above: The cover of Issue 2 features kids from South Carolina (left to right): Fuyu, 12; Kareem, 10; and Charlie, 13.
Photographs by Graham Pollack, photo of Swetzoff and McNamara by Tory Williams, product images care of Anyway
Growing up can be hard. That’s why Jen Swetzoff and Keeley McNamara, childhood best friends, created Anyway Magazine in the hope of making growing up a little easier.
During the pandemic, they saw pre-teens and teens, including their own children, at an important transitional phase of their life struggling with isolation. Even without the pandemic, the new generation of children are growing up in a world with violence, toxic social media and more, on top of normal teenage struggles. Swetzoff and McNamara started to wonder, how can we keep our kids informed? The books and websites they were directing their kids to lacked in diversity, inclusiveness, variety of topics and engagement. Thinking back to their time as pre-teens, Swetoff and McNamara remembered their love for magazines and bravely began a new adventure. “I had worked in publishing throughout my career, so I felt pretty confident we could make a magazine,” Swetzoff said.
In addition to being co-founder, Keeley McNamara, who lives in Queens, is a full-time midwife. Prior to that, she was a health educator for New York City public schools.
Jen Swetzoff is a Westport resident of three years, who moved here in August 2020, after living in Brooklyn for 15 years. She graduated from Boston University with a communication degree and founded Closeup Content, a creative consultancy of writers and editors helping organizations to express themselves, in 2017. Before that, she worked at the Council on Foreign Relations, Eurasia Group and PwC. She also wrote for a variety of publications including New York magazine, strategy+business magazine, Travel + Leisure, Frommer’s Travel Guides and more.
With McNamara’s experience in health and well-being combined with Swetzoff’s career in journalism and magazines, Anyway was formed in June 2022. The first issue was released in December 2022 with the help of Creative Director Elizabeth Goodspeed.
Anyway‘s mission is to offer guidance and community for young people, ages 9-15. The content includes fun activities, informative articles and engaging stories. A few examples are kids from all over the country sharing what their room looks like and what it means to them, a memoir from a 13-year-old Ukrainian refugee, a six-page feature dedicated to learning about growing hair during puberty by McNamara and more.
“We try to get a mix of stories related to physical health, mental health, style and identity, relationships and community and exploration,” Swetzoff says. It is important for Anyway to get contributions from kids about their experiences.
They pride themselves on their copy but also the graphics. “There’s so much creativity and art that needs to emerge, and print is just a different way of expressing ideas,” Swetzoff said. They hire photographers, writers, artists and designers from all over the world for what is needed.
Will Crooks photographed issue two’s cover and invited local kids from South Carolina to be on it. He has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and more.
Just in time for school in September, Anyway will be launching digital content. While part of the mission is for teens to get off their phone and interact with the magazine — like tearing it up, drawing on it, hanging pages on their walls — the co-founders do realize the importance of digital content.
“Digital has to be a component of any new business, so we’re not in any way anti-digital. We just also believe that print is special for young people,” said Swetzoff.
As Anyway expands its website with digital stories, that content will be more directed to adults who have teens and pre-teens in their life, while still providing entertaining and informative pieces for younger ages.
Since launching, Anyway has been committed to getting more kids access to information about growing up. So far, the co-founders have donated more than 1,000 copies of the magazine to nonprofits, with recipients including Filling in the Blanks Connecticut, Brooklyn Book Bodega and State Bags Give Back programs.
The name Anyway came about from brainstorming. The co-founders ultimately chose it because it’s a transitional word and growing up is a transitional time of life. It’s also a very common word, we use it to connect thoughts and sentences; Anyway hopes to be a connector to young people. The magazine wants pre-teens and teens to know they can grow up any way they want, what they’re going through is normal, and they are here to provide them with an outlet and support to feel seen.
“Some people might be surprised that we’re launching a print magazine now,” Swetzoff said. “But this is just the beginning of what we hope to offer young people. We’re getting such a great response from kids and parents. One dad recently emailed us, ‘I think my daughter has read every page of issue one at least two or three times now. Y’all really put together something special.’ Messages like that mean everything to us. If we can help even one kid feel less alone during adolescence and pre-adolescence, then we think what we’re doing is worthwhile.”