5 Lit Mags Focused on the Environment

I have a confession: in college, I was an environmental science minor, but I’ve never really used the environmental knowledge I gained from those courses, nor have I lived a particularly eco-friendly lifestyle. What drew me to environmental science courses was not just the plight of our planet, which I do care about despite not having the most climate-friendly habits, but the narratives embedded in our discussions of the environment- the apocalyptic scenarios, the stories of how places change over time, how ecosystems evolve and adapt. In my literary studies, I was drawn to ecocriticism, which examines the portrayal of the natural world in literature.

Eventually, I became cynical of these analyses. How would reading or writing environmental narratives change anything? I wondered. Maybe some blockbusters like The Day After Tomorrow or WALL-E, could influence the public opinion on climate change and the environment, but what would writing an essay here, or a short story there really do?

However, I remained drawn to these narratives not because they claim to create any sort of social or ecological change, but because they still fascinate me. I realized it doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. You can care about the environment and advocate for political change while also reading apocalyptic narratives or poems about the ephemeral beauty of spring. Just reading stories or poems is not enough, of course, but stories can serve as reminders of what matters to us, warning what the future may hold, and keeping us grounded in our values.

So here are 5 lit mags I’ve read recently that have an environmental focus. Some spotlight climate fiction (speculative stories about climate change) while others celebrate the Earth as it is in the present and urge us to preserve it.

Little Blue Marble

Little Blue Marble is an online literary journal that publishes articles, fiction, and poetry focused on the issue of climate change, especially speculative fiction. . One recent story from their site that stood out to me was, “Exiled Together: The Faces of Contemporary New York” by Marcus M. Tyler, which is told in journalistic style quotes by people from the future. I also enjoyed the poem, “A Child Gambles in Petroleum Country” by Deb O’Rourke which portrays the earth as blue marble gambled away in a game. The site include several resources about climate change, and they also pay their contributors. In their submission guidelines, they specify that they are looking for optimistic climate stories. They accept fiction stories up to 2000 words and reprints of up to 5000 words.

Split Rock Review

Split Rock Review publishes writing focused on place and the environment, including nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Many poems in their latest issue grapple with crises that have been all too visible in this past year: the pandemic and wildfires. Some notable poems included, “Dendrochronology” by Heidi Seaborn, which reminded me that despite all the insanity of this past year, trees have continued to grow and time has continued to pass despite it all. There is a poem about the infamous cicadas by Cathy Barber. Malaika King Albrecht wrote a fitting tribute to Wallace Stevens adapted for the age of COVID-19 with the poem, “Ways of Looking at a Mask.” And finally, I found the poem “Patriotism” by Joshua McKinney to be particularly moving. Split Rock Review will be open for submissions starting July 1. See their submission page for more specific guidelines for each genre.

Ecotone Magazine

Ecotone Magazine is run by graduate students at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and publishes place-based writing. They accept both poetry and prose, and will next open to submissions to the general public in September. They will also have an open submission period for BIPOC writers in August. In their latest issue, Garden, Aimee Nezhukumatathil has a piece about cultivating a garden and a life in Oxford, Mississippi. Cathy Ulrich describes the disorientation of an astronaut returning to her loved ones on earth in the story, “A Lovelier World.” I also enjoyed the poem, “Ditch” by Anne Liu, which reminded me that place-based writing doesn’t have to only show beautiful places, it can also reveal the sublime in what may seem mundane and ugly.

Terrain.org

Terrain.org bills itself as the first place-based online journal. It offers a plethora of work that engages with place and the environment, including poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, as well as reviews, interviews, and art. I discovered Terrain.org because my former professor, Pam Houston, is the fiction editor for the site. I was drawn to a recent story on Terrain.org called, “Results” by Maggie Pathos because it didn’t at first strike me as a story that was about place, since it discusses a young couple’s relationship and how it is affected by the 2016 election, but once I read through it could see its connection to the environment. The nonfiction piece “Space Mountain” by Eric Aldrich was a fascinating glimpse into a conversation between the speaker and his hiking companion that leads to a rabbit hole of real and imagined injustices and conspiracies told partially through embedded footnotes. The poem, “Red Flag Warning” by Pepper Trail resonated with me, as it seems like wildfire season has already started again in the West. Terrain.org is currently open for contest submissions, and will open to regular submissions in September.

Sinking City Review

Sinking City Review is published by MFA students at the University of Miami and seeks writing focused on environmental disruption. Quick disclaimer: I have a story published in their most recent issue, so I may be biased when I say they publish phenomenal work. One reason I submitted to them in the first place is that they accept both realist and speculative fiction with an environmental lens. Alongside my short story, “The Firemonger,” which takes place in a dystopian future ravaged by wildfires, there is a short story about a couple keeping a live gnome, “The Gnome” by M. Shaw, and another short story about a teacher who struggles harassment at work, “Fair Game” by Brian McVety. There’s also an interesting meditation on compost in the nonfiction piece, “The Compost Manifesto” by Dot Armstrong, and an eerie poem called, “Ghost Nets” by Danielle Zipkin. They do not currently have an open call for submissions, but since it is published twice a year, submissions probably will open again in the fall.

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Youth-Led Journals

Image credit: Sandra Bisotti

If you’re on Twitter and you follow different writers and journals, you will find that there are folks of all ages interacting across different generations, sharing their passion of writing and literature. As a high school teacher, I try to encourage my own students to write and read literature, so it warms my heart every time I see that there are high school students discussing submissions to literary journals or even leading editorial teams. The great thing about the diversity of literary journals on the internet is that these young authors, whether they are in high school or in early adulthood, have the opportunity to shoot their shot to the most prestigious journals, but they also have spaces dedicated to them and their writing.

