearly doubles the time required to create the publication. Whether this practice will continue is a matter for future consideration. There are pros and cons to continuing to create the PDF versions accessible on our website. At this point, I will continue the time-consuming practice. I’ll concentrate on learning the current steps for Heirloom publication before considering any changes.

I envision my major role as a “word wrangler” and copy formatter. I’ll remind people to submit articles by deadline and adjust the copy to fit the publication’s format (such as fonts, text positioning, and copy layout), but use a light hand regarding copy content. I will limit my copyediting role to suggested changes (such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, and possibly clarification), but not content. As the published author of magazine articles and books, I am keenly aware of how it feels to be edited. As a writing/editing teacher, I’ve also learned that some authors dislike modifications to their work. Therefore, I will hold my actual editing role to making a submitted article’s author and the publication look good while retaining the author’s original style and intent, all within the newsletter’s format constraints. I’ll gratefully accept early submissions before the monthly deadline, avoiding the last minute crush to publication.

Once the article’s copy is prepared, I’ll then turn the submitted work over to Antonio for posting on the website. Antonio will alert the author when their submitted piece is available to review on the website before it is published in the Heirloom. Antonio and I will work collaboratively regarding any copy changes after the initial posting.

Following the monthly deadline (a varying date found in each month’s masthead at the end of the Heirloom), my job is to create both the PDF and email versions of the Heirloom from the many, current website postings. I’ll send the PDF version to Antonio to post on our website. Then I’ll create the email version using the same material but a different software package. This second version I will distribute to the email subscribers. Once released, I will check that every email subscriber received the newsletter and attempt to resolve any issues if it was not received. Following any email distribution troubleshooting, the cycle repeats.

As the daughter of another church’s newsletter editor, I feel honored to carry the baton passed on by Russ and a long line of previous Heirloom editors. However, it is you, the submitters, who help the Heirloom keep our church community informed and active. Your submissions of announcements, columns, essays, and opinions tell the tale of our vibrant, caring community. If you have any suggestions for Heirloom improvements or corrections, please contact me at

Now I’ll duck back behind the screen and scenes of the Heirloom while reminding you to keep those submissions coming in to me at the above email address – the earlier the better!

Image courtesy of Barbara Barnes