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.

 

Turning A New Page

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Image: Barry Silver

Four and a half years ago, I started this blog as an assignment for my senior seminar at UCLA, “Living a Literary Life.” I was really excited to take that class because a) it sounded perfect for me as an aspiring writer, b) it was a project based course, so rather than requiring a seminar paper at the end, it culminated in some sort of practical application of our choosing and c) the class mostly consisted of attending literary readings on campus, which I would do for fun anyway. The premise of that course, my professor explained, was to demonstrate our commitment to the literary world beyond our time as English majors at a university.

As a senior in college, I was excited by the prospect of finishing school while continuing a “literary life,” but I was also terrified that without the deadlines of workshops to keep me motivated, I would not write after college— or, even worse, I would write but I would never finish anything. So here I was, afraid that my brief career as a writer would come to a swift end upon graduation. In order to combat that fear, I decided to make a blog reviewing literary journals to see what was being published on the internet. I hoped that if I could find places that I liked to read, I would figure out the best places for me to submit my own work. As long as I had the goal of submitting to places, I would keep writing.

From this blog, I discovered several really amazing lit mags such as [PANK], The Adroit Journal, and Joyland Magazine among others. Later that year, I had my first short story published in an online journal, The Blue Lake Review, which I learned about from a follower of my blog. I also realized that there’s so much good work out there, it’s impossible to read all of it. This discouraged me, and as I got busier with my jobs and then with grad school apps, I stopped posting on this blog.

In September of 2016, I began grad school at UC Davis’s MA program in Creative Writing. I pretty much focused all my time on the demands of grad school, and I started blogging for The MFA Years. I always meant to come back to this blog later, but I realized during grad school that my relationship to literary journals and how I engage with online work has completely changed since I was in college. I began following literary magazines on Twitter, and I realized that I don’t have the time or attention span to read complete issues of magazines. Instead, I started reading links here and there of works published in online literary journals. If I really liked a piece from one journal, I’d also check out some of the other works they recently published.

I’ve often been told that in order to find out where my work would be a good “fit” I should try to read the latest issues of lit mags or look where your favorite writers were published. The first suggestion is somewhat impractical— I just don’t have time to read front-to-back issues of all the journals that interested me. The second suggestion is also rather unrealistic. Just because I know my favorite author X has been published in Y magazine doesn’t mean my work is in any way good enough to be published in Y. That’s not to say I shouldn’t try my luck at Y magazine anyway. But I recognize that my writing is still developing. So instead, I’ve tried to find a more reasonable way of engaging with the online literary world. Here’s my current method.

Step 1: Follow a bunch of awesome literary journals on Twitter. It doesn’t even matter if I’ve never heard of them before because they might be publishing really cool stuff. I’ve used the list feature to make a list of literary journals, and then I can check them out in more detail in my spare time.

Step 2: Follow a bunch of writers on Twitter, including famous authors and “emerging writers,” people who have been published in some literary journals but not many, people in MFA programs, and people who are just like me, interested in writing but not yet “successful.” I found a lot of online writing friends from the MFA Draft Facebook group, which is a community for people interested in applying to MFA programs. And once I was in grad school, I continued to expand my network of writers. But my end goal of this “networking” isn’t to weasel my way into literary journals. Having connections can help, but I was more interested in genuinely connecting to like-minded young writers whose writing I want to support.

Step 3: Read interesting fiction, non-fiction, and poetry as I see fit. I tend to just click on links that sound intriguing to me, instead of force-feeding myself whole issues of journals. Engaging with literature online shouldn’t feel like a chore. It is supposed to be fun and thought-provoking.

Step 4: Make a note of journals that published works that I particularly liked, and make a note of interesting writers that I discover through my literary web surfing. Follow those journals, and follow those writers, go back to Step 1 and repeat.

When I’m looking for places to submit my work, I go back to my lists of places where I read works that I liked. Then I read a few more pieces from that journal to get a sense of whether my writing seems like it would “fit.” Honestly, I usually still have no clue after doing this if my work would “fit,” but it gives me an excuse to read some more cool stuff, so I do it anyway. I make sure my work follows the journal’s guidelines, I submit it, and I wait several months to hear a response. Which is, most often, rejection. Still, the few positive responses I have received have really kept me going.