There are several different types of journals that cater to youth, and they all define youth slightly differently. Some are well-established national publications that have moved into the online world, such as Teen Ink. (Fun fact: my first ever publication was in Teen Ink- I got a college essay about having tea time with my friends published. Ironically, I did not get into the college that I applied to using that essay). There are other journals that aren’t aimed at publishing young writers but offer opportunity for students and youth in general such as Peach Mag, which offers an internship for editors, The Adroit Journal, which offers a mentorship program (applications are open until March 22), and Polyphony Lit, which offers high school students editing opportunities, and more.

These opportunities for students just starting their literary careers to receive advice and training are great, but what I find even more exciting are the journals created and run by youth. These journals may only accept submissions from youth or they may be open to the general public, but their backbone are the young editors who are enacting their exciting creative visions. Here are a few youth-led publications which also are aimed at young writers and readers.

Clandestine Lit

Clandestine Lit published its first issue, Blossom, in February, and is currently accepting submissions in both prose and poetry from authors age 13-22. Some pieces I enjoyed from its first issue include the haunting poem, “asylum” by Abdulmueed Balogun, and, “tonight the sunset” by Emily Norton, which has really cool spacing and rhythm, and “the girl without hands” by Dana Blatte, which unspools a chilling fairy tale in verse.

The Augment Review

The Augment Review is another recently founded youth-led journal. It recently published its first issue, Indulge. They accept poetry, prose, art, and photography from artists between the ages of 13 and 25. They are open to submissions for their next issue, Pierce. In the first issue I enjoyed the poem, ” 2009″ by Allision Stein, which filled me with nostalgia for my own childhood. I also liked, “to the girl who finds paintings in locker 312” by Emma Chan and the backstory behind it. Finally, the poem, “Indulge Yourself” by Naoise Gale was raw and gutting. The Augment Review includes artists statements with all of its pieces, which gives some interesting insight into the work and also is a cool way for young aspiring writers to see inside the heads of other artists like them. They also provide both verbal inspiration (a list of words), visual inspiration (a Pinterest board), and musical inspiration (a Spotify playlist) to their would-be submitters.

Paper Crane

Paper Crane Journal only accepts work from people under 20 years old. They accept poetry, prose, and art, and are currently open to submissions for their issue Flight. On their website, they have a super comprehensive resources page with links to writing resources especially aimed at newcomers to the literary scene. I really liked two prose pieces from their volume Beginnings: “Leaving Homes” by Jyotsa Nair which is about the narrator’s family fleeing the UK after the India/Pakistan Partition and “Imprinted” by Tyler Godsey-Kellog, which is a more experimental piece reflecting on childhood memories. I also liked the poem, “Love Letter for a Bygone Jurassic” by Rena Su.

Blue Marble Review

Blue Marble Review is a more established outlet for young writers, but its editors are all students from the Minnetonka Writing Center. The journal, which is celebrating its five-year anniversary by publishing an anthology, accepts work from writers aged 13-22. They currently are publishing stories about the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic on youth, but they also accept general poetry and prose. Significantly, they pay their writers $25 per piece!

Much of their most recent issue documents the impact this past year had on young people. The essay, “2020 Grads: We Will be Okay” by Hannalee Isaacs resonated with me since last year was my first year of teaching high school, and I never had a chance to say goodbye to my first graduating class. The poem, “Letter from Mateo in Portland to Stella in Cleveland” by Mateo Sifuentes reflects on the experience of living in Portland in the past year, during a pandemic, protests, and wildfires. I also liked the lyrical fiction piece, “Sundays,” by Amy Wang which captures grief and the hurt of covering it up.

Love Letters Magazine

Finally, Love Letters Magazine is a journal for teens with a twist: it focuses on the heart. They accept work from teens age 14-19, and they publish poetry, prose, op-eds, songs, art, and photography. Each of their issues focuses on an aspect of love. Some of their latest posts that I enjoyed included the story “Sleepwalking,” by Ash Reynolds, which almost felt like a fairy tale or a fable. The “how to” style poem, “how to settle into joy/ how to create joy” by Amy Carranza made me smile and recall simple pleasures. I loved the essay, “Something Special About Staria Ace” by Reyna Ace, a eulogy to the writer’s cat, because what can I say? I love cats, and this piece struck a chord with me.

Even if you’re not a young writer yourself, I encourage you to check out the words the next generation are sending out into the world. After reading these journals, I feel inspired and refreshed to dive back into my own writing, even though I’m definitely a few years past the age limit of these journals.

New 2020 Lit Journals Part 2

Image Credit: Dafne Cholet

As this seemingly endless year finally comes to a close, I realized that among the many things I will recall about this year, one unexpected positive of 2020 was that I rediscovered literary journals. They beckoned to me, drawing my attention away from the news and giving my mind something to contemplate other than the despair that accompanied this year. So in the last couple days of the year, I want to highlight some more new journals that came into existence during the past few months. I hope this post helps you find some interesting reading material for this holiday weekend, and maybe inspires you to send your work to one of these new journals.

Tunafish Journal

               Tunafish Journal just published its first issue this month. Their focus is on publishing light-hearted positive work, and they also include videos of some of their authors reading their works to increase accessibility. One thing I like about this journal is that they announce their themes well in advance of opening for submissions, so if you wanted to write something that matched the theme to submit to them, you could do so even if you aren’t someone who writes super quickly.  They accept poetry, flash fiction, and flash nonfiction. From their first issue, which had the theme Celebration, I particularly enjoyed the flash fiction “I’ll Turn a Cartwheel For You” by Leah Holbrook Satchett, which is about the rituals of a summer barbecue. I also liked Linda McCullen’s retelling of Cinderella, “Stella,” which had a nice twist at the end of it. The poem “Happy Hour Luau at the Nursing Home” by Lynn Finger made me smile and remember when I used to volunteer at a senior home when I was in high school. There is also a video of the author reading it here. Finally, I also enjoyed the poem, “I’m Pretty Much an Expert at Showers, Except When I Fell and Got Three Stitches” by Matthew Miller which showcases the joys of boyhood innocence. They are currently taking submissions for their issue on Endings until the end of December, after which they will be looking for submissions for their issue on Growth.

