Show Notes for Podcast #93
Overland Journal Editor In Chief Tena Overacker on Submitting the Perfect Pitch
With an accomplished editorial background, a passion for travel, and a love for anything vintage, Tena Overacker has been an invaluable part of the Overland Journal team for more than a decade. In this Overland Journal podcast episode, Tena talks about taking the path less traveled and what makes the perfect article pitch.
A steadfast believer in the power of words, Tena can usually be found with her eyes turned toward some source of written knowledge, be it for pleasure, information, or planning her next adventure. Recognizing the value of the spoken word as well (unless it is coming from her GPS, in which case, she is perfectly capable of getting lost on her own), Tena finds there is no substitute for confabulation. Refuge from the monotony of the everyday is found by immersing herself in her surroundings—whether in an exotic locale or her backyard—and disconnecting from technology and seeking solace in the great outdoors is a cure well taken. While vehicles are a component for overlanding, she finds enthusiasm provides the only fuel required to get you there.
Ashley Giordano completed a 48,800-kilometer overland journey from Canada to Argentina with her husband, Richard, in their well-loved but antiquated Toyota pickup. On the zig-zag route south, she hiked craggy peaks in the Andes, discovered diverse cultures in 15 different countries, and filled her tummy with spicy ceviche, Baja fish tacos, and Argentinian Malbec. You can usually find Ashley buried in a pile of travel books, poring over maps, or researching wild medicinal plants. Ashley is a co-founder of Women Overlanding the World and crew member of Expedition Overland. You’ll find this Canadian-born couple exploring a different continent in 2021, and sharing their trip every step of the way at Desk to Glory. @desktoglory_ash
This episode sponsored in part by
Ashley Giordano:[00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the Overland Journal podcast. I'm your host today, Ashley Giordano and I have a very special guest with me today. If you flipped to the masthead of Overland Journal magazine, you will see a name, Tena Overacker, our editor in chief. You may have also seen a couple of her articles floating around in the Journal and on the Portal. Thank you so much for joining me here today, Tena.
Tena Overacker: Good morning, Ashley.
Ashley Giordano: I'm so excited to talk to you today about everything.
Tena Overacker: Everything let's do it.
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Ashley Giordano: So people are probably familiar with you if they're sending pitches in because you're most of the time their primary contact. How did you get here? How did you start working at Overland Journal?
Tena Overacker: It's kind of a long story. I'll try and shorten it up. And it also took a lot of time to get where I am today, but I got an introduction to Stephanie because they were looking for someone to come in as a light copy editor at the time. I remember the first people I met were actually Stephanie and Andre. At that time, Jonathan Hanson was just on his way out as was Chris Marzonie. Chris Collard was on his way in. And in the very beginning, all I did was very light copy editing as an independent contractor five times a year as part of our final edit for each issue. So that really wasn't very much. And then it gradually just progressed. I was working with Chris Collard pretty closely, and he just started adding more and more responsibilities that [00:02:00] he wanted from me, which was good because there was a time when I was thinking of leaving. That would have changed everything. That's how it started way back then. And now I'm at the point where yes, I'm Editor in Chief. I can't remember how many years have gone by probably 12. It took awhile, but here I am and it feels like the right place to be.
Ashley Giordano: So you were based in Prescott obviously..
Tena Overacker: The whole time.
Ashley Giordano: The whole time. Okay, cool. And what did you do prior to this?
Tena Overacker: Prior to running my little newspaper Pop Rockets, I just have done many things. I call myself a Jill of all trades. So I used to sell vintage clothing on eBay, I run a store with my husband for a long time. I used to do research, political science was my major, and so I spent some time, that was kind of where I thought I wanted to be, was doing research and writing and it just didn't end up that way. I was also a social worker. I worked with refugees for awhile, particularly Southeast Asian refugees, and also all the Kosovars that came over at the time. So, I've done a lot of different stuff. I basically just do whatever I feel is called upon me at the time to do. I've never let not doing something before stop me.
Ashley Giordano: Is this the longest period of time that you've spent doing kind of [00:03:00] one thing?