Four years after graduating from college, I’m just as committed to living a literary life as ever. I’ve come to a crossroads again, since I just graduated from my MA program in Creative Writing. An MFA might still be in my future, but I’ve decided for now to go into teaching and take a step back from the MFA world. That doesn’t mean that I will stop writing; quite the contrary. I feel more equipped than ever to keep writing, revising, and submitting, even while working full time. But I’ve also decided to revamp this blog so that I can continue to demonstrate my commitment to online literature, but in a way that now fits my lifestyle better.

So instead of writing reviews of whole journals, I’m going to start posting links to published works. This is more for my benefit than for anyone else, to keep me accountable, but if you also happen to enjoy my taste in literature, maybe you’ll find these links fun to check out. Just to warn you, since I’m a prose writer, the links I’ll post will be biased towards fiction and nonfiction, although I will try to include some poetry too. Basically if you want a curated list of some cool online literature, which I will post somewhere between every 2 weeks to every month, keep following this blog. The posts will be different than before, but the concept is the same: to help emerging writers, like me, find literary journals that they can read and submit to.

If you made it this far into my blog, thanks for reading, and stay posted for more updates.

-Molly

P.S. I also made a personal website to promote my writing. Check it out: mollymontgomerywriter.com and check out my Twitter: @mollywritesalot

P.P.S. If you like my blog, please check out The MFA years, where I have been a contributor for the past couple years. There are some amazing emerging writers blogging there, and I’m humbled to have posted alongside them. It’s a great resource for people interested in applying to grad programs in Creative Writing.

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

An Interview with Emerging Writer Vanessa MacLellan

Vanessa McClellan

This week, we have an interview with an emerging writer, Vanessa MacLellan. She has published stories in Electric Spec, Pantheon Magazine, and Bohemia Magazine, and her first novel, Three Great Lies, a historical fantasy novel set in Ancient Egypt will be published by Hadley Rille Books in February 2015. Vanessa, whose passion for writing grew during her NaNoWriMo experiences, has developed her career as a writer through the Internet. I chose to interview Vanessa because I thought that her experience as a writer might give me and other writers insight into how to break into the online publishing world.

Q: What made you decide to become a writer? When did you begin writing?

Vanessa: I think that I started writing when I was five.  Badly, of course, but I remember pretending to read blank pages (I couldn’t quite write well at five) to my mother, making up stories with more adjectives than nouns.  As an adult, when I had a handle on real writing, I began writing stories based on a role-playing character I had created for a Dungeons and Dragons game back in 2002.  My creativity naturally spread from role-playing to writing.  Luckily, as I review those first short stories, I’ve gotten a lot better.

I don’t think most people “decide” to become a writer.  I think they just write.  I can’t pinpoint when I decided I wanted to become published, but it was probably about seven or eight years ago when I began to think “Wow, wouldn’t it be nice to live anywhere in the world.  I could support myself on writing.”  I’ve no idea if I can support myself on writing, but I’m willing to work hard to give it a shot.  Plus, I can live pretty cheap.

Q: I saw on your website that you have done National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) before. How has NaNoWriMo influenced your career? Did it help you develop as a writer? Did you find a community there?

Vanessa: All Hail NaNo!  NaNoWriMo was a huge influence in my writing career.  My first NaNo I completed a YA novel that taught me so much about character and plot, but the real lesson I learned was to finish what I started.  I’ve done NaNo nearly every year since that first one.  It’s relaxing compared to my usual editing work.  I can let my inner critic go and just write.

NaNo has many group meeting and write-ins, but I never participated in those.  The community I’ve developed is through my online world, where I cheer for blogging friends, or Google+ connections.  We urge each other on through tweets.  It’s nice, and almost addictive, to be a part of this global writing event.

Q:  When you send out submissions to online journals, how do you choose where to send your writing?

Vanessa: Well, it’s different now than when I first started.  Originally, I looked for themed magazines and wrote or modified something I had for their theme.  Sometimes I had something perfect for their theme.  Now, I have different criteria.  I research the journal’s reach: how many readers it has.  I submit to the more prestigious journals, or the ones that pay more pro-rates.  To be able to join organizations like the SFWA, you have to have so many professional publications and it forces authors who want to join to submit to certain publications. 

