UC Journalism Alumna Profile: Kristy Conlin, ’09
By Holly Yurchison, ’13
UC Journalism alumna Kristy Conlin and her team of editors at F+W Media in Cincinnati publish approximately 60 art books each year—and two recent ones are extra special to her. “I curated two project books –‘Collage Crafts Gone Wild: Mixed-Media Projects and Techniques’ and ‘Crafty Birds: Bird Art and Crafts for Mixed-Media Artists’— that I’m madly in love with,” says the 2009 UC graduate. “They are like my children!” Conlin pitched the book concepts to her publisher, guided them through the editorial process, designed the layouts, wrote much of the content and imbued each one with a distinct personality and voice. For another recent four-book series of mixed-media art journaling books, she repurposed previously published material and wrote additional original content. “I created exercises, wrote a lot of copy and worked really hard to create a very specific tone and personality,” she says.
As a managing editor at F+W’s North Light Books imprint, Conlin has stayed busy editing, producing and writing copy for numerous art books and series, along with producing 10 art-instruction videos. She says her strong journalism skills and her lifelong interest in and passion for crafts help her land her first position at F+W, back in September 2010, as an associate editor. “Being just the right match for a specific position played a huge role,” she says.
Since then, she’s quickly earned a reputation as an innovator at the growing publishing company. “Great writing and editing skills are no longer enough,” says Mona Clough, content director for the Fine Art Community at F+W Media. “Kristy Conlin possesses both, but it’s her ‘can-do’ attitude and entrepreneurial, yet practical spirit that set her apart.”
Her fellow team members sing her praises, too. “Kristy is one of those rare people who truly wants to help others succeed,” says Amy Jones, an associate content developer for North Light Books. “She recognizes the value of making sure everyone on our editorial team has the knowledge and skills needed to be successful and innovative.”
F+W’s upper management sees her potential, too: In August 2013, Conlin was invited to participate in a summit for leaders at F+W, where she engaged in discussions about best practices, marketing, new technology and new uses for existing technology.
Back in her first post-college year, Conlin—a former editor-in-chief at UC’s News Record—worked exclusively as a freelancer, looking for assignments everywhere she could: in writing, editing, photography and graphic arts. Some of her initial professional contacts came from her UC internship at Cincy Magazine. She regrets that she didn’t complete additional internships while at UC, but says that if she could do it over again, she’d “try to create my own opportunities and create my own niches.”
Reflecting on her years at UC, she says she learned the most from her professors who actively work in the field as journalists, writers and editors in the world outside academia. “They brought a valuable perspective and offered advice that rang true as being from the ‘real world,’” she says. Cultivating genuine relationships with her professionally active professors and internship connections helped her create a network of contacts that helped her move forward in her career path—which she says is critically important in the current media market.
Conlin credits a specific class with UC Professor Emeritus Jim Wilson for giving her the skills she needed most in her current position. “His Editing Practices and Principles [course] may have been the single most important class I took,” she says. When North Light Books administered an editing test as part of her job application process, she performed well on it, she says, because she’d taken a similar test in Professor Wilson’s editing class.
Now with a few years of professional experience to her name, Conlin recognizes the challenges in modern-day book publishing—notably the rise of self-published e-books and the increase in sales of electronic versions of books. “This is a lesser issue for art books, than say, fiction, but it is a concern nonetheless, and I think the industry is waiting with bated breath so see how it all shakes out,” she says. Audiences for art and craft books tend to still want to hold a paper book in their hands, something they can flip through and refer back to, she says. In addition, the art included in the books she publishes looks better in printed form than in electronic formats. “The printed form is more impactful,” she says.
Conlin says she stays so busy with her job and occasional freelance work these days that she doesn’t have much time to devote to her outside interests, but she hints that she might consider pursuing screenwriting at some point in the future. “I’m 40 pages into my first screenplay,” she says, adding that she might like to explore film production through a new opportunity at her current job. “I write dark indie-style stuff in which people treat each other poorly and everyone dies in the end.” Luckily, the future for this talented writer/editor seems to suggest a much happier outcome.
Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Kristy Conlin