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"As women, we have always found ourselves in story. From the beginning of human existence, while we planted and harvested and prepared food, spun thread and wove cloth, tended our babies and cared for our elderly parents, we told one another the stories of our lives, and the lives of our grandmothers and mothers and daughters and granddaughters. Our shared stories became a many-voiced chorus singing the same song: the story-song of women at work and women at play, women loving and living, women birthing, women dying. Those stories were full of pain because human lives have always been like that. They were full of joy because lives are like that, too. Pain and joy were woven like golden threads through the full, rich, round stories of women's generations, so that the experiences of women would not be forgotten."
- Writing From Life: Telling Your Soul's Story by Susan Wittig Albert, Ph.D.
We didn't have those words before us when we decided we wanted to create an ezine for women's art and writing. But those feelings already existed in our soul, unexpressed, without words. We were a group of forty women, joined together around the world via an invisible, miraculous thread called the Internet. This was the Spring of 1996. I am Loretta Kemsley, one of the original founders of Moondance: Celebrating Creative Women, the only one who stayed through all the years, and so it is I who must tell the tale.
Because of my background in newspaper publishing, I became editor-in-chief, supervising the entire publication. Today, although I remain at its helm as the official publisher, the job of editor-in-chief has been divided into three managerial jobs which head our three departments: editorial, website design, and marketing. These three managers supervise our day to day operations.
My background in newspaper design was a good start for our fledgling ezine but so very different from the demands and opportunities of Internet publishing. With little experience to guide us, that first edition was an adventure onto itself. Some of our volunteers doubted we could accomplish this feat, even as we worked hard to meet our self imposed deadline: September, 1996. It was coded for Internet browsers while reading a book on simplified HTML.
I miss my fellow founders, who have gone on to other achievements. We found each other by serendipity and syncronicity. When I logged onto the Internet, it was with the intent of learning how to publish online. I was fortunate to find a brand new group: Women Writers and Artists (WWA). We wanted a place where we could discuss our art and our womanhood as an interwoven entity. WWA was still forming its identity, as were the individuals involved, creatively speaking. As we discussed the future of the list, we evolved also -- a wonderful experience.
Several were unhappy with traditional women's publications whose advertisers want articles which convince women of their "defects" and the need to buy the advertisers' products. A few volunteered to start a new ezine devoid of ads and devoted to ideas which enhance women's lives. Soon Moondance had gained such popularity, it was dominating the list. We decided it needed to be a separate entity before the burden became too great for the small staff and few contributors. We selected a name which was close but not identical. Thus Women Artists and Writers International (WAWI) was born, which is open to all creative women.
This was the perfect opportunity not only to expand our staff and contributor base but also to welcome men who shared our ideals. One of our early surprises was the number of men who were drawn to Moondance and its vision. Their presence enriched us once again.
When we began, WAWI and Moondance were synonymous with each other: WAWI did nothing except Moondance. With only a handful of volunteers, it was a large project. As our staff grew larger and Moondance achieved a satisfying success, we began to think in new directions. We received many inquiries about joining WAWI which prompted us to begin several WAWI discussion lists. Our lists are devoted to supporting and encouraging one another, celebrating our successes, and sharing new opportunities and resources. Some of our most interesting discussions occur when writers and artists from opposite sides of the world find their habits and desires are similar, while the mode of achievement might differ.
Moondance operates as an entity of its own. Some of its staff and contributors are active in WAWI, and some are not. Some of the WAWI members contribute to Moondance, but many don't. The most valuable component of both is the freedom for people to accomplish what is important to them.
There is great power to publishing, both on the Internet and by traditional means. Moondance reaches an international audience, sustaining approximately 85,000 hits a month. In March, 1998, we were honored when Moondance was presented by Ida Miro Kiss, a Hungarian feminist and renowned speaker, as an example of women networking on the Internet at the UNESCO Inter-governmental Conference, Stockholm, Sweden. It is being used in two women's studies programs in the United States.
Moondance was an experiment without precedent when it began, but today is the role model for a variety of exciting new ezines. When we decided to publish Moondance, we searched the Internet for examples to emulate. None could be found. Starting from scratch, we used trial and error to devise the successful format which uses the best of print media design, combined with the expanded capabilities of online media, while remaining accessible to those with hardware and software limitations. Moondance is coded specifically for disabled access.
It has led the way for acceptance of electronic magazines among more traditional publishers and was recently featured in "The Writer's Digest". This amazing transformation could not have been accomplished without our talented staff and contributors. Produced entirely by volunteers who have never met in person, Moondance is made possible via the Internet which provides the total means for our communication. With staff and contributors flung around the world, we have found our creative energies are enhanced by this wonderful diversity.
We are grateful that Moondance has tapped into a common well of human knowledge, based entirely upon creativity and shared experiences which transcend national boundaries. What we have learned along the way is valuable to others who want to help change the consciousness and expectations of women. By sharing this knowledge, we can multiply the number of women's voices and bypass the traditional gatekeepers who have kept us mute these many centuries. We hope you enjoy our pages and encourage you to join WAWI, and to publish along with us, either in Moondance, in another of the now many women's ezines, or in a publication of your own.
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