It all started simply: I was minding my own business, keeping up with my other women's lit site Domestic Goddesses, when I received a letter from a "big business" internet company inviting me to create a guide to women writers for them. I was supposed to receive a small amount of cash per month to create and upkeep this site.... I thought, why not? I entered their training program, was very frustrated by the whole experience, and wound up not becoming a guide for them. I still use their sites (after a brief period of bitterness) and don't blame them at all-- in fact, there's now a new person doing the job I was going to do and I think her work is great (although I'm not sure why mine didn't make it cause it was quite similar in content).
When I was putting together the links, though, I realized that a site like this is really needed. There are some great collections of women writers online, but some of them were so large as to make them un-navigable for many interested searchers. And, some of those sites, in trying to be all-inclusive, make it hard to find current and exciting new writers that a searcher might be most interested in. Also, these huge collections are sometimes sporadically maintained, and their links can be frequently out-of-date. (We all know how "fly by night" some Internet Sites can be, and someone needs to make sure the links are current.) Finally, these collections sometimes forget to be diverse; women writers of color are less than completely represented on some, and the sites that specialize in women of color are very, well, specialized. I also liked the idea of putting my two cents in, editorial-wise, about some of the big issues in women's literature. When I first started this site, I was a PhD student at Texas A&M and my specialty is women writers; so I was pretty excited about creating an online community of other people interested in these writers.
So here we have it: An E-Zine dedicated to Women Writers. We have some regularly contributing columnists and folks who drop in every now and then with some new work, which helps make this site the definitive guide to women writers on the 'Net. We're a little academic, but we also have some fun now and then. Women writers are a force to be reckoned with as the over 300 links on this site shows... but when I get complacent in thinking that women writers are never going away, I read another one of those "great books of the _______ (fill in the blank with a term denoting time, space, or some other hierarchy)" and find that there are few and far between women on the list, I get cranky and realize the work is far from over.
At first the site was mostly a collection of links, like the guide site I originally created. Now we have a large collection (over 1,000 individual pages) of original fiction and poetry by women authors, a great selection of book reviews, scholarly articles on women authors, and a few interviews with well-known (and not so well known) feminist writers. In many ways, the evolution of this site affirms my faith in the power of the Internet; with a little knowledge of HTML, anyone can have what is essentially their own "printing press." Today, the literary proles have, potentially, access to the means of production. Yippee!
The site is always growing and changing, and our listserv, which was once a place were we discussed all sorts of things, is now mostly for annoucements about the site, book review queries, etc. It's fairly quiet nowadays.
Now, we have a twice a year publication. We put out a new Zine every mid-June & December/January. Once I started the toughest phase of the PhD program (writing the dissertation) I just didn't have time to publish every month. I think we have enough good stuff out so that you can read a bunch, come back next month and read some more, then repeat. By the time you're done with everything, it'll be time for new stuff. The Summer 2000 issue was the first incarnation of the bi-annual zine. We took all of the articles, poems, fiction, etc, that we had accumulated in the last year and a half and used it to publish that first volume. This explains why much of the zine is dated differently than Summer 2000. In fact, we may add an occasional title to the site without creating a whole new issue. This is the beauty of Internet publishing-- nothing is permanent. But the "BIG" changes, and new issues, are twice a year now.
Plans for the future: PAYING our writers. We sometimes get freebie books from publishers, looking for us to review their work, but what I'd like to do is provide a place for women writers who aren't already established to start building a professional resume. We really do the kinds of things that the "big guns" with lots of advertising dollars do, but we do it all for free (why does women's work have to stay free?)
But I don't want to sell-out to the advertisers on the 'net-- I do not want cheap ads for gambling shell games or weird products on my site. (Call me a snob, I know, but can't there be a happy medium?)
If you know of a source for grant money for sites that promote women's work, writing, consciousness-raising, education, etc., please contact me. I've been looking, but my two eyes are tired and miss things. :)
In June 2003, we launced our first special issue, devoted in the scholarly section to "autotheory." Some book reviews that included the same sort of content were solicited, but mostly it's just what our reviewers wanted to review. Same with poetry & fiction. We got a new color scheme too, and started using some commercial art, which will be changed every issue. It looks about the same, but a little "sleeker" and less "Barbie-doll hip."
It seems to get harder to get people every issue who can help us do the work. Natasha, the book reviews editor, is still a tireless help. But as time goes by, other folks fall "off the radar" and get busy in other areas of their lives. We are about to start publishing more "Guest Edited" issues., which will lead to lots of interesting diversity on the stie.
The last few issues have been special "guest edited" scholarly works. This new branch of the site has proved challenging-- getting together with other folks' schedules is often hard. But this next summer will be productive-- we'll be sending out massive calls for new contributors and editorial members, and revamping a lot of the website. A new, even more academic scholarly section is planned, and hopefully, the book reviews will follow and grow too.
See also our simplified "Mission Statement". Cause everyone should have a mission. :)
Editor, Women Writers