The Aurora Journal

               The Aurora Journal is another new journal that published its first issue this winter. They are interested in surrealist work in particular. They publish both prose and poetry, although the current issue seems skewed more towards verse. Two poems I enjoyed from their current issue are “The Guns Are Hungry” by Joseph C.P. Christopher and “History” by Sophie Chiang, who is also the editor of the journal. One unique feature of this journal is that they have an inspiration page where they post inspirational imagery and words to jumpstart your writing process.

Five South

               Five South’s name comes from the 5 highway (I cringed a little bit as a wrote “the” in front of the highway name, but since they are referring to the Southern California portion of the highway, it seems apt to say it in a Southern California fashion). They publish poetry, short stories, and flash fiction, and from reading their first issue, it seems like they value everyday realistic stories as well as stories with some speculative elements. I enjoyed the short story, “I didn’t know what to say, so I said thanks” by David Joseph, a classic short story about a high school kid who is longing to be cool. Another short story that gripped by attention was “Mountain Rats” by E.G. Rand, about mutant sewer rats poised to take over Los Angeles. I also liked the flash fiction, “Universal Days” by Jeanne Julian, which if I had not known any better, I would have guessed was non-fiction, since it describes the very believable and funny experiences of a retiree who works at Universal Studios in Florida. One poem I enjoyed was “Undiagnosis by Jacob Nantz, which I found to be rich with detail and emotion. Five South currently has free submissions until January 7. They also are running the Ray Bradbury short story challenge in January, which is an event in which they challenge writers to write a short story every day for four weeks.

Biological Creatures

               Lastly, I appreciated Biological Creatures’ minimalist set up, which I think allowed me to more fully appreciate the writing in their first issue. One poem I connected with, probably because I’m a teacher, was “an open letter for back to school night” by MEH. I also was entranced by “Eels (Never Apologize” by Joanna Vogel. While they don’t publish any explicit submissions guidelines, they accept both poetry and flash fiction, and they will open again for submissions on January 28.

Online Lit Journals Born During Quarantine Part 1

Image credit: Anemone Letterpress

We are now 8 months into this pandemic, and one of the only silver linings is that the internet is keeping us all connected from home. As a writer, I feel more in touch with the writing community than I was before the pandemic started because I’ve been spending so much time on Twitter. Following literary journals and other writing accounts that are producing interesting, insightful, and delightful work is one of the main ways I distract myself from doomscrolling. If you have not tried it, I suggest you do so. I keep a list of literary journals on my personal Twitter account here, and whenever I want to clear my mind but still read things online, I visit the literary world version of Twitter which feels a little bit like the sheltered bubble of a quirky college town.

In the past few months, many people have started new online literary ventures despite the chaos and uncertainty that surrounds us (or maybe because of it). Not all of these new journals are online publications, of course. I contributed to a new print magazine in my city, The Alameda Murmur, which I found out after I saw the flyers that the founder of the lit mag posted around the city while I was out for a walk this past spring. I was so eager for connection to my local writing community that I apparently was one of the first people to email the editor with my submission.

This month I wanted to highlight some newer online literary journals that have made their debut since we all began to hunker down. These promising venues will hopefully outlast the crisis that spurred their creation. In my experience, submitting to new journals can be more exciting and interactive than trying your luck at journals with more established reputations. Your odds might be better at the newer journals too— even if they don’t come with the prestige associated with well-known journals. Who knows? You might be in one of their early issues, after which they might develop an esteemed reputation as the years pass.

No Contact Magazine

This was one of the first online journals that sprung up in response to quarantine. It was founded by writers in the Columbia MFA program, although I don’t think it has any official connection to the university. Since it started last spring, it has already published 14 issues! Going forward, they are dialing back to releasing issues on a monthly basis instead of twice a month. No Contact’s focus is on work that deals with interiority, and they accept poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction with a word limit of 1200 words.

 Three pieces I enjoyed from the most recent issue, Issue 14 include, “We are All Orphans” by Calthy Ulrich, a flash fiction that puzzles over the significance of a potato peeler and its relationship with motherhood, “Matt’s Basement” by Leonora Desar about a couple moving into one of their parent’s basements, a situation many Gen Z’ers and Millennials can relate to right now, and “Masterclass Testimonials” by Tyler Barton which delightfully lists all the absurd ways you can pay men to mansplain things to you.

Hexagon

Hexagon is journal focused on speculative fiction based in Canada. They publish fiction and poetry that fall under the umbrella genre of science fiction and fantasy. They are a semiprozine, which means they do pay a small honorarium to authors. In their most recent issue, Issue #2, I particularly enjoyed the stories, “Memories Taste Best When Marinated in Sadness” by Feng Gooi and “The Last Trophy of Hunter Hammerson” by L Chan. Gooi’s story takes place in a futuristic world in which the rich sip on the memories of poor, suffering wretches, and the main character is the person who collects and distills these memories. The mystery of the story really kept me enthralled. Chan’s story is written in the form of a lofty magazine profile, in which the narrator is a journalist interviewing a famous monster hunter. The asides from the editor made me chuckle.

