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.

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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

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

Rainy Day Magazine

Rainy Day Magazine is published by undergraduates at Cornell University, but accepts submissions from undergraduates across the country. Founded in 1969, it is one the oldest university-based literary magazines around. The magazine, which is published twice a year, includes poetry, fiction, and other in-between genres, such as prose poems. They seem pretty flexible with their submissions, since they have no specified word count limitations.

Since the journal publishes undergraduate work, many of the poems and stories have themes about college life. Just as many do not, testifying to the inventiveness of young writers. Even if you are a 20-year-old college student, you, by no means, are obligated to write about college parties (in fact, most people would probably prefer to read about something else). The stories and poems in the latest issue available online have a wide range of interesting characters including a psychiatrist-turned-stalker, juvenile delinquents, and a hermaphroditic squid. A sense of originality and freshness ran through the works.

The poems in Rainy Day pay close attention to language, playing with words and shaping them in interesting ways. Some of the poetry struck me as too trite and clever, but others were full of rich imagery and interesting dialect. I recommend checking out “Low and Rustic Life” by Kevin Mosby in the Fall 2012 issue (and I should be transparent- Kevin is a good friend of mine, but I also think he’s a great poet, so his poems are worth taking a look at).  The poem looks at attending university from a different point of view, the view of the less educated family members who lament the younger generation’s eagerness to escape their humble roots. It rings with a poeticness that is unassuming and grounded.

My favorite work of fiction from the last issue was a short story called “Mountaineering” by Miklos Zoltan, which depicts a married man facing a mid-life crisis. The main character suffers from a malaise, a discontentedness with his mediocre life that he can’t quite put his finger on. I liked the way the author portrayed the inequality in the marriage through harping on their differences through the repeated use of unequal numbers to describe things about them, always using one-and-a-half for the wife, and three for the man. It gave me as a reader a concrete sense of how the couple can never match up anymore on their opinions or their experiences.

For More Information

Rainy Day

Website: rso.cornell.edu/rainyday

Welcome to LitBloom

As emerging writers learning to navigate the labyrinth of print and online journals that make up today’s literary world, we have created this website to guide others through the submissions process.

The first step to submitting one’s work (that is, after writing), is finding the right place to send it. On this site, we will highlight a wide spectrum of literary journals and magazines- including established print publications and prestigious online journals such as Tin House and Blackbird, as well as up-and-coming publications that often publish emerging writers. We hope to give writers a sense of the overall tone and focus of the journals, so that they can better find journals that interest them.

The best way to narrow down where to submit is to find places that publish work that fascinates you and that might be similar to your own writing. To all you emerging writers out there, we hope that this website helps you find a place for your voice to bloom. To all you editors of literary journals, especially ones who publish emerging writers’ work, whether you are based at a university, run by recent graduates, or staffed by literary enthusiasts, this is a great site for you to publicize your journal and connect with potential readers and contributors.

If you would like to suggest a literary journal to be spotlighted or if you have any questions, comments, or stories to share, you can contact us at litbloom@gmail.com.

We are currently seeking submissions for reviews of literary journals and stories of successful publications by emerging writers. For more information about submitting to LitBloom, please send us an email.