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Magazine Spotlight: HerStry

The History of HerStry

HerStry is an online magazine that seeks to highlight women's voices. Started by Julia Nusbaum, HerStry has been championing women from all around the world since 2015.

Nusbaum created HerStry in her last year of Divinity School at Vanderbilt. While she was completing her education, she did a field study at Thistle Farms, and that is where her idea for HerStry was sparked.

"Thistle Farms is a social enterprise and recovery community for women who have survived trafficking, addiction and life on the streets," Nusbaum said. "One of the requirements [for her field study] was that I teach some sort of class for the women living there. I couldn't think of anything to teach. I'm not sure how I landed on the idea of teaching a creative writing class, but that's what I came up with. I'd always been a good writer, though I'd spent the last eight years in academia, so my creative writing skills were a little rusty. But I liked the idea of a new challenge."

Nusbaum created a syllabus for the class centering around poetry and short story prompts. But she soon realized that the women in the class didn't want to write those prompts; they wanted to write about what happened to them.

"They wanted to write about their experiences, tell their stories," Nusbaum said. "They lived so long without anyone listening to them or giving them a voice," she continued, citing that writing was a way for these women to find their voice and understand what happened to them.

Nusbaum wrote with the women, saying she learned a lot about herself as well. "My life experiences weren't like theirs, but they were valid in their own way. So I started thinking that if these women wanted a space to tell their stories...maybe other women did too."

After creating the website, HerStry took off. "I started HerStry (at the time HerStory) as a Wordpress blog and begged friends to write for me. And then I just went crazy hard on social media and soon people started emailing me their stories."

Since then, HerStry has continued to grow. "We changed web platforms, we started using Submittable, we started paying writers, we started hosting workshops and writing groups. And now we're hosting a virtual conference."

Submitting to HerStry

When asked about what makes a submission stand out, Nusbaum said the submission needs to pull her into the story.

"I don't just want to be told what happened, I want to see, feel, and taste what happened. I want to be transported, as cliche as that sounds," she said.

HerStry's Writing Conference

2020 was supposed to be the year HerStry held their first in-person retreat, but COVID-19 had other plans in store. So, HerStry moved their writing conference online; it will be held on January 30, 2021. Speakers include Eisa Ulen, Ann Garvin, Erin Celello, Katey Schultz, Melissa Lozada-Oliva, and Finnian Burnett.

To get the most out of your conference experience, sign up to have your current manuscript critiqued by your peers and professionals. Find more information here.

Critique Clubs

HerStry also offers Critique Clubs as well.

"Each club is six weeks long and consists of six women," said Nusbaum. "Each week three women submit ten pages to the group (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, whatever)."

During the club, the three writers get 25 minutes for their work to be critiqued by the group.

"It's such a fun way to connect with other writers from all across the country. The world, actually," said Nusbaum. "We've had writers from the US, Canada, and Jamaica so far."

Everyone in the club also gets line edits and developmental edits from Nusbaum (or whoever from HerStry is leading the group) each week and a recording of the zoom meeting so they can have everyone's notes.

Editing Services

Nusbaum also offers editing services through the site.

"As far as editing goes, we edit anything. Fiction or nonfiction. Right now, I'm the only one on our team taking clients, so I don't accept poetry because I don't think I would do it justice. We have a 3,000 word per draft limit but I'm open to taking manuscripts. It's actually my dream to edit someone's novel," said Nusbaum.

To discover more about HerStry, visit their website linked here.

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