 Since discovering Hexagon, I have submitted to them twice, and while both times my work hasn’t been chosen, I have appreciated the editor’s thoughtful suggestions about where else I could send my submission. From his rejection emails alone I have discovered two more literary journals that I might feature on this blog at some point. Hexagon’s next issue actually comes out on Dec 1, so be sure to check it out.

Crow and Cross Keys

Crow and Cross Keys is another speculative fiction focused journal that is interested in dark and strange work. I’ve noticed most of the pieces I’ve read on their site have a gothic vibe, lots of solitary, creepy musings.  They accept poems, stories, and flash fiction.

Two alluring pieces that I enjoyed from their site are “Stitches” by Samuel Best, and “Rust Belt’s Taxonomy of Ghosts” by Jessie Lynn McMains. At first I thought Best’s piece was nonfiction— it feels both startlingly direct and secretive at the same time, and its speculative aspect is very subtle. McMain’s poem is a list poem, and like the best list poems it spirals into something quite different than what it originally seems.

The Wondrous Real Magazine

The Wondrous Real Magazine’s pieces bridge the uncanny valley of reality and whimsy. They publish fiction and poetry that show the intersections of magic and the mundane. They have only published one issue so far, but I am looking forward to their future issues. I was drawn to the poem, “When I Google: Is There a Patron Saint of Suicides” by Joan Kwon Glass because of its mixture of the very troubling issue of suicide with the absurdity of trying to get a straight answer from google. I also liked “The Sea Lions” by  Dan Schwartz, which is about visiting the zoo with your child in a world that has just hints of terrifying magic in it.

The journals I highlighted in this post are focused on speculative fiction or fiction that focuses inwards, perhaps a reflection of how writers and editors have been coping with this pandemic, by escaping to unreality or by turning to self-contemplation. However, in this post I was only able to cover about half of the new journals I discovered. In December, I will post about more pandemic-born magazines. Until then, happy reading.

In Praise of the Themed Submission

If you’re a writer who is finding it hard to focus on your writing or submitting to literary journals at this time, you are far from alone. With so much happening in the world, it might seem almost superfluous to keep submitting to journals. However, I found that when I can carve out the time to read literary journals and hone my own writing for submissions, I am able to relax in a peaceful corner of the internet. Of course, literary world is not isolated from the rest of the world and needs to address its issues with racism, but there are a lot of great journals who are publishing writing that is necessary and important, as well as writing that is distracting and fun. I need a combination of both to inject some hope into my life these days. One type of journal I’ve enjoyed reading and submitting to are themed journals, whether the journal is just having a themed issue or they are devoted to publishing work about a particular topic. The more niche a journal is, the more I find myself drawn to it these days. Perhaps it’s because I am craving order and structure in a chaotic world, or perhaps it’s because submitting to these journals doesn’t feel like trying to read a black box.

I have nothing against journals that don’t have themes. They often have a variety of interesting short stories, poetry, and essays that I enjoy. However, these journals are daunting to submit to. Every submission page at a literary magazine will direct you to read past issues to get a sense of their aesthetic style. But even if you read previous issues it’s hard to get a sense of what they are looking for unless you have a very honed perception of writing styles. Even then, editors rotate, and the aesthetic preferences of journals change. I liked themed submissions because at least I can check off one box that the journals are looking for: it’s about the right topic. Plus it’s often a fun challenge to write about a topic that you haven’t considered before or to try to shape your works in progress to fit the theme. It’s similar to using writing prompts as inspiration.

Here are some journals with thematic content, or at least themed submissions, that I have enjoyed recently. After you check them out, let me know what you think in the comments. Do you prefer themed submissions, or would you rather submit to journals that don’t have as narrow criteria for their acceptances?

Perhappened Mag

Perhappened Mag is a relatively new journal that has themed issues. Each one is really unique, and they also seem open to interesting experimentation. Their issue from last month, Mix Tape, has poetry and creative nonfiction accompanied by a playlist of songs. Each submission was inspired by a song that evokes nostalgia in the writer. Their latest issue, Lights Out, just came out today, and they are accepting submissions for their next issue, Fairy Tale, until Nov 10. They accept both poetry and prose submissions.

One poem I enjoyed from their Mix Tape issue was “Beyond Turnt” by Caroline Dinh. It’s a poem about the price of assimilation, and it had some incredible lines in it like, “If you peeled the Earth like a clementine/ and spread its skin across his Spotify playlists there would still/ be room to spare.”

I also enjoyed, “Joni sings of freedom” by Ikjot Kaur, a prose poem that evokes the boundless feeling of traveling with someone by your side.

Porcupine Literary

Porcupine Lit is a journal by teachers about teaching, but it’s not for sharing pedagogy. It publishes creative pieces about the experience of teaching. This journal is near and dear to my heart because I’m a teacher. When I found it, I was so excited that such a journal existed that I immediately submitted to it. I will probably keep submitting to it with the hope that one day my ramblings about teaching get published. Porcupine Lit publishes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. They are open for submissions until Nov 1.

Some pieces I enjoyed from their most recent issue include, “Secondary Certification” by Michelle Campagne, which I thought did a great job of capturing the small indignities of the profession.

I connected with the creative nonfiction piece, “Accept No Substitute” by Christina Fishburne about the experience of a teacher who has an MFA. While I don’t teach kindergarten, I enjoyed the writerly attention she bestows onto the small details of teaching kindergarten. I find that as a teacher, my writer’s eye comes in handy quite often.

Longridge Review

Longridge Review is a creative nonfiction journal that publishes essays about childhood experiences. I love their theme because of just how rich and broad it is. Anybody could think of something interest to write about on this topic.

