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
Advertisements

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 

Blue Lake Review

The Blue Lake Review doesn’t dazzle, but it has solid and original pieces of prose and poetry. This online review has a new issue each month, so there are plenty of opportunities for publication. There is no unifying theme among its content; in fact, what seems to be its identifying feature is the diversity of its offerings.

In the latest issue, December 2013, there was one story that took place in the Jim Crow South and one about an isolated, lovesick modern day grad student. The short stories each contain unique premises, which some of them take in stride, while, in others, the narrative falls flat. “Dancing Girls” by Verless Doran was one of the latter. It has nothing to do with dancing girls, and instead discusses an old man selling stories. But the actual frame narrative did not do a good job of conveying the supposedly spellbinding quality of these tales, rendering the piece rather anticlimactic. On the other hand, I really enjoyed “The Diary Farm” by Robert Earle which, told in a diary format, describes how a man starts a “diary farm. At first the business begins as a joke, but it quickly transforms into a budding enterprise. I like how this piece explores all of the ways people record their experiences and what they gain from doing so. At one point, the man’s son devises a computer program that writes a diary for two busy clients, a couple who do not have the time or inclination to share with one another:

April 14, 2013: Al called Margot from San Diego–airplane ticket $650, hotel $490, contract on bid: $500,750–Margot took Excedrin all day–too much cabernet sauvignon last night, lonely–heating bill came: $128, average per month this year: $152–Al walked 5 miles on La Jolla beach–missed Margot–next trip in October–Al must be positive, all the time positive–no more cabernet sauvignon for Margot this week–I.R.A. stocks up .07 percent, bonds down .08 percent–long term fine but when kids? –couldn’t accompany business trips with a baby–maybe wait on babies? Action items: pill through October, early double flight reservations to San Diego, meet with State Farm Agent, buy food once a week without wine, do not even go into wine aisle, wine only in restaurants or with friends, five miles on beach again tomorrow, think positive thoughts…

– Robert Earle, “The Diary Farm”

The program takes their computer activity, processes it, and spits it out into bizarre sentences, just a reminder of how much of our lives can already be reconstructed from our constant use of technology. But there’s something so oddly inhuman about the sentences, which are not much more than disconnected bits of information, that it’s clear you can’t really write a diary with a computer.

I found the poetry in the journal to be plain in language, simple to read and easy to understand, but emotionally moving. The poems mostly seemed lyrical, tending towards more conventional poetry rather than experimental. I like the poem “Since She Took Her Life” by Mike Finley, which has a speaker who cannot help but see death everywhere, presumably after a lover or a friend has committed suicide.

On the submission guidelines page of the review, they editors state they are “not looking for something that shows you how clever you are, how large your vocabulary is, or writing that is overly sentimental.” Instead they want writing that is “pure, absent of false notes.” You can submit short stories of up to 10,000 words, and up to five poems at a time.

For More Information

Blue Lake Review

Website: bluelakereview.weebly.com

The Summerset Review

I do not often review journals that I am not ecstatic about. I tend to choose the journals I review by looking at the ones that I think are the most exciting and fun to read. Although I am not jumping up and down about The Summerset Review, I think it still deserves a review because there is much potential in the journal that can be improved upon (with the help of your submissions, in fact).

(On a side note, let it be said that my opinions are not always the right ones. Feel free to disagree with me if you find this journal particularly inspiring. You can leave a comment at the end of this review, or even send an alternate review of the journal to LitBloom itself).

The Summerset Review, based in Smithtown, New York, is an online journal that publishes fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry four times a year. While it does not have specific theme, I noticed that many of the pieces in the Fall 2013 issue, prose and verse, tend to explore the beauty of the natural world, with narrators and speakers who seek solace there.

I would characterize the poetry as lyrical and conventional. I thought some of it was rather trite, too heavy with metaphor and symbolism without enough attention paid to language. For example, I didn’t like the poem “Replacing the Irreplaceable” by John Grey which compares a man’s terminal  illness to the job that sucks the life from him. A poem from this issue which I did like was “Grilled Cheese” by Kathryn Gahl. I enjoyed its playfulness; it is clearly a poem meant to be read aloud.

As for the review’s fiction and creative nonfiction, I have to say the pieces from both genres fell flat in the latest issue, in my opinion. I was not captivated by most of the stories, which often told more than they showed and used uninteresting language. I did, however, enjoy two pieces: the short story “The Songbird Clinic” by Jean Ryan and nonfiction piece “Bare” by Caroline Hurwitz. I really liked how “The Songbird Clinic” wove in observations about nature and the animals the narrator interacts with as she embarks on a new stage in her life. The author was really able to capture the narrator’s solitude that is at the same time lonely but also peaceful just by showing how much she desires to care for these animals and the connection that she wants to make with the other bird caregiver, Leslie. “Bare” captured an interesting moment in the author’s life, “baring” herself for the reader to show exactly what motivated her to take intimate pictures for her husband serving overseas. I thought it was a beautiful piece.

From what I have read, I think the Summerset Review is a good place to submit as an emerging writer, since they need more fresh voices like the ones who wrote the pieces that I praised above. If you are interested in learning more about what they like to publish, they also have a recommended reading list of stories and poetry on their website to guide you.

Submission Period

Year-Round

For More Information

The Summerset Review

Website: www.summersetreview.org