Ideas are a dime a dozen; what truly matters is how an idea is executed. The greatest idea in the world doesn’t stand a chance if there isn’t knowledge behind what happens from the conception in your mind to delivery on the newsstand.
-- Samir "Mr. Magazine" Husni
Last year, past and present Literary Mama editors contributed posts to the online magazine's blog to celebrate its 10th year, the role it's played in their lives, and the friendships they've formed because of it.
Some of the women have backgrounds as high school teachers, college professors and MFA students, others as writers, editors, and copyeditors. Some work outside the home, some within. The overriding theme of every blog post, however, is community. Within Literary Mama's pages, each woman found the support she needed to claim her writer self and dedicate time to develop it amid family, work, and other responsibilities.
It's interesting to note that while the founders' initial thrust was to showcase their own writing, they quickly realized Literary Mama could be a market for other mama writers. Many of the decisions they made in 2003 about content and the editorial process continue to guide our efforts today, yet each new staff member brings—and is encouraged to bring—her expertise to the table. So, much like the writer who examines every phrase, paragraph, and punctuation mark for purpose and clarity, Literary Mama has been able to continue suggesting revisions to society's definition of motherhood by publishing voices that surprise, delight, and challenge.
I'm proud to celebrate five years—and, in February, my fifth issue as managing editor—in this niche market, and I think it's notable that Literary Mama editorial staff live and write from all points of the world.
|Editorial Staff. February, 2015.|
Like any other volunteer-driven organization, Literary Mama is only as strong as those who serve. But it's not enough to simply believe in an organization's mission, and enjoy the camaraderie--especially with the additional challenges of time zones that stretch from one day to the next and technology that seems to be updated just as we get the older version figured out.
It may be community that first brings literary mamas together, but once that has been established, respect is what keeps us together. It is, in fact, paramount to our success.
One's resume may be the first step toward earning respect among the Literary Mama community, but I've never considered its bullet-point list of accomplishments the final destination. Instead, I've found that respect lies within the slew of emails that fly back and forth between editors as submissions are read and evaluated; and then again as final drafts are proofed, copyedited, and prepared for publication. There's a sincere interest in working with each writer—it could even be viewed as workshopping—so every essay, poem, story, interview, or review selected for publication is as strong as it can be.
I've also found that respect comes as a result of honesty. Nearly every email exudes a warmth that invites thoughtful commentary, the right to disagree, and a desire to work together. When words are misunderstood or responses less-than-timely, the emails are filled with heartfelt apologies, not excuses or finger-pointing accusations.
And finally: I see respect expressed in the comments from our readers and like-minded publications in the virtual community where we live. It'd be easy to calculate respect by pointing to the number of followers, "likes," or "shares" we've garnered—and we do pay attention to these numbers—but I think the raw emotion of a comment carries just as much weight:
- "Thank you for identifying us, for making what often seems foolish into something admirable. I am proud to be a mother-writer when I read this."
- "Thank you for making me feel as if I’m not alone in the writing abyss."
- "It was such a pleasure to work with the editors at LM. I was thrilled to see the positive response that my essay received via social media on LM. It means everything to this writer when readers can relate to my stories. Thanks to LM for giving me the opportunity to publish it."
I doubt the women who started Literary Mama could anticipate the public response to their adventure when they penned this in their mission statement:
We know that becoming a mother takes more than the physical act of giving birth or completing an adoption. It takes birthing yourself as a mother—often a lifelong psychological, intellectual, and spiritual process. Literary Mama honors the difficult and rewarding work women do as they move through motherhood by providing a smart, diverse venue to read, publish, and share mama-centric stories.
But I can see why their idea worked and, just as importantly, how Literary Mama has been able to publish more than 4,260 pieces by 1,250 contributors during its first decade. I predict many similar celebrations in the future.