Ten years ago, I opened Facing North to the diverse community loosely group as New Age/ Pagan/ Spiritual. While I knew I never wanted to see the project come to an end, I am still amazed -- and a little awed -- that so much time has passed.
Facing North is something of a passion project for me. Other sites have been around longer (notably the now-deceased Mike Gleason's collection and Spiral Nature), and several other sites have begun regular updates; but when we began most reviews were found in various print publications. This meant that not everything could be reviewed, and months could go by before readers could get advice on their next purchases. So a monthly update was a rarity, and we were one of the few to make it happen.
Ten items a month. Ten years. That is a lot of opinion shared with our readers.
Let me part the curtain a little bit and give you a glimpse into how we do things at Facing North. First of all, I say we, because except for a very short period at the very beginning, this has been a shared endeavor between my Review Circle and I. The Review Circle has been as small as three people , and as large as eleven, and our relationship is largely built on trust. I provide them with items either sent to me directly, requested by me, or requested by them. Sometimes I just send them items to review, and promise to give them their first choice the next time around. I've had reviewers promise to write for me and then disappear, taking the items with them into the unknown. I've had others go through major life changes and still get their reviews to me, albeit a little late. I've had friends turn out to be terrible reviewers, and well-meaning people turn in writing that needed to be completely re-written. Over the years I've learned a few tricks to save us all a lot of trouble while still respecting the process and our Selves.
And there is a process. Reviewers generally have a month from the time they receive an item to send me their review. I prefer longer reviews, around 500 words, but a shorter, well-written piece is always acceptable. If the reviewer needs more time, they can always let me know; I'm usually very understanding -- we're all adults and this is a volunteer position. I'd rather keep my reviewer happy than stick to an arbitrary deadline. I ask that reviews have a bit of specific formatting (publisher, copyright, etc.) with each piece, and they need to send it to me as a .txt or .doc file.
Sometimes we get an item that is going to be problematical. Perhaps it espouses a hateful, hate-filled perspective. Maybe its full of wrong information. It may have been poorly written, and essentially not edited (most likely in the case of self-published books, by the way). Possibly my reviewer just can't stand it (which is exceedingly rare). In these cases, we talk. We always try to be constructive in our opinions. This means that even if the problem is poor writing/ editing we don't attack the writer, but will (for example) instead warn the reader that the gems are buried. Or we will plainly state that the information is wrong, and cite sources to support our statement. We strive for honesty in our reviews because we owe that to our readers, even if the publisher/ author isn't thrilled. (And, yes, there are publishers who will no longer send us items for review.)
Finally, We don't accept advertising money, although doing so would allow me to pay my reviewers money, not just the item reviewed. Site and hosting fees are from my own pocket which keeps us smaller than I'd prefer, but nonetheless manageable. Everything we do is built on shared responsibility and respect. We're fundamentally a group of people doing a consistent job in a world seemingly plagued with changes.
Facing North gets about 1,000 unique visitors a month, and for that I can only thank you, Dear Reader. I have a dream of being able to offer a review of every item of interest to our community; it's an impossible dream, but a lovely one. Your feedback is how I know we're doing a good job, filling a useful role, creating value.
My crystal ball is cloudy right now -- probably due to the storms rolling through the Pacific Northwest. I know that the site will change, if only to take advantage of new technologies, but at the same time it will remain a reliable source for opinions about the items we review. I'm looking forward to writing another essay like this in 2026.
In closing, I once again must offer a loud Thank You to my reviewers: stalwart and true, gutsy and reliable, without you Facing North would not be here today.
Editor & Founder