Working with Girls

Lacey Louwagie '02

Last night I dreamed I was in the quad at St. John's. Brother Rothstein was leading the class, in which students were presenting their final projects (any creative endeavor) for critiques from their classmates.  In my dream, an 11-year-old girl suddenly marched into the room, a cherry-red electric guitar slung around her neck.  She proceeded to rock out the class.  Dead silence followed her performance.  When Brother Rothstein finally asked for critiques, one young man raised his hand and said, "Well, I'm not sure where to start. I'm not really used to working with girls."  And my first thought was, "Honey, you have no idea what you're missing."

I've been at New Moon magazine for 4 years-longer than I was at St. Ben's.  But what I learned at St. Ben's is definitely still with me every day-from using 6 different colored highlighters to organize a murky and disjointed article (nod to Jane Opitz and the wonderful folks at the Writing Center), to challenging girls to speak their deepest truth (nod to Mara Faulkner's writing essays class), to looking at everything from a feminist perspective and keeping my eyes wide open to the broader world (thanks Christina Tourino and Madhu Mitra).  But nothing except my memories, compassion, and a lot of humility fully prepared me for working with girls.

As an editor at New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams, the creativity, confusion, pain, joy, and enthusiasm of adolescent girls blesses me every day.  I read their poetry, fiction, and articles, respond to their letters, hang their drawings on my cubicle walls, give them the news that we're publishing their work, hire them for writing assignments, walk them through the joys of revising, urge them to keep writing after the pain of rejection, lead them in writing workshops, and facilitate meetings of New Moon's Girls Editorial Board-comprised of 16 members ranging in age from 8 - 14.

We have meetings with our Girls Editorial Board every other Sunday.  The meetings last two and a half hours, during which time the girls choose New Moon's cover art, vote on story ideas, choose which letters, stories, drawings, and poems to print, and edit articles by both girl and adult contributors.  Between meetings, we adult editors do the best we can to implement the girls' vision in the day-to-day production of the magazine. 

Corny as it sounds (and why does corny get such a bad rap, anyway?), I feel as if everything in my life has led me to this place: from my love affair with Duluth to the time I spent waffling between whether I wanted to go into editing, counseling, or teaching (my current position is a combination of all three) to my passion for feminist issues.  Because yes, New Moon IS a feminist magazine for kids.

There's still so much stigma surrounding the word 'feminist' that we field countless calls from parents and grandparents wondering exactly what it means that we're a feminist magazine: "Does this mean you'll tell my little girl she can't be a stay-at-home mom?"  (No.)  "Does New Moon hate boys?"  (No.)  "What is your political agenda?"  (Well, let's talk about it.)  The New Moon definition of feminism is incredibly simple and incredibly radical.  In a nutshell, we believe girls are important.  We believe the world should treat them like they matter.  We believe girls have something to say.  All you have to do is flip open a copy of New Moon to see that we're right.  In keeping with our mission of bringing girls voices to the world, I'm one of only three adult editors on staff.  The other 16 editors are the Girls Editorial Board.  Girls write at least 80% of the contents of New Moon, a figure which we guard ferociously-much to the chagrin of adult free-lancers trying to break into this territory.  The point of all this is to give girls real power in the creation of a product that serves them.  New Moon was the first, and is still one of the only, kids' magazines that consults actual kids for the content.  We also don't accept advertising, which means that we're accountable to no one except our subscribers-our girls.  So essentially, the filters that usually exist between girls and the world are challenged and broken down at New Moon.  New Moon is not a place where adults tell girls what they should be (again, also much to the chagrin of many adults who are loath to give up their position of authority).  It is a place where girls tell the world who they are

New Moon operates under a concept called "Share the Power," meaning that adults and girls work together toward the final goal-the production of a stellar, revolutionary magazine for girls.  The idea behind Share the Power is that girls and adults have separate, but equally important, knowledge to contribute to the final product.  The adults know a thing or two about running press checks, hiring artists, and fielding phone calls.  But the girls are experts on being girls.  And that's why one of the first rules of Share the Power is "Talking comes first for girls, and listening comes first for adults."

New Moon acknowledges that there's more to being a girl than makeup, diets, and boyfriends, and I have every confidence that these girls will change the world.  They've already changed mine.

Note: To learn more about New Moon, visit our website at www.newmoon.org or take a peek at our day-to-day thoughts at our blog (http://newmoonnews.blogspot.com).  Because we're completely subscriber-supported, please consider subscribing for a girl in your life or donating a subscription to a library.