Some pieces I enjoyed from their most recent issue include, “Baby Steps” by Miriam Glassman, which discusses the pitfalls of trying to fill a void in your life with a creepy, walking doll, and “Breathing Lessons” by Brenna Sowder, which weaves together the author’s breathing lessons as an asthmatic child with her anxieties and fears during the current pandemic.

Burning Jade Magazine

Again, this is a relatively new journal, but their first issue really wowed me. Its theme was #Americaisoverparty, and it included some biting political poetry and prose. They just closed the submissions for their next issue on Spirituality, but they will probably have submissions open for their next issue on October 23. Full disclosure: I had a piece accepted in the next issue which I will share on this blog once it’s online, so I might be a little biased, but I was already excited about this magazine before they accepted my work.

Here are some pieces I enjoyed from their first issue:

The poem, “Portrait of a Pandemic” by Anisha Narain really struck me because it voiced so many things I’ve been feeling since March but have not been able to say as eloquently.

“#WhiteButWoke Work Week Social Media Challenge” by Jennifer Dines made me laugh and cringe at the same time (is there a word for that?).

“For Ahmaud Arbery” by Leela Raj-Sankar left me feeling broken and angry, reminding of the reason poetry and writing are necessary in this moment.

September Recommendations

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Image: Ian Sane

It’s back-to-school season for teachers and students alike, and I know as well as anyone that it’s hard to find time to read lit journals for fun when you have so many other responsibilities. But I’m making a commitment this school year to squeeze in time for good writing here and there, and I hope you do too.

I have two picks this month, Wigleaf and South 85. I’ve chosen these two journals because they are almost complete opposites in terms of the length of their pieces. As someone who gravitates towards writing really long stories or flash fiction, I appreciate that there are journals catering to these niches.

Wigleaf is a journal that publishes “(very) short fiction” of 1000 words or less. Their contributors also write letters to the journal published alongside their stories which are as imaginative as the stories in the first place. These letters are quirky, puzzling, and poetic. For example, in one letter, contributor Brianne Kohl laments how she’s not sure if she belongs in the wild west. I’m not sure how writers get the inspiration for these little notes, but they are certainly entertaining and unique.

In Wigleaf’s latest issue, I was amazed by just how much ground their stories covered in less than 1000 words. The short story, “Preservation” by Tessa Yang, takes us into a future in which people sign up to sleep away years of their life in a coma for science. I also liked the story, “The Magician” by Kara Oakleaf, which features a delightfully whimsical child who plays magic tricks on his parents from infancy. This issue culminates in a featured story by published author Amber Sparks, who imagines what Zeus would be like as a football-watching American dad. Most of their submissions delve into the fantastic and surreal, weaving impressively developed narratives for such short pieces. Wigleaf takes submissions during the last week of each academic month, so that’s coming up this week! Check out their submissions page for more information.

I discovered South 85 from my writer friend Mary Jane White who has an excerpt from  her memoir about raising a son with autism published in their latest issue. South 85 is a university-affiliated journal, run by the low-residency MFA program at Converse College in South Carolina, publishing fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. It is one of the few online journals I’ve encountered that does not shy away from publishing longer pieces.

In their latest issue, poet John Nizalowski  presents the tragic contrast of the mundane, despairing reality of a gas station near the Hopi Reservation and the nearby ruins of ancient civilization in “High Noon at the Hopi Gas Station.”  I particularly like the final turn of phrase, “the smell of colonial commerce.” In the nonfiction piece, “Behind the Walls in the Land of the Pure” the Pakistani-Canadian author, Mariam S. Pal describes her experiences hanging out at luxurious private parties in Pakistan, Lahore in the 1980’s, showing how her perceptions of Pakistan are overturned while she also debunks Pakistanis’ misconceptions of the West. Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed the short story, “The Buffalo of Sentinel Meadows” by Lawrence Cady, in which a music critic accompanies his biologist research wife on a fieldwork trip to Yellowstone, where they draw DNA samples of ancient bacteria from hot springs. While taking the samples, the narrator lets his mind wander through the memories of his relationship with his wife. I loved the slow build-up of emotion in this story, which is so rare to find in much of the fast-paced fiction published in the age of the Internet.

South 85 is open for submissions until November 1. For more information on submitting to South 85, check out their submission guidelines.

 

August Recommendations

 

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Image: Tony Hisgett

This summer has been the summer of many tabs. I always have at least 10 tabs open, and about half of them are literary journals. Part of what inspired me to come back to this blog was the renewed excitement I felt for exploring the pages of the internet following a writing workshop I took last spring. My professor, the poet Greg Glazner, asked us each to present on a particular writer whose “poetic prose” we were really fascinated by (the them of the class was “Poet’s Prose” but we read a range of texts from prose poems to flash fiction to creative nonfiction). He requested that instead of uploading pdfs of excerpts of the writer’s work, we post links. At first I was a bit skeptical of his insistence on links, since it was sometimes less convenient to find links to a person’s writing on the web than to just make a copy of pages of a book from the library. But Professor Glazner has this theory about links, that they allow us to discover more things about the writer and his or her context and also lead us on these interesting quests through the internet to find things we never knew existed.

I was presenting The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon, a Japanese writer who lived in the Emperor’s court in the 10th century, so initially I was skeptical that I would be able to find her work published online, and I wasn’t sure if giving a link would add anything to the conversation. However, when I searched for Sei Shonagon, I stumbled upon a really insightful and informative essay by Meredith McKinney on translating The Pillow Book in the Kyoto Journal.