Tena Overacker: Pretty much, I was always attracted to journalism. I was always attracted to writing. I love reading. It was always one of my strong, as strong pulls in terms of something that I wanted to do. And that's why I started my own paper as well. It's just funny where life takes you. So I was forced to sell my paper just due to circumstances. At the time I had a business partner, I did all the graphics and I did all the editorial and he took up and left very suddenly, and I had a six month old baby. And so, like I said, ended up working for the paper that had bought my publication. And then it's just watching things come full circle. But as I said, I feel like I remember meeting Stephanie and Andre for the first time and walking into the office and thinking, I think this could turn into something, this may go somewhere and it did, like I said, it just took a little longer than I thought, but it doesn't matter. I'm, I'm where I'm supposed to be.
Ashley Giordano: That's awesome. What was the content of the newspaper was yours that you owned?
Tena Overacker: Prescott is a fairly small town, but if you live in a city, you know, there's always those weeklies that tell you what's going on around town. So whether it's music, restaurants, things to do, a lot of times we'd incorporate trips, things to do in the area. [00:04:00] Just what would you do if you were here, whether it be for a weekend or a local who's here forever.
Ashley Giordano: Nice. What did you learn from that position? Like what was the most important thing that you took from that role or that experience before you came here?
Tena Overacker: Maybe just knowing that I could do it. Being able to run my own publication. It was kind of, it was a pretty big jump. It was a pretty big leap of faith. And so going from that, and then segwaying into where I am today, you know, it seemed like a natural thing to do. I've always been a good manager. That's something, another strong point of mine. Again, managing all of those different aspects from editorial to advertising to whatever else was coming along. I mean, me and my business partner did it all. And that's a lot of how we work in this organization. Everyone wears a lot of hats. We're a small staff. We just make it work.
Ashley Giordano: We're a small team here and we wear a lot of hats. So, what are the hats that you wear?
Tena Overacker: I've got a closet full of them.
Ashley Giordano: I can confirm this.
Tena Overacker: It's mostly just doing whatever you need to do at the time. So obviously I had to generalize, I call myself a fixer, like not in the Goodfellas mobster sort of way, but [00:05:00] as in, I will fix anything that needs to be fixed within my responsibilities of both Expedition Portal and Overland Journal. Scott said something to me recently, it's stuck with me and he said, one of my super powers is gently moving things forward. And I feel that that is what I'm always trying to do. And again, with a small staff, sometimes that happens at a slower pace than you would like. My primary objective is to always move us forward as a team actually, and make sure that the team has everything that they need so that we can all move forward together.
Ashley Giordano: I've seen that in practice. So that's fun to hear too. And I think he has a good way of explaining or describing that moving things forward. How have you seen Overland Journal and Expedition Portal change? Because you've been here for over a decade and I'm sure that you've seen a lot of changes happening along the way.
Tena Overacker: Well, it's funny because I say we have a small staff now, but we had an even smaller staff say five years ago, right? So Chris Cordes of course did Portal. We had a managing editor, Sarah Ram. Obviously we've had Chris Collard as editor in chief before, but I feel like we moved from a team of probably like three to five core people [00:06:00] and maybe we're now at like five to eight core people. That has been a change and with that has come growth, which is really exciting. You know, now that we even have podcasts that's a huge thing, right? And it's fantastic. You know, we've got the video support right now that we never had before. There's more and more people contributing to our magazine, more growth in general. And as everyone knows, the industry is exploding in the last couple of years, which is great. It gives us more resources to work with as well, so that we can keep growing. I just see a land of opportunity on all fronts.
Ashley Giordano: That's great. Yeah. It's at a time too, where I think that I've heard this quote like, oh, print is dead, but I, it doesn't feel that way at all for Overland Journal, it feels like things continue to grow, which is great.
Tena Overacker: It's true. I mean, print is largely dying and I always feel fortunate that we have a print magazine that does so well. And I feel like it's sort of in a space of its own, you know, it's almost more like a coffee table book, and we've got all of these components that make it wonderful, you know, design, the design element is so strong. It's not a magazine that you want to throw away. You want it on your coffee table. You want to look at it. You know, our editorial [00:07:00] component also is getting stronger and bringing on staff editors like yourself and Matt Swartz, it just, we keep getting stronger. And I think actually that may be where having a small team is an asset because we do work so closely together and we all have our eye on the magazine. And I think that works for us.
Ashley Giordano: What does a typical day look like for you?
