‘Vanity Fair With a Middle American Sensibility’

2013 Great American Fiction Contest honorees and Saturday Evening Post staffers at a Jan. 8 cocktail reception in New York. Winner Lucy Jane Bledsoe is sixth from right, standing next to editorial director Steven Slon (fifth from right) and publisher Joan SerVaas (forth from right).

Buzzfeed was buzzing yesterday with a report on a party held Tuesday at Michael’s in New York, honoring the winner and runners up in the 2013 Great American Fiction Contest. The event was well-stocked with book people from the likes of Random House and Simon & Schuster, but also drew magazine folks curious about the reinvention of the hoariest of American magazine brands, The Saturday Evening Post, creator of the newly-minted annual contest (the story “Wolf,’ by winner Lucy Jane Bledsoe, appears in the January/February 2013 issue).

Some attendees, and even a few of the writers themselves, said they were initially surprised to learn The Saturday Evening Post was still a going concern. Associate publisher and editorial director Steven Slon gets that all the time, he told the assembled guests, saying a frequent reaction when he first took the job was “I thought that was out of print.” In fact, under the guidance of the SerVaas family, owners since the early ’70s, the magazine has maintained a loyal core following backed by a successful licensing business.

The challenge now is to recapture younger readers and a national profile, heralded by a redesign and move back to Philadelphia after more than 40 years in Indianapolis. The Post can be “Vanity Fair with a middle-American sensibility,” Slon said, which, if the latest issue is any indication, means a mix of topical stories, human interest and nostalgia. A cover story on Shirley MacLaine anchors articles on technology, history, culture and wellness. The issue is capped in dramatic fashion with an arresting photo, originally run with an article published in 1966, of a North Carolina Klansman holding a rifle in his living room while small children look on (the magazine does an excellent job of drawing on its archives to add a unique historical perspective to current events).

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