Gratitude for Good Stewards

Margaret Olsen Hemming was the first friend I made when we moved to Baltimore 12 and a half years ago. We attended the same wonderful ward and discovered a shared love of Baltimore quirkiness, homemade music, and Mormon feminism. We were both pregnant with babies (her first, my last) that would be the only girls we birthed and despite the distance now, they, and we, remain soul friends. 

We took those babes to Cape Cod for the annual Exponent retreat in 2009, where I agreed to try and keep the then 35 year old publication alive outside of Boston for the first time in its history. My true-blue forever partner in crime, Emily Clyde Curtis, immediately signed up to co-edit it with me, and Margaret volunteered to lay it out.

As Emily, Margaret and I scrambled together content for our first issue, I was reaching out to every writer I knew, including Pandora Brewer, who at that time I knew as a brilliant thinker and soul-sister, but had not yet learned was also a visionary mentor. In one of our earliest conversations about the magazine, Pandora told me to start thinking then about who the next editor(s) might be, which surprised me when Emily and I still had 5 years to go. It is only in retrospect that I realize how that advice allowed me to understand myself more as a steward than a leader and helped facilitate true collaborative processes with our remarkable volunteer staff over the years. As I reflect on all of Exponent II’s history, it’s clear that the only way our largely all-volunteer organization has survived 47 years is because of this commitment to collaboration over our own leadership and the trust we offer each other as a gift in that effort.

At the same time that we were soliciting writing from everyone we knew to put our first issues together, we were also discovering incredible Mormon women artists whose work was simply too beautiful to print in black and white, and made the decision to change our quarterly publication from a “paper” to a magazine right at the moment magazines were going out of print everywhere.  While that seemed risky at the time, within a couple of years, our magazine was known as much for the saturated pages of exquisite art produced by female identifying LDS artists as it was for the thoughtful essays, poetry and fiction that had been its hallmark, largely thanks to Margaret’s tireless quest to discover and connect with new and burgeoning artists.

As Emily and I approached our retirement from editing in 2015, Margaret’s extensive knowledge, commitment and energy to take the helm made her the obvious next steward of this publication. Although I didn’t need more convincing of her wisdom, when Margaret told me that she had asked Pandora Brewer, Page Turner, Rosie Gochnour Serago, and Emily Gray to join her in leading this work, I knew Exponent II had officially reached Dream-Team status. I have read nearly every page in the Exponent II archive, and I can say without equivocation that what these soulful, brilliant, creative, and just plain GOOD people have produced in the last six years is the finest iteration of what this publication can be—it is simply a feast for the eyes and heart on every page. The countless hours, difficult decisions, relentless seeking, tweaking and refining, combined with a dedication to inclusiveness and thoughtfulness, has produced beautiful and important artifacts from a little corner of the religious world too many still believe can’t possibly exist. 

So as this dream-team passes it’s stewardship of this publication to a new and inspired team of writers and thinkers lead by Rachel Ruekert, Carol Ann Litster Young, and Sam Layco, I simply must offer praise and gratitude to everyone who has worked to keep this publication alive, to make it better, to build on a remarkable legacy and bring it more fully into the 21st century. I feel so lucky and proud to call you all friends and cannot wait to see what the next generation brings to this work.

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3 Responses

  1. EmilyCC says:

    Aimee, this is such a gift. Thank you for telling this history and honoring Margaret and her team. We are a subset of a small group, and it warms my heart to see the lasting changes and improvements Margaret’s tenure has brought to Exponent II. I feel confident in and grateful for Rachel and her team as they embark on continuing this important mission.

  2. Katie Rich says:

    I loved reading this but of Exponent history. And I love the mindset of thinking of the next editor and being mindful of a stewardship.

  3. I love hearing about the wonderful people who work so hard to bring this quarterly gift of love to our mailboxes. Thank you, all of you!

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