Tena Overacker: A typical day? Well, it's a lot of reading and that changes, you know, the amount of hours yesterday, I was in final edit for the Summer of 22 issue, which is a little bit more intense. So it was about 11 hours of very careful reading through our issue just to make sure everything was in line. It's hard to even break down. And I will say that I'm in front of my desk way too much. And I'd like to change that a little bit, but at this time that's where I'm needed most it's just in front of my desk. So whether it's emails, setting up issues, copy editing, always copy editing during the day, whether it's for Journal or Expedition Portal going through and just managing all the content that's coming in, where is it going? Making sure our team has the support that it needs, trying to keep things on task. Do we have a bunch of gear sitting in our headquarters waiting to be reviewed? You know, where [00:08:00] are our main gear reviews at the time? Who needs support? Where do I need to be? It's just constant. There is no typical day.
Ashley Giordano: What is it like to see a piece come to fruition? Because you see it come in as a pitch and you follow it all the way through the entire process. And it could be up to a year before it sees print sometimes because there are five issues per year. What is that like when you see that final product?
Tena Overacker: Uh, it's very rewarding. Um, and also it can, it can change, you know, with that amount of time that goes by, it's almost like you're revisiting a piece again for the first time by the time it comes through to the edit of the specific issue that we're working on. You know, some pieces come in cleaner than others. Some pieces require quite a bit of work. And that's actually where I get a lot of satisfaction because I'm trying to make the piece be its best. And I'm trying to help the writer be their best. And so a lot of times there's a lot of back and forth to see something come in one way to see a writer work on it, see the team work on it, and see the final product, and to see that whole transition is very fun. And maybe it's a little bit different than it was when it came in with a different focus, but again, [00:09:00] it's making it the best that it can be making the writer the best that they can be. And I get a lot of satisfaction from that.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah, the storytelling aspect of that is really interesting. I know cause we've been working together on copy editing for a little while now and to see the writer's voice come through with that clarity just by making a few changes or, you know, they go back and work on it a little bit is, is pretty cool to see the final product come through.
Tena Overacker: And there are a few things that I always tell writers and one of them is, is usually less is more. People can sometimes have a tendency to get wrapped up in what we call like the travel log aspect. I went here, I went there, I did this, I did that. And that's not so much what we're looking for. We're looking for the heart of a story and it can be one thing that happened on your journey, or it can be several, it really it's putting the reader into your space. What did you experience, right? And so it really is sometimes I equate it to telling a story around a campfire, as it changes every time. Right? There are different nuances you might pick up on that you didn't the first time, but what do you want to say happened to you? What do you want to say about your journey? And it's conveying that and also bringing that emotional [00:10:00] aspect to the story so that you're not just reading a journal entry, right? Or a diary entry. It puts the reader there.
Ashley Giordano: Okay, what is the perfect pitch?
Tena Overacker: The perfect pitch is one that is complete. One that has all the components that we asked for and the way that we ask for it. And what that does is it saves a lot of back and forth between me and the author. It also saves time and energy and work both for the author and for me. Again, as I kind of mentioned before, it's, it's bringing the reader, potential reader into your story into your experience, paying attention to not having that play by play aspect, that's very important. A lot of times people ask me, what's a region that hasn't been covered or, you know, where should I go? And that is important. You know, there are places that I feel like we've covered heavily, maybe too heavily, like Baja, for example. But what I always tell writers is that, tell me something different about that place. If you can tell me something that no one has presented before and the Journal will still consider it. In fact, I'll probably likely take it because it's a different perspective on something. It's still bringing something new. Anytime someone or a piece of writing [00:11:00] brings something new. I don't care what it's about, I feel like it's valid.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah, that's a really good point. And when we're in editorial meetings, you know, something little like a photo link not working, like if we can't get access to the photos, then it's hard to know whether it's going to be, it's going to fly or not, you know? And those are things that I still do by accident, by the way.
Tena Overacker: And the thing to remember too, is the photography is just as important as the writing. And that's what breaks my heart is if I have a fantastic piece of writing and this happens more often than you might think, that there aren't the photos to support it and then I can't do anything with it. And I understand, you know, photo is photography is not necessarily my strong point either. So sometimes writers have to really work on getting their photos up to where they need to be, or maybe they end up working with other people to get the photos that they need, but people don't always understand that, you know, they'll send me a fantastic story and it is a fantastic story, but without the photography element, we can't do anything with it.
Ashley Giordano: What are some of the most memorable pieces that you've read over the years?
Tena Overacker: I have to say, because historical fiction is one of my favorite genres in history in general, I do like [00:12:00] all of your historical pieces that you write Ashley. And then it's funny too, because when I think of stories, I'm also thinking of ones that are coming up. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish, so I need to be careful. I don't give any, um..
