To do some things, Emily Hancock thinks, a woman’s got to have moxie.
Hancock does, in part, mean “Moxie,” the Berkeley-based magazine of which she is editor and publisher. But aside from reading the magazine, she means a woman has got to have grit.
The word “moxie” once referred to a kind of medicine.
“It tasted terrible,” Hancock said.
“Now that the word moxie has come to stand for courage, guts and daring, people speculate that you had to have moxie to drink it.”
One might say, then, that “Moxie” is nectar for women wanting, with Thoreau, “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
Produced out of the upstairs loft of Hancock’s north Berkeley home, its first print issue came out in April 1998.
It has since become primarily an online magazine (www.moxiemag.com), registering almost 16,000 hits per week, Hancock said.
“We’ve been featured now in Writer’s Market as one of the best magazines in print,” Hancock said. “And in Writer’s Digest, as one of the 50 best Web sites for authors.”
Hancock began to sense the need for a magazine like “Moxie” while doing research for her book, “The Girl Within.” Interviewing young women on college campuses across the country, she said she became alarmed at the number of women who confessed they weren’t discussing any of their most pressing questions with their peers: career, marriage and having children.
“I said, ‘How are you figuring these things out?’ They would reply, ‘Oh you know, we pick up Cosmo.’ And all we get there, is how to play into the hands of a man,” she said.
“So it just seemed like there needed to be an alternative magazine that would help people figure out how to make a life that works,” she said.
People need moxie to probe themselves for answers to the most overwhelming life questions.
In short, it hasn’t been easy. Hancock and her brainchild have had a bit more than their share of setbacks.
First, groomed with glossy pages, “Moxie” sought a large-scale publisher to share some of its financial burden, and no suitor materialized. Then, when the magazine held its grand, promotional event in April 2000 to bring together all its present and potential advertisers, the guest speaker insulted them all. Advertisers casually stepped out and did not return.
Most recently, “Moxie” lost all the information it had stored about its readers and writers – its devoted progeny – when its hard-drive collapsed.
Hancock admits she would love to focus solely on the magazine’s content and not worry about the publishing logistics.
“I never have wanted to be a publisher, and I still don’t,” she said.
“I thought that ‘Moxie’ needed a lot of muscle from a big company that could give it proper artwork, proper distribution, publicity. That kind of thing.”
Of course, Hancock also understands that “Moxie” might not be what it is if a corporate publisher had bought in.
“Moxie really is an alternative magazine,” Hancock said.
“It’s not a mainstream magazine. It doesn’t have advertising anymore, it’s not glossy, and it’s full of first person accounts, which I always intended.”
Hancock forwards the cause of first-person narration with reason.
“It’s the subtlest level of a self-help vehicle, because people read other people’s accounts and they think about themselves,” she said.
“They think about themselves instead of being given ten tips on how to do all those things that Cosmo tells us how to do.”
James Schinnerer, handler of the magazine’s web work along with other editorial duties, sees the varied viewpoints as part of what makes “Moxie” deserving of its name.
“You get a lot of diversity of opinion,” he said.
“ ‘Moxie’ is more the forum for all the views than for one view. Some pieces you won’t agree with, and then you find another piece that’s just like your opinion.”
And the “Moxie” identity has been affected not only by the directness and diversity of its voice, but also by where it can be heard – its medium. People will find that “Moxie” online is not the same as “Moxie” in print.
“There are just certain things that work better in print, and certain things that work better online,” Hancock said.
“If it’s online it better be shorter.
“Also, there are certain things I would put online that I wouldn’t put in print because they were too brash to be in print. If it’s online you can say, ‘Ew, I don’t want to read this,’ and go somewhere else with the click of a mouse.”
This flexibility gives “Moxie” online a different look and feel than the print version.
It’s presently open to online advertisers and sponsors, while the printed version is less like a magazine and more like a literary journal, Hancock said.
Despite its setbacks, “Moxie” endures.
It endures, perhaps even as a result of them. And its persistence seems, in a way, part of the point:
In a world in which we constantly come up with newer and better ways to divert ourselves from life’s more daunting problems, only someone with intense commitment will get around to grappling with the questions Cosmo doesn’t answer.
It’s these people to whom Moxie speaks.
“Originally ‘Moxie’ was aimed at people who were just getting out of college and trying to put together lives that work. But women are always processing their lives,” Hancock said.
“No matter how old they are, they’re still figuring out the same things. Or their circumstances change and they have to figure it all out again.”