Barn Raising

by Keira Havens September 09, 2013

Like many of Ruminate’s staff and contributors, I have a regular 9 to 5 that pays the bills. In my case, that involves pipettes and scientific equipment cloistered in windowless rooms.

I didn’t get paid last month. Or the month before that.

It’s just a glitch, and I know it will be fixed, but it’s made the last month and a half especially uncomfortable when paired with some unexpected financial drains. Ruminate is a breath of fresh air in a life otherwise occupied by statistics and scientific rigor, but it is a part-time interest, not an occupation.

My part-time interest in the welfare of the magazine is, unfortunately, not uncommon. Very few magazines can afford to pay full time staff, and even graduate student stipends are difficult to come by. If we were able to pay our editor-in-chief and managing editors legitimate salaries, we would be unstoppable. As it is, literary magazines close their doors every year: burnt-out editors, dwindling university funds, the shrinking market for print, the reasons are endless. But most of those reasons have to do with money, or more specifically, the lack of it.

The past few weeks have been shocking for the Christian literary magazine community. Image Journal, 24 years old with thousands of subscribers, suddenly found itself 30K+ short due to some unscrupulous merchants. Books and Culture, launched in 1995 and a cornerstone of the Christian literary intellectual scene, was facing a shortfall of 110K and the possibility of closing its doors.

We’re proud to say that our community has rallied. Image Journal raised over $30,000 in a matter of days. Books and Culture has overcome their structural deficit and secured new institutional contributions moving forward. Ruminate does not face either unscrupulous merchants or the loss of significant donors. In fact, we have been growing, albeit slowly. But we, like so many other literary organizations, cannot pay our contributors more than a token compensation, and we certainly cannot pay our editors what they are worth. Our structural deficit rests on the backs of our volunteers rather than our budget. We cannot survive this way.

Art and money have always been uneasy companions. There is something romantic about the idea of a starving artist, the all-consuming nature of art, and exalting the act of creation as something freed from earthly weights. Turning its face from bread, water, money, the wordsmith and artist approach the divine with their craft.

And there is something a bit grotesque about giving a piece of your soul in exchange for money. But let’s face it, the soul is housed in the body. Artists and writers need to eat and stay warm through the winter. Magazines need to print. Blogs need to pay the electricity bill. There are costs associated with creating art, and there is a reluctance to frankly state those costs. There is instead a studied ambivalence towards the financial aspects of everything—a hatred of the idea that all this marketing and finance is necessary, and a desire to make sure we can continue creating.

Ruminate has oh-so-slowly been overcoming this reluctance to discuss money. We finally sat down and factored in all of the costs of the magazine. Even with our staff making less than minimum wage, the current subscription price does not cover the cost of making the magazine. If Ruminate is to be around in 10 years, that will have to change. We are looking for ways to improve our growth, to bring in more revenue. In short, we are starting to run this labor of love as a business.

It is a painful transition. Because we LOVE this magazine. We love your words and your works of art. We love finding the theme and curating the pages and going back and forth about the font of the pull quote. We love sharing each new issue with readers and national organizations and hearing how people are stunned by the beauty in these pages. We love watching art embrace faith and we rejoice in the way faith inspires art.

Money does not inspire us this way. But it allows us to devote our time to this beautiful thing, to foster this nebulous conversation on life, faith, and art. We cannot pay our contributors for their words and works of art, we cannot put ink to paper, we cannot mail our issues out, without it. We cannot build this on our own.

Here is my proposal: From this point on, let's not wait until a crisis hits. Let's change the culture and support these organizations from the outset, before there has been a catastrophe or a slow decline. If Ruminate is important to you, please, become a monthly donor, and give to build up rather than to save us from the brink of collapse. In return, we will shatter the finance taboo. Ask us where the money goes and who it goes to, and we will answer you without reservation.

We say this with confidence, because we believe in what we do. We believe that what we are doing is what we are meant to do. And we believe that crucial to our success is an open dialogue about money – where it comes from, what it does, and what is needed.

Thank you for building Ruminate up. We need you.

Be a part of the change and help Ruminate grow. Prepare us for another seven years. How? Give fearlessly and become a monthly donor. Challenge us to account for the funds you give & donate specifically for printing, for contributor payments, or for postage – just include it in a note with your donation. Take part in the Jubilee Art Auction: purchase a work of art and support Ruminate at the same time. These little actions add up to a stronger, more stable Ruminate for years to come.

Keira Havens
Keira Havens


Keira Havens grew up in Hawaii where she was fascinated by flowers, bugs, and the ocean. After receiving her bachelor's in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2004, she accepted a commission in the United States Air Force. She left active duty to pursue a degree in a synthetic biology laboratory and received her MS from Colorado State University in 2014. Along the way, she has volunteered and worked in nonprofit marketing and outreach. She joined Ruminate’s team in 2010 and currently serves as Ruminate's Marketing and Outreach Director.

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