July Recommendations

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Image: matryosha

While trying to decide how to re-vamp this blog, I’ve been plucking stories and essays from the internet here and there, reading a bit of this and that and trying to come up with some sort of system for how to read literature on the web. But I keep feeling overwhelmed by just how much content there is out there online. There are thousands of literary journals, each diligently producing issues. How is it possible to find what kind of work you like reading and how can you possibly find a place to submit to that fits your style and actually might accept your submission?

Reader, I have no easy answers for you. I wish there were some sort of cataloguing system, an app maybe (I’m not a tech person so don’t expect me to come up with this), that recorded all the different literary content out on the web and sorted it to help a reader who has some time to read from the web, but not all the time in the world, to find cool new writing. But as of right now, I have yet to discover such a system. LitHub.com  comes close- they feature content from many different magazines and presses around the web. But they don’t encompass everything. Duotrope.com is a paid service that shows you statistics about different publications, such as their response times and approximately how many people are submitting to them, but it doesn’t cover the content in the journals. I still think the best way to go about finding stories, essays, and poems that you might like is to a) make friends with other literary-minded people (whether you’re friends with them in person or just over the internet) and see what they recommend and b) find random literary journals, click on a random link, and see what they have to offer.

I’ve been doing a bit of both for the past year, and I’d like to share you, my friends, some of my personal recommendations. In each post I will feature 3-4 journals with a few works that I liked from their site. If you happen to be a writer who is featured in the journal I recommend (or in another journal), and you’re disappointed that I didn’t mention your piece, email me a link to your piece (litbloom at gmail dot com), and I’ll take a look at it. I promise you, I wasn’t trying to overlook your piece, I probably just didn’t happen to click on it. I’ll try not to feature too many of my friends’ work since I don’t think that would be totally fair, but if I really believe in the writing they’ve published, I will share it.

 

Entropy

My first recommendation for the month of is for a site for which I have a personal fondness: Entropy.  Yes, they have published two of my nonfiction essays, but aside from being grateful for their patronage, I genuinely love their site. Every couple months, they feature places to submit your writing, including journals, presses, chapbooks, and writing retreats and residencies. Here is the where-to-submit page for this summer. They also have really insightful nonfiction essays and they publish some fiction and poetry. Right now, I’m keeping tabs on the “Woven” series, essays on the #MeToo movement, including this really heartbreaking and powerful essay about the culture of sexism and sexual violence in medicine, “The Men in Medicine and the Theory of Evolution” by Helena Rho.

For more information, here are Entropy’s submission guidelines.

 

N+1

I’ve also been checking out’s N+1’s online content. I remember looking at N+1 back in my college days back when it had a barebones html design, and it definitely seems to have blossomed since then. You need a subscription to read their magazine, but they do produce some online content. Two essays I read from them recently include “The Church of Food,” by Collier Meyerson and Elias Roriques, which eulogizes Anthony Bourdain, and “An Account of My Hut,” by Christina Nichol, which recounts the author’s struggle to figure out the best way to fight climate change through collective action and storytelling while also dealing concurrently with the effects of environmental and economic degradation– wildfires and gentrification.

You can find more information about submitting to N+1 here.

 

Wildness

Another journal that I have recently happened upon is called Wildness. I skimmed through their latest issue and found plenty to encourage me to go back and read through the whole thing. The short story, “Blood Sister” by Ariel Chu, caught my eye, and I found that I really enjoyed its depiction of a brother and sister sharing a meal on their own terms, away from the expectations of their parents, but still unable to escape familial tensions. I also enjoyed the poems in the issue by Sara Ryan, “Loving With Scissors” and “Self-Portrait As/With Sister” due to their striking imagery and the sharpness of their emotional landscapes.

Here are Wildness’s submission guidelines.

 

West Texas Literary Review,

I have yet to fully explore this particular journal, but everything I’ve read so far from the West Texas Literary Review. I have enjoyed. I was particularly struck by the short story, “Thank You for Noticing” by Rebecca Jensen, when a young woman’s memory of her mother’s pregnancy resurfaces. The poem, “Alien Encounter” by Marilee Richards was a pleasant jaunt, and “Their Gaze” by Nick Conrad evoked a nostalgic lost moment of beauty.

Here are their submission guidelines.

I hope you liked some of the recommendations from this post. I plan on posting new recommendations at least once a month, barring life events that get in the way. In the meantime, happy reading, writing, and submitting!

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Review of “Articulations”: The VONA/Voices Workshop Faculty Reading

Junot Diaz at the podium during the VONA/Voices faculty reading

Junot Diaz at the podium during the VONA/Voices faculty reading

Yesterday I attended a really inspiring reading put on by the faculty of the VONA Voices Workshop based at UC Berkeley. Voices of our Nation (VONA) is an organization that provides writing workshops for emerging writers of color.  The distinguished faculty members of the , including renowned writer Junot Díaz and acclaimed poet Patricia Smith, read their own work to an audience comprised of students from the workshop program and members of the community who just wanted to hear from some talented writers.

