Teen ‘Zine Queen
by Leah Larson
Meet the Jewish magazine for girls and their dreams.
Have you ever dreamed of doing something big but then dismissed the idea because you thought you were too young? I’m the editor and publisher of a national quarterly magazine, and I’m only 14. You’re probably wondering how this happened.
I had the idea to publish a magazine for Jewish girls when I was in 6th grade. But I had so many other things on my mind—like homework and friends—so I put the idea on hold.
Then, when I was 12, I entered a magazine-cover contest. I didn’t win, but I decided to keep making my own magazine covers for fun. I used the name yaldah, which is the Hebrew word for "girl." Then one day, I wrote a table of contents for the first issue. Hey, maybe I could do this! I thought, and YALDAH magazine was born.
Even though I knew little about magazine publishing, it was important to me to create YALDAH. There wasn’t anything available for Jewish girls my age, and I wanted a magazine with Jewish values on every page. I also wanted to provide an alternative to the majority of magazines for girls which focus on celebrities and boyfriends.
So, I started researching. I wrote to a woman who had started a magazine, asking for suggestions. I called printing companies for price quotes and looked through magazines for examples of layout and paper types. I searched the web and sent emails to girls who might be interested in submitting to YALDAH. I ended up designing and writing most of the first issue alone. Now, I get more help from a girls editorial board, made up of girls from around the country and one girl from London. They send ideas for articles, write, do interviews, proofread, and a lot more.
Then came the hardest part—fundraising. I sent out 70 letters to companies asking them to advertise. I applied for grants and made phone call after phone call to businesses. People were nervous about giving money to a 13-year-old, especially since YALDAH wasn’t even published yet. However, I was able to get $700 worth of ads and donations, which was enough to get me started. Finally, in October 2004, I proudly held the first issue of YALDAH in my hands.
Then things really got exciting. After an article about the magazine appeared in a local paper, word spread and orders started pouring in. I sold out of the first issue and printed more, and then those sold out, too! So I figured out how to set up a web site with a shopping cart and PayPal® for online orders.
While I was coordinating orders and sealing envelopes, I was already working on the next issue. Girls across the country wanted to submit their creative writing and artwork. Then, another article came out through a Jewish wire service (an organization that sells news articles to newspapers around the world). After that, I got hundreds of emails, and one day I got 600 hits on my web site.
Now YALDAH is more than a year old, and has more than 250 subscribers. I’ve been interviewed on TV, radio, and in many magazines and newspapers. I’ve made friends from New Zealand to Panama, and New York to California.
A lot of people seemed amazed that a teenager could do something big like publish a magazine. I hope to show girls that age doesn’t have to get in the way of your dreams. Dream it, plan it, then go for it!
© 2005 New Moon® Publishing, New Moon®: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams, Duluth MN.
Content last reviewed May 15, 2008
Page last updated October 31, 2013