I'm a writer and editor with a core conviction: how you say it is as important as what you're saying. Economy of words, pacing, playfulness, and humor are key. If I can help you with writing/editing/ book doctoring, or consultation services, let's talk. Feel free to email me at matthewedwinjohnson at gmail dot com. On a more personal note, I'm a husband, dad, and an armchair student of theology. I like long walks on the beach, puppies, relearning to skateboard as a middle-ager, and listening to Black Sabbath. Thank you, Jesus, amen.
For those who care to know more about my writing and editing work, please read on.
Book author, Marketing Copywriter, Associate Editor of a pop culture magazine, Book Editor, Ghost Writer, Publication Manager, Senior Editor over two prolific blogs and a book imprint. I've done some stuff. And it's been a lot of fun.
Read on, and I'll tell you a story about how I got my start in writing, and the paths it took me down. From writing indie band bios to editing a book on how to best respond to victims of sexual assault, here are a few snapshots of my world of words.
Bandoppler holds a special place in my heart. As I look back over my writing and editing work over the years, volunteering as an Associate Editor for Bandoppler was where I cut my teeth. The incomparable Chris Estey, Bandoppler's Editor in Chief, has always been my most encouraging writing coach. Had Chris been born a few decades earlier, I'm convinced he'd be one of the beat poet greats. Fortunately for us, he cranks out great content as a writer for the KEXP blog and runs a cool boutique PR and media agency, Big Freak Media.
Anyway. Bandoppler. The brilliant Jason Dodd began Bandoppler as an online zine in the late nineties, fueled by the idea that a great magazine can sell "spirit, ideas, language [and ultimately] virtue." Bandoppler was inspired by gonzo 70s rock magazine Creem, and the short-lived 90s great, Grand Royal Magazine. Fortunately, Jason and Chris were kind enough to give me a shot at writing a few pieces along the way. A few years later, Jason decided it was time to bring the magic to print. The Stranger, Seattle's alt-weekly, reviewed the magazine in 2003 and said this about issue #1:
Incidentally, the Bandoppler articles I'm most proud of are the Starflyer 59 and US Maple pieces. Thanks for noticing, The Stranger.
If you've never heard Starflyer 59, you should. In the early /mid-90s, they perfectly captured that noise-laden, washed-out Brit-pop sound ala My Bloody Valentine or Slow Dive. Only with bigger riffs. And they were from Riverside, California. In 1995, I had the great privilege to go out on the road with Starflyer as a stand-in drummer in support of their "Gold" record. Think surf rock meets Black Sabbath meets a British noise pop band. Sounds weird, but believe me, it's pure aural bliss.
The Cool War piece was a tribute of sorts to the band and my time on the road with them. They had a new record out titled "Old," and I aimed to trace the elusive nature of their ascetic.
Though Starflyer 59 was entrenched in the cool of arty noise-pop, their day-to-day lives were Protestant working-class normal. Frontman Jason Martin drove a truck for a living and yet was obsessed with collecting Smith's B-sides. A weird combination indeed.
The next Bandoppler article that I really enjoyed writing was My Phat Summer, a tribute to the anti-band US Maple. Unless you have a penchant for the avant-garde, you may not hear redeeming qualities to US Maple. This is not a snarky cooler-than-thou judgment. They're simply not everyone's cup of tea. And that's OK. (No judgment, bro. I've got very questionable taste in music).
US Maple's music came at that perfect time of life. I was in a typical quarter-life crisis, and US Maple's "music" met me when I simply had no idea what the hell I was doing with my life. It was a perfect pairing. The hilarity of a drunk no-talent uncle and his classic rock-infused blues band collectively tripping down a flight of stairs while in mid-performance perfectly fit that time of my life. As it turns out, this article was chosen as a best-of type piece for Measure Magazine in 2003. Check out this documentary teaser where Steve Albini weighs in on the perplexing nature of all things US Maple.
As an active Seattle-based musician in the 90s and early 2000s, I've rubbed elbows with great talent. Though my own musical endeavors have been modest, I've either shared the stage and even lived with some of Seattle's indie rock greats. Damien Jurado is one of them.
In 2005, I met Paste Magazine's Editor in Chief, I pitched a Damien story, and he went for it. This piece was a lot of fun reflecting on Jurado's music and lyrical depth, as well as my own anecdotes of knowing Jurado personally.