Ashley Giordano: Anything away.
Tena Overacker: Anything away and top secret. You know, I'm not one that's big on favorites. And honestly, I look at every issue as an independent thing. I don't have favorites and I mean that sincerely, so it's like any piece again, that brings something new I'm going to, I like, and I enjoy. I will say sometimes the more technical pieces. I know people really love them and they're important for the Journal. It's a different type of reading. You got it, you get into it, especially if you're working on it, right. Like a lot of it is what can you do for your build or, you know, we've had some amazing tests, like the fridge freezer tests lately, and it's all good. And I can honestly tell you that I don't have favorites.
Ashley Giordano: I know what you mean though, about it's so cool that the Journal has so many different contributing writers, because some people really excel at the technical, have a really technical focus, which is really important, or like engineering background or an ability to do a [00:13:00] lot of math and make graphs. But then there's also the other side of like the creative storytelling part or a gear review where you have to be really honest and aware and put the time and to understand how the product works and what it's supposed to do. It's cool.
Tena Overacker: Yeah, I can say, you know, to readers, some of the things that I think have been really valuable recently would be the photography articles that we've been running by Lisa Morris, just because I feel like it presents a huge advantage to people that want to learn basic photography skills. So I'm happy to be able to present that in the magazine.
Ashley Giordano: And we can enjoy the beautiful photos of Jason Spafford along the way.
Tena Overacker: Right. And then one that wasn't so much overland heavy that I thought was an amazing story was The Last of the Igu or the Igu, by Antonia Bolingbroke Kent, which was just such a complete immersion in that culture and just her, you know, going solo on her own. I mean, she did have a guide, you know, but still she was out there on her own just on the motorbikes and what they encountered is just fantastic and amazing. And it really brought home to me, at least my definition of travel which is getting completely out there, immersing [00:14:00] yourself a hundred percent in local culture and going where no one has gone before dun dun dun..
Ashley Giordano: And you have some travel experience under your belt too. What are some of your most special travel experiences or memories?
Tena Overacker: Um, again, I don't like to play favorites. I've traveled Latin America pretty heavily just because that was one of my areas of study. I would say more than a favorite, just perhaps one that was important was my first trip which was, I was around 18 years old and I planned a trip to Belize and that was my first trip out of the country. It was also the first time I'd seen the ocean. Most of my travels as a kid was, you know, we'd go see our relatives, which was also important and, you know, instilled this sense of belonging and that I really appreciated and loved, but we didn't do a lot of vacation or destinations. We did tons of raodtripping, right? And I did tons of camping as a teenager, but this was my first out of country experience. It was just a lot of firsts and it was just being somewhere completely unknown. And I'll always remember it. I remember we were going to go to Tikal, everybody goes to Tikal right, if you're in that region. But it was rainy season because it was cheaper and so the road had [00:15:00] completely washed away. And so what I remember instead of going to Tikal is being in this little hut on a beach, which is where I was staying in a hurricane. And I would open the door from time to time. I was right on the ocean. And so all of the palm trees were bent all the way down to the beach level and then I'd shut the door. And then I checked like a couple hours later and all the palm trees were still there. So it was like, we just, we, we hung out in this hut for a day or two until the hurricane went away and then just everything else. It was like the food and, you know, finding the guide to take us to the, you know, Lamanai, the ruins in the middle of nowhere and snorkeling for the first time and seeing shark for the first time. And it was just a lot of firsts and so will always stick with me. But what I realized then if I didn't know it already, is I love planning. And so planning trips and, you know, just the way to make it work. So I felt like it was important. And then a recent trip that I really enjoyed was I took my son who was eight at the time, a few years ago to London. And that was really fun because it was experiencing everything through the eyes of a child. And I really loved that and we just ran around like I was a kid too. You know, we were just running all over the place and [00:16:00] just hitting as many cultural things as we could and museums and just hopping on the train and going out to castles. And it was really, really fun. So I enjoyed that as well.
Ashley Giordano: How has traveling changed for you since you've had your son? It sounds like you've been able to see travel through his eyes, but are there any other, do you do different trips or has it changed?
Tena Overacker: He's a traveler and if circumstances had been different in the last few years, we would have been globe trotting all over the place, you know, as it has been, we go to Mexico pretty often. We're fortunate to be close to it, and it's only about five hours away. And so we're often in Mexico. And also we do a lot of cities. We'll go check out cities, just because again, we live in a small town and I feel like that's an important aspect introduced to him, but we just have fun no matter where we go.
