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

 

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

 

My personal literary journey

Dear readers and writers,

It’s been quite a while since my last post, but I am starting this blog back up again.  I wanted to explain why I started this blog in the first place and tell you my story of diving into the online literary world thus far.

I began this blog as a project for a seminar called Literary Life at UCLA, where I am currently finishing my senior year. Our professor, Mona Simpson, who is a well-known bestselling novelist, wanted to her students to engage in the literary world in some way, whether through attending readings, joining a  book club, or writing for a journal. She was concerned that many English majors study and read great authors during their time in college and then move on with their lives, letting go of their passions for literature and writing. Thus, she asked each of us to start a project that showed our commitment to a “literary life” that we could continue beyond the class and even beyond graduation. With graduation fast approaching, I’ve realized the importance of continuing to pursue my love for writing. One of the ways I will be doing so is by posting regularly to this website, to share with fellow readers and writers the neat literary journals I’ve found online.

I started this website because I wanted to be able to submit my own writing to the literary journals that I am reviewing, and also so that it could become a resource for other emerging writers who are interested in finding places to publish their work. I am excited to share with you that my plan has been a success: I will be published in one of the literary journals that I reviewed, The Blue Lake Review, this upcoming May!

Starting in November, I sent out three of my short stories to a total of six different journals. The majority of those I discovered from working on this blog.  I received a few rejections, which I expected. But one of them is what Julia Glassman would call an encouraging rejection, telling me that the editor liked part of my story, but that it wasn’t right for their journal at the time. And only a few days later, I heard back from the Blue Lake Review letting me know that my short story “U-Turns Are Not Permitted” had been accepted!

Before this my only creative writing publications have been in UCLA’s literary journal, Westwind. Of course, I was pleased to be published there, too, but I wanted to expand my publications beyond my school’s community, which I have now accomplished.

I’m not posting this story just to brag. Instead, I hope other emerging writers take inspiration from it. Doing research on the places where you submit beforehand and revising your story several times (in my case, I probably had written at least 4 or 5 drafts of it) can make all the difference. I hope that all of you not-yet-published writers continue to follow my blog to find journals where you can submit your work. Also, I hope that you keep on writing. In my opinion, as long as you write and you believe in yourself as a writer, that makes you one. But being published is also very satisfying and is a worthy goal to pursue. Happy writing, and please check back soon for more reviews, interviews, and writing advice!

-Molly Montgomery, LitBloom Founder and Author

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

[PANK]

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

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

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

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

Submission Period

Year-Round

For More Information

[PANK] Magazine

Website: pankmagazine.com

Brevity Mag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submission Period

Year Round

Submission Details

Submissions should be creative nonfiction of 750 words or less

For More Information

Brevity Mag

brevitymag.com

The Cortland Review

Based in Cortland, New York, The Cortland Review is an online magazine of fiction and poetry, focusing mostly on poetry and emphasizing poetry as a performance art. All of its poems are accompanied by an audio file of the voice of the poet reading the poetry aloud.

The review publishes an issue four times a year, as well as putting out features twice a year— including translations of non-English poetry. Their website also has a unique widget,  called The Poetry Streamer, which may be of interest to those of you who want to listen to poetry, not just read it. The Poetry Streamer plays randomized audio selections of poetry from past issues of the magazine.

The poetry in the journal tends towards traditional, free verse poetry, often lyrical in tone. It is not a journal for experimental poetry, so if that is what you write, this is probably not the journal for you. As a reader, I found the poetry to be interesting and accessible, although a little stale at times. One poem that I really did like from the summer 2013 issue of the journal, Issue 60, was “What Happens Before Anything” by Dara Barnat. It is a simple poem, but I thought the way the author uses an image of snowflakes piling up as a comparison to how a mental or emotional burden can amass is very powerful.

The fiction published by the journal is mostly short fiction, “flash fiction,” that is almost short enough to be called poetry. Yet it retains a distinctly prose-like feel where a narrative emerges in just a short span of words. Both pieces in Issue 60 of the journal follow a similar format of fragmented snippets that add up to a whole. I didn’t really like either of them. I think it is incredibly difficult to make a piece of fiction that short that can convey a story in its entirety. “Tennis in a Dozen Easy Lessons” by Charles Israel, Jr. which compares different moves in tennis to the narrator’s life felt a little too obvious for me.

On the other hand, I really like the short story “San Francisco, Summer 1990”  by Michael Bourne from Issue 59. I wouldn’t call it flash fiction, since it is too long to fall into that category, but it is certainly a shorter short story. The story captures a pivotal moment in the narrator’s life as he encounters his dying father, to whom he has not spoken in many years, and the author seems to hint that he will make the same mistakes as his father. I think it is a subtle and intriguing piece.

Submission Period

Year-Round

Submission Details

Submit 3-5 Poems, or short fiction up to 3,500 words

A cover letter with biographical information should be included

For More Information

The Cortland Review

www.cortlandreview.com