This month’s Marguerite ‘Woman of Influence’ is the Founder and Editor of Riposte Magazine, Danielle Pender. Labelling itself as ‘A smart magazine for women’, Riposte prides itself in profiling bold and fascinating women whose achievements speak for themselves. With interviews that are honest rather than full of media-trained responses, the women featured candidly discuss their successes & failures, their work, their passions and perspectives. Prior to her current role, Pender curated gallery exhibitions, which she explained to Marguerite, required similar skills to that of an Editor. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the declaration of human rights, Riposte has curated an exhibition at Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross, in partnership with Amnesty International. To reflect the 30 articles in the declaration, which cover all human rights, Riposte have selected thirty artists to create works in response to the theme of ‘Protection’. Marguerite and Riposte will join forces on Wednesday 12 December for the event Female Rage and Creativity; a conversation where artists from the exhibition will explore the galvanising effect of anger and rage on their work. Moderated by Arts & Culture Editor of Dazed, Ashleigh Kane, speakers will include: Joy Miessi, Phoebe Collings-James, Lotte Andersen and Steph Wilson. We met Pender at home to discuss her reasons for advocating indie publishing, why issue #8 of Riposte has been her favourite and her views on writing for free as an arts journalist.
What are your main day to day duties as Editor at Riposte Magazine?
It really varies depending on where we are in the cycle of making the magazine. We’re such a small team so we all cover a lot of areas. My main areas include raising money and meeting brand partners about commercial collaborations, editing the line-up of the issue, commissioning writers and creatives with the team, editing content as it comes in, dealing with printers and distributors, planning and delivering events and looking over promo campaigns around the launch of an issue.
Have you always worked in editorial/publishing?
Before Riposte I used to curate gallery exhibitions but actually curating and editing require very similar skills. You need to have a radar constantly on for interesting people and things that are happening. You need to have a strong POV, be able to offer an interesting angle on a topic and you need to be able to engage people with what you’re trying to communicate.
To mark the 70th anniversary of the declaration of human rights, Riposte has curated an exhibition at Coal Drops Yard in partnership with Amnesty International. Can you tell me more about this exhibition?
We’re part of the Amnesty Collective so we wanted to do something to mark the 70th anniversary of the declaration of human rights and help raise money for Amnesty.
There are thirty articles in the declaration that cover all aspects of human rights so we’ve commissioned 30 artists to create a piece of work in response to the theme of “Protection”. When thinking about the theme of the exhibition we wanted to focus on the idea of protection, protecting our human rights and those of others. There’s a real collective feel to the show and to the ideas explored in the work. A feeling that change can come when people collectively come together to protect each other and what is important.
The artists featured in the show include Guerilla Girls, Esther Mahlangu, Erin Aniker, Hattie Stewart, Joy Miessi, Juno Calypso, Kelly Anna, Lotte Andersen, Lynnie Zulu, Maisie Cousins, Mona Chalabi, Nathalie du Pasquier, Phoebe Collings-James, Steph Wilson and many more amazing women and non-binary people. We made sure that the artists involved were a global mix to reflect the myriad of ways that we’re affected by the issues around human rights.
The final show will from 10-16 December at Coal Drops Yard and all profits from print sales will be donated to Amnesty.
Do you have a favourite Riposte Issue?
I think issue #8 is where we started to hit our stride. I’m really proud of the topics we covered in that issue from Islam & feminism, modern masculinity, the work of Kathy Acker, motherhood, women and porn and the gender bias in science. We just really went for it and were really bold with everything we commissioned from the writing to the visuals—it was a turning point in how we approached making the magazine.
Does your editorial team work collaboratively to formulate the stories you commission?
I’ll come up with a broad framework for each issue then we add to it from the pitch ideas we have been sent. I’ll then go through the long list with Liv Siddall (our deputy editor) and the rest of the team. We then edit it down and look for what we’re missing.
I spoke to Tina Brown (former editor of Vanity Fair, Daily Beast, The New Yorker) recently and she said that a good magazine constantly surprises its reader. That’s what we try and do with every issue. We’re not tied to stake holders or a bigger board looking at our sales figures so we can make it as weird or unexpected as we want as long as it’s interesting to us and our readers. I love that freedom you get with independent publishing.
I think indie publishing is where you find the most radical thinking at the minute. Online platforms are also driven by attracting as many eye balls as possible so a lot of the content is click-bait or really obvious. Not many people are taking risks online anymore but indie publishers are because they’re driven by a passion to share interesting stories and they can afford to push it.
How do you suggest young journalists avoid working and writing for free? When do you think it is important to draw the line?
I don’t always think doing something for free is a bad thing. I still write for people for free if I really love what they do and it’s something I know I’m going to enjoy working on. Not everyone without a budget is trying to screw you over and sometimes it’s good to come together with other people to make something happen on a small budget.
However, there’s a difference between doing something for free now and then for someone you like and larger platforms or companies taking advantage of people when they have the means to pay properly.
I think it’s important to work out what you enjoy writing and the kind of projects you like working on. Develop relationships with the editors and commissioners who put out that kind of work and pitch stories that will resonate with their audience. Work out your day rate or price per word and where possible stick to that.
Branded content work will always pay more so if you can get some regular copy writing contracts it frees you up to spend the rest of your time writing articles or profiles you enjoy.
I saw in the community section of Riposte that you profiled the brilliant collective Femme Culture, founded by Ludo and Elkka. Can you explain why women and collectives like these are representative of Riposte Magazine?
Riposte was founded because we felt there was a lack in women’s media. I think there are a lot of collectives and platforms that are coming through who are identifying a lack in their respective industries or disciplines and starting their own things so I think it’s important to support each other. It’s important to support people who are striking out on their own because I understand how hard that is and how much the smallest bit of support or encouragement can mean.
If you could have four artists to dinner (dead or alive) who would they be?
Linder, Tish Murtha, Kathy Acker and Deana Lawson.
How do you find being a female Editor in the publishing world?
I only really work with women and the men I do come into contact with are always lovely so I’ve never had any negative experiences as a woman in the publishing world. However, I have worked in advertising and that’s a different experience altogether in terms of sexism and it being an old school boy’s club.
What would your one word of advice be to a young female creative starting out in arts journalism?
Develop your pitching technique (keep it short, concise and relevant). Develop relationships with editors, find out what they need, what stories they’re looking for and stay in touch with them.
Social media is a game. It’s not real life so try not to react to it like it’s real. Use it for what it’s good for and step away. Comparing your career to someone’s else’s shop window isn’t useful or healthy.
Also in the ubiquitous words of Anthony Burrill, “Work hard and be nice to people.”