Ashley Giordano: How old is he?
Tena Overacker: He just turned 12.
Ashley Giordano: What does he love most about traveling?
Tena Overacker: Just again, something new, experiencing something new, something that he hasn't before. And we just did a quick little trip this last weekend and whether it's a restaurant or a neighborhood, what's what we like to do is just find different neighborhoods to stay in and then we completely immerse ourselves in the whatever it has to offer. We did an [00:17:00] escape room just for fun. It doesn't matter. It's just doing something that's out of your element out of your norm.
Ashley Giordano: What inspires you about travel?
Tena Overacker: Again, just the new experiences. And that's why, you know, if someone were to say, do you have a favorite trip? I would say no, because my favorite trip is the one that I'm on because of what I'm experiencing and because of what I'm doing. And it's funny, I was thinking about it this morning. I wasn't sure what we were going to talk about, but, you know, I read so much. I love reading. And what I've noticed though, is when I do have time off all the books stay at home, unless I'm on a plane, I'll read then. The difference is I'm out there living instead of, you know, reading my books and finding out what I can do or, you know, planning something. It's just, they all, work stops, reading stops, life starts.
Ashley Giordano: I love that. I can really relate to that. I feel like if you're not in that travel period, you're like reading about other people traveling and getting ideas and thinking of new places that you've never even thought of. That can be really inspiring. What's your favorite book? But you don't have favorites. So that's probably won't work.
Tena Overacker: So my favorite is whichever one I'm reading, because I'll tell you if [00:18:00] I don't like a book, I stop reading it within a couple of pages. And I found that even when I make that kind of assessment and I pick it up, if you know, a few days later, it never, I make that decision and it, it never improves. And so right now I'm reading a book called Cloud Cuckoo Land, which I wouldn't say that I love, love, love, but it's interesting enough for me to keep reading. It's not my favorite, but it's a good book. And then it's interesting too, like there are books that I've introduced to my son that I thought might be favorites, but I've come to realize this too, like, you know, whenever you're reading a book, part of what makes you like it is probably the situation that you're in at the time. Or what your life experience is at the time. And so I'm reading The Night Circus to him right now, which I loved when I read it. I don't love it right now. You know, like there are certain genres that I love. I love magic. I love historical fiction in particular and no, no favorites. I would say I do remember when my son's first book and that is probably if I had to say a favorite, that is what it would be. I think it was Carrot Seed or one of those kids' books, right? But I remember he was less than two and he was reading it and he was excited because you could do it and I can still hear his [00:19:00] voice. And that was exciting to me, you know? Just seeing him enjoy reading as much as I do. And just, I mean, reading opens your life.
Ashley Giordano: Absolutely. In the historical fiction genre, are there any books you can think of that aren't your favorite, but maybe they like hooked you in right away and you didn't..
Tena Overacker: That's funny because the way my brain works, I feel like my brain is kind of full, so I don't hold on to things like titles, right? But I can tell you, like, there was one on Catherine the Great that I read that I thought it was fantastic.
Ashley Giordano: I think the other thing too, is that books are so different. I also have a hard time figuring out, like, what is my favorite book because I just, I don't have one, but I think you take little pieces of each one with you.
Tena Overacker: Oh, it's things that, that you do pick up on the, you know, that resonate with you or that are important to you. So again, I don't care like this book that I'm reading right now, I don't love, but there are things that I appreciate. You know, it's, it's taking it's complex, it's taking all of these different characters and stories and interweaving them together. And there's a little bit of, it's not really history, you know, it's like Constantinople, but not really. But it's like, you still have [00:20:00] these little elements or kernels of truth, actually, you know? And, and I love that. So again, I agree with you. You can always take something from a book.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah, and you can learn so much about writing by reading.
Tena Overacker: Yes, and that's often when I make that assessment in those first couple of pages of when I'm going to keep reading a book or not, and that is what's happening. So for example, if I see a start out, you know, two or three pages, and it's just, it's just words, words, words, words, right? And it's not, there's no hook, there's no pulling me in. There's maybe a lot of descriptions, but without anything concrete behind them, I'll stop.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah. There's something about a good book. There, you can't necessarily put your finger on it, but you must have a really long, good reads list.
Tena Overacker: No list, no list on the reads. Well, and it's funny too, because you know what I would consider a bad book wouldn't be a bad book to someone else. You know, it's very subjective, just like every, you know, everything else. And so, so much of it has to do with where you are in your life story and what's going on and you know, what makes it resonate with you? So I don't think no bad books.
