This post might not seem like it’s about woodworking. But really, it is.
For almost 10 years, I worked with Linda Watts, who was the art director for Popular Woodworking Magazine and the ill-fated Woodworking Magazine. She came to us on the recommendation of Nick Engler, who had hired her for his company, Bookworks. It was Bookworks that published the Workshop Companion series of books, which were crazy runaway bestsellers in the how-to category of books.
Before that, Linda had been the founding designer for Hands On! magazine at Shopsmith.
Which is to say that no one I know has more experience with woodworking publishing than Linda Watts. She was publishing woodworking magazines and books when I was still in (ahem) puberty.
And I know why she has been in the business for so long. She is pure backbone – my highest compliment. (What does that make me? The spleen, I think.)
In publishing, it’s always the designers who have to make up for the late authors and the slow editors, photographers and illustrators. In the 10 years I worked with Linda, we never missed a press deadline as far as I know. And the reason was that Linda would work like a demon to ensure every story was laid out, looked good and was press-ready.
When I twice said I wanted to redesign the magazine, Linda didn’t blink or even raise her eyebrows. She just did it – without the help of expensive outside consultants. And every time she reworked her previous design work, she managed to make it look even better.
She is impeccably organized and neat – as is her design work. My cubicle was next to hers for many years, and I always felt like the Oscar Madison to her Felix Unger.
But most of all, Linda was always unflappable. She took withering criticism without as much as a twitch. She never complained about her work load, the fact that editors rarely met deadlines or our questionable grammar (she’s a damn-good copy editor, too).
So today was a hard day for all of us who know Linda.
F+W Media Inc. laid her off during a company reorganization. Her last day is Friday, so a bunch of Popular Woodworking employees and alums took her out to lunch today. Through most of the lunch the group kept up with some lighthearted chatter. But as we neared the end of the meal, the table fell silent for Linda to speak.
She couldn’t. She started a couple times and managed to say: “When I moved down here you guys became my family. I feel like I’m losing my family.”
My drive home from that lunch was tough. I can’t believe that someone as skilled and easy to work with could ever be laid-off, dismissed or fired. If it weren’t for Linda, Popular Woodworking Magazine would not be the fine publication that it is today. It might not have actually come out seven times a year if it weren’t for Linda’s hard work. And it definitely wouldn’t have looked as good.
So thank you, Linda. You will be missed at the artistic helm of Popular Woodworking Magazine.
But this story does have a hopeful ending. I think you can look for Linda Watts’s name on several upcoming Lost Art Press books.
— Christopher Schwarz