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Anvil Turns Ten
By Kent Lewis

In October of 1996, I launched my first issue of Anvil. As is the case with most publications, writing for and producing Anvil requires motivation and discipline. Over the years, my level of commitment has wavered due to various personal and professional challenges. On more than one occasion, I've even thought about shutting it down altogether. A year ago I put all those second thoughts to rest when I was given a gift that re-ignited and forever clarified my passion for Anvil. Before I get that, a little background is in order.

There have been three evolutions of Anvil over the years. The first was a newsletter that died when I left the company at and for which I originally produced it. The second version, a monthly ezine, came into being at my new employer when the Anvil domain became available. The new company boasted 120 employees, which to me meant more writers to pull from, making for easier production and greatly improved quality.. That version lasted a mere six issues before I burned out trying to get unexpectedly reluctant coworkers to contribute.

The third and final iteration came through my next employer. This time, having learned from my mistakes, I made a deal with my boss that though my employer would sponsor it, Anvil would remain my ezine. That was in 2000, and it has run continuously since then.

I pulled contributors from a strong pool of talent comprised of coworkers, peers and friends. We concentrated on Internet-related content. When it became apparent that other well-funded publications were doing a much better job of covering the Internet than Anvil could, I modified the focus from business to lifestyle. I invited writers to explore any topic of interest to them. I hoped this switch would help me retain the interest and commitment of contributors and readers.

In 2002, a friend encouraged me to start an advisory board, as the overall quality of the publication suffered from a lack of infrastructure and process. Anvil was at that time still a one-man show with a random, and rarely consistent, group of contributors. The board offered consistency, motivation, strategy and, most importantly, editorial skills. It was at that point that I realized the reason I enjoyed Anvil was really the team. Our monthly "board" meetings were opportunities to catch up, talk movies, gossip, and for at least five minutes, plan upcoming issues.

During the halcyon days of the early part of the millennium, my best writers were contributing regularly, and our monthly meetings were truly evenings to look forward to attending. After awhile, however, many became too busy to attend or contribute. The decline in support caused me to once again reconsider the value of Anvil and my continued involvement.

I decided ultimately decided that rather that discontinue the publication, I needed to do something drastic to re-engage contributors and further evolve the publication. So, in 2003, with the help of a variety of artistic contributors, I decided it would be a good idea to take Anvil "offline" with a public event. The content for the evening's program would be created by talented writers, producers and actors and any proceeds would go to a charity. Once I identified Oregon's Start Making a Reader Today (SMART), a statewide literacy program, as the charity of choice, the event became SMART Gala.

Although the entertainment portion of the event produced by Anvil talent wasn't a smashing success, the fundraising portion was. We are now preparing for the fourth annual Get SMART Gala scheduled for September 21st at Holocene in Portland, Oregon. This year, we hope to raise $40,000 and generate 30 to 40 new volunteer readers for the in-school reading program.

Unfortunately for the ezine, the success of that first SMART Gala didn't necessarily translate into more or better content. Due to the lack of internal support from the volunteer writers, I transitioned ownership of the SMART Gala event to Anvil Media, Inc., my search engine marketing agency. While I was disappointed Anvil couldn’t make a successful go of the event, the transition has been very good for everyone involved.

In early 2005, I found myself at another emotional crossroads with Anvil: the subscriber-base was flat, the writers weren't contributing regularly, and I was running low on motivation. The big breakthrough came Memorial Day weekend when my wife, in honor of our first wedding anniversary, presented me with a very special gift: a printed and bound version of all of my Anvil contributions.

Since inception, Anvil has lived electronically, from creation, through editing and production. To see a compendium of articles bound and in print was a more moving experience than I could've ever expected, both as a writer/editor and as a husband. I realized at that point that no matter who else was involved with Anvil, it was important for me to keep writing, for my own personal and professional reasons, not to mention the one or two fans out there.

So far, 2006 has been a good year for Anvil. With renewed vigor, and a team of new writers augmenting the original team, Anvil is hitting its stride. We have a global subscriber-base, credentialed contributors, quality content and recognition in the media. Through it all, I remain committed to giving myself and other writers an opportunity to express and share ideas with others around the world. I hope you agree that it has been worth the effort.


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