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.

 

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#Twitterfiction

You may have heard that this past week David Mitchell, author of several novels including Cloud Atlas, was live-tweeting a short story called “The Right Sort” on his twitter.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, I recommend that you do. He isn’t the first major author to dabble in the new genre of twitterfiction; other well-known authors who have published through Twitter include Jennifer Egan and Teju Cole. But this was my first experience reading a live-tweeted short story, so while reading it, I began to wonder how viable of a platform is Twitter for fiction, especially for emerging writers who don’t have the follower base that bestselling authors do.

For authors like David Mitchell, Twitterfiction is more of a marketing tool than a sincere publishing platform. Nevertheless, we can learn a lot from “The Right Sort.” The form of tweets, which must have 140 characters or less, is not extremely conducive to reading, since only a sentence or two at most can be tweeted at a time. I thought Mitchell did a good job working with the form to achieve the tone and style he wanted for his narrator. The narrator, a teenage boy hopped up on Valium, remarks,

Valium breaks down the world into bite-sized sentences. Like this one. All lined up. Munch-munch.

Thus Mitchell’s narrator has great tweet-sized thoughts most of the time that fit well with the format. (Is Mitchell critiquing the Millenials’ miniscule attention span through his narrator Nathan’s tweetable voice?) Later the short, jarring sentences transform into confusing stream-of-consciousness, when the narrator’s tone changes and he becomes terrified and disoriented. Finally, closer to the end of the story, the story tends towards the surreal. But I think this format in 140 character pieces still works, because the tweets allow for the narrator’s strange impressions and thoughts to feel fragmented even as they run together.

It would have been easier to read the story just typed out, of course, but I can see why twitterfiction is appealing. Using twitter, authors deliver a story serially, creating suspense that keeps the reader interested. I’ve written about serial online writing before in my article about different online writing platforms and in my article about the online journal Five Chapters, and as a member of the social-media consuming Millenial generation, I can see the appeal in munching on a story in “bite-sized sentences,” as opposed to being confronted by a large mass of text. It’s like the difference between shoveling down three-course meal at the end of the day versus chewing little snacks throughout the day. The snacks aren’t necessarily good for you, and you might still be hungry, but at least you’ve kept your jaw busy.

So does that mean we should all start composing our short stories and poetry with 140 characters-per-line enjambment? Perhaps, but I really think it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with twitterfiction. Are you attempting to write the next great American novel and post it on Twitter? If so, the genre of twitterfiction is probably not for you. A Hemingway novel might be tweetable, that’s true, but I can’t see anyone trying to slosh their way through an ocean of long-winded Steinbeck-style tweets. I’m not trying to diss Steinbeck- I love his style, but let’s face it, The Grapes of Wrath is just not appropriate for twitter.

What is the ideal situation for posting twitterfiction then, if you’re an emerging writer? Well, for the people who are interested in Twitter as a flash fiction or poetry platform, there are a few twitter accounts that are self-styled twitter-zines. They curate fiction tweets, and submission is as easy as using the right hashtag or mentioning the zine in a tweet. A couple twitterzines include 140 characters and nanoism.  Both accept submissions via email. Check out the Submission Info below for more details.

Twitter might have some other innovative uses for writers and editors of literary magazines looking to promote fiction. Why not use the short format to present the first sentence of a short story with a link to its publication, using a tweet as a hook to draw in readers? That seems to be what all the major news outlets do these days to try to get people to watch their videos or read their articles, so why wouldn’t it work for fiction?

Of course, these techniques assume you already have a follower base. If you don’t have a large follower base, I suggest working on building one first before trying to market through Twitter. As I type this, I have fewer follows on Twitter than I would like, but actually just through the act of putting tweets out there with hashtags to garner attention for yourself, you can start to gather more followers (Shameless plug: you can follow me on twitter @hapawriting). And you don’t have to feel guilty about attention-seeking because it’s all for the sake of your career as a writer, right?

If you have thoughts on how to use Twitter as a useful writing and publicity tool, please share them in the comments below. I’m interested to hear about your experiences with twitterfiction.

Submission Info:

140 Characters

Direct message TwitterFiction on Twitter, or email your short stories to twitterfiction@gmail.com. Submissions must be 140 characters or less, of course.

