Brevity Mag

Brevity Mag is on the forefront of the new creative nonfiction movement, publishing exclusively short works of creative nonfiction. Their motto reads, “We are a small magazine with large ambitions,” and from what I have read from their magazine, they are doing a great job of filling a unique and exciting niche in the contemporary literary world. They publish creative nonfiction of 750 words or less, as well as book reviews and craft essays. If you are at all interested in creative nonfiction, you should definitely explore their website to find inspiration and advice.

The creative nonfiction pieces are tied together not just by their short length, but also by an intense focus on language. Since it is such a short form, some of the pieces almost seem like prose poetry that just happen to be about things that took place in real life. An example of this is the piece “Stranded” by Jill Talbot from their Fall 2013 issue, which paints a mysterious night in the author’s life in broad strokes of imagery that highlights the comet in the night sky and the setting of an abandoned highway road, but obfuscates the actual events that took place.

Most of the pieces hone in on a particular moment or event that stands out in the author’s memory, but reveal that singular moment as intertwined with greater currents in the author’s life.  One of the pieces from their latest issue that I think uses this particular technique well is “The Bedroom that was a Beekeeper’s House” by Amy Wright, which describes the author’s relationship to a beekeeper who lived in a shabby shed:

As we started to close the windows against November nights, to leave a fleece within reach of the door, I knew I had to end the relationship. Summer rain or sleet in February, that one-room cabin wasn’t getting any bigger. It wasn’t the inconvenience I minded so much as how the arrangement allowed him to keep sealed the other chambers of his heart. I might hum around all I liked, industrious as any worker bee, dancing clover nectar off my feet, but I would never be taken to the queen.”

-Amy Wright, “The Bedroom that was a Beekeeper’s House”

I really like how Wright bridges the figurative and the literal when she talks about the physical place where her boyfriend lived and his hobby of beekeeping, connecting it to her emotional relationship to him. You wouldn’t expect nonfiction to be literary in the sense of it being symbolic, because we tend to think of literary motifs as something planned by the author in fiction. However, part of what I really like about the genre about creative nonfiction is that it allows writers to explore the unrecognized literary themes that emerge in our lives naturally. Perhaps we are making connections between things that aren’t really relevant to each other, seeing an overarching narrative in our lives where there is none, but that doesn’t make it any less true or artistic.

Brevity Mag’s craft essays are also worth a look. They mostly deal with the topic of how to write creative nonfiction. One essay that I particularly  enjoyed was “What Can Sonnets Teach Us? The Benefit of Strict Form”  by Chelsea Biondolillo, which discusses how you can take different forms of prose that are not typically creative forms, such as food reviews, or even multiple choice tests, and make them into art.

Submission Period

Year Round

Submission Details

Submissions should be creative nonfiction of 750 words or less

For More Information

Brevity Mag

brevitymag.com

Advertisements

Tin House

Tin House is one of the best literary magazines out there, publishing some of the most compelling and exciting literary works in the contemporary literary scene. They are a print magazine publication based in Portland, Oregon, and they mostly publish well-established writers. It’s not impossible for emerging writers to be published in Tin House, but it would be quite an accomplishment. Don’t let that be a deterrent from reading and submitting to the magazine; at the very least, you can learn a lot about writing from reading the pieces and absorbing their style.

The magazine, which is printed quarterly, contains fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and book reviews. Its works are tied together not by an overarching style or theme, but by a commitment to exploring new territories of writing. For example, in Tin House’s latest issue of Spring 2014, one of its fiction stories, “Arcadia” is told in the format of a magazine advertisement for a retreat and rehabilitation facility. The story plays out in the interesting dialogue between the marketing descriptions that paint a rosy, idealistic picture, and the testimonials, which hint at the troubled minds of the people visiting the facility. Not all of Tin House’s works are experimental, but all of them push the boundaries of their genre in some way or another.

In Tin House’s spring and fall issues, there is, however, a theme, and works are chosen based on how they align with that theme in different ways. The Fall 2013 issue was on the theme “Wild,” and it is really interesting to see how widely interpreted that simple concept can be, ranging from depictions of a tourist encountering locals in El Salvador to the brothels of Las Vegas.

Tin House tends to publish longer works of fiction and creative nonfiction of up to 10,000 words. These longer pieces delve deep, allowing, in fiction, for much development of character and setting, and in creative nonfiction, for a much more nuanced treatment of the subject matter.