Ever since, I’ve been considering just how cool it is that this whole vast repository of writing is available to us for free online, and I’m continually inspired whenever I find more online journals publishing great work. Here are some of the journals that have recently caught my eye:

The Southeast Review

The Southeast Review’s journal is technically not online, but they do post fiction, nonfiction, interviews, and poetry to their “online sister,” SER TWO (which stands for This Week Online). There I found some really great writing during the past month including the short story “Ruth’s Red Ale” by Ann Stuart McBee and the nonfiction piece “Two Boyfriends” by Lareign Ward. McBee’s story ferments language in exciting ways (pun intended), and I was dazzled by the sensory details in her piece about an impoverished couple home-brewing beer while life falls apart around them. Ward’s piece depicts the strange untethered grief of a narrator who has recently lost a lover but doesn’t quite know what her future with that person would have been or if they even were heading for a future together.

The Southeast Review is affiliated with Florida State University and is currently accepting submissions in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and book reviews. You can find out more information about their submission guidelines here.

 

The Yemassee Journal

This journal, which is run by the University of South Carolina, recently published its first online issue, which I perused. Some of the highlights from that issue include the poem “I Tried to Be a Good Mexican Son,” by José Olivarez, a prose piece called “The Saving Apocalypse” by Matthew Hummer, and “Three Poems” by Shaina Monet. Olivarez’s poem depicts the speaker’s failure to live up to his mother’s expectations and also serves as a sweet tribute to the speaker’s mother, who clearly loves her son despite his shortcomings. It’s humorous, straightforward, and filled with delightful lines. Hummer’s piece, which I think is nonfiction (although it’s not labeled) is a lament of the demise of the print newspaper and also discusses the paranoia the narrator experiences while trying to not be tracked by technology, a paranoia that feels familiar to anyone with a smartphone or a social media account. The essay slips into its subject indirectly, slyly, almost like it is is trying to hide something. Ironically, it’s online for everyone to read. Finally, Monet’s poems have a really interesting concept behind them: they are in the form of a “beau présent” which is when you take the letters of someone’s name and combine them into different words to create a poem. The form limits the writer to only using the letters available in the original word or words. Monet describes her reasons for doing this: each poem honors an ancestor of hers, persons of color who society didn’t deem worthy of recording. Her poems try to correct that injustice. The poems’ form leads to an interesting sense of circularity as you read the same letters come to life in different ways.

Yemassee is currently open to submissions of fiction and poetry. Here are there submission guidelines.

Split Lip Magazine

I like that Split Lip Magazine releases just one piece from each genre every issue. It makes reading an entire journal feel less daunting, and it will definitely keep me coming back to see more cool writing. In this latest issue, I particularly enjoyed the short story “Bound” by Belinda Hermawan and the nonfiction essay “Cary” by Lorelei Glaser. Hermawan’s story about fate and adoption drew me in from the start. The main character, a Chinese-American who was adopted, feels drawn to one of her cousins, and and that attraction is so well written that it didn’t come across as gross or weird. It was definitely original in its language and emotional intensity. On the other hand, Glaser’s story about coping with her son’s mental illness was a familiar narrative, but the details were fresh and cut to the quick.

Here’s information on how to submit to Split Lip.

I hope you enjoy these recommendations. Check in about a week from now because I have a flash fiction forthcoming in an online journal (not any of the ones I’ve featured), and I’ll be excited to announce that once it is published. I’m going to do my best to keep updating this blog at least once a month, but now that the school year is starting I will sadly have less time to peruse online journals and my tabs will be tucked away into folders, bookmarked for later. Until next time, happy reading and writing.

July Recommendations

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Image: matryosha

While trying to decide how to re-vamp this blog, I’ve been plucking stories and essays from the internet here and there, reading a bit of this and that and trying to come up with some sort of system for how to read literature on the web. But I keep feeling overwhelmed by just how much content there is out there online. There are thousands of literary journals, each diligently producing issues. How is it possible to find what kind of work you like reading and how can you possibly find a place to submit to that fits your style and actually might accept your submission?

Reader, I have no easy answers for you. I wish there were some sort of cataloguing system, an app maybe (I’m not a tech person so don’t expect me to come up with this), that recorded all the different literary content out on the web and sorted it to help a reader who has some time to read from the web, but not all the time in the world, to find cool new writing. But as of right now, I have yet to discover such a system. LitHub.com  comes close- they feature content from many different magazines and presses around the web. But they don’t encompass everything. Duotrope.com is a paid service that shows you statistics about different publications, such as their response times and approximately how many people are submitting to them, but it doesn’t cover the content in the journals. I still think the best way to go about finding stories, essays, and poems that you might like is to a) make friends with other literary-minded people (whether you’re friends with them in person or just over the internet) and see what they recommend and b) find random literary journals, click on a random link, and see what they have to offer.

I’ve been doing a bit of both for the past year, and I’d like to share you, my friends, some of my personal recommendations. In each post I will feature 3-4 journals with a few works that I liked from their site. If you happen to be a writer who is featured in the journal I recommend (or in another journal), and you’re disappointed that I didn’t mention your piece, email me a link to your piece (litbloom at gmail dot com), and I’ll take a look at it. I promise you, I wasn’t trying to overlook your piece, I probably just didn’t happen to click on it. I’ll try not to feature too many of my friends’ work since I don’t think that would be totally fair, but if I really believe in the writing they’ve published, I will share it.

 

Entropy

My first recommendation for the month of is for a site for which I have a personal fondness: Entropy.  Yes, they have published two of my nonfiction essays, but aside from being grateful for their patronage, I genuinely love their site. Every couple months, they feature places to submit your writing, including journals, presses, chapbooks, and writing retreats and residencies. Here is the where-to-submit page for this summer. They also have really insightful nonfiction essays and they publish some fiction and poetry. Right now, I’m keeping tabs on the “Woven” series, essays on the #MeToo movement, including this really heartbreaking and powerful essay about the culture of sexism and sexual violence in medicine, “The Men in Medicine and the Theory of Evolution” by Helena Rho.