Nanoism

Email submissions to editor@nanoism.net, include your name, bio (up to 134 characters), and subject line: “Nanoism Submission”

 

 

Prompt Lit Mag

This past week, I was struck by writer’s block. It didn’t hit me all at once, instead it was like a caterpillar slowly inching up my skin. I didn’t notice it until one day I just felt completely uninspired and couldn’t get a single word out on paper. That’s when I turned to the Internet to provide me with writing prompts. I’ve written from prompts before, mostly during creative writing workshops in college, so the feeling of picking up my pen with a vague idea of what I am going to write and seeing what falls on the paper is a familiar one. I have dabbled in writing prompts for the past week with moderate success, but, more importantly, the prompts helped me with just getting back into the habit of writing in general. I now no longer feel anguished when picking up my pen or opening a word document, although I can’t guarantee that what spills out of my mind will be any good.

While I was searching for writing prompts, I happened to recall a literary magazine I discovered a while back that is focused entirely around prompts. It’s called the Prompt Literary Magazine (or the Prompt for short). It’s an online journal, and I think it offers something really unique, especially to all of us emerging writers and to writers who are currently students. The Prompt publishes poetry, prose, art and non-traditional submissions with one caveat- they must be inspired by a writing prompt. They provide an avenue for pieces that sound “workshopped” to be shared. In each issue they offer an “editor’s challenge,” a prompt that readers can complete and then submit to the magazine, but they also publish works based on any prompt, just as long as you explain the prompt with your piece. They seem especially open to publishing new and emerging writers since many of the people who use prompts are still in the process of learning how to write and are not seasoned experts.

I read through two of the Prompt’s past issues and overall found writing that was clever, thoughtful, and fun. There are all sorts of poems and short stories within the Prompt’s pages, and the best part about the journal is that you can read what some other writers did with different prompts and then try them yourself. My favorite poems in the latest issue (Volume 2 Issue 1) include a poem by Margaret Vidale, “On the Table,” which was written in response to the Jackson Pollock painting “The Tea Cup” (Page 9) and a poem titled after its prompt, “Strike a Spark,” by Lyssa Tall Anolik (Page 15). I was refreshed by the imagery of these two poems, and it seems to me that poems inspired by prompts are often more exciting because of their randomness. They pull in language from unexpected places, such as in the poem “Putting up Preserves” by Crystal Karlberg (Page 33), which is composed of words taken from a single Scrabble game.

I also enjoyed the prose, although I think prompts often work better for poetry since it is harder to come up with spontaneity in the structure of prose. I absolutely loved the short story “The Making of a Poet” by Elizabeth Kate Switaj (Page 42), which explores what would happen if the meaning of “poetry bomb” were literal. She dives right in to an incredibly fascinating universe where poetry is used to maim people, and I just wanted to stay there and watch even after the short story was over.

Overall, I highly recommend checking out the Prompt’s website in order to read their journal and discover the prompts they have for writers on their website. They are currently accepting submissions for their next journal, so if you come up with anything good from the prompts you use, or if you have something sitting around from a workshop that was inspired by a prompt, definitely send it in.

For More Information

The Prompt Literary Magazine
Website: www.promptlitmag.org

LitBloom Updates

Again, it’s been a while since I last posted. I have been brainstorming ways of making this blog more interesting because there is certainly a lot to explore in the world of online writing. If you have any suggestions for blog posts about writing that you would like to see, please post them in the comments! I would love to have some feedback from all of you who follow this blog, whether you are writers or readers, to see what kind of resources I can provide to you all.

Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on LitBloom about different online forms of serial writing. In the meantime, please check out my short story “U-Turns Are Not Permitted” which was just published in the Blue Lake Review yesterday in their May Edition.

Thank you all for being loyal readers of my blog!

The Adroit Journal

The Adroit Journal is a great platform for emerging writers and unique voices. I was compelled by nearly every piece in its latest issue, Issue Eight. The online journal, which was started in 2010, publishes poetry, short fiction, and art. One thing I noted reading all of the biographies of the contributors is that the grand majority of them are young- either high school students or undergraduates. But before you scoff at comparing yourself to high school students, check out the work in this journal. It radiates promise. I wish I had been writing that well as a high-schooler. Hell, I wish I could write that well now.

The poetry in this journal is in some ways experimental. It is mostly free verse with some prose poetry sprinkled in. What I found remarkable about it was the poetry’s readability.  I often feel like an unwelcome visitor when reading poetry because the poets are speaking in a hidden language that I don’t understand, even when I apply myself to understanding the text. But these poems opened their arms to me, and even when I wasn’t sure what was going on, their language was inviting at least. My favorite poem from this issue is “How We Make Love” by Cheryl Julia Lee, which uses a beautiful and very concrete metaphor, comparing “making love” to folding origami. I like how the whole poem plays on the phrase “make love,” turning love and physical intimacy into a product of art that has a process and a meaning that lasts beyond the time of its creation.

