Welcome to Artemis. As editor and founder of Artemis, I began my journey back in 1977, when I was hired to be Director of the Women’s Resource Center in the Roanoke, Virginia. I had a vision of the healing possibilities of art and was assured that I could incorporate my love of art and photography into the goals of helping our clients.
The origin of Artemis is rooted in social activism. I was fortunate to have wonderful visionaries in my life at that time who encouraged me to incorporate art into the activities at the center. I encouraged women in the group to express themselves through poetry and other art genres as a therapeutic tool. That experience and those writings inspired the creation of Artemis Journal.
For the first few years, Artemis showcased the work of women from this group and in 1979 we expanded our scope to include men as well. One of our first men to associate with our cause was Maurice Ferguson, now 42 years later is our Literary Editor. Here are his recollections of those early days;
“My knowledge of Artemis Journal begins with Lisa Ress and Dara Weir, two pioneers from the first year of the journal. They visited our English class in Lucas Hall at Roanoke College. They read poems from that first journal to our class and suggested that some of us consider them for future submissions. Basically, the first journal represented a compilation of writers from three areas: (1) college professors who also wrote poems and short stories, (2) students who wrote poems and short stories and (3) women from the Artemis Writer’s Workshop. All of the writers were women. They included Dara Weir, Lisa Ress, Rosanne Coggeshall, Valery Nash, Natalie Sheffler, both Hanklas and a notable student from Hollins- Vivian Teter.
Although this was my first encounter with Artemis Journal, it would not be my last. During the Winter of 1978, Paul Steinke, a Presbyterian minister, who had joined the Artemis Writer’s Workshop, sent two of my poems, “Non Sola Gratia” and “You Said You Would Not Kill Again” to Valery Nash. Barbara Todd had turned the workshop over to Valery Nash as it evolved from TAP referrals to a more and more group of writers from Hollins College and the community. Nash screened each applicant strictly upon their ability to write. Soon, Nash invited me to the group. I became the second man in the group. Paul Steinke was the first man included.
I will never forget my first workshop in the basement of the old YWCA on 1st Street SW. Despite the sounds of a piano overhead, the workshop was run flawlessly by Ms. Nash with the help of some of Hollins’ best, especially, Rosanne Coggeshall and Lisa Ress. Valery Nash steered established writers and aspiring writers to produce poetry and short stories worthy of inclusion in Artemis Journal. Indeed, in those days the workshop was the springboard for the journal as Valery would accumulate from the writers the poems she wanted for the journal.
It is important to note that Carolyn Forche, one of America’s greatest poets, had given permission to include one of her poems in Artemis II. It is also important to appreciate the involvement of Hollins professors in the creation of and continuation of Artemis Journal. Over the years, the journal published 93 writers and artists who were students at Hollins and 41 professors from Hollins- 144 writers and artists.. In recent years, three of the writers from the first Artemis have come around to publish in the latest journal- these include Vivian Teter from Virginia Beach and Susan Hankla and Julia Dooley from Richmond. Without Hollins and the direction it provided, Artemis Journal would not have lasted.
The Writer’s Workshop was the key provider for Artemis Journal well into the 80s. By 1981, the workshop included three men- Paul Steinke, Maurice Ferguson and Robert Bess. I convinced Nash to move the workshop from the noisy confines of the YWCA to the first floor of Omni House, a much more peaceful setting. Here are some of the early participants in the writer’s workshop: Rosanne Coggeshall (recipient of T.S. Eliot Fellowship for her essays on T.S. Eliot), Lisa Ress, Valery Nash, Amanda Cockrell, Jeanne Larsen, Natalie Sheffler, Amanda Bullins, Edrie Bays, Judy Ayyildiz, Paul Steinke, Maurice Ferguson, Darcey Steinke, Carol Edwards, Elise Hanmmond, Robert Bess, Carol Ra, Jennifer Hollingsworth, Beth Wellington, Cheryl Spangler, and Eric Trethewey.”
Throughout our history, Artemis has presented many cultural events, school mentoring programs, poets reading their work at area universities, such as Hollins University, Roanoke College, and other venues such as the Taubman Museum of Art, Mill Mountain Theatre, and the Blue Ridge Writer’s Conference. Expanding our reach this year, Artemis collaborated with the Light Bringer Project of Los Angeles promoting a feminist Science Fiction Short Story competition, in which we received submissions from all over the world. The winner, Mindy Quigley, a Virginia writer won for her story, Equality Day which was published in Artemis and read by a professional actress at the Pasadena Litfest.
Artemis has always been a place for many contributors to debut their work. They are published side by side with national and state poet laureates, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, a T.S. Eliot recipient and numerous other notable writers. Along with many distinguished, published contributors we are especially proud of our many guest writers and artists, such as U.S. Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey, acclaimed poet, Nikki Giovanni, Beth Macy, Virginia Poet Laureate, Ron Smith, artists, Bill White, Sam Krisch, Betty Branch, Tricia Scott and last year’s guest writer, Sharyn McCrumb, whose books have been named to New York times and Los Angeles Notable Books and her moves recent book, The Unquiet Grave has received rave reviews.
Our theme for last year was “Women hold up half the sky” and we dedicated it to Marjory Stoneman Douglas, an early suffragette, journalist, civil rights activist, and passionate environmentalist. Facing these difficult times where school mass shootings continue, there seems to be no hope. The the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are offering us hope through their resilience and political action.
We wish to thank the Roanoke Arts Commission for their continued backing of our vision and the Roanoke Taubman Museum for co-sponsoring our annual launch of Artemis. We are also grateful to Hollins University for archiving all 25 of our published journals in their special collections of their library and the many fine artists and writers who have contributed to Artemis.
The Editors and I look forward to next year’s Artemis 2020. Our launch will take place on June 7th at the Taubman Museum of Art and present a special program “Poetry in Motion” with the Southwest Virginia Ballet. Now more than ever before, we need to continue celebrating the work of all the artists and writers that have helped to showcase the beauty and power of art in Artemis!
Jeri Rogers, Editor and Founder
Maurice Ferguson, Literary Editor
Virginia Lepley, Art Editor
Jonathan Rogers, Treasure and Legal Advisor
Jane Goette, Associate Editor
Matt Dhillon, Associate Poetry & Layout Editor
Donnie Secreast, Editor’s Assistant
Crystal Founds, Social Media Editor
Jennifer Schwartz, Intern