We’re so excited to share this quick interview with Amber Gordon, founder of Femsplain, in particular, because we here at Lumen Magazine empathize deeply with the Amber’s journey to create more inclusive literary and narrative spaces. We’re so grateful for the space they provide, and the voices they highlight, and we’re so ready for what they have in store. Enjoy!
YESI PADILLA (YP): Thanks for talking with Lumen, Amber! First things first: Can you share with us how Femsplain came to be? what was the spark that started it all? How has Femsplain grown - and maybe changed - from your initial ideas about the project?
AMBER GORDON (AG): Sure! It's a really really long story but I'll try to summarize. Femsplain started out as no more than a side project that three of my friends and I began doing in the fall of 2014. I was working as a full-time creative strategist at the time and was feeling particularly uninspired. We wanted to replicate a space on the internet that felt like a group chat we had going on (open, safe, understanding, communicative, not judgemental). The only way I know how to best create a community is through a common passion, and for Femsplain it's storytelling. So, two weeks of staying up till 3 am and lots of coffee later we were ready to call for story contributions from 20 of our closest friends. We launched October of 2014 and it's been a wild ride ever since!
Initially we only accepted submissions from people who identify as women, but soon after opened to non binary, agender and other gender nonconforming individuals. Inclusiveness has always been a priority of ours. We also used to publish three times per day but have since moved to a publishing schedule of once per day. We're hoping in the future we might be able to increase that with more staff and resources. Another big change is that we're finally able to pay our writers! Initially we had zero budget for that, but due to a successful Kickstarter campaign and other crowd source initiatives we were able to start! Compensation has always been a goal of mine and I'm really happy to be able to say we do.
YP: Femsplain is a very unique and important project, in that it creates dedicated space for women and non-binary people to share their unique life experiences and narratives. What have been the challenges in curating and maintaining this space?
AG: The main challenge for us has been spreading awareness as well as funding. I think we've done a great job at getting the word about Femsplain out into the world but there's still so much more for us to be done in the near future. Mainly I wish I was a celebrity so all the good of Femsplain would get more attention, but I do also enjoy our small niche community. :) Funding is also another big challenge. It's hard to find the right people who'd be interested in supporting/investing in a for profit website like ours for one reason or another. I'm hoping this year we'll have an easier time finding those people.
Think about those people who will value what you have to say and write it for them and most importantly, for yourself.
YP: You and your colleagues have been working on Femsplain for a little over a year now. In this time, have you noticed an increase in literary spaces for women, non-binary and other gender non-conforming people? What are your thoughts on ways we can all foster these spaces?
AG: Yes absolutely! I think last year was really a spark of something big for women's literary spaces. Broadly, Lenny, The Establishment are a few that come to mind that sprang up and I'm really excited to see everyone helping and amplifying each-other. Facebook groups are a great way to start a smaller space for you and your friends to communicate with, but mind you that I've seen the smaller the group the less diversity there will be... and diversity is very important. So as with everything, be mindful of this.
YP: Are there any of the aforementioned projects/spaces that you're really interested in, or think others should check out, and what qualities attract you to these projects?
AG: Recently I've discovered Girl Develop It, which is a nonprofit org that provides affordable and judgment-free opportunities for adult women interested in learning to code. It's an amazing organization and I truly believe everyone should have access to learn these languages.
YP: What are some lessons you've learned about making a space for one's voice that you'd like to share with other young writers?
AG: Definitely to remember always that your story matters. When I first came to love the Internet, the Internet did not love me back. I was very used to hearing from trolls to "shut up," that "no one cares" etc. about anything I had to say. Growing up I was picked on a lot because of my weight and whatever-else-have-you, so my self confidence was usually, negative 9000. BUT, as I started gaining my confidence and self-worth back through the work I put out into the universe I cared less and less about what those voices were saying and more about the voices who were thanking me for sharing my stories. Think about those people who will value what you have to say and write it for them and most importantly, for yourself.
YP: Can you tell us a bit about what you have in store for Femsplain in 2016?
AG: Absolutely! I'm really excited for more workshops and live events for our NYC community. I'd like to do a workshop/event on the west coast later in the year. More partnerships, sponsors, I'd like to hire more people. We're also hoping to launch our community platform this year as well! Overall, really exciting times ahead.
YP: And finally, because we'd love to know: Is there a question you wished more people asked you about Femsplain?
AG: I would love if people asked me more about what comes after sharing a story on our platform. The great thing about Femsplain and our stories is that they're always relevant. Just because we published them 6 months ago doesn't mean the story still isn't worth reading. I love seeing all the different positive reactions and conversation that comes after a story is published. Honestly, I could talk about it all day.