I heard about the event from my friend’s mom, who knows one of the faculty, Elmaz Abinader. It was my first time attending a VONA event, and overall I really enjoyed it. The event itself was held in a lecture hall at Berkeley City College, and it was packed with people. They had so many audience members that all the seats were filled, and they had to open up another room for overflow and simulcast the event there. The air had an electric buzz of anticipation as we were waiting for the reading to start. Among the audience members, I noted the collision of a sophisticated New York-esque vibe with the hippie, loud, radical political culture of the Bay Area. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a reading that felt so lively, and the readers pumped up the audience even more by delivering words that leapt off the page.

I also have never been to a reading that had so many writers presenting (there were fourteen faculty members who read), and at first I was worried that it was going to drag on. But once I started listening to what the writers had to read, I was lost in their words and didn’t even notice that a whole two hours passed by.

The Emcee, Jacqueline Luckett, did a great job of introducing each writer with a funny anecdote from their twitter feed or facebook profile. There were certainly common themes that many of the writers touched on in their readings of poetry, short stories, or excerpts from larger works. Since VONA’s focus is on promoting the voices of people of color, it was no surprise that many works poignantly explored the difficulties of facing racism on a daily basis and discussed the struggle of minority communities in the U.S. and in other countries. Some delved into the pain and heartbreak of violence as it tears apart families and communities, while others deftly weaved together humor and social critique.

Junot Díaz, the well-known writer of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (which admittedly I have not read yet) and one of the founders of VONA, was the star of the show, although I have to say I liked some of the other writers’ work better. Still, Díaz, who read from his novel This is How You Lose Her, probably projected the most outrageous persona out of all the writers, wildly gesticulating and swearing without recourse. After the first time he dropped the f-bomb while introducing his work, he admitted that he should have warned the audience, saying “I am a trigger warning.” It was quite a treat to hear him read.

There were so many great pieces from last night’s reading that I can’t possibly describe the all, but at the end of this post, I will list the fourteen authors in case you would like to look them up. I know I certainly plan on picking up some of their work after hearing them read.

My favorite poems from the night came from Patricia Smith and Andrew X. Pham. Smith’s poem was one of the most devastating pieces of literature I have ever read. I didn’t catch its title, but it reimagined an event taken from a newspaper headline about a man in New Jersey who throws his daughter into a sack and drowns her in a river. The event itself is shocking and heartbreaking of course, but the way Smith drew it out was unbelievable, using haunting language and wielding a harsh, powerful voice that just sliced through me like a knife. Her description of drowning made my own throat close up, and the way she described the man’s indifference… it gave me chills, and not the good kind.

Andrew X. Pham, who is a memoirist and food writer, read a fantastic poem about zooming down the California coast on the Pacific Coast Highway on a motorcycle after a heartbreak. At one point, the speaker sees families taking photo after photo at a lookout and the speaker remarks, “We are drawn to certainties even if they are boundless.” His imagery and the way he matched the feeling of speeding on the highway to that rootless feeling you get in your life when everything has gone wrong, it was magical.

We are drawn to certainties even if they are boundless.” – Andrew X. Pham

My favorite prose pieces were from Marjorie Liu and Faith Adiele. Liu is a fantasy author, so her writing was different in content than most of the other people’s. Still, she really captured the same tone that many of the pieces carried, one of fury against injustices. The selection she read was from her Hunter Kiss novels, which are about a woman with demonic tattoos and magical powers.

Faith Adiele is a travel writer, and the piece she read about one of her trips to Nigeria stood out to me because it overturned many of the travel writing genre’s expectations. She wrote about spending time with her father who had dementia and attending her brother’s wedding, and managed to find humor in that period of her life,without sugarcoating the stark reality of her father’s illness. She didn’t idealize the experience, especially when she discussed what happened when she consumed the wedding soup that her sister-in-law made. Let’s just say this particular piece of writing is not for the weak-stomached, but her descriptions of unsightly things made it all the more hilarious.

Below is the full list of all the people who read at last night’s event. I definitely intend on looking them up because what I saw last night blew me away. Also, I’m eventually planning on applying to MFA programs and many of the VONA faculty members teach at programs all over the country during the regular school year.

 

 VONA/Voices Workshop Faculty Members

Chris Abani
Elmaz Abinader
Faith Adiele
Staceyann Chin
Junot Díaz
Tananarive Due
M. Evelina Galang
Mat Johnson
Marjorie Liu
Randall Kenan
David Mura
Willie Perdomo
Andrew X. Pham
Patricia Smith

If you are interested in applying to the VONA/Voices Workshop, which is held durng one week in June, you can find out more information on their website:

voicesatvona.org