Q: How do you deal with rejection in the literary world when your writing is not accepted or published?

Vanessa: It doesn’t bother me much anymore.  I think of the numbers game publishing is: these magazines get hundreds to thousands of submissions, the chance that mine is perfect for that one slush pile reader in that one moment is slim.  So, it’s not personal.  Plus, the rejection comes in by email (if you’re lucky, so many don’t even bother sending you anything) and that’s as impersonal as you can get.

Sure, at first it hurts.  You wonder why it didn’t work.  You argue that they didn’t really read it; they didn’t get your genius.  But really, once you have a wheel-barrel full of rejection emails, the punch to the gut is weak.

Q: What work of writing are you are most proud of and why?

Vanessa: Ah, I love all my children!  But I’d say it’s got to be my debut novel, Three Great Lies.  Still, I read a chapter of that story and I smile proudly at it.  I love my writing voice and my characters.  Jeannette, my main character, has a lovely growth arc.  It’s a female introspective journey, much like the Wizard of Oz.  It’s great to see her finally Get It.  I hope that readers of this novel can learn what she learned.  Plus, it’s probably one of the few novels out there where a mummy is the romantic interest.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers, especially ones entering the world of online publication?

Vanessa: First: Research to see who does not allow simulations submissions and submit to them first.  It’s rough when you find a “perfect fit” but they don’t allow SS and you already have your piece out to 10 other places.  I rarely submit to places that don’t allow SS because I don’t have time to let my story linger with that magazine for 4 or more months.

Second: Keep Submitting!  Do five a month.  Ten a month.  It’s a numbers game.  Get it out there to as many magazines as you can. 

Third: Don’t let rejections or non-communication take you down.  It’s not a reflection on you.

Fourth: Don’t dismiss non-paying markets when you’re starting.  For one thing, your story is out there and being read.  Some non-paying publications have wide readerships and that has value.  But, don’t always give your work away.  You’ve put a lot of time into writing and polishing your piece, it deserves respect. 

Q: What are your favorite literary journals or online websites to read?

I don’t frequent too many websites.  I mainly read articles forwarded to me by my online writing community.  That being said, I do enjoy the Literary Midwife (http://www.newwritersinterface.com/), Marketing Tips of Authors (http://blog.marketingtipsforauthors.com/) and The Future of Ink (http://thefutureofink.com/).  Each of these writing blogs has great information on writing, marketing, and the future of the industry.  I’d recommend each of these if you haven’t read them yet.

For literary magazines, I tend to have a certain loyalty to those magazines that have published me: Electric Spec (http://www.electricspec.com/) and Pantheon (http://pantheonmag.com/). I also enjoy the Colored Lens (http://thecoloredlens.com/), Beneath Ceaseless Skies (http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/, and Spark Anthology (http://sparkanthology.org/excerpts/).  I tend to read from and talk about lesser known journals to help boost their circulation, but there is something to be said for the larger circulation publications.

I love it when I find that gem of a story that just drops your jaw and makes you dwell on it for days.  That is what writing should do, transport the reader, slip into their minds and take up a portion of it for a time.  I hope I touch people like that with my stories.  I guess, that’s every author’s dream.

I for one am definitely intrigued by Vanessa’s upcoming novel. I have soft spot for fantasy, as it’s one of my favorite genres to read and to write. I think it’s important for literary writers to not forget or diminish the entire ecosystems of writing out that make up popular fiction, including fantasy, romance, mystery, or crime writing. These genres have been present on the Web for a long time on various sites and in various forms. They are the early birds in the movement towards online publishing and online literature, and only now are literary publications catching up. At the same time, these genres continue to sell in print too, showing a model of how literature can continue to flourish when made available through different mediums.

For More Information About Vanessa

Visit Her Website at vanmaclellan.com

Sixfold

As promised, here’s a more in-depth explanation of how the journal Sixfold’s unique publication process works. On a side note, I haven’t been posting as often on this site because I just moved to France. If you’re interested, you can also follow my travel blog: assistantinalsace.wordpress.com. I promise to post more often on both blogs, once I’m more settled in.