Ashley Giordano: No bad books. I like that. Are there any places that you have gone back [00:21:00] to multiple times, or you keep being drawn to? I know you were saying that you like to experience new things, but are there those places where you return to time and time again?
Tena Overacker: Well, fortunately where I live is so central to a lot of, I mean the American southwest if you're going to be somewhere, what a place to be.
Ashley Giordano: Absolutely.
Tena Overacker: And especially with everything that's happened in the last couple of years. I lived in New Mexico for a while years ago and I revisited New Mexico pretty heavily the last couple of years and I will always love that state. I joke that when you cross the border from Arizona to New Mexico, the sky changes, it truly is the land of enchantment and I just feel like everywhere I look, you know, there are things to do. You know, you just get in your vehicle, you could drive in any direction and find several beautiful, glorious things to do in New Mexico. And, you know, sometimes it's going to the little shrine, like Chimayo or driving to Taos, or it doesn't matter. I mean, the camping's great. It's just, it's all wonderful. And then Mexico, Puerto Penasco, what people call Rocky Point is one of my favorite places. I think it's one of that part of the Sea of Cortez, I think is one of the most beautiful oceans in the world. And it's so close [00:22:00] to me and I will, I will always appreciate it. So we try to go at least a couple of times a year. Just rent a beach house, stay on the beach, relax, do nothing. No reading.
Ashley Giordano: What is on your list next? Like what is, if you could travel anywhere right now, where would you go?
Tena Overacker: Almost anywhere at this point. And it's funny, you know, as the world is opening up and we've kind of learned different ways to travel and different ways to plan and different ways to make things happen, which it's part of being human. Our surroundings are always changing and that's just it, you know, it's, I also recognize what's here in my own backyard as well. And so I really just value any experience, whether near or far that introduces something new to me.
Scott Brady: This content is brought to you by Overland Journal, our premium quality print publication. The magazine was founded in 2006 with the goal of providing independent equipment and vehicle reviews along with the most stunning adventures and photography. We care [00:23:00] deeply about the countries and cultures we visit and share our experiences freely with our readers. We also have zero advertorial policy and do not accept any advertiser compensation for our reviews. By subscribing to Overland Journal, you're helping to support our employee owned and veteran owned publication. Your support also provides resources and funding for content like you are watching or listening to right now you can subscribe directly on our website at overlandjournal.com.
Ashley Giordano: How has your role at Overland Journal changed you? What is the most profound thing that you've learned from your time here?
Tena Overacker: That's an interesting question. I've always worked remotely so sometimes I feel not, not apart from the team, but I mean, a lot of us work remotely. I mean, Ashley, you're only here for a week, right? Matt, you know, he comes and goes as well. We've got a couple of core staff [00:24:00] members that are here most of the time. I guess, maybe learning to work with people from a distance. I feel like that was maybe something new and valuable and it didn't just start with a pandemic it was before so it's a different way of working together, but again, as its own strengths that it brings to the organization. So I feel like that was valuable.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah. I think communication is key. And any meetings that we have on a regular basis seemed to be really helpful. And also just seeing people's faces, I think is really good consistently when you're all over the U S and Canada and all over the place.
Tena Overacker: Yeah. Yeah. I, you know, I know I'm guilty of relying on email too much, perhaps. I think an in-person conversation is better. You don't always have the time to do so, but that's something that I'm trying to change is having more in-person conversations. Not necessarily Zoom meetings, but at least a phone call just to have that personal connection, because things also get lost in translation in email, whoever you're communicating with probably on both sides so I like the in-person connection too. And I think as the world changes and as we all began Zooming, and I [00:25:00] think it's important to hold onto those personal connections whenever we can take them.
Ashley Giordano: Absolutely. Yep. Working from home, I haven't been working as from home as long as you, but it definitely sometimes feels like you're in your own little world.
Tena Overacker: Well, and it's good because you can focus, right? If you have the right personality, it works quite well because you know, you don't have things going on around you interrupting you. You can just strictly, and I feel like I can work at super speed. So I felt like maybe I get more work done that way, which is good and bad.. It's a different way. It's a different way of working. And so again, just maintaining those human connections when possible.
Ashley Giordano: Is there anything else that you've learned maybe about the editorial process along the way?