Tin House’s creative nonfiction is outstanding, and often tends towards journalistic writing more so than other forms of nonfiction, such as essays or memoirs. In the latest fall issue, “The Last Days of the Baldock” by Inara Verzemnieks and “Company Town”  by Ginger Strand are two very fascinating pieces that examined little-known slices of American life— the former depicts people living in RVs at a rest stop in Oregon, plagued by poverty, addiction, crime, and homelessness, who nevertheless come together as a community, and the latter discusses the legalized sex trade in Las Vegas. What struck me was how these works brought to life the people in these strange situations, showing their humanity. Also, the writers did not sacrifice vivid language for the sake of being factual. In fact one of the images that stood out the most was in “Company Town”:

“Periodically, a boob would escape from her blue bikini top and she’d calmly tuck it back inside, the way a waitress at the pickup counter might absently stick a stray french fry back on a plate.” 
-Ginger Strand, “Company Town”
No one every said you can’t use apt and witty metaphors in nonfiction!
The poetry published in Tin House is lyrical, fluid, and witty. For the casual reader, it is fairly accessible, but some of the more experimental pieces were lost on me. One particularly humorous poem by Major Jackson, entitled “OK Cupid” after the eponymous dating website, was a long list of similes that strung together the most bizarre associations with the phrase “Dating a ____ is like dating a ____”.
 “…and dating history is like dating a white man/ and dating a white man is like dating insecurity/ and dating insecurity is like dating a Hummer/ and dating a Hummer is like dating the Pentagon…”
-Major Jackson, “OK Cupid”
And on and on it goes, utterly destroying with social media concept of “If you like this, you also will like this” through parody, taking this idea to its absolute extreme. I thought it was pretty funny. 
I highly recommend checking out Tin House. They do put a selection of their works on their website, but the full print publication is available by subscription only. If you can’t afford the subscription, see if your local library has it, or perhaps just flip through it at your local bookstore.

Submission Period

September 4 – May 31

For More Information

Tin House
Website: tinhouse.com/magazine
 

Apple Valley Review

Apple Valley Review is a refreshing drink of water in the myriad of online literary journals that I have thus encountered.

It’s an independent journal, headed by a single editor, Leah Browning, who has managed to build a reputable and enjoyable magazine to read. The journal’s online layout is simple and visually pleasing, and the content is short enough to read in one sitting. If had to characterize the works themselves in one word, I would say they were “light.” Not because the writing is frivolous or unrealistically optimistic, but because I found everything in the journal, prose and poetry alike easy to read. It rolled off the tongue, without pretensions, but in ways that made me think twice about what I had read and want to scan the page again. This journal is simply nice to read, something that can’t be said about all journals out there, especially those online.

The review publishes an issue of fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction twice a year. On the submissions page, the editor specifies that they are “very picky” about their selections, preferring works that are “both accessible and finely written.” I found this assessment to be true with regards to the journal’s latest issue. Every single poem I read was actually comprehensible to me on the first read. I am not a poet or much of a poetry reader, but I truly enjoyed the poem in Apple Valley Review’s latest issue. The poems are simple in language and form, often lyrical or narrative, and filled with fascinating imagery and complex layers of meaning. For example, I especially enjoyed the poem “Walking South” by Danush V. Goska, in which the speaker contemplates the oncoming winter even as she walks on a street in Berkeley on a sunny day. Here is a passage from the poem that really struck me:

Winter is stalking this hot August street.
I’m ready to learn to obey winter’s dictates
turn to roots, eat amber fruits, baking and buttering
steaming on silver, studded with spice;
to view naked limbs claw like seasonal hunger
networks of twigs raking brief pewter light
as teachers of clarity, gratitude, and vigor.
– “Walking South” by Danush V. Goska

I loved the rhythm of the lines, and the way the poem evokes both the conventional smells and sights of autumn with the unexpected image of the “naked limbs claw[ing]” in reference to the trees that lose their leaves.

The journal only published two pieces of fiction in the past issue, of which I liked “Waiting on Celebrities” the best, which describes the life of an employee at a hardware store. I was drawn in by the strange narrator, who constantly is invoking the advice of his therapist, second-guessing himself, and hinting at mysterious difficulties he has faced in his past.

Another cool feature I liked about this journal was that it allowed the authors to comment on their works. I know that some purists prefer to not know the author’s own interpretation of their poetry or prose, preferring instead to find their own meaning in it. I, however, have no objection, and found some of the explanations attached to the works illuminating. They only deepened my experience of reading the works.

For all you writers out there, it is definitely worth submitting to this journal, which takes writing from emerging and established writers and which has recently published short stories that have been included in anthologies such as “Best American Essays 2013.”

Submission Information:

Submissions are accepted year-round, but the deadline for the next issue (Spring 2014), is March 15, 2014.

For More Information:

Apple Valley Review

Website: applevalleyreview.com

 

Joyland Magazine

Joyland Magazine is an online magazine that focuses on prose from different regions across North America. Their regions include New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto, the South, and the Midwest, and each region has an editor who reads submissions of short fiction, excerpts from novels, and personal essays. The writer should live in the region or have some sort of connection to it, but the stories themselves do not need to reflect a regional quality. The magazine also publishes a print magazine twice a year, featuring selections from the website. Joyland publishes emerging writers and they post new stories often— once every week— so this is a great place for emerging writers to send in their work.