For more information, here are Entropy’s submission guidelines.

 

N+1

I’ve also been checking out’s N+1’s online content. I remember looking at N+1 back in my college days back when it had a barebones html design, and it definitely seems to have blossomed since then. You need a subscription to read their magazine, but they do produce some online content. Two essays I read from them recently include “The Church of Food,” by Collier Meyerson and Elias Roriques, which eulogizes Anthony Bourdain, and “An Account of My Hut,” by Christina Nichol, which recounts the author’s struggle to figure out the best way to fight climate change through collective action and storytelling while also dealing concurrently with the effects of environmental and economic degradation– wildfires and gentrification.

You can find more information about submitting to N+1 here.

 

Wildness

Another journal that I have recently happened upon is called Wildness. I skimmed through their latest issue and found plenty to encourage me to go back and read through the whole thing. The short story, “Blood Sister” by Ariel Chu, caught my eye, and I found that I really enjoyed its depiction of a brother and sister sharing a meal on their own terms, away from the expectations of their parents, but still unable to escape familial tensions. I also enjoyed the poems in the issue by Sara Ryan, “Loving With Scissors” and “Self-Portrait As/With Sister” due to their striking imagery and the sharpness of their emotional landscapes.

Here are Wildness’s submission guidelines.

 

West Texas Literary Review,

I have yet to fully explore this particular journal, but everything I’ve read so far from the West Texas Literary Review. I have enjoyed. I was particularly struck by the short story, “Thank You for Noticing” by Rebecca Jensen, when a young woman’s memory of her mother’s pregnancy resurfaces. The poem, “Alien Encounter” by Marilee Richards was a pleasant jaunt, and “Their Gaze” by Nick Conrad evoked a nostalgic lost moment of beauty.

Here are their submission guidelines.

I hope you liked some of the recommendations from this post. I plan on posting new recommendations at least once a month, barring life events that get in the way. In the meantime, happy reading, writing, and submitting!

 

 

 

 

 

Scribophile

Happy New Year, everyone! As one of my New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve resolved to write biweekly updates to my blogs (every two weeks, just to clarify). So be on the lookout for more writing-themed blog posts in 2015!

I stumbled on Scribophile, an online writing sharing community that strives to create a social media platform for writers, while I was participating NaNoWriMo last November, since it is an affiliated website. Overall, I recommend Scribophile as the most comprehensive website for writers seeking feedback on their work that I have seen thus far. I think it has a lot going for it, and I recommend that you check it out. It is not perfect however, and its complexity can seem daunting, especially when you first join it. I’ve been using it for about a month now and I’m still getting the hang of it.

Scribophile is mainly a platform for sharing writing and connecting with other writers. Essentially, on the site, you can read other writer’s work and critique it, using various methods including “in-line” comments, or a form with specific questions about particular aspects of the work, such as its plot, structure, or characters, or a “free form” critique in which you write whatever you want. For each critique, you earn a certain amount of “karma” points. The number of points you receive depends on how long your critique is, and on a number of confusing factors including whether the work is in the “Main Spotlight” or not or whether you have added the author to your favorites. I haven’t quite figured out the way to maximize karma points yet, but even if you just edit whatever things you find interesting, you’re bound to get some points from your critique.

Once you’ve accumulated 5 karma points, you can post a work on the site. Each work “costs” 5 points, so once it’s up there, you have to start all over again building up karma points. You can also submit your work to a number of contests on the site, but that will also cost you some karma points. A “work” is usually no more than 5,000 words, so if you have a longer story or a novel, you can post it in chapters. This potentially allows for you to create a serial following, like on the sites JukePop and WattPad (see my article about them here). But Scribophile is not just for novelists. You can post short stories and poetry on it too. Once you’ve posted a work, you sit back and wait for the critiques to roll in.

One of things I really do like about Scribophile is that it is a website for serious writers. The critiques I’ve received on the site so far have all been pretty detailed and insightful. The karma points system creates an incentive for people to write longer critiques. Also once you’ve received a critique, you can give it one or more labels including “enlightening,” “thorough,” or “constructive,” and for each label, the editor will receive a few karma points (but not nearly as much as they get from the critique itself). When you receive these labels, it also increases your reputation on the site by giving you “reputation points.” Reputation points have no tangible benefit, as far as I can tell, but they represent your experience as an editor.

The site also makes you tick off an agreement saying that you will write constructive edits and will not just insult the writer and/or their work, which I found to be comforting. Obviously, it’s an honor system, but if you find a critique particularly mean-spirited, you can report it. Scribophile’s rules, while complex, do create an environment where serious, respectful editing gets done.

The site also contains forums, groups, and contests, really attempting to create a sense of community among its users. I still prefer to bond with writers in person, but it is nice to have that option online. It also acts as a quasi-social media site, allowing you to write message on other writers’ “scratchpads” and to announce publications. It also contains its own blog with writing advice, interviews with writers, and the site’s latest updates, and it has an “Academy” section with articles specifically written to help you tackle writing challenges. The amount of sheer stuff on the Scribophile website is a bit overwhelming, and I’ll admit I haven’t had time to sift through all of it. But I’m sure a lot of the resources on the site are really helpful.

The site does have some drawbacks, however. First of all, Scribophile is primarily used by people writing novels. This isn’t a bad thing of course, but the way that it’s site posts the newest chapters of writer’s works up for review on the “Main Spotlight” is a little strange. When you’re flipping through works to review, you will see novels that are on Chapter 21 or 39. How are you supposed to jump in and start editing from that point in a story you haven’t read? Scribophile tries to solve this problem by allowing writers to post summaries of previous chapters so that reviewers have some idea of what the hell is going on. But I don’t think reading the summary of a plot and then editing a chapter in the middle of it is very effective or helpful for the editor or the writer. So far I’ve tried to avoid editing novels that are very far into their plot, instead I’ve been editing short stories or novels on Chapters 1, 2, or 3.

