Freeing Dreams ‘Stuck in Notes’

Two alumni create a literary zine for nudging ideas into action, including their own.

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Stuck in Notes magazine founder and editor-in-chief Kelsey Willock ('15), left, and creative director Jordyn Albritton ('15)

Kelsey Willock (’15) and Jordyn Albritton (’15) shared their dreams and creative notions with each other as roommates at Wake Forest, and their friendship continued after graduation as they built successful lives on opposite coasts.

Last year, their conversations sparked them to take on a new adventure: they started a zine — a self-published magazine, circulated through mail order, word-of-mouth and bookstores. “Stuck in Notes” is a literary magazine with proceeds going to nonprofits, and they are soliciting submissions through June 1 for their third issue. The first two issues drew submissions of poetry, fiction, essays and photography from around the world.

First issue of Stuck in Notes magazine with cover of solitary California tree and moon on a table with a cup of latte and a plate with cheesecake and fork shot from above on a black placemat

First issue of Stuck in Notes

Wake Forest Magazine talked jointly by Zoom with  Kelsey, the founder and editor-in-chief, based in San Francisco; Jordyn, the creative director in New York but headed to Los Angeles; and their Wake Forest intern, sophomore Maren Beverly, all working remotely. (Their team includes several other women.)

Kelsey, a native of Chicago, was a double major in English and business and enterprise management. Until February, she was vice president relationship management with Goldman Sachs & Company, working with the world’s top hedge fund clients. She was also an Ambassador for Launch With GS, its billion dollar commitment to increase access to capital and facilitate connections for women, Black, Latinx and other diverse entrepreneurs and investors. She recently co-founded Tardi, her own financial wellness platform for women. She has published in Stuck in Notes.

Two copies of second issue of Stuck in Notes magazine by founder and editor-in-chief Kelsey Willock ('15) and creative director Jordyn Albritton ('15), who were roommates at Wake Forest. The magazines are on a quilt on a grass with glasses, tossed aside sneakers and a drink can

Second issue of Stuck in Notes

Jordyn, a native of Ohio, majored in business and enterprise management with minors in psychology and global trade and commerce studies. Formerly, she worked in the fashion and entertainment space at PAPER magazine as a creative strategist and creative project manager in New York City. Recently, she took a new role as a project manager at Movement Strategy, a Los Angeles based social and digital content agency. She was in LA looking for an apartment when we talked. She has also just started her own well-being brand and community called Good Endorphins at goodendorphins.com and on Instagram at @goodendorphins. 

The conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Kelsey in a photo on Stuck in Notes' Instagram page

Q. How did Stuck in Notes come to life?

Kelsey: In the beginning of 2020, we were all just looking for things to do, and I had in my phone a running list of things that I wanted to do, small business ideas or things to write about. I had this list of over 100 ideas. Funny enough, they were stuck in my notes, and I had been talking to Jordyn about “I wonder if other people are feeling stuck, too.” So that’s how the idea of a zine came, for people to have a platform to be able to share what their thoughts, hopes, dreams, ideas, aspirations are, especially ones that are stuck in their notes or journal. (Among Kelsey’s ideas, perhaps stuck hovering over a glass of wine forever, were sustainable socks, euphoric beer, electric RVs and a glamorous dude ranch, she says online.)

We decided, let’s start a zine, where people can share in a physical form, because we also wanted people to be able to hold it and have it as a coffee table book. And it really snowballed from that one conversation in February or January (2020).

Jordyn: A thing that’s really important is having a creative outlet, being able to express. Maybe it’s art, or a mood board, or it’s a poem — just jogging those creative juices in your brain helps get those ideas flowing, and you can actually tangibly put something together. Getting out of your comfort zone, doing something to start helps people actually start in real life.

Kelsey: If you share these ideas, they’re much more possible to come to fruition.

Jordyn in a photo on Stuck in Notes' Instagram page.

Q. How did you two become friends? 

Jordyn: We met our freshman year in South (dorm.) Then sophomore year, we were roommates. Then we both went abroad in Spain. We weren’t roommates after that, but we always hung out, always stayed in touch after school.

We’ve always bounced crazy ideas off each other. My background is in creative marketing, specifically creative strategy. You don’t necessarily think of finance people as hypercreative, and Kelsey has always been super creative. I can lean on her to learn financial things we needed to know about the business, and the creative parts, she’s been able to lean on me.

Kelsey: Your creative feedback and direction, it’s been so, so inspiring.

Maren Beverly, a sophomore at Wake Forest, in a photo on Stuck in Notes' Instagram page welcoming her as the magazine's intern.

Q. Maren, how did you connect with Kelsey and Jordyn? 

(Maren initially connected with Jordyn to ask about her fashion experience.)

Maren: I was in (COVID-related) quarantine at the Best Western (in Winston-Salem) when Kelsey reached out to me over Instagram. I’d been following the account because I knew it was started by Wake grads. I’m super interested in creative writing and photography and creative aspects. They were looking for help on social media and wanted to start a TikTok (stuckinnoteszine) to start growing on that front. I’m an English major, then I’m minoring in Spanish and creative writing. Stuck in Notes is helping me see what I’m interested in and passionate about. (She writes about fashion for WFU Style (@wfustyle on Instagram and Facebook) and for a zine called HALOSCOPE (for young creatives, @haloscope on Instagram).

Kelsey at a bookstore in San Francisco where Stuck in Notes was displayed in the window and sold out in a week.

Q. How did your team produce Stuck in Notes?

Kelsey: Our vision was “We just want to make a magazine. We have no idea how to make a magazine. I don’t know how to use InDesign (software to create pages). I don’t know how to reach out to get submissions, but we’re going to figure it out.”

We started with an email to everyone in our direct networks or family or friends and had a call for submissions. The theme was dreams — what are the dreams that you haven’t shared? We ended up getting over 100 submissions from around the world. We posted on Instagram. We reached out to a bunch of other zine communities that were willing to share our call for submissions. And we were also featured in @artopencalls (on Instagram.) They have 21,000 followers. Their intention is to create opportunities for novice artists and writers.

(Kelsey used YouTube to teach herself InDesign, and Jordyn, who knew the software, helped Kelsey over Zoom calls. Jordyn expanded her knowledge of Photoshop and other software to contribute, as well.)

Kelsey: We would get on Zoom and say, “This is how we think it should be designed.” We also would have a mood board to draw from for inspiration. I would take the feedback and the conversations we’d had on Zoom and then the next week present the work that I had done. It’s kind of crazy the power of Zoom these days.

Q. How did the magazines fare?

(They’ve sold about 550 copies, generally at $30 a copy, mostly online, requiring a second printing of the first issue and selling out bookstore copies in a week.) 

Kelsey: The first magazine, we donated the proceeds to The Women’s Building in San Francisco (which helps single mothers). For the second one, we had a theme of love. We donated our proceeds to the Loveland Foundation for Black women and girls and supporting them. 

Jordyn holds the first issue of Stuck in Notes.

Q. What has stoked your passion for Stuck in Notes?

Kelsey: What the people that we are tapping into are about is community. And that’s such a huge thing — supporting other people and seeing how you can help. It goes such a long way when we receive all these awesome submissions, and people are just elated and so happy. It helps people continue to push, like, “OK, this is something that I could do,” and it helps them continue to go on and in their dreams.

Q. How did Wake Forest influence your work and projects?

Jordyn: Wake does a really great job of pushing students to have different experiences. I was, as a senior at Wake, able to start a really cool program with my best friend at the time called Campus Canvas, a painting initiative, getting everyone out on the Quad and able to paint. (@campuscanvas on Instagram) So when you get out into the real world, (creating something) doesn’t seem scary or something that’s not familiar.

Kelsey: Wake gives you so many opportunities to pursue things you enjoy. I loved writing. I was a blog editor for Her Campus. I was paired with Rent the Runway on an entrepreneurship program. I don’t feel that I have any limitations.

A copy of the second issue of Stuck in Notes outside Browser Books where it was sold.

The second issue of Stuck in Notes outside Browser Books

Q. What’s next for you besides the third issue of Stuck in Notes?

Kelsey: I recently quit my job to start a fintech (financial/technical) company (Tardi). I’m on a mission to create a financial wellness platform that helps women on their journeys from cautious savers to savvy investors. So, again, I’ve never built an app, but I was like, “If I can build a magazine without knowing how, maybe I can also build a fintech company.” (The company will go online later this year at Tardiapp.com and on Instagram @tardiapp.) Sometimes you need a little leap of faith and someone to inspire you to take a risk. And Jordyn also just recently changed jobs and now runs her own brand. 

Jordyn: My passions have always been wellness and health. I have my personal training certification. My company is called Good Endorphins. It’s a branding community that’s focused around making wellness more accessible and sustainable to the communities around me and hopefully, in a post-COVID world, other communities.

Kelsey: I genuinely believe that we were able to take these leaps of faith and pursue what we wanted to do with our life because of the magazine. The magazine has showed us it’s possible to make something out of nothing, if you just have a really amazing team, and you have a vision.

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