The prose published in the journal is highly polished and mature. There doesn’t seem to be a unifying theme to the content, except for an interest in regional character which is not necessarily a requirement for submission. From the stories I read on the site, the journal seems to be interested in literary fiction depicting real-life situations, such as the death of a child or the sexual frustration of a middle-aged woman. The majority of the pieces published are traditional in form and depict straightforward narratives, and, as a result, are perhaps not as innovative or interesting as some other types of fiction or creative nonfiction. The style of the writing in much of the writing is academic, and many of the contributors seem to be from MFA faculty or from the MFA world.

My favorite piece that I’ve read from this magazine so far is a short story called “Break All The Way Down,” by Roxane Gay from the Midwest Region. It deals with a similar issue as the one discussed in the story “Of Rivers and Caves” by Adrian Dorris published in the latest issue of Blackbird, but I was struck by how different it was from the piece in Blackbird, which felt very elusive and circumspect in comparison. Both stories are about parents who have lost a child and who have another chance to raise a child, yet they are still haunted by the trauma of their original loss. I found the clarity of the prose in “Break All the Way Down”  and the author’s piercing depiction of the mother’s inexpressible grief to be compelling. The protagonist reminds me of the main female character in “Silver Linings Playbook.” But alas, I digress.

Whether you decide to submit to Joyland Magazine or not, I recommend reading some short fiction published on their website. They seem to be on the forefront of redefining what it means to be an online literary magazine by delivering high-quality writing more frequently than just two or three times a year. It will be interesting to see whether more online journals will turn to this type of periodic publication in the future.

Submission Period:

Year Round

For More Information:

joylandmagazine.com

Barely South Review

The Barely South Review is an online journal published twice a year by students and faculty at the MFA program in Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. It was established fairly recently, in 2010. The review caught my eye with its elegant online display which allows you to flip through it like a print journal. These days, online presentation is becoming more and more important as print publication is increasingly less viable and less attractive for new journals. If the design of the website catches my eye, I’m more likely to continue reading to see if I also find the contents interesting.

Barely South publishes fiction, poetry, and nonfiction selections. They also publish the winners of the annual Norton Girault Literary Price and the American Academy of Poet’s University Prize. The review publishes both established and emerging writers and according to their website, they hope to “present many voices, especially those that defy easy regional, thematic, and stylistic categorization.” What I noticed from reading their latest issues is that they tend to publish fresh, youthful writing that reflects the spirit of American rural or suburban life. The selections in the review are not pretentious by any means, and they vary in tone from whimsical to painfully realistic. Some of the fiction, such as the story “The Oedipus Pact” by Brandon Bell in the Fall 2013 issue. Other writing is situated in a particular corner of American and reveals a glimpse into life in that area, such as the story “The Ecstatic Gringo” by Zachary Amendt in the spring 2013 issue, which depicts in gritty detail the impact of the economic collapse on one couple in Detroit.

I enjoyed the direct, crisp voice of the narrator in “The Oedipus Pact,” which I thought caught a concise snapshot of contemporary teenage-parent conflict. I also liked the story “Recipe for Everything” by Sarah Domet in the Spring 2013 issue, which tells the story of a pregnant woman who moves next door to a mysterious, exotic possible witch with a “recipe for everything.” The narrative combines neurotic voice of the anxious pregnant woman who has already lost four pregnancies to miscarriage with tangible sensory imagery evoked by the descriptions of the neighbor Yasamine’s spice recipes, creating a rich and fascinating tale.

The poetry in the review leans towards less experimental and more traditional poetry, mainly free verse, but the latest issues have featured some prose poems and other experimental forms. The themes on the poems vary widely, but most seems to connect to American life. The two poems by Maurice Emerson Decaul in the Spring 2013 issue struck me as fascinating. The author took slave narratives compiled from the Federal Works Project during the Great Depression and interpreted them in verse. I thought the poems displayed a unique way for a writer to preserving voices from the past while also placing his own creative mark on the narratives.

The nonfiction section contains mostly creative nonfiction essays. My favorite piece in the Fall 2013 issue was the essay “(Searching) Love, Lust, and I” by Garrett Dennert. The format, which is not quite an interview or a formula but something close, fits the piece well. The narrator, who is a young man trying to understand his past relationship’s failures and successes is searching for some kind of sense in his muddled love life, and his attempt to systematically address each issue, category by category, reflects his desperate grasping for meaning. In the end, the form does allow him to make some conclusions, but only ones that come too late. The story makes you wonder whether this type of introspective interrogation of the past does any good, since you only clearly see your mistakes in hindsight.

I offer one main critique to the editors the Barely South Review: if their goal is to really aim for a diverse group of voices, they should seek out a wider range of writers and poets from different backgrounds. The majority of the writing represented in the review reflected the contemporary economic and social realities of lower-to-middle-class whites. Overall, I thought the reviews’ selections displayed excellence and originality.

Submission Periods:

September 1 – November 30 for the Spring Issue

January 1 – March 31 for the Fall Issue

For More Information

The Barely South Review

Website: barelysouthreview.digitalodu.com