For the past three years, Vela has taken steps to help close the byline gender gap by publishing exceptional nonfiction written by women, and by drawing attention to outstanding work by women writers at other online publications, print magazines, and publishing houses.
We are not a "women's magazine" and our writers aren't writing exclusively for a female audience on "female" subjects (a notion we hope to tacitly challenge). The fact that all of Vela's writers are women is almost, almost incidental: it would be completely incidental if the publishing world did not create a situation in which women’s voices represent only a fraction of the conversation. Our aim is to ensure that women writers are as recognized and read as their male counterparts.
Over the past three years, we’ve brought the voices of a diverse group of talented women writers to the attention of magazine editors, anthologists, and readers. Vela has been spotlighted in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue.com, and USA Today, and our stories have been recognized as notable in The Best American Essays, The Best American Travel Writing, and The Best American Sports Writing, and highlighted on Longform, Longreads, The Browser, Ann Friedman’s Lady Journos, NPR, Outside, The New York Times’ Opinion Page, and The New Yorker’s Page Turner. We’ve held a national nonfiction writing contest, created a master “Unlisted List” of nonfiction writing by women, initiated a weekly roundup of reviews entitled Women We Read This Week, begun a regular column called Bookmarked in which established women writers recommend their favorite work by women, garnered an audience of more than 10,000 monthly visitors, and become a nonprofit – all without any funding.
Imagine, then, what we could do with even a modest budget to pay our writers and editors.
We have seen that there is a great demand not only for high-quality, long-form nonfiction online, but in particular for spaces that highlight the work of women. We're thrilled to be addressing that demand, and believe that with the necessary funding to pay our writers we can become a more powerful, widely recognized, and important voice in the publishing industry.
Who are we?
Meet Vela's team:
Founding Editor Sarah Menkedick is a writer, editor, runner, mother, and perpetual traveler who always seems to wind up in Oaxaca, Mexico. She holds an M.F.A. in nonfiction from the University of Pittsburgh, where she taught creative writing. Before returning to the U.S. for graduate school, she spent six years living, teaching, and traveling abroad.
Her work has been published in Harper’s, Oxford American, The Paris Review Daily Amazon’s Kindle Singles, The Best Women’s Travel Writing Volume 9, The New Inquiry, The Common, and a number of other online and print publications. Her Vela story “The Rider’s Prayer” was a finalist for The Atavist’s Digital Storymakers Award, and her Vela story “Homing Instincts” was selected as notable in The Best American Essays 2014.
Senior Editor Simone Gorrindo is a writer and editor currently based in Columbus, Georgia, where she lives with her husband, a soldier stationed at Fort Benning with the 75th Ranger Regiment. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New York Times, The Best Women’s Travel Writing, Tablet, and The Huffington Post, among other publications. Her work for Vela has been highlighted by Longform.org and Longreads, and was included in Byliner's "102 Spectacular Nonfiction Stories from 2012." She holds an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University, and has received fellowships and grants for her writing and reporting from the Vermont Studio Center, the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, and the Scripps Howard Foundation. This summer, she reported from the Democratic Republic of the Congo on a fellowship from the International Women's Media Foundation.
Senior Editor Amanda Giracca writes about the confluence of landscape and the imagination. She is largely inspired by the place she’s called home for most of her life–the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts–and by the far-flung locales she at one time or another has considered calling home. She is currently a lecturer in SUNY Albany’s Writing and Critical Inquiry program. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in Fourth Genre, Imagination & Place: Cartography, Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, Terrain.org, and Passages North, among others. She has edited three national literary journals, been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and received funding for writing projects from the University of Pittsburgh’s Nationality Room Scholarships, Northern Michigan University’s Excellence in Education Research Grant, and the Boschen Fund for Artists Grant through the Berkshire-Taconic Community Foundation.
Contributing Editor Lauren Quinn is a writer and teacher. Her work has appeared in The Believer, Guernica, The Rumpus and The Best Women's Travel Writing, among others. She recently returned to the U.S. after three years in Asia to pursue a Masters of Education at UCLA. She will always be an Oakland girl at heart.
Contributing Writer Eva Holland is a freelance writer and editor based in Canada's Yukon Territory. She is a former associate editor at Up Here, Canada's 2010 magazine of the year, and a former online columnist for Outside. Her Vela essay, "Not an Ike and Tina Thing," was listed as notable in The Best American Essays 2013 and was included in Byliner's list of "102 Spectacular Nonfiction Stories from 2012." Another Vela story, "Three Kites on the Ice," was a notable selection in The Best American Sports Writing 2013, and her work has been cited by Longform, Longreads, The Browser, Byliner, Lady Journos, The Feature, and Harvard University's Nieman Storyboard. She won a 2013 Western Magazine Award in the travel writing category and has also been a recipient of the Yukon Advanced Artist Award.
Contributing Writer Alice Driver is a freelance writer and translator based in Washington, DC. Her book, More or Less Dead, about violence against women in Juárez, Mexico is forthcoming in 2015. She recently translated the book Abecedario de Juárez, a collaboration between photojournalist Julián Cardona and artist Alice Leora Briggs. She writes for Al Jazeera, Ms. Magazine, Salon, Women's Media Center, and Women Under Siege, and has interviewed writers such as Lena Dunham and NoViolet Bulawayo. Driver has directed two short films with photographer Rodrigo Jardón: If Images Could Fill Our Empty Spaces, which tells the haunting story of four photojournalists in Juárez, Mexico and My Homeland, which will premiere at film festivals in 2015.
Contributing Writer Miranda Ward is a freelance writer and researcher based in the UK. She is currently working towards a PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London, looking at the geographies of lap swimming and the indoor swimming pool. She holds an MA in creative writing, and her first book, F**k the Radio, We’ve Got Apple Juice: essays on a rock ’n’ roll band, was published in 2013.
