Youth-Led Journals

Image credit: Sandra Bisotti

If you’re on Twitter and you follow different writers and journals, you will find that there are folks of all ages interacting across different generations, sharing their passion of writing and literature. As a high school teacher, I try to encourage my own students to write and read literature, so it warms my heart every time I see that there are high school students discussing submissions to literary journals or even leading editorial teams. The great thing about the diversity of literary journals on the internet is that these young authors, whether they are in high school or in early adulthood, have the opportunity to shoot their shot to the most prestigious journals, but they also have spaces dedicated to them and their writing.

There are several different types of journals that cater to youth, and they all define youth slightly differently. Some are well-established national publications that have moved into the online world, such as Teen Ink. (Fun fact: my first ever publication was in Teen Ink- I got a college essay about having tea time with my friends published. Ironically, I did not get into the college that I applied to using that essay). There are other journals that aren’t aimed at publishing young writers but offer opportunity for students and youth in general such as Peach Mag, which offers an internship for editors, The Adroit Journal, which offers a mentorship program (applications are open until March 22), and Polyphony Lit, which offers high school students editing opportunities, and more.

These opportunities for students just starting their literary careers to receive advice and training are great, but what I find even more exciting are the journals created and run by youth. These journals may only accept submissions from youth or they may be open to the general public, but their backbone are the young editors who are enacting their exciting creative visions. Here are a few youth-led publications which also are aimed at young writers and readers.

Clandestine Lit

Clandestine Lit published its first issue, Blossom, in February, and is currently accepting submissions in both prose and poetry from authors age 13-22. Some pieces I enjoyed from its first issue include the haunting poem, “asylum” by Abdulmueed Balogun, and, “tonight the sunset” by Emily Norton, which has really cool spacing and rhythm, and “the girl without hands” by Dana Blatte, which unspools a chilling fairy tale in verse.

The Augment Review

The Augment Review is another recently founded youth-led journal. It recently published its first issue, Indulge. They accept poetry, prose, art, and photography from artists between the ages of 13 and 25. They are open to submissions for their next issue, Pierce. In the first issue I enjoyed the poem, ” 2009″ by Allision Stein, which filled me with nostalgia for my own childhood. I also liked, “to the girl who finds paintings in locker 312” by Emma Chan and the backstory behind it. Finally, the poem, “Indulge Yourself” by Naoise Gale was raw and gutting. The Augment Review includes artists statements with all of its pieces, which gives some interesting insight into the work and also is a cool way for young aspiring writers to see inside the heads of other artists like them. They also provide both verbal inspiration (a list of words), visual inspiration (a Pinterest board), and musical inspiration (a Spotify playlist) to their would-be submitters.

Paper Crane

Paper Crane Journal only accepts work from people under 20 years old. They accept poetry, prose, and art, and are currently open to submissions for their issue Flight. On their website, they have a super comprehensive resources page with links to writing resources especially aimed at newcomers to the literary scene. I really liked two prose pieces from their volume Beginnings: “Leaving Homes” by Jyotsa Nair which is about the narrator’s family fleeing the UK after the India/Pakistan Partition and “Imprinted” by Tyler Godsey-Kellog, which is a more experimental piece reflecting on childhood memories. I also liked the poem, “Love Letter for a Bygone Jurassic” by Rena Su.

Blue Marble Review

Blue Marble Review is a more established outlet for young writers, but its editors are all students from the Minnetonka Writing Center. The journal, which is celebrating its five-year anniversary by publishing an anthology, accepts work from writers aged 13-22. They currently are publishing stories about the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic on youth, but they also accept general poetry and prose. Significantly, they pay their writers $25 per piece!

Much of their most recent issue documents the impact this past year had on young people. The essay, “2020 Grads: We Will be Okay” by Hannalee Isaacs resonated with me since last year was my first year of teaching high school, and I never had a chance to say goodbye to my first graduating class. The poem, “Letter from Mateo in Portland to Stella in Cleveland” by Mateo Sifuentes reflects on the experience of living in Portland in the past year, during a pandemic, protests, and wildfires. I also liked the lyrical fiction piece, “Sundays,” by Amy Wang which captures grief and the hurt of covering it up.

Love Letters Magazine

Finally, Love Letters Magazine is a journal for teens with a twist: it focuses on the heart. They accept work from teens age 14-19, and they publish poetry, prose, op-eds, songs, art, and photography. Each of their issues focuses on an aspect of love. Some of their latest posts that I enjoyed included the story “Sleepwalking,” by Ash Reynolds, which almost felt like a fairy tale or a fable. The “how to” style poem, “how to settle into joy/ how to create joy” by Amy Carranza made me smile and recall simple pleasures. I loved the essay, “Something Special About Staria Ace” by Reyna Ace, a eulogy to the writer’s cat, because what can I say? I love cats, and this piece struck a chord with me.