Tena Overacker: I feel like I learn a lot about people when I read their writing. It's almost a game to a certain extent, like when I'm copy editing, it's what would this person say? Or, you know, what would they do or? Because again, you know, I'm not working with them. They're not sitting right next to me. I do feel like I learn a lot about people and that is kind of fun. You know, with copy editing with all the fact checking you're learning something every day. So, whether it's checking a date or a place, or, you know, [00:26:00] something that's happened in history or a name, or it doesn't matter. And so often I'll go down little rabbit holes because I need to, but also I find that I find that fun, just, you know, getting down to like the finite details of things, so..
Ashley Giordano: Yes, yes. Yeah, the fact checking is interesting. Like you learn so much from it. I also do that. I go down a wormhole and then I'm like, okay, you got to get back to task here. But I think what is so great about, well, I don't want to speak for you, but part of what's great about what I do is learning all the time. Whether it's copy editing or whether it's learning about a place or somebody who's experienced in a place, it feels like you're always learning, which I think isimportant.
Tena Overacker: Well, and then to a certain extent, it's bringing my experience of what I have just found out into the article too. So if I find something is particularly interesting, I want to share it with the reader as well. So it's bringing it into the article. I mean, I always run things by authors to make sure the changes that I do are fine with them, but it's an opportunity. It's an opportunity to share knowledge.
Ashley Giordano: In your own pieces that you've written for Expedition Portal or Overland Journal have you had any that have been particularly powerful or [00:27:00] interesting or types that you'd like to do in the future?
Tena Overacker: I enjoyed researching the Aloha Wanderwell piece in particular, but it was funny is there were things that came up that I couldn't speak about in the article, things that were sort of like off limits, which had made it challenging. And that was just kind of the way that the article was set up. There's sort of a mystery involved, right? And there are definitely things that the family wanted to keep private and, you know, that sort of thing. So it was kind of like diving into the mystery and making my own conclusions, but not having the satisfaction of making them known, but still interesting nonetheless. You know, what I was able to present and she was a fascinating person so I found that particularly fun.
Ashley Giordano: I guess you had to contact her family regarding photos or history or her story. How do you approach somebody like that? Do you just fire off an email, or what is your process when you're doing like research for those kinds of historical pieces?
Tena Overacker: You know, I'm trying to remember how that one came about and I feel like maybe the family reached out to us actually, as I'm thinking about it.
Ashley Giordano: Oh, wow.
Tena Overacker: That one was a little bit easier but again, it was kind of presenting this story in a [00:28:00] factual manner, you know, but in also in a way that least everyone..
Ashley Giordano: You mentioned the campfire story as a way to bring readers in and be interested in what you have to say, what are some really specific things that go into a campfire story that make a piece great?
Tena Overacker: I guess why I make that campfire reference is it's more conversational, the telling of a story versus the writing of the story, which in time they are one and the same, there's a method to it, right? So that's how you eliminate the play by play. I did this, I did that again, brings the reader more into your experience and so how do you tell your story? You focus on what's important to you. Focus on what's important I think to the region that you are to the people that you are. Our voice has power. And I feel like whenever we go somewhere, I mean, we talk about this in the magazine pretty frequently. You need to be responsible. You need to be a steward. You need to be recognizing that you are a visitor in a place. It's not just about your experience in a way. It's about the experience that you're bringing both to the people around you while you're visiting and the cultures, but also to the reader. [00:29:00] So I feel like it's an opportunity to present things and to do things in a way that can actually facilitate change. How do we experience something? What do we bring to that experience? I think those are both two very important components.
Ashley Giordano: And also feeling something, like when you're reading something as a reader or an editor it's important to, I think you want to feel something when you're reading.
Tena Overacker: Right. Especially if you're not there right? You know, maybe it's an interaction that you had with the person, you know, maybe it's you were on a hillside on your own and you had some sort of, you don't have to tell me what the apifhany is, but there's, there's a quality of emotion. There's a way that you feel. And in our photo essays for example, that's something that isn't heavy on text. Like we have very descriptive captions, but that's what we always say, bring people into this moment. You know, the moment when this photograph was taken place. What were you feeling? What was going on? And it's like, that's why you have to look at.
Ashley Giordano: And it's also the human connection, I think, too, in terms of, if you're reading about somebody experience and they're sharing what they're going through, most of the time you [00:30:00] can relate or empathize. Writing really brings that connection with others.