In the past three years, we have:
Published weekly, award-winning feature stories and essays, including:
"An Unwanted Guest," about a backpacking trip in Java gone awry, and the way chronic pain rewrites our lives. Highlighted on Longform and anthologized in The Best Women's Travel Writing:
"Debilitating pain had interrupted the narrative of my life, and I didn’t know how to write the pages that would move it forward and give me momentum; I was frozen, without climax or resolution, the same dull scene on repeat. And what are we without our own stories? It seems trite, but I learned that year that they do, in fact, mean everything."
"Homing Instincts," about returning to Ohio after a decade abroad and the innate navigational instincts of animals. Selected as notable in The Best American Essays 2014:
"I loved my family, but I also loved the jostling independence of buses in the altiplano, the sense of my self in the world distinct from the inescapable molds of familial roles, and the characters I formed friendships or relationships with over the course of continents and years. The challenges always lay elsewhere, humped in an undulating line like dunes extending into a vanishing point, and my job was to tackle them one after the other. Home was too easy."
"The Ism and the Alcohol," about addiction narratives in the past three decades and the tentative, tedious nature of recovery. Highlighted on Longform and The New Yorker's Page Turner:
"Because I got sober young, most of my experience of being an addict has been in recovery—with the 'ism' rather than the 'alcohol.'”
"It's Not Personal," about the way in which writing by women is often problematically framed as "personal." Shared as recommended reading by editors at Elle, Harper's, The New Yorker, and Virginia Quarterly Review:
"We would sit around a table in a Midtown office with a generous view, and we’d each give our prepared pitch–Peru; Mexico; Alexander Graham Bell; Henry Ford and square dancing; Braddock, PA. And then the listener would sit back, digest, and say, “So, this is a story about a young girl…”
"The Limits of Compassion," about a massive AIDS relief program in Africa and the ephemeral and selfish nature of compassion. Highlighted on Longform:
"When PEPFAR was launched, it seemed to me that perhaps the fabric of the world had been rent asunder once again—only this time there was a possibility of healing, though I could not say for certain whether it was for the people in Africa or for America. I packed my bags and moved to Uganda to find out."
"Not an Ike and Tina Thing," about how an abusive relationship slowly erodes one's sense of self. Selected as notable in The Best American Essays 2013:
"Even as I’d begun to understand the harm that I was doing to myself, that was being done to me, I’d never used the words “abusive relationship.” I had never even thought them. For one thing, of course, as he reminded me so often, we weren’t actually in a relationship. And besides, I understood abuse only as Hollywood had presented it to me: an Ike and Tina kind of thing."
Compiled and published an "Unlisted List" of outstanding writing by women: a resource for future anthology-makers, teachers and professors, and curious readers everywhere.
Launched a nonfiction contest for women writers, judged by essayist Michelle Orange.
Run a weekly column of Women We Read This Week, featuring brief reviews of exceptional writing by women.
Run a bimonthly column entitled Bookmarked, in which women writers recommend work by other women within a particular genre.
Gained a dedicated, loyal readership and built a strong online community of writers and readers dedicated to promoting exceptional writing by women.
Become an official nonprofit organization!
What will we do with funding?
First and foremost:
Pay our writers!
Let's say it again:
Pay our writers!
And once more:
Pay. our. writers!
When Vela began in 2011, we were focused on building a passionate, dedicated community of readers and creating a strong platform for women's voices. When we opened to submissions a year later, we wanted to champion a wider range of women's voices and to ensure Vela could continue to thrive and be sustainable, with a steady influx of unique, compelling work. We've achieved both of these goals, and now that we have hopefully proven to you, our readers and supporters, that we can produce work of a consistent quality and that we can and will undertake ambitious and innovative projects in support of women's writing, we would like to ask for your help.
Our first and predominant goal of this Kickstarter campaign is to pay women writers. There are too few outlets that pay women not just for journalism, but also for essays and criticism. We believe it is particularly important to fund promising work in order to nurture an upcoming generation of female thinkers and voices.
Under the current paradigm of online publishing, content is almost always free. We are going to keep all Vela stories free, but in order for Vela to be a just and sustainable venture, and to make writing a viable career choice for women, we need to compensate our writers. We are also budgeting for a small monthly stipend for our two senior editors so that they may invest more time in growing Vela’s audience, editing stories, soliciting work from writers, and applying for grants.
The funds earned throughout this campaign will act as seed money for Vela’s future growth. Over the next five years, we plan to apply for grants under our nonprofit status, establishing regular funding to run the site and pay writers and editors. Our long-term goals include professional website redesign, a mentorship program for women writers, a wider array of columns that highlight the work of women writers and explore the writing life, and an expanded readership.
In five years, we aim to become a more prominent and influential fixture in the publishing landscape – a place where editors, anthologists, readers, and writers consistently come to discover exceptional work by women. In the process, we hope to show that work by women is worthy of the same consideration, critical review, respect, and canonization as work by men.
We thank you infinitely for your support!
Risks and challenges
For three years, we've been putting out regular features, essays, and reviews through the efforts of a small core team of volunteer editors. We've transitioned to an online submissions system; read thousands of submissions for our first nonfiction contest; and collaborated on projects including an initial print edition, our Women We Read This Week column, and our Unlisted List.
We're confident that we can take on the increased volume of submissions we hope will come with funding, that we can develop and collaborate on new projects as our reach expands, and that we can maintain a consistent editorial schedule of high-quality writing.
We're also confident that as Vela features and funds the work of more women writers, both the magazine and the writers will achieve wider recognition. This will open up doors to future funding possibilities.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter