They said we couldn't do it. By "they" I mean everybody in the entire universe, but especially our families, our colleagues and, well, each other. We said it to each other sometimes. We said it while crying or while screaming or sometimes both. We said it mostly in the beginning, and less and less over the years, and now we never have to say it at all.
I never meant it, though. I knew we could do it. I wrote in my journal 'we can do this' over and over again. I know sometimes I was the only one who still believed we could do it, and sometimes it was just me and Laneia, alone on our little raft of "believing we could do it," eating pita chips and watching the boats zip by.
Alexandra: I seriously think I might cry. I just had a moment.
All the facebook posts. The things our friends are saying when they post the campaign... It's overwhelming me and I felt like crying.
Riese: alex vega!
you never cry!
this is crazy
you should cry!
you deserve it
look what we made!
Alexandra: These people are so invested. It means so much.
Riese: i feel like they never cease to amaze me
Alexandra: i can't imagine how you feel.
all of this. it's crazy.
I finally believe i can do this full time and want to
Alexandra: And like, Taylor's post on facebook about the campaign hit hard because the thing she said about us having to figure this shit out as we went along... and like, how fucking hard that was. And that I couldnt see where I (or we) were going, but here we are trucking along happily.
Riese: it was so hard!
Alexandra: all the internal/secret breakdowns I had trying to figure out media kits, and advertising and what CPM fucking meant for the 8th time and well, I can look back and be like I overcame that and figured some shit out!
Riese: i know, it's crazy, like to think back on it
because the reason we kept going was because we/i felt right now was possible
but it was so hard and frustrating!
but now like
we figured it out
Riese: it just took time
Alexandra: I think we knew it was there... somewhere... but it was still so hard to see. or believe.
Riese: i'm proud of you
the future is bright
Alexandra: I'm proud of you too.
NOW WE'VE HIT $100,000!
Back in April 2011 when we did a mini-fundraiser and raised $20,000 in ten days, you were buying us time to figure out what to do next, to figure out how to turn money into more money. Things were very different then — we were still epically short-staffed, for starters, and Laneia and I were the only ones getting paid.
This time I already know how to turn money into more money and it's such a thrilling feeling! It's better than ice cream! We've got so much planned for the future and so many new initiatives to rock your socks off, and I can actually start putting together a budget for paying even more writers.
Huge change won't happen next week because camp is next week and we'll have a lot of perks to fulfill upon returning, but it will happen soon and we are so excited about the future and little things are already changing. Even the last few weeks have been different — due to a Murphy's-Law-enabled timing situation, my girlfriend and I had to find and move into a new apartment by September 1st, which is a lot to do on top of camp prep and my 80-hours-a-week job at Autostraddle and writing endless Real L Word recaps! But I was able to pay Carmen "Broke as F*ck" Rios to take over camp emailing, Laura to take over camp transportation, Bren to take over merch shipping and Rachel/Laneia/Laura to take over a lot of the day-to-day editing and we hired these new amazing writers and therefore I managed to both move and sleep at least five hours a night last week! On a really personal level, I'm just enormously excited that in October I'm gonna be able to see my family in Ohio for the first time in over three years — I used to see them a few times a year, but that all stopped when Autostraddle started. It's not just about the plane ticket, it's also that now I have the staff who can run the website without me when I'm wi-fi free in the cornfields of Reeseville, Ohio, population 63. So I want to thank you for that.
You hear me talking about money all the time, though, and about what the site needs and how we can get it and what we're gonna do with it. But you don't usually hear from the other team members and I thought that today, as we approach the final 24 hours of this campaign, it'd be a good time for some lesbian executive realness from some of the many crazy motherfuckers who make this shit happen.
intern // october 2009
writer // july 2010
senior writer // october 2010
associate editor // february 2011
senior editor // june 2011 - present
Before the fundraising push hit $80,000, I made between $4 and $5/hr as Senior Editor at Autostraddle. My "day job" was and still is as a graduate student and instructor of freshman composition, which pays $11,300 a year. (Not per semester. Per year.) I don't get paychecks from my day job over the summer, and so I babysat and took odd jobs (pouring beer and wine at a weird open-air community mixer thing! editing the memoirs of the wealthy elderly!) to pay my rent. Figuring out grocery shopping, both in terms of time and money, frequently seemed totally impossible. And now that we've managed to raise over $80,000, with some incredible person donating $1000 at once to push us over the edge? I know that I can go home to see my mother and brother for Thanksgiving, because I think I can afford the plane ticket. My working single mom with plenty of debt of her own asked if she thought I needed help to buy it, and I was able to tell her that I didn't think I did. I can afford to fix the broken windshield wiper and AC in my car, which haven't been working since May. I had set a goal for myself to try to pay down $500 worth of my unsubsidized student loans this summer, the ones that are still collecting insane interest even though I'm in school and can defer them. Last month I had resigned myself to not meeting this goal; now I think I might be able to pull it off.
I love my job, and the people that I work for and with, so, so much. When I even think about the possibility of not being able to do this work, I get physically uncomfortable and feel my eyes water and I want to make a drink. We try not to talk about it that much, but there have been several moments where we really thought we might not get to keep doing this, that we might have to call it a good run and go back to what we were before, whether that was temping or bagging groceries or trying to coax some thoughts about Maya Angelou out of college freshmen. Those moments were some of the saddest and scariest in my life. And more than anything, what this fundraising experience has done for me and for the website is show is that that isn't the case. Whatever else happens, we've built a community of people that takes care of its own; we take care of each other. And now I feel so happy and lucky and confident about the fact that we can continue to make a space for people to take care of each other. We can afford to make more camperships for people trapped in unhealthy communities who need help, we can afford to make a website that actually works, and we can feed ourselves and also buy garbage bags, which is more important to the continuance of this website than you might think.
design director // march 2009 - present
The success of our redesign campaign has been extremely validating. I went home to my family recently and I was receiving "congratulations" on all sides... family, friends, and even long lost college friends knew of it and were congratulating me on the success. They were surprised, I think, that our readers put their money on the table for us like that. That our readers need us as much as we need them. They were as surprised as I was. And I bragged about how awesome our community is. This campaign changed how I felt about what we started, you see because when you start something — a new idea, a business, a shot in the dark — you have to talk about it like it's real, like it's a thing that's going to succeed even though you're not so sure of that yourself. This campaign means that I get to finally work for pay for a website I helped start, an effort that required a year and a half of free full-time work. This campaign is so validating we need to come up with a new word for "really super incredibly validating".
intern // july 2011
editorial assistant // may 2012 - present
The amazing support of this campaign has allowed Riese to pay me to handle merch. I would totes do merch for free, but the monetary compensation makes my girlfriend tolerant of the shirts, totes, zines and stickers occupying 97% of our apartment and still willing to sleep with me. This benefits the readers because Riese doesn't have to deal with merch and is free to write interesting things for their eyeballs to absorb!
intern // may 2009
contributing editor // may 2011
associate editor // march 2012 - present
Ooooh, the money helps like woah. I'm moving across the big bad ocean later this month and the fact that I get paid as an editor means that I will be able to keep some of my friends and the things I love when I move. If I hadn't been promoted, I would've had to drop my contributing editor job at Autostraddle and spent my time finding some kind of semi-legal side gig to supplement my pretty tiny government income in España. Over the past couple of months, my extra set of eyes and hands means that, between the four of us, we've finally had the resources to bring on approximately 93 new writers and interns with Very Special Knowledge on everything from sex to Israel. And who doesn't want more of that?
writer // march 2009
associate editor // november 2009
executive editor // january 2010 - present
I've gotten used to making lots of personal sacrifices so that my decision to work at Autostraddle, which is a low-income decision, wouldn't negatively affect my two sons. For example, I haven't had someone cut my hair in almost three years — which is fine, and not a big deal, because it just seemed like an obscene amount of money to spend on strictly myself, so I didn't. There are other things too, like clothes — how could I justify spending money on pants that only I would ever wear? But that's not the point because what's important to me is the two shorties and you guys, and this. Not haircuts or jeans. We all have to prioritize and sacrifice, this isn't a unique situation.
So obviously on Monday when I lost my shit and started crying in front of this stupid mirror because I was so tired of feeling sad about my hair, I felt even worse when I reminded myself what a terrible brat I was being for even thinking about my dumb hair, much less crying about it. So I stopped. But then I did some math and for the first time in longer than I care to recount, I realized that I could pay for a haircut without it screwing anyone else over. A couple of days later I booked a hair appointment with someone named Bonnie.
So it's small but it's huge. It's being able to get delivery when I've had too many nights of emails and edits and tonight I just want to look my kids' faces for some minutes or even hours between emails, instead of spending two hours preparing food to feed their faces. Or it's a haircut.
It's also big things that you have to make yourself believe that you deserve -- like this new Macbook I'm typing on that Riese decided I needed after we hit $60k. I'd bought a netbook a few years ago — my first large electronic purchase of my life — because I decided that if I was going to work online, I should probably have a computer that actually worked and that I didn't have to share. It was the most selfish $450 I'd ever spent. So anyway imagine my terrible crushing guilt when this zippy little netbook stopped being so fast, started overheating and was actually small enough that I eventually required glasses (the second most selfish purchase of my short life) in order to read things on it. But this isn't a pity party! I'm sharing this to say that this Mac kicks that netbook's ass. Turning on my computer isn't a 10 minute-long process. I can have multiple programs running at once! I can edit a photo and insert it into a post while my coffee's still hot.
I can do this job.
You got us to $100,000, which means Alex is getting a tattoo of tinkerbell on her ass, we're getting an ideascale account, and you're getting a crazy awesome star-studded music video event! It also means everybody here is really fantastic and awesome.
If we make $110,000, there are queer girl city guides in your future, and if we hit $120,000, we'll make Lesbian Literary Month happen which I'm personally really pumped about. I mean these could be 24 really transformative hours. (Here's that link again!)
But regardless -- thank you. Thank you thank you thank you thank you forever. This is the best job ever, we are so blessed and so committed to keeping this ship running without any corporate involvement. It's still your space, it's our space, and we'll do everything we can to make sure that never changes.