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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Prompt Lit Mag

This past week, I was struck by writer’s block. It didn’t hit me all at once, instead it was like a caterpillar slowly inching up my skin. I didn’t notice it until one day I just felt completely uninspired and couldn’t get a single word out on paper. That’s when I turned to the Internet to provide me with writing prompts. I’ve written from prompts before, mostly during creative writing workshops in college, so the feeling of picking up my pen with a vague idea of what I am going to write and seeing what falls on the paper is a familiar one. I have dabbled in writing prompts for the past week with moderate success, but, more importantly, the prompts helped me with just getting back into the habit of writing in general. I now no longer feel anguished when picking up my pen or opening a word document, although I can’t guarantee that what spills out of my mind will be any good.

While I was searching for writing prompts, I happened to recall a literary magazine I discovered a while back that is focused entirely around prompts. It’s called the Prompt Literary Magazine (or the Prompt for short). It’s an online journal, and I think it offers something really unique, especially to all of us emerging writers and to writers who are currently students. The Prompt publishes poetry, prose, art and non-traditional submissions with one caveat- they must be inspired by a writing prompt. They provide an avenue for pieces that sound “workshopped” to be shared. In each issue they offer an “editor’s challenge,” a prompt that readers can complete and then submit to the magazine, but they also publish works based on any prompt, just as long as you explain the prompt with your piece. They seem especially open to publishing new and emerging writers since many of the people who use prompts are still in the process of learning how to write and are not seasoned experts.

I read through two of the Prompt’s past issues and overall found writing that was clever, thoughtful, and fun. There are all sorts of poems and short stories within the Prompt’s pages, and the best part about the journal is that you can read what some other writers did with different prompts and then try them yourself. My favorite poems in the latest issue (Volume 2 Issue 1) include a poem by Margaret Vidale, “On the Table,” which was written in response to the Jackson Pollock painting “The Tea Cup” (Page 9) and a poem titled after its prompt, “Strike a Spark,” by Lyssa Tall Anolik (Page 15). I was refreshed by the imagery of these two poems, and it seems to me that poems inspired by prompts are often more exciting because of their randomness. They pull in language from unexpected places, such as in the poem “Putting up Preserves” by Crystal Karlberg (Page 33), which is composed of words taken from a single Scrabble game.

I also enjoyed the prose, although I think prompts often work better for poetry since it is harder to come up with spontaneity in the structure of prose. I absolutely loved the short story “The Making of a Poet” by Elizabeth Kate Switaj (Page 42), which explores what would happen if the meaning of “poetry bomb” were literal. She dives right in to an incredibly fascinating universe where poetry is used to maim people, and I just wanted to stay there and watch even after the short story was over.

Overall, I highly recommend checking out the Prompt’s website in order to read their journal and discover the prompts they have for writers on their website. They are currently accepting submissions for their next journal, so if you come up with anything good from the prompts you use, or if you have something sitting around from a workshop that was inspired by a prompt, definitely send it in.

For More Information

The Prompt Literary Magazine
Website: www.promptlitmag.org

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

 

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

Barely South Review

The Barely South Review is an online journal published twice a year by students and faculty at the MFA program in Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. It was established fairly recently, in 2010. The review caught my eye with its elegant online display which allows you to flip through it like a print journal. These days, online presentation is becoming more and more important as print publication is increasingly less viable and less attractive for new journals. If the design of the website catches my eye, I’m more likely to continue reading to see if I also find the contents interesting.

Barely South publishes fiction, poetry, and nonfiction selections. They also publish the winners of the annual Norton Girault Literary Price and the American Academy of Poet’s University Prize. The review publishes both established and emerging writers and according to their website, they hope to “present many voices, especially those that defy easy regional, thematic, and stylistic categorization.” What I noticed from reading their latest issues is that they tend to publish fresh, youthful writing that reflects the spirit of American rural or suburban life. The selections in the review are not pretentious by any means, and they vary in tone from whimsical to painfully realistic. Some of the fiction, such as the story “The Oedipus Pact” by Brandon Bell in the Fall 2013 issue. Other writing is situated in a particular corner of American and reveals a glimpse into life in that area, such as the story “The Ecstatic Gringo” by Zachary Amendt in the spring 2013 issue, which depicts in gritty detail the impact of the economic collapse on one couple in Detroit.

I enjoyed the direct, crisp voice of the narrator in “The Oedipus Pact,” which I thought caught a concise snapshot of contemporary teenage-parent conflict. I also liked the story “Recipe for Everything” by Sarah Domet in the Spring 2013 issue, which tells the story of a pregnant woman who moves next door to a mysterious, exotic possible witch with a “recipe for everything.” The narrative combines neurotic voice of the anxious pregnant woman who has already lost four pregnancies to miscarriage with tangible sensory imagery evoked by the descriptions of the neighbor Yasamine’s spice recipes, creating a rich and fascinating tale.

The poetry in the review leans towards less experimental and more traditional poetry, mainly free verse, but the latest issues have featured some prose poems and other experimental forms. The themes on the poems vary widely, but most seems to connect to American life. The two poems by Maurice Emerson Decaul in the Spring 2013 issue struck me as fascinating. The author took slave narratives compiled from the Federal Works Project during the Great Depression and interpreted them in verse. I thought the poems displayed a unique way for a writer to preserving voices from the past while also placing his own creative mark on the narratives.

The nonfiction section contains mostly creative nonfiction essays. My favorite piece in the Fall 2013 issue was the essay “(Searching) Love, Lust, and I” by Garrett Dennert. The format, which is not quite an interview or a formula but something close, fits the piece well. The narrator, who is a young man trying to understand his past relationship’s failures and successes is searching for some kind of sense in his muddled love life, and his attempt to systematically address each issue, category by category, reflects his desperate grasping for meaning. In the end, the form does allow him to make some conclusions, but only ones that come too late. The story makes you wonder whether this type of introspective interrogation of the past does any good, since you only clearly see your mistakes in hindsight.

I offer one main critique to the editors the Barely South Review: if their goal is to really aim for a diverse group of voices, they should seek out a wider range of writers and poets from different backgrounds. The majority of the writing represented in the review reflected the contemporary economic and social realities of lower-to-middle-class whites. Overall, I thought the reviews’ selections displayed excellence and originality.

Submission Periods:

September 1 – November 30 for the Spring Issue

January 1 – March 31 for the Fall Issue

For More Information

The Barely South Review

Website: barelysouthreview.digitalodu.com