Over the last year, I have been involved in a literary adventure as a regular contributor to Moon Journal, a feminist literary magazine that has existed in the Chicago area for more than 10 years.
I went to the 10-year celebration. There, I met Mary Ber, the founder and editor of Moon Journal. We were very simpatico.
I invited Mary to be a guest at the poetry salon that meets regularly in my home. While chatting in the sunroom, she asked if I might want to guest edit Moon Journal. That seemed like a fun proposition, so I said, Yes. We agreed on a theme: Community, in all the forms it may take.
The Rockford Area Arts Council, through the City of Rockford and the Illinois Arts Council, provided a City Arts Grant for an individual artist that enabled me to complete the project as editor. I am very grateful for that boost.
For several months, I used my national contacts, PoetsWest, Washington Poets Association, Illinois Poetry Society, International Womens Writers Guild, Womanspace and the Moon Journal community itself. Submissions came in from all around the country. Memoirs, essays, short stories and poetry about various interpretations of community poured in.
Nature, Native American spirituality, global concerns, Hurricane Katrina, political issues, family, community dysfunction and other interpretations of community informed the selections.
I was pleased so many Rockford women also submitted, and many were chosen for publication.
About halfway through the process, I received a call from Mary Ber with a big surprise: Would I like to take over the journal as editor-in-chief? She explained she was retiring to Tucson, Ariz., but wanted the Journal to stay in Illinois. We talked a long while, and finally I did say, Yes. However, we decided she would continue producing the individual chapbooks that come out of Moon Journal Press.
The rest of the process was not without its glitches. I am not a wiz on computers, so I needed help with the technical part of the process. Without Charles Schwartz of Highland Park and Ron Holm of Rockford, the merging, scanning and general set-up would never have happened.
There were moments when I wondered if I had made a mistake in taking on this adventure and began to look for a co-editor who could share in the process. Fortunately, I found a wonderful co-editor whose forté is short prose and computers.
Beth Palm, a Rockford native and writer of devotions, is finishing her studies to be a spiritual director, and I like to think she brings those energies to Moon Journal.
To my delight, subscriptions have been steadily growing. In fact, we are going to run out of journals on this edition. I have been surprised at how many contributors want several copies for friends and family.
I have also been surprised at how many have committed to the Barnes & Noble reading we will have for Moon Journal. Readers are coming from Montana, Peoria, Chicago, the burbs, as well as Rockford.
Next week, I will provide a review of the reading and reception as well as the Burning Word Festival I recently attended in Whidbey Island, Wash.
Meantime, following is another community event you need to know about:
Rock River Poetry/Prose Contest$100 prize for poetry and prose, honorable mentions published in The Rock River Times. Send one to five poems or one to three short prose (story, essay, memoir), SASE, cover sheet, by June 1 to: Rock River Poetry/Prose Contest, The Rock River Times, 128 N. Church St., Rockford, IL 61101.
Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet who has written several books of poetry and formerly wrote a column called The Writers Garret for this newspaper.
From the May 17-23, 2006, issue