What is democratic literature? Literature chosen by the people, for the people? The journal Sixfold attempts to answer these questions. An online journal that publishes poetry and short stories, Sixfold allows writers to evaluate other people’s submissions and to vote for the ones they want to be published. Here’s how it works:

It costs $3 to submit a manuscript to Sixfold. Once you submit, you are given manuscripts to read in your same genre. During the first round,  you look at 6, comment on them, and vote for the ones you like best. There are two more subsequent rounds after the first one. At the end of the three rounds, the three highest-voted submissions in each genre receive 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes, and the submissions with the highest votes (the top 20 for fiction and the top 40 for poetry) are published in the forthcoming issue of the journal.

I personally think Sixfold is a great concept, applying crowdsourcing ideas to writing. Not only do you have the possibility of being published, but each writer also receives individualized feedback from all the other people who read their submission. So even if you do not receive enough votes for publication, you still get something out of the process of submissions.

What makes the journal seem so innovative to me is that it changes who the gatekeepers are for publication, but still makes sure there is someone guarding the gates. Instead of having editors who are, in theory, supposed to be experts on recognizing good literature, choose what is published, the writers themselves validate other people’s work. This is also a great chance for writers to become exposed to what other people are submitting to these journals. The only catch is that you absolutely have to participate in the voting and editing process in order for your submission to be eligible. I think that’s only fair.

One drawback that I could potentially see to this type of publication is that it is not “curated” in the same way as regular journals. In some journals, the editors choose a theme and specifically choose pieces for an issue that they think work well together, just one would curate a museum exhibit. But this type of selection isn’t possible for Sixfold. Still, I read some of the works from the Summer issue of the Sixfold and none of the pieces seemed particularly jarring when juxtaposed against the others. In fact, Sixfold benefits from the fact that its voting process cultivates a diverse crop of writing. I was happy to find that it seemed like voters didn’t just choose stories and poems that were all similar to one another.

Some stories I enjoyed from this past issue included “Century”, by Bill Pippin, a short story about a man visiting his father who has just turned 100 years old, and also a very different, quite funny tale called “Conversations With Dakota Fanning” by Zac Hill in which the author imagines an outing with Dakota Fanning and reflects upon the bizarre way we idolize celebrities in our culture. I also enjoyed reading the poems, which tended to seem more straightforward and accessible to me than ones I usually see in contemporary journals. Perhaps having a large group of editors leads to the selection of poetry that is meant for the “everyman” (and woman). In particular, I liked the poems by Jim Pascual Augustin including “The Man Who Wished He Was A Lego” and “The Photograph.”

When you’re choosing which submit to Sixfold, I would recommend choosing something that you think will appeal to other writers like yourself, and also a work that still needs improvement because the voting process will give you a lot of feedback on that particular piece. The next deadline for submissions is coming up soon, on October 24.

For more information:

Sixfold

Website: www.sixfold.org

Fall Writing Contests and Submissions

It has been a while since my last post in July, but I’ve been so busy this past month, I haven’t had a chance to blog. I’ve been writing a couple articles for different publications, and once they are published I will be sure to spam you with links to them, don’t worry. In the meantime, I’ve been checking out more literary journals online and otherwise. We are nearing fall, and it turns out there are some great literary contests with upcoming deadlines.

You may wonder, why is a writer telling me about these contests? Isn’t she in direct competition with me for these prizes? You are right, of course. But I’m a nice person so that won’t stop me from telling you about these contests anyway. If you do win one of these competitions and you learned about it from this blog, please tell people about my website, at the very least.

Without further ado, here are some of the contests and open submissions at literary journals this fall. Happy writing and good luck!

 

The Missouri Review: Editor’s Prize

Deadline: October 1st

Every year The Missouri Review offers the Jeffrey E. Smith Editor’s Prize in three categories: poetry, fiction, and essay. The first place winners in each category receive a whopping $5,000 reward. You can bet the competition is stiff for this one, but I would still give it a shot. The Missouri Review says on its website that it has published “the first short story of more than 100 new fiction writers.” One of those writers who got their start with a publication in The Missouri Review, is Julia Glassman, a novelist who I interviewed earlier this year. The cost of entrance for this contest is $20 ($23 if you submit online), but I think it’s worth it because you get a free subscription to the journal for a year with your submission.

