Just Marion
Profile of a magazine editor

February 2nd, 2012
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] v10-2-People-Marion SeamanAfter 14 years, many people still remember the “Coconut Telegraph.” Twenty-five editions of the magazine appeared on Roatan between 1993 and 1997. Marion Seaman, 63, began the Coconut Telegraph with her friend Averyl Miller. The project, originally envisioned as a newsletter, grew to be a loved publication, an institution in the pre-pc, pre-internet, pre-cell-phone world.

Born in San Francisco, Marion was in the eye of the hippie storm of the late 1960s. Her apartment was just blocks away from Golden Gate Park, the epicenter of hippie culture.

Having overdosed on the hippie movement, Marion headed up north to Seattle with her Siamese cat in WV bug. For the next dozen years she lived in Florida, California and North Carolina, her life split between a career at a corporate firm and a desire for a more creative, free lifestyle. In 1983, at the invitation of a friend, Marion flew to Roatan from Miami with “Captain Jack” Nielan, landing at a wooden shack beside Roatan’s landing strip.

Marion had little knowledge of Bay Islands and began a seven year period of living on Guanaja, most of the time caretaking the Half Moon Cay and landscaping. In 1990 she came to live on Roatan.

When Marion launched the magazine in 1993, the Coconut Telegraph became more than a publication. The magazine was involved in several community projects and in 1996 sponsored a sailing regatta, a weeklong event that brought 500 people to the island.

Today, Marion has moved on to interior design, graphic design, and working as a production coordinator fro NBC’s series “Mystery of the Crystal Skull.” She now designs websites, copyrighting, “all things creative.”

Bay Islands VOICE: How did the idea of “Coconut Telegraph” come about?
Marion Seaman: Averyl Miller and I talked about the doing a type of newsletter. Italo Tugliani put up the money and Averyl and I dove in. I had a white piece of paper and walked around and sold ads to people. Initially it was a newsletter, but it took a life of its own. People here felt that it was their magazine.
B.I.V.: What were some of the bigger challenges of doing the magazine?
M.S.: Every two months I would fly to Tegucigalpa, spend four-five days there. We had subscribers in 33 countries. International Living helped to promote the magazine.
B.I.V.: Why did it end?
M.S.: I made a very bad business decision. Two people, Liz and Bob Waring, gave me money for the business. I signed a promissory note without looking. I didn’t even read it. It was a 20-day note. I lost control of the magazine.
B.I.V.: What was the best part of running the magazine?
M.S.: It was the opportunity to be working with so many people and giving back to the community. It was the richest experience of my life. There isn’t a week that goes by when people don’t ask me about the “Coconut Telegraph.” There was a sort of whimsical quality to the magazine. There was a sort of “thread of humor in the magazine. It taught me great graphic skills, organizational skills.
B.I.V.: What about the name “Coconut Telegraph”?
M. S.: One day out of nowhere I got a letter from Jimmy Buffet’s lawyer telling me to “cease and desist” using the name “Coconut Telegraph.” I called the US embassy and consulted. Eventually we find out that Jimmy Buffet didn’t have the rights for “Coconut Telegraph” in Honduras, so we purchased them. We took the attitude that the name was a public domain. Eventually we got a postcard, from we think Jimmy Buffet, with the phrase “No Worries.” We got so much free publicity out of this. [/private]

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