Please welcome to the Editor’s Q&A corner the Executive Editors of Motherwell, Randi Olin and Lauren Apfel. We spoke with Randi and Lauren in a June 2016 podcast, and our discussion today includes updates on submissions, accomplishments since launching, and what’s coming next for Motherwell.
Q: I interviewed Motherwell in June of 2016 on my podcast. At that time you had recently launched. Tell us about Motherwell and how things have been going since then.
A: Things have been going very well! We are gaining momentum, all the while keeping
true to our vision for the site: which is to produce the best, most evocative and provocative content on modern-day parenting.
Q: I recently read that one of your pieces had been picked up by Narratively, a very well respected site publishing narrative nonfiction. Tell us about that.
A: Yes, that was a piece by Christie Tate about parenting in the wake of PTSD. Narratively is a site that focuses on ‘human stories, boldly told’ and Christie’s essay was a great fit with their ethos. We admire Narratively hugely as a publication and are excited about our new partnership with them. We are also in the process of collaborating with other like-minded sites.
Q: How many pieces are you publishing each week?
A: Right now, it’s two to three pieces a week.
Q: Can you describe the type of content you are looking for and give us some examples?
A: We are looking for bold, crisp, thought-provoking perspectives on a particular slice of the parenting experience. We run four categories of writing—personal essays, opinion pieces, dialogues, and dilemmas—but the common denominator is that, whichever type of piece you are submitting, the take must be fresh and incisive. Please consider our word count carefully!
A few examples of recent pieces that are ‘very Motherwell’:
The boring tragedies of parenthood by Catherine Newman
This is a personal essay that has a bit of everything—wit, depth, poignancy—and incredibly strong writing throughout. It moves seamlessly from the mundane to the profound, from the personal to the general.
I don’t want my son to read in kindergarten by Jessica Smock
This opinion piece is on a universal topic, but the author made it her own by combining her unique perspective as a mother with her academic training in education and developmental policy. It is the best kind of weaving of anecdote and analysis.
Explain this tutoring thing to me, please by Francie Arenson Dickman
This is a great example of what we call a ‘perspective’ piece, one of our favorite types of essays at Motherwell, a sort of cross between a personal essay and an op-ed. It’s a first-person take on a relevant topic, but it probes the issue and without necessarily coming down on one side or the other.
Q: If someone reading has something to submit, what are their next steps?
A: We use Submittable, which you can access here. Both of us read—and discuss—every single submission and we attempt to be very timely in our response. You will hear back from us within two weeks, but usually it’s sooner than that. If there is a delay, it often means we are letting your piece marinate. Occasionally, if the theme of an essay speaks to us but the existing presentation doesn’t quite work, we will email a writer with some suggestions and give them the opportunity to resubmit.
Q: Do you pay contributors?
A: Yes, we pay $50/piece. It is a number one priority for us to compensate our writers. And yet, we are a small, start-up publication and the amount we can currently pay reflects that reality.
Q: Do you accept previously published work?
A: No, original work only.
Q: Where is your headquarters, and do you accept work from international writers?
A: We have no headquarters as such, as we straddle two continents: Randi is in Connecticut and Lauren is in Glasgow, Scotland. In this sense, we are a truly modern partnership. We have taken essays from international writers, but right now payment is in US Dollars.
Q: What are your expectations as far as how you would like writers to promote their writing?
A: When a piece goes live on Motherwell, we let our writers know how we will be promoting it across our own social media channels—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—as well as in our Newsletter, and we offer some recommendations about how best to coordinate with us in order to get the most eyes on the piece. We take so much pride in the essays we publish and we want them to be seen, enjoyed, and digested by as many people as possible, but, as two introverts, we also recognize that everybody has different ideas about self-promotion. We encourage our authors to engage with comments, to the extent possible. We love discourse!
Q: As far as rights go, are contributors able to republish something you have published after they have published it on your site?
A: The writer retains full copyrights, but we do have stipulations in our contract about
how the work can appear on other sites, in the first three months and thereafter, and we do request that all republication inquiries be directed back to us. We want our writers to get the most out of publishing on Motherwell and to meet their own goals, so we do our best to balance everybody’s interests.
Q: What’s next for Motherwell?
A: We have two new exciting ventures in store. The first is our recently launched editorial services. We are tireless editors at Motherwell and we are now offering our skills, through an easy and efficient email consultation, to anybody who is interested in making their writing the best it can be. This is for parenting-related pieces, but also personal essays on any theme, as well as application essays, proposals, and manuscripts.
The second is a project we were absolutely thrilled to undertake: a collaboration with acclaimed author Peggy Orenstein. In October, we published a week-long essay series in conjunction with the UK launch of Girls & Sex, which included an original essay by Peggy herself. We are planning in the future to run similar promotional series as a way to showcase new and noteworthy parenting-themed books and media.