Of course, if you have several hours of free time, you read all of the chapters that came before the one you want to critique (but by that time other people will have critiqued it and it will no longer be in the spotlight, meaning you get fewer points from critiquing it). Or, you can find some novels that you like that are in a nascent stage, add the author to your favorites, and then get updated every time he or she posts a new chapter. I personally think it’s far more helpful to edit stories knowing their entire context.

Secondly, Scribophile requires a good deal of patience and free time (luckily, I have both). Depending on whether you choose to edit stuff from the Main Spotlight or not, it can take you a while to rack up 5 measly points to post one chapter. In my case, it’s usually taken me about 3 critiques to gain 5 points. I think Scribophile did this on purpose, so that everyone is getting at least three responses to everything they post. But still, it means you have to spend a lot of time critiquing other people’s work.

Thirdly, the feedback you get on your writing from this site can be thorough, but it also can be a bit overwhelming. You can get opposing reactions from two different editors. Of course, this happens in any situation in which you ask people to review your work. But when I ask my friends who are writers to review my work, I know their work too, and I know, in general, when to trust their advice and when to ignore it. If you’re just getting random critiques from different people, it’s hard to know which suggestions you should consider. I’ve had a similar experience before in writing workshops. The difference, though, is that in a writing workshop, all of the writers are in dialogue with each other. They hear everyone’s comments on a particular work, and then discuss them, coming to somewhat of a consensus on it. Since, on Scribophile, you’re not required to engage with the other people who have critiqued the work you are critiquing, the website does not manage to replicate a workshop experience.

Still, these flaws are by no means deal-breakers. This site has a lot offer, and you might discover that you really like it.

The Missouri Review

This fall, I submitted a short story to the Missouri Review’s Editor’s Prize. I didn’t win. But, luckily, the contest submission also came with a year-long subscription to the literary journal (the fee for the contest was $20). I just finished reading the fall issue, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. I think everyone who considers him- or herself a writer should read at least one literary journal on a regular basis, and I think from here on out, the Missouri Review will be mine. While not all the stories were perfect, and I wasn’t personally interested in all of the works in the issue, overall, the review’s fall issue had fresh writing with rich language and fascinating subject matter. I definitely recommend that you check it out.

The Missouri review publishes poetry, short fiction, and essays. I found the poetry in the latest issue to be accessible. Most of it was free-verse and more on the traditional side. There was nothing that could be called experimental in all of the magazine, in fact, but that was fine by me, since I tend to like more conventional literature.

Most of the poetry I read I would characterize as concise, filled with sharp, curt images, but at the same time it was layered, ready for deeper exploration. It was the kind of poetry you could read and think that it was rather simple, but if you go back and reread it you will find more than you thought was there. One of the poems that I liked in this issue was actually reflecting on this very topic, the layers of poetry. It’s called “The Poem About the Henhouse” by Lawrence Raab, and it is prefaced by a quotation by Jose Saramago, who said that a writer can’t find much to say about a henhouse.  And of course, the poet finds a way to say something about a henhouse which is quite poignant.

As for fiction, in general I liked the short stories in this issue. In particular I really enjoyed reading “Bury Me” by Allegra Hyde which offers surprising images of a funeral and fresh portrait of a friendship between two women. During college, the two firends use spirit of carpe diem as almost a crutch, to avoid thinking about one of woman’s mother who has cancer and who eventually passes away from it. The story opens at the mother’s funeral and explores the women’s past together and how they have grown apart. I really liked it, and I found both the narrator’s voice and the main character, the narrator’s friend, quite compelling.

However, occasionally I found the stories in the journal to be clichéd, with characters or situations that were predictable. Overall, I liked the story “A Bellyful of Sparrows” which is told from the perspective of an ailing Southerner with lung-cancer living in an RV. In general, I found his character to be quite fun to read about. He still craves cigarette smoke, despite the fact that he has to breathe from an oxygen tank, and he craves the taste of squirrel. But when he nearly dies at one point and he starts to see his life flash before his eyes, I rolled my eyes. In general, I saw a few moments like this in the stories I read, but of course all literature is susceptible to falling back on formulaic templates such as that one. In general, even in the stories I found to be clichéd, the writing was intricate, detailed, and vibrant, so I could get past a few clichés.

I also highly enjoyed reading the essays and interviews in the journal, which had a wide range of fascinating topics, from one man who lives in New Mexico reflecting on the importance of the atomic bomb in his life, to a woman discussing an enigmatic figure from her past, her landlady’s son, whose life profoundly touched hers. Reading essays like these ones really makes me want to try my hand at creative nonfiction. They are able to weave real moments together to form a coherent narrative that reads like literature, but carries more weight because it has the emotional backing of the author who is invoking his or her personal experience.

The Missouri Review accept online submissions, but they do charge $3 per submission. This magazine is highly competitive, so I would advise only submitting your best work to it and to be ready for a polite rejection letter in response. Personally, I think my writing is not yet at the level of the works that I read in the journal. That won’t stop me from trying to improve and to continue to submit my writing to places like the Missouri Review, even if I don’t have much of a chance. However, if your writing is really good, you do have a chance to be published. The Missouri Review does publish new or emerging writers quite often. For example, one of the writers I interviewed for this blog, Julia Glassman, had one of her first publications in the Missouri Review.

For More Information

The Missouri Review

Website: www.missourireview.com