Even if you’re not a young writer yourself, I encourage you to check out the words the next generation are sending out into the world. After reading these journals, I feel inspired and refreshed to dive back into my own writing, even though I’m definitely a few years past the age limit of these journals.

Online Lit Journals Born During Quarantine Part 1

Image credit: Anemone Letterpress

We are now 8 months into this pandemic, and one of the only silver linings is that the internet is keeping us all connected from home. As a writer, I feel more in touch with the writing community than I was before the pandemic started because I’ve been spending so much time on Twitter. Following literary journals and other writing accounts that are producing interesting, insightful, and delightful work is one of the main ways I distract myself from doomscrolling. If you have not tried it, I suggest you do so. I keep a list of literary journals on my personal Twitter account here, and whenever I want to clear my mind but still read things online, I visit the literary world version of Twitter which feels a little bit like the sheltered bubble of a quirky college town.

In the past few months, many people have started new online literary ventures despite the chaos and uncertainty that surrounds us (or maybe because of it). Not all of these new journals are online publications, of course. I contributed to a new print magazine in my city, The Alameda Murmur, which I found out after I saw the flyers that the founder of the lit mag posted around the city while I was out for a walk this past spring. I was so eager for connection to my local writing community that I apparently was one of the first people to email the editor with my submission.

This month I wanted to highlight some newer online literary journals that have made their debut since we all began to hunker down. These promising venues will hopefully outlast the crisis that spurred their creation. In my experience, submitting to new journals can be more exciting and interactive than trying your luck at journals with more established reputations. Your odds might be better at the newer journals too— even if they don’t come with the prestige associated with well-known journals. Who knows? You might be in one of their early issues, after which they might develop an esteemed reputation as the years pass.

No Contact Magazine

This was one of the first online journals that sprung up in response to quarantine. It was founded by writers in the Columbia MFA program, although I don’t think it has any official connection to the university. Since it started last spring, it has already published 14 issues! Going forward, they are dialing back to releasing issues on a monthly basis instead of twice a month. No Contact’s focus is on work that deals with interiority, and they accept poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction with a word limit of 1200 words.

 Three pieces I enjoyed from the most recent issue, Issue 14 include, “We are All Orphans” by Calthy Ulrich, a flash fiction that puzzles over the significance of a potato peeler and its relationship with motherhood, “Matt’s Basement” by Leonora Desar about a couple moving into one of their parent’s basements, a situation many Gen Z’ers and Millennials can relate to right now, and “Masterclass Testimonials” by Tyler Barton which delightfully lists all the absurd ways you can pay men to mansplain things to you.

Hexagon

Hexagon is journal focused on speculative fiction based in Canada. They publish fiction and poetry that fall under the umbrella genre of science fiction and fantasy. They are a semiprozine, which means they do pay a small honorarium to authors. In their most recent issue, Issue #2, I particularly enjoyed the stories, “Memories Taste Best When Marinated in Sadness” by Feng Gooi and “The Last Trophy of Hunter Hammerson” by L Chan. Gooi’s story takes place in a futuristic world in which the rich sip on the memories of poor, suffering wretches, and the main character is the person who collects and distills these memories. The mystery of the story really kept me enthralled. Chan’s story is written in the form of a lofty magazine profile, in which the narrator is a journalist interviewing a famous monster hunter. The asides from the editor made me chuckle.

 Since discovering Hexagon, I have submitted to them twice, and while both times my work hasn’t been chosen, I have appreciated the editor’s thoughtful suggestions about where else I could send my submission. From his rejection emails alone I have discovered two more literary journals that I might feature on this blog at some point. Hexagon’s next issue actually comes out on Dec 1, so be sure to check it out.

Crow and Cross Keys

Crow and Cross Keys is another speculative fiction focused journal that is interested in dark and strange work. I’ve noticed most of the pieces I’ve read on their site have a gothic vibe, lots of solitary, creepy musings.  They accept poems, stories, and flash fiction.

Two alluring pieces that I enjoyed from their site are “Stitches” by Samuel Best, and “Rust Belt’s Taxonomy of Ghosts” by Jessie Lynn McMains. At first I thought Best’s piece was nonfiction— it feels both startlingly direct and secretive at the same time, and its speculative aspect is very subtle. McMain’s poem is a list poem, and like the best list poems it spirals into something quite different than what it originally seems.

The Wondrous Real Magazine

The Wondrous Real Magazine’s pieces bridge the uncanny valley of reality and whimsy. They publish fiction and poetry that show the intersections of magic and the mundane. They have only published one issue so far, but I am looking forward to their future issues. I was drawn to the poem, “When I Google: Is There a Patron Saint of Suicides” by Joan Kwon Glass because of its mixture of the very troubling issue of suicide with the absurdity of trying to get a straight answer from google. I also liked “The Sea Lions” by  Dan Schwartz, which is about visiting the zoo with your child in a world that has just hints of terrifying magic in it.

The journals I highlighted in this post are focused on speculative fiction or fiction that focuses inwards, perhaps a reflection of how writers and editors have been coping with this pandemic, by escaping to unreality or by turning to self-contemplation. However, in this post I was only able to cover about half of the new journals I discovered. In December, I will post about more pandemic-born magazines. Until then, happy reading.

In Praise of the Themed Submission

If you’re a writer who is finding it hard to focus on your writing or submitting to literary journals at this time, you are far from alone. With so much happening in the world, it might seem almost superfluous to keep submitting to journals. However, I found that when I can carve out the time to read literary journals and hone my own writing for submissions, I am able to relax in a peaceful corner of the internet. Of course, literary world is not isolated from the rest of the world and needs to address its issues with racism, but there are a lot of great journals who are publishing writing that is necessary and important, as well as writing that is distracting and fun. I need a combination of both to inject some hope into my life these days. One type of journal I’ve enjoyed reading and submitting to are themed journals, whether the journal is just having a themed issue or they are devoted to publishing work about a particular topic. The more niche a journal is, the more I find myself drawn to it these days. Perhaps it’s because I am craving order and structure in a chaotic world, or perhaps it’s because submitting to these journals doesn’t feel like trying to read a black box.

I have nothing against journals that don’t have themes. They often have a variety of interesting short stories, poetry, and essays that I enjoy. However, these journals are daunting to submit to. Every submission page at a literary magazine will direct you to read past issues to get a sense of their aesthetic style. But even if you read previous issues it’s hard to get a sense of what they are looking for unless you have a very honed perception of writing styles. Even then, editors rotate, and the aesthetic preferences of journals change. I liked themed submissions because at least I can check off one box that the journals are looking for: it’s about the right topic. Plus it’s often a fun challenge to write about a topic that you haven’t considered before or to try to shape your works in progress to fit the theme. It’s similar to using writing prompts as inspiration.

Here are some journals with thematic content, or at least themed submissions, that I have enjoyed recently. After you check them out, let me know what you think in the comments. Do you prefer themed submissions, or would you rather submit to journals that don’t have as narrow criteria for their acceptances?

Perhappened Mag

Perhappened Mag is a relatively new journal that has themed issues. Each one is really unique, and they also seem open to interesting experimentation. Their issue from last month, Mix Tape, has poetry and creative nonfiction accompanied by a playlist of songs. Each submission was inspired by a song that evokes nostalgia in the writer. Their latest issue, Lights Out, just came out today, and they are accepting submissions for their next issue, Fairy Tale, until Nov 10. They accept both poetry and prose submissions.

One poem I enjoyed from their Mix Tape issue was “Beyond Turnt” by Caroline Dinh. It’s a poem about the price of assimilation, and it had some incredible lines in it like, “If you peeled the Earth like a clementine/ and spread its skin across his Spotify playlists there would still/ be room to spare.”

I also enjoyed, “Joni sings of freedom” by Ikjot Kaur, a prose poem that evokes the boundless feeling of traveling with someone by your side.

Porcupine Literary

Porcupine Lit is a journal by teachers about teaching, but it’s not for sharing pedagogy. It publishes creative pieces about the experience of teaching. This journal is near and dear to my heart because I’m a teacher. When I found it, I was so excited that such a journal existed that I immediately submitted to it. I will probably keep submitting to it with the hope that one day my ramblings about teaching get published. Porcupine Lit publishes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. They are open for submissions until Nov 1.

Some pieces I enjoyed from their most recent issue include, “Secondary Certification” by Michelle Campagne, which I thought did a great job of capturing the small indignities of the profession.

I connected with the creative nonfiction piece, “Accept No Substitute” by Christina Fishburne about the experience of a teacher who has an MFA. While I don’t teach kindergarten, I enjoyed the writerly attention she bestows onto the small details of teaching kindergarten. I find that as a teacher, my writer’s eye comes in handy quite often.

Longridge Review

Longridge Review is a creative nonfiction journal that publishes essays about childhood experiences. I love their theme because of just how rich and broad it is. Anybody could think of something interest to write about on this topic.

Some pieces I enjoyed from their most recent issue include, “Baby Steps” by Miriam Glassman, which discusses the pitfalls of trying to fill a void in your life with a creepy, walking doll, and “Breathing Lessons” by Brenna Sowder, which weaves together the author’s breathing lessons as an asthmatic child with her anxieties and fears during the current pandemic.

Burning Jade Magazine

Again, this is a relatively new journal, but their first issