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Understorey Magazine tells stories of Nova Scotian motherhood

Understorey Magazine is a new online publication dedicated to stories of motherhood by Nova Scotian writers and illustrated by local artists.

A project of the Second Story Women’s Centre in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, the quarterly magazine features fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction from emerging voices and established writers such as Sylvia D. Hamilton, Alice Burdick, Anna Quon, and Lorri Neilsen Glenn.

Q&Q spoke to Understorey Magazine founder and editor-in-chief Katherine J. Barrett.

How did this project come to be? I brought the project to the Second Story Women’s Centre, which was very open to it. I wanted to do this because of my own experience being rocked by motherhood in my late thirties. I had one son and 14 months later I had twins. It was a shock, but I also gained respect for mothers and motherhood that I really didn’t grasp before.

I started working as an editor at Literary Mama, which is a U.S. online magazine that’s been going since 2003. It opened my eyes to the power of writing about your experience and sharing it. Being a new mother can be quite isolating. Writing and publishing really helped me and does help a lot of other mothers. I wanted to bring that idea to Canada, particularly to Nova Scotia.

I also spent almost five years in South Africa when my kids were very small. I met women there who had been through things I couldn’t even imagine. Their stories changed my perception of womanhood and women’s issues.

How did you solicit submissions? The first issue was completely solicited, as I wanted to have something out there that people could look at before sending submissions. But I wanted to reach out into the community, too, and find women who don’t necessarily think of themselves as writers. I sent out notices and calls to women’s shelters, the Nova Institution for Women, and multicultural groups.

How many submissions did you receive? I got about 50 responses. It’s a good number because it’s pretty much all me, although I do have some people helping me with reading and the staff at the women’s centre help a lot with the administration. We also give editorial feedback for the submissions that are not accepted. That’s time consuming but I think also important.

How is the magazine funded? We just finished our first grant and got another chunk of money from the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, which will see us through the spring issue. At the moment it’s grant to grant, but we’re hoping to be up and running long enough to be eligible for some federal money.

How has response been? When the first issue was published, we had 1,000 page views in the first two days. The interest really seems to be there and I am pleasantly surprised by the feedback.

This interview has been edited and condensed.