Kim Wells has been publishing women’s writing since 1998, when she ran the webzine Women Writers, a site she had to code and design herself while taking care of her twins. “I couldn’t keep up, so we went on semi-permanent hiatus,” she told me during our interview, but she didn’t stay away from the publishing world for long, having recently founded and published volume one of Mosaics: A Collection of Independent Women.
“You could do creative things in places other than websites. It was like another Gutenberg Revolution,” Wells said about the Indie Publishing advancements. Wells explained that not only was she able to publish pieces online as she had in the past, she could also use venues such as Amazon, which would allow her to make a profit. “I didn’t want the profit to go to just me,” she said, “I started looking around for feminist charities and realized one that I have supported for a long time, the Pixel Project, would be perfect, and the idea [for Mosaics] was born.”
P.K. Tyler, Well’s friend and fellow author, joined Wells as the anthology’s producer. She helped curate the collection, and both women read each of the 500 submissions. “We initially only had planned an anthology of 20 spots. Once I saw the amazing quality and number, we expanded it to the second volume and 40,” said Wells, who was pleasantly surprised by the volume of the submissions, having expected to only receive submissions from friends.
Volume one and two feature exclusively women writers and artists, a choice they made to give the reality of female experience an outlet. The stories in volume one focus on intersectionality, and not just the voice of middle and upper class white women, as feminism sometimes has in the past, and often still does today. Wells said, “feminism was pretty much a well-off white woman’s game. Suffragettes, for example, were mostly pretty wealthy. Other women didn’t have time or energy; they had to work for a living. That means that sometimes that advocacy has been centered on issues those kinds of women found important.”
She explained that intersectionality makes an effort to include the stories of all women, men and gender-fluid individuals, which is why the third volume will focus on male and gender-fluid allies. If the first two volumes are successful, she said she hopes to publish several volumes dedicated to ally voices. Tyler said, “I’d like to see our diversity grow and include more voices of trans and non-binary individuals in the conversation.”
The cover art of volume one and two, images of faces made from several women of various ethnicities and ages, was made by Tyler with the intersectional approach in mind. “While you may never see someone who looks like this in real life, the composite created becomes both recognizable and familiar while incorporating a sense of ‘other’,” Tyler said.
The content and themes of the collection are as diverse as the women who wrote them. There are literary fiction pieces, science fiction pieces, fantasy pieces, pieces about heroes, monsters and goddesses, but each story has one thing in common with the last, well-developed characters.
Contributing author Zen DiPietro, whose story Starting Over will be published in volume two, says that she grew up wanting to see female characters sword fighting, doing ninja flips and solving crimes, but instead, most female characters were girlfriends, babysitters or someone who needed saving. She went on to say, “I want my female protagonists to have that iron in her backbone. I want her to know who she is and what she wants, and not let others tell her she can’t have it.”
She searched for these characters her entire life, and when she didn’t come across a website that helped direct readers to feminist friendly, gender-equal books, she created her own; WomenofBadassery.com
Other tropes DiPietro dislikes, tropes you may want to avoid if you plan on submitting to future volumes of Mosaics, include using sexual assault as either a rallying point for a female character or an opportunity for a male character to rescue the assaulted female. She states, “Sexual assault is just too personal and too real to use in this blasé fashion. I’d like to see it go away completely as a plot device. Everything that happens to men in the world also happens to women, and you don’t see every third or fourth book about men involving sexual assault. We need to see those other stories, the ones we haven’t seen before. The ones that make us feel as strong as we know we are.”
Wells made sure she paid accepted contributors on the principle of feminism being real work, work that deserves to be paid for. With her previous zine, she did not have the opportunity to pay writers, but she said that since the advancement of the Indie Publishing movement, the new publishing venues make it easier to earn money. “If you’re earning money, you need to be paying for the art,” she said. “Virginia Woolf very famously said that a woman writer needs 500 pounds and a room of one’s own to be a writer. What that essentially meant was to be creative, any artist needs financial support and some level of quiet, focused privacy. If I’m not paying women writers for their work, I am betraying everything I believe about feminist advocacy.”
Profits will also be donated to the Pixel Project, a group who aim to end violence against women through education and awareness. The project has over fifty volunteers, spread out between four different continents. Their flagship project was The Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal Campaign, which focused on the necessity of involving men in the fight against domestic violence.
The anthology also has a very active social media component, with over 550 members on their Facebook group, a place where contributors, readers and feminists can share their work, articles that interest them, and start discussions. “Even when we disagree, we are respectful of each other’s voices,” said Wells. “There isn’t shouting down and posturing that happens so often on controversial topics. We can agree to disagree, hopefully, and all of us learn from each other.”
Mosaics: A Collection of Independent Women, Volume one, which was published on International Woman’s Day 2016, is available for purchase on Amazon. The second volume will go to print in May.
You can also follow the anthology on Twitter @FeministMosaics or at their base website.