If I had to describe the fiction from this issue, I’d call it “quirky.” Many of the pieces are wacky and fun, but still tackle deeper issues at the same time, such as “Josephine March Sighs With You” by Erin Entrada Kelly and “How to Keep Animals from Defecating in Your Closet” by Mary Sheffield. Others were darker and more serious.  The Adroit Journal accepts stories that are up to 2,500 words, so most of the stories could be classified as “flash fiction.” The story, “The Hubei Boys” by Christina Qiu is the most striking to me. I love its meditative tone and how it gives insight into the daily life of Chinese schoolboys and peasants.

The journal also is unique in its commitment to supporting human rights causes in other countries. Its most recent issue features poems by Zimbabwe writers, which the journal found by working in partnership with the Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights organization. These poems are really thought-provoking and worth checking out.

Submission Information:

Next Deadline: April 1st, so send in your best work quickly!

For More Information

Website: theadroitjournal.org

 

Decades Review

Decades Review is another online journal that has recently sprung up in the past few years. Published quarterly on its website, the review contains poetry, prose, and artwork. I perused its last two issues, Issue Eight and Issue Nine, and found that some of it prose bordered on cliché and was rather generic. However, there were a few gems, and the review seems to be up-and-coming overall. It seems like a great starting place for emerging writers seeking publication.

The poetry published in the review is lyrical and sometimes more intellectual than emotional. I enjoyed the poem “Liars” by Matthew Williams, in Issue Nine, which had surprising and interesting imagery. From that issue, I also liked the poem “River of Perdix” by Danielle Susi, which examines the legend of Daedalus and Icarus from an unexpected perspective. Overall, I would describe the poetry in the review as widely varying, but mostly clever and contemplative. I think the poetry in the review is stronger than its prose offerings.

Most of the prose in the review I found to be disappointing, especially the stories in the latest issue, which delve into the romantic and emotional lives of their characters, but leave out specifics, giving the stories a hollowed-out, generic feel. I did, however, enjoy the story “Kacie” in Issue Eight, which I expected to be another rather generic story, but it turned to have some unexpected twists. I’m not sure if those twists were justified, but at least they made the story more interesting. I also liked the flash fiction “At a Distance” by Kristina England, which manages to evoke a lot of emotion in just short span of words. These pieces are stronger than some of the other published in the journal because they pay closer attention to detail and to character.

The review accepts both flash fiction and longer short stories, but the works it publishes tend to be on the shorter side.

I was intrigued by the artwork in the review, which adds a whole new dimension to the writing, depending on where it is placed, as well as being interesting in its own right. Some of the photography and drawings were astonishing, while others were almost creepy. The artwork creates an eery but also artsy effect that contributes to the overall atmosphere of the journal. I recommend checking it out!

Submission Period:

Year Round

For More Information
Decades Review

www.decadesreview.com 

[PANK]

[PANK] magazine is an online and print magazine that publishes “emerging and experimental poetry and prose,” according to their website. Initially, I found the word “experimental” daunting, assuming that the contents of the magazine would be incomprehensible to a novice poetry reader like me. I was surprised to find that the poetry in the magazine is very accessible. Its experimental qualities come more from playing with language and form than from a tendency towards obscurity. Much of the prose also resembles the poetry; it’s often short fiction that qualifies more as flash fiction or prose poetry than short stories.

The poetry in this magazine tends to be highly lyrical and rhythmic. I really like how the poems feel uninhibited and wild. My favorite poems from the latest issue, which I think are very representative of the magazine as a whole are “Mew Zee Um” by Bob Hicok and “Partial Midwestern Love” by Bindu Bansinath (and if you need any proof that this magazine publishes emerging writers, check out Bansinath’s bio at the bottom of the page— she’s seventeen year’s old!).

The prose in [PANK] also has very interesting use of imagery and language. However, in one of the pieces, “Jerry” by John Thornton Williams, I found the plot to be so confusing that it distracted me from the actual prose. I could not follow the chronology of the story, and that took away from my enjoyment of reading it. On the other hand, I did like the three short stories by Kaj Tanaka which talked about reservation life, especially the last one, entitled “Wake.” I didn’t think there was anything particularly “experimental” about them, apart from their brevity, but they were well-written and compelling to read.

[PANK]’s online magazine publishes new works every month.

Submission Period

Year-Round

For More Information

[PANK] Magazine

Website: pankmagazine.com