For More Information: www.missourireview.com/tmrsubmissions/editors-prize-contest

 

Spark Anthology: “Monsters and Marvels” Contest

Contest Dates: September 15- October 1

The Spark Anthology is a journal that offers publication and compensation to emerging writers for high-quality writing. It was established by alumni of the California State Summer School for the Arts, which I attended for Creative Writing back in 2009. Its current contest, which starts on September 15 and has a deadline of October 1 is themed “Monsters and Marvels.” They are offering prizes in three categories: prose, poetry, and artwork. First prize for all categories is $500 and publication in the magazine, and the details for the second and third prizes are on their website. And there’s no entry fee for this contest. Here is what the anthology says they are looking for: “Like darkness and light, Yin and Yang, monsters and marvels are two sides of the same coin. Each entry should include both a monster and a marvel—though ‘monster’ and ‘marvel’ may refer to same element of your entry. ”

For More Information: sparkanthology.org/contests/seven/

 

Sixfold

Deadline: October 24

Sixfold is one of the most intriguing online journals I’ve yet to encounter. I stumbled upon it last week when I saw that one of my friends and creative writing colleagues, Nancy Nguyen, had been published in it. Here’s her short story, “Truck Stop” (It’s really good by the way). I checked its submissions page, as I always do when I come across a new journal. It turns out Sixfold is a crowd-sourced journal. I’ve been meaning to write a whole blog post just about this journal, and probably will, but here’s a preview: to figure out what writing goes in each issue, Sixfold asks writers to vote and rank other people’s submissions. When you submit to the journal, you agree to read, edit, and vote on other submissions in your genre for several different rounds of consideration. The highest-voted stories and poems get published, and even the writers who don’t get published will receive feedback on their story from other writers. I think that’s pretty darn cool.

For More Information: www.sixfold.org/howitworks.html

 

Journals With Open Submissions This Fall

 

Transcendence Magazine

Open Submissions: September 5 – October 17

You may remember I reviewed this upcoming journal a while back. They are taking submissions for their second issue which is themed “People.” Here is what they say they want: “Tell us about a person who changed your life for better or worse, one who made a single impression on you before disappearing forever, or one you never met at all and never will. It doesn’t have to be non-fiction, but you should make us feel like it is.” They accept prose, poetry, and art.

Website: transcendencemag.wix.com/transcendencemag

 

Barely South Review

Open Submissions: September 1 – November 30

If you forgot about this journal, check out my review of this wonderful review. They are currently accepting submissions!

Website: barelysouthreview.digitalodu.com

 

Blackbird

Open Submissions: November 1 – April 15

One of my favorite online literary journals opens its gates to submissions on November 1.

Website: blackbird.vcu.edu

 

Cortland Review

Open Submissions: October- June

Another journal I previously reviewed, they accept submissions starting in October.

 

The Adroit Journal

Open Submisisons: Starting October 15

This journal is of particular interest to current students (both undergraduate and graduate) because they have prizes for student writers. Their submissions open up mid-October.

Website: www.theadroitjournal.org

 

Just as these literary journals are gearing up, this blog will be gearing up too. If you enjoy writing about literary topics, and you want to write for this blog, I am currently looking for contributors. You can email me at litbloom@gmail.com.

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

Transcendence Magazine

I was impressed by the inaugural issue of Transcendence Magazine, an online journal started by a senior in high school. Its presentation is professional and its content is high caliber. The magazine contained some really insightful and beautiful pieces, and I also think it has a lot of potential to grow, especially if it narrows its literary gaze. Right now, I think it extends itself too broadly, including pieces that are real gems and other pieces that are mediocre. It also has not yet cultivated a defining taste-  in my opinion, there didn’t seem to be much of  a pattern for how the pieces in the issue fit together.

The first issue, which came out this past spring and contains fiction, poetry, art, and interviews with artists, would be quite hefty if printed on paper, since it is 82 pages long. However, it’s in an online format that is relatively easy to read. Still, I think the magazine would benefit from being slimmer because then it would be more digestible. Unfortunately, it’s hard enough these days to entice people to read literature, and an 82-paged magazine that’s not yet well-known might be too much trouble for many who are just dipping their toes into the literary pool. The quality of the pieces in the issue varied. I must give a disclaimer, of course, that I was judging the works based on my own personal taste, so another person may have liked the stories and poems that I found to be just okay. The poetry was hard for me to judge since, as I’ve said before, I’m not much of a poetry reader and thus poems must be really accessible and thought-provoking for me to like them. Some of the fiction pieces were really good; others had interesting premises but just didn’t quite capture my attention for one reason or another. Below are a few pieces that I enjoyed. I recommend checking out the issue as a whole to get a sense of the kind of writing the magazine is interested in. Fiction-“Jade” by Ethan Brightbill (on p. 42): a short story about a homeless girl on the streets of modern-day Yuexiu, a developing city in China. I liked this one mostly because I found the setting to be very detailed and believable and the narrator had a strong, compelling voice. Poetry- “Tattooed” by Armit Pamesseur( p. 13): I don’t always “get” poems, and sometimes I don’t think you need to really get exactly what they’re driving at to appreciate them as aesthetic works. I liked the rhythm and imagery of this poem and the ambiguity of the meaning of the woman’s tattoos, and how the poem seems to take on a spiritual tone despite its rejection of religion that condemns the woman’s actions. “Instead of Discussing Marriage” by Glen Armstrong (p. 36): This is one of those poems that almost anyone can enjoy, whether they love reading poetry or not. The speaker lists all the things he should have done instead of discussing marriage with his girlfriend. It’s playful and funny but also thoughtful, and I really like it. Another aspect of the magazine that piqued my interest are the interviews it has with artists from around the globe. I was surprised by the global reach of the magazine. There were interviews with artists from America, China, and Russia, and two were with young, emerging artists in their field. I really liked the interview with Fei Wu, a Shanghai writer (p. 38) because it explored issues of censorship in the literary world in China, which I know a little about from taking Asian American lit classes. It was interesting to hear from the perspective of an artist who is living in the midst of China’s literary scene, since I mostly have met and read ex-patriates. Overall, I look forward to seeing what Transcendence Magazine will come up with in its next issue. I plan on possibly submitting some works and seeing what comes back. Their criteria for submission is an emphasis on stories, both in poetry and prose. They want captivating language too, but they are mostly looking for narrative voice and plot, and they are not as interested in experimental works. Their submissions are currently closed, but they will start accepting submissions again in the fall.

For More Information:
Transcendence Magazine
Website: transcendencemag.wix.com/transcendencemag

Five Chapters

My last post, back in May, was about serial online writing, so I thought it would be apt to review an online literary journal devoted to serial writing, Five Chapters. Five Chapters publishes one short story each week, but in five parts which are released sequentially Monday through Friday.

I really like the concept of Five Chapters because it offers a different kind of experience reading a short story than we would normally have reading one in a literary magazine or an anthology. Five Chapters is clearly catering to readers’ diminishing attention spans, but it does not do so by lowering the quality of the writing it publishes. The stories I have read on Five Chapters have been well-worded and thought-provoking, although they tend to be strictly literary in style and academic in content. The journal seems to be going for a New Yorker-esque vibe, which doesn’t always appeal to me.

For example, latest story they published, “HTLV-III” by Matt Sailor is told from the perspective of a philosophy graduate student. It has a compelling narrative, but in my opinion, the overly-jargonistic narrator who contemplates the narrative structure and effect of his own story as he is telling it is quite off-putting, albeit true to the personality of the character.

On the other hand, I really liked the story “Dubrovnik 1989” by Paula Whyman, which is about a young single woman who feels listless, drifting from one man to another just as she drifts from job to job. I like the story’s narrator, who talks in a very detached manner about her own life, but at the same time is frank and observant.

To read Five Chapters properly requires one to diligently check the website every weekday or to subscribe to their email list. I haven’t yet done either, but I did stick with the serial reading experience for one week, back in May, reading the installments on the days they came out, instead of reading all of them at once (which is what I did today).

