“Be fearless. If you really want to make it in this field, you have to go for it,” says Jessica Mischner, the smart as a whip, and full of authentic Southern charm senior editor of Garden & Gun, on making it in the competitive magazine industry. She moved to NYC after college and landed her first job at Travel & Leisure. She spent almost eight years in the Big Apple, working for the likes of Food & Wine, Plenty and Metropolitan Home before moving back to her home state in 2011. At G&G, Jessica handles everything from managing front of the book pieces focused on art, design, travel, food and drinks to editing features. In the first installment of our latest new series, Dream Job, Jessica shares where she finds inspiration for all the creative stories she fills the magazine with, advice for other aspiring magazine editors and how she juggles life as a working mom to her busy 18-month-old son, Camp. “To be away from him all day every day, I have to love my job and it has be something worth the sacrifice,” she says. “Women fought so hard to have the right to work, and I want to make my son proud of me.”
photography by olivia rae james
Jessica always knew she wanted to be in the publishing world. “Someone once told me that you should go in to the industry where you spend the most money,” she says with a laugh. “I have always loved magazines and growing up, I would always go to Barnes & Noble and buy everything off the shelves.”
G&G’s headquarters are located on King Street in Charleston. Built in 1808, the building’s history runs deep, as it was once a seminary for girls, then later during the Civil War, the building housed a Confederate dispensary and hospital. And yes, Jessica has this beyond charming fireplace right inside her office!
The National Magazine Award-winning publication (and one of Team Camille Styles’ favorite reads) launched in the Spring of 2007 when long-time, respected magazine publisher Rebecca Wesson Darwin (the first female publisher for the New Yorker) moved to Charleston and had a vision for a magazine to capture the “Soul of the South.”
One of Jessica’s favorite parts of her job is working with great writers. She says: “I always try and bring in new voices our writers haven’t heard yet. Garden & Gun is a literary magazine. Story telling is essential, so we take topical issues and find the perfect person to bring them to life.”
Jessica and her officemate Kim inherited this bar cart from G&G’s chic founder, Rebecca Darwin. Jessica outfitted it with two silver trays from her mother-in-law, decanters she received as wedding gifts and various spirits and mixers (most of which are made and bottled in the South). She says: “Almost every office at G&G has a stocked and tricked out bar, so you really have to up the ante if you want folks to congregate around yours!”
“This industry is fierce…you just have to be willing to use every contact and friend of a friend you have and figure out how to separate yourself from everyone else,” she says. “There is always room for great people, but you have to make yourself seen…so, start a blog and write to get your name out there.”
Jessica’s inspiration board that features everything from pictures of her adorable son Camp to photos she loves from vintage Rolling Stones. “I change it out all the time as my inspiration changes. It’s a reminder for me of all the things in this world that are so beautiful,” she says. “There is still much to the South we haven’t discovered.
Jessica’s current favorite reads are Donna Tartt’s The Gold Finch, Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey and a new coffee table book, Indigo. On her work playlist? A lot of oldies. Think Paul Pena, Sam Cooke, Ernie K. Dough, the Alabama Shakes, James Brown, the Beach Boys and a lot of “New Orleans jazzy bands.”
“Charleston is such a creative town. It is full of open minded, free thinkers,” she says. “There is so much history, the architecture is gorgeous, and you can walk almost anywhere.”
One of the projects Jessica is currently working on is the Made in the South Awards. Companies, artisans and entrepreneurs have the chance to enter their product in one of five categories: food, drink, home, style/design and outdoors. The grand prize winner receives a check for $10,000 and a prominent feature in the December/January issue of the magazine.
It all started with a story idea…when Jessica was living in NYC, she kept thinking about the connections and cultural fascinations between the South and NYC, so she pitched the idea to Garden & Gun. She started out blogging for them, and it turned in to a full-time position with magazine soon after she moved to Charleston in 2011.
When it comes to dressing for the office, Jessica goes for high quality basics — a lot of chambray, sailor shirts, white jeans and an ever changing mix of shoes and accessories.
On non-deadline days, Jessica steps outside the offices for a smoothie break with her son who comes by with his nanny in a wagon on his way to the Children’s Museum. “Motherhood rocked my world (in a good way). You live for yourself for so long and then all the sudden what’s important for me becomes what’s important for him,” she says. “Every mother who works full-time feels like you are 15 minutes late and day unprepared for everything, but I have learned to work way more efficiently, so I can be a more present with my son when I am home. I aim to live my life present in the moment I am in…I fail sometimes, but I will always keep trying.”