Tena Overacker: Yeah. I mean, we're all human. So we do have similarities across the board and think it's important to recognize that. And also, I mean, I don't think overlanders in general do this, but it's kind of just taking that tourist aspect out. Again, more immersing yourself in a culture and you know this from just going to Saudi Arabia. So how you dressed, it wasn't necessarily something that you needed to do, but you respected the culture that you were in and you also set a more, it made it more comfortable for you as well, right? It's little things like that. I feel like little things we do it doesn't matter traveling or whatever, I feel like little things make a big difference in how we interact with each other. It makes a big difference. And again, it's not just experiencing something it's being the positive experience to someone else as well.
Ashley Giordano: I think that community aspect is important, whether you're in Saudi Arabia or you're at home, it makes a difference.
Tena Overacker: Part of the point is to experience the unfamiliar, right? So while the unfamiliar may seem very unfamiliar and maybe not something that you're completely a hundred percent behind, it's part [00:31:00] of where you are. So wherever you are, you act accordingly.
Ashley Giordano: Overland Journal does some things regarding community here. And we have a lot of gear that piles up. Can you speak to what happens to that gear?
Tena Overacker: Uh, it's funny. So we always try and walk the walk, right? I was actually one of our team members, Paula Burr, who was like, what's the (inaudible) recycling aspect and what are we really doing with that? And, you know, kind of, not as it necessarily falls into Leave No Trace, but what are we doing on our end to kind of maintain some of these ideals that we're proponents of? And she brought up the fact that we had a lot of gear sitting around and, um, wasn't even just gear. Paula was all over it. She was like, what are we doing with our paper products? You know, whatever you're doing with, you know, so it's just making sure that again, we were walking the walk. But she and I kind of got together. She had a friend that works at a local high school. Coincidentally they needed some camping gear and so it was kind of vetted a few organizations locally to decide where it was the best home for our gear. The other one that we chose was another organization called CCJ, which helps, uh, the homeless population in [00:32:00] our area. Again, vetted them a little bit just to find out what goes where in terms of money and profits. It's a difference where I look at a rooftop tent, you know, a rooftop tent could actually be someone's home if it ends up in the right place.
Ashley Giordano: It's surprising what one conversation or one action can do. And I think sometimes we feel when there are big things going on in the world that feels like it's hopeless. But if you can even make like that one little change or step, it actually feels pretty powerful. How did you meet Scott Brady? You said that you kind of came into OJ through Stephanie and Andre, which..
Tena Overacker: Oh yeah, so what's funny is like I said, I can even remember, I remember walking in the door to the office and where Andre was sitting and where Stephanie was, was sitting and Stephanie at the time did a lot of management of the organization. But honestly, even after I met them that first time, most of my in-person connection would have been with Chris Collard, right? So I didn't see Scott a lot. And I can't honestly, can't tell you when the first time was that I met him, he was always kind of flitting around. He travels a lot now it was even more so back then. While I don't have a particular meeting that I can remember, I can tell you what I appreciate [00:33:00] most about him as I've come to know him over the years and that is that he is always working on helping his team in whatever way that he can when he can. Have you ever heard, just even when you're speaking on the phone or maybe someone can't see you, but if you're speaking with a smile on your face, the difference that the conversation can happen just because on the other end, no matter that a person can see you or not, they still know there's just like something that happens, right? Like it's, it facilitates a positive conversation rather than a negative one.
Ashley Giordano: So if I'm writing my next article and I'm smiling hopefully it'll translate. Cool. Well, thank you so much, Tena, for coming on the Overland Journal podcast. It's been an absolute pleasure speaking with you. And I think it's been really, probably helpful for people to know who you are more than just a name and a masthead, and what you look for. And there's a person behind all this magazine and Portal, a little like wizard that's doing all the things and making things happen, moving things forward. So we're really grateful for you and for everything that you do.
Tena Overacker: Well, thank you. [00:34:00] And the one thing that I'd like to say to any aspiring writers out there is if you do want to submit a pitch to us, you can go to our website and you can find it quite easily, or you can even just Google, Overland Journal Write for Us and the form will come up. Um, and if you have any questions you can reach out to me. My door's always open. Sometimes it takes a couple of days just depending on where I am at with my work schedule, but you're always free to ask questions and I hope that you send in your content to us cause we'd love to see it.
Ashley Giordano: Well, thank you everybody for tuning in today. You can find all that information in the show notes below and we will catch you next time.
Tena Overacker: All right. Bye. Thanks Ashley.