The story I read was “Somewhere Around Then” by Nick Kocz. I enjoyed the story, which is about a boy’s summer romance before he goes off to college. Reading the story in parts, I realized, made me engage with the plot and the language more deeply than I would have otherwise, just skipping through it to reach the next important plot point. Each day while I was reading it, I had to go back to the earlier part so I could remember the context for what was currently going on in the story. So delivering the story in bits actually helped me improve my absorption of it, funnily enough.

The authors or the editor of Five Chapters choose deliberately when to break the story in a way that enhances suspense. Most of the time, the breaks feel natural because it comes during a change of scene. That doesn’t mean that the story must consist of only five parts. Some of the stories that I read had smaller breaks within the chapters. I’m not sure whether the editor looks for stories that could easily be broken into five parts or whether he works with the author to make the stories fit.

The editor of Five Chapters is Dave Daley, the editor in chief at Salon.com. The journal accepts unsolicited submissions of stories between 5,000-10,000 words. Since they have published Pulitzer Prize winners, National Book Award winners, and PEN/Faulkner award winners, having your story published on this website would put you in great company.

One critique I must make of the website is that is has a funky logo and backdrop, which could be much improved upon, but that doesn’t detract from the high-quality writing they publish.

Submission Information

Submissions are accepted year-round and the site does charge a $3 fee for submitting

For More Information:

Five Chapters
www.fivechapters.com

 

Serial Online Writing: Literature’s New Frontier?

About a month ago, my interest was piqued by a New York Times Article on the Wattpad App, an app that is forming a new online literary community of readers and writers. I was fascinated by the article, which discusses how the app allows for readers to comment on works, which writers post in segments on the website or through the mobile app. Of course, as writers, we are always looking for people who would actually be interested in reading what we have to say, and sometimes it can feel a little lonely scribbling at our secluded desks, doubting whether anyone would actually want to read what we have written. Websites like Wattpad have existed for a long time, of course, especially for fanfiction. What is different and striking about these new applications, which include JukePop and Medium, is that they are technological start-ups, using social media tools to link writers and readers together.

But what are the pros and cons for a writer hoping to share their precious work? If you have been following the news at all, you have probably heard some recent success stories about writers such as Andy Weir, whose successful novel The Martian was originally posted online or Jack and Jasinda Wilder who were able to prevent their home from being foreclosed using the profits from their romance e-books.

Can using these writing apps eventually lead to more traditional forms of publication? Do they necessarily need to? Can one make a living (or at least some money) from this avenue of writing? And how does publishing writing through these apps change the writing process- for better or for worse?

The jury is still out on a lot of these tricky questions. Some writers have been able to “make it” through these new non-traditional forms of writing, and, in my opinion it’s worth giving them a shot.

But before you post or submit to the following websites, you should think about your ultimate goal for a particular piece of writing that you have. Would it be better to save it and submit it to more traditional journals, newspapers, or magazines that accept fiction or freelanced articles? The answer to this question depends on your own personal goals and desire for prestige. Most of these sites lack traditional “gatekeepers” who will approve your work. Some of them do have bad writing on them. Thus, you might be hesitant about having your writing published on such a site, thinking that it should only be a last resort for people who can’t otherwise get published. That’s a valid concern, but not one that I think should prevent you from at least trying out these sites. There is plenty of excellent writing on these sites and dismissing all of it as unworthy simply because there is not an authority that is deeming it publishable is not fair to the writers on these sites.

Another defining feature of these sites is that writers rely on readers’ endorsements to popularize their work. This isn’t so different from traditional means of publication, in which writers whose works are “bestsellers” become well-known. However, in this case, you have easier to access readers, because the sites remove the middleman between you and the reader. Thus, you can more easily cultivate a base of fans and followers. Of course, the flip side is you are competing with all the other writers on these websites for readers.

Financially, posting on these sites is probably not going to pay off immediately (except for possibly writing for JukePop, which gives cash rewards to its authors under certain circumstances). But then again, most of the time you won’t be compensated for being published in a traditional journal or magazine either, and if you are it won’t be enough to make a living. These websites are opportunities to make yourself known, which could lead to a book deal with a traditional publisher in the future.

