Mad For Magazines
DePasquale laughs at the story. “I was just lucky to have had a great college experience,” she demurs. But the woman who won both the George Washington Medal and the Sophie Kerr Prize, who wrote for The Elm and founded The Collegian, clearly has more than her share of both energy and ability. Married to Washington College classmate John Musachio ’87 (now a radiochemist and researcher with NIH), she juggles the care and feeding of three sons—the oldest is off to Stanford in the fall—with a full-time career as the creator and editor of a plethora of award-winning college and university magazines.
“I always did want to spend my life writing,” she says. “When I was 7 or 8, my older brother and I produced a neighborhood newspaper and we’d go around and report stories—the little boy who got 22 stitches after going through his parents’ plate glass window, for instance. We ran a contest for who could grow the biggest tomato.”
At Loch Raven High School in Baltimore, she was editor of the newspaper. Washington College, with its strong writing program—and an academic scholarship—offered everything she wanted.
“It was a golden time for an aspiring journalist,” she says. “Doug Cater (a Washington reporter who’d served as special assistant to Lyndon Johnson) brought in these amazing people—from Art Buchwald to Walter Cronkite—and we’d get to have dinner with them, ferry them back and forth to the airport. It was very formative.”
When she graduated, she used the Sophie Kerr prize money to finance a master’s in journalism at Columbia and immediately went to work for Johns Hopkins University, where she spent 12 years as editor of Johns Hopkins Magazine, winning numerous awards. In 1998, a panel of Newsweek editors named it best alumni magazine of the year.
She is now editor of Hopkins Medicine Magazine, which was named top medical school magazine in 2010 by the American Association of Medical Colleges. She helped launch and continues to edit magazines on a dizzying array of subjects, from ophthalmology and engineering to business and law.
“What is interesting is that every time I edit a piece, I’m taking a crash course in a subject, whether it’s classical composing or nanobiotechnology,” she says. “I work with some wonderful writers and I think the sign of a strong writer is the ability to translate something esoteric into a narrative so compelling a reader with no previous interest in the subject finds she can’t put it down.”
As a freelance editor, DePasquale spends most of every day at her kitchen table or out on her front porch, working on her computer and talking on the phone with writers and illustrators—“here or in Utah. Last week I was corresponding with an illustrator in Poland and another in Latin America.”
She loves magazines and always has. “I love starting them, thinking about them and working with photographers and designers and illustrators.” Newspaper journalism is quick and dirty, and writing a book can take years. “Magazine writing is a marriage of both,” she says. “For me, it’s the perfect form.”
Joan Smith Cramer is a freelance writer in Chestertown.