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.