Before Bandoppler made it print, Jason Dodd picked up and moved from the Pacific Northwest to the great nation of Texas to work with HM Magazine. In the late 80s and early 90s, HM was kind of known for covering poodle-haired hard rock bands. But as the 90s wore on, Nirvana took over, metal splintered off into a bunch of different directions, and it was time for HM to take a new tact. Luckily, Jason carried the torch with style and wrangled some pretty great writers to cover a wide range of music styles. I got a chance to cover mope rock icon, Dave Bazan and his faith-wavering Pedro the Lion, and Jeff Bettger's shot-glass-and-a-rusty-nail Suffering and the Hideous Thieves.
By the late oughts, Bandoppler's short-lived glory days had fizzled out. Fortunately, I got an opportunity to write for a great wellness consulting start-up called Community Creature. As far as I know, the company never quite got off the ground, but I loved their vision. Corporate wellness programs (you know, stop smoking, join a weight loss program for incentives) were one dimensional.
Community Creature aimed to bring wellness consultation to corporate culture as well. Wellness isn't merely physical well-being, but also about relational health within the workplace. The creative session that I sat in on for my writing brief was headed up by none other than Jesse Bryan, the guy who co-founded Seattle Creative Agency, Belief.
After professional detours in both the tech world and property insurance, I got back on track in the world of words with my friend Mike Wilkerson's book, Redemption. Both Mike and I were serving together in a Seattle based church, and he was commissioned to write a book for their recovery ministry. He opted for the simple task (sarcasm) of tackling the biblical Exodus story to illustrate the narrative of suffering, sin, alienation, and hope of redemption. The Exodus isn't only ancient religious history. It's a narrative for life. Mike had never written a book before, so he reached out to friends to see who'd be willing to read through his chapter drafts. I had time on my hands, so I signed up. What I discovered through that process was that Mike developed into an excellent writer, that book-length writing is very complex, and that I really enjoyed editing. A lot. Helping Mike with his book was a great introduction to editing. Here's what Mike has to say via LinkedIn about working together on Redemption:
"Matt Johnson is an outstanding writer and editor. I cannot recommend him highly enough. Matt was one of two key editorial companions who helped me in the writing of my book Redemption. I wrote in the Acknowledgements of that book: "Matt has taught me to hone my writing style through many, many substantial edits. His fingerprints are on every single chapter."
His sensibilities are an ideal blend of theological passion, pastoral sensitivity, and cultural savvy. At the big-picture level, he understands the strategy of a book; and at the level of every single word, he knows how to make a sentence pop, delivering on that big strategy with verbal vibrancy, line after line.
I don't think anyone expected the Redemption book to sell as many copies as it's sold. It's fair to say that I became a writer through the process of writing that book, and Matt was there as my coach every step of the way. I am confident that his influence on me as a writer—and on the very words of the book—made it significantly more readable and impactful than it would have been otherwise." -- Mike Wilkerson
After Mike published Redemption, our mutual friend Justin Holcomb wrote his own book along with his wife, Lindsey titled Rid of My Disgrace, a book meant to help survivors of sexual assault. Mike mentioned to Justin that I'd helped him with Redemption, and I was privileged to extend the same kind of help to Justin and Lindsey. The book's content was sober indeed, but a much-needed volume to an often ignored and misunderstood issue. A strong point of Rid of My Disgrace is the precision the Holcombs brought to defining sexual assault. As I dove into the edits, one of the first opportunities I saw was to identify who the principal and secondary reading audience was. Once we determined the primary audience was victims of abuse and secondarily those helping victims (pastors, friends, family, and social workers), we were able to more clearly hone the writing so that it had a more personal tone while retaining the necessity of defining assault according to the law. I believe the result was both definitive clarity and heart.
Within a year or two of working on Mike and Justin's books, Justin asked if I'd like to team up for a book writing project for Tullian Tchividjian. Justin served as the project manager for the book, helped me dial in the outline and served as a tremendous theological resource along the way. I was tasked with taking sermon transcriptions and applying some heavy editing magic to them to re-appropriate them into book form. As it turns out, we had an essay worth of content, but not quite a book. What had started out as an editing gig turned out to be a full-on contributing writer job. Though it was more work than I'd anticipated, it was a good experience, and I learned a lot. Like, how to take an ancient text like the story of Job's immense suffering and apply it to the 21st Century. It was no easy task but wound up being existentially, and spiritually enlightening. As it turned out, Glorious Ruin was later nominated by the ECPA as non-fiction book of the year in 2013.