Most of these sites allow you to retain publishing rights, so you can publish the stories again somewhere else if you want to. However, you should note that a lot of times traditional publishing outlets, such as book publishers and most newspapers and magazines, often do not accept submissions that have already been published. You would have to check with the particular place you are submitting, but most of the time having a story published online, even if it is through one of these websites or through your own blog, counts as a previous “publication.” Of course, not all publishing outlets are strict about this, and there are always exceptions- for example, the writer of “The Martian,” Andy Weir, still got a book deal with a publisher after his novel had already been published on his website and put on Amazon as a self-published e-book.

One more consideration is that writing posted online can be easily plagiarized. But if you post through sites like the ones below, often times, they can offer some protection from plagiarism because they can establish that you published a piece of writing on their site on a particular date.

What are the advantages to the writing process that these sites can give you? Well, first of all, you can get reader feedback that can be valuable for your editing process. This could help you improve your writing in general or help you revise the particular story you are working on. Second of all, these sites can help motivate you to write on a regular basis in order to cultivate a following of readers. They can allow you to do interesting things like make your story into an interactive “choose your own adventure” serial: you can engage your readers directly by asking them to vote for what should happen next in the comments.

At the same time, writing in serial installments is not necessarily the best way to construct a coherent story. Most published writers compose several drafts of novels, which can involve going back and changing crucial details at the beginning of the story. You can lose this process if you only build on the chapters that you have written before without editing the piece as a whole. But just because these websites tend to publish stories serially doesn’t mean you have to write them that way. You can write a complete story and then publish it in chapters on a site. I doubt that famous writers who published their novels serially, such as Charles Dickens, just wrote chapters as they went along- they usually had a finished manuscript ready prior to publication.

Here are a few examples of emerging online writing websites that publish serial fiction, journalism, or blog posts. The majority of these also have mobile apps available.

Wattpad

Wattpad allows you to post stories and comment on other people’s writing. Most of the stories are serial installments that together make up a longer short story, novella, novel. They have sections for every type of prose genre imaginable from Mystery to Science Fiction to Romance, and they also have poetry and fanfiction. Wattpad allows you to choose what copyright you want to use for the writing you submit to their site (you can retaining all rights, make it public domain, or do something in between). You can also edit your posts once they have been put online.

Website: www.wattpad.com

JukePop Serials

JukePop is similar to Wattpad, in that it allows you to read stories and comment on them. However, it differs from Wattpad in that it restricts whose writing is posted on their website. People make submissions to their website which are then “curated” by the JukePop staff, so that only certain stories are selected for publication on the website. Then, once a story has been accepted, readers can vote to endorse the story. Authors who have popular stories are eligible to receive cash rewards. JukePop. Writers retain the rights to their serial stories, and they can choose to publish them elsewhere after they have been published on JukePop.

Website: www.jukepop.com

Medium

Medium is another site that allows people to publish their writing online and read other’s writing and recommend articles through social media. However, it is focused on journalistic and nonfiction writing. They allow you to post articles freely on their site, so in that sense it almost like a blogging platform. Writers retain the rights to their work. To post on Medium, you need to have a Twitter account. In my opinion, Medium’s layout is confusing and not very user-friendly, and I am still uncertain why a blogger or journalist would choose to use it over a different platform. According to this New York times article, the defining feature of Medium is that you can leave “notes” that link to your own posts, which differ from comments because they create more of a conversation and network than regular blogging. I’m not entirely convinced, but then again I haven’t played around with Medium that much yet.

Website: www.medium.com

Other Blogging Platforms

Of course, other ways of publishing your writing online include using tools like this blog, which is a WordPress blog. I’ve also used Blogger before. In my experience, WordPress has been more useful for allowing me to customize what I want my blog to look like and how I want to categorize my posts. It also has connected me to more writers and readers than my Blogspot blog, which I mainly used for sharing updates on my travels with my immediate family and friends. Both are definitely good platforms for blogging. However, I am hesitant to post any creative writing on a personal blog, just because I worry that it can easily be plagiarized. That’s my personal decision, of course, and perhaps not the one that you will make.

WordPress Website: www.wordpress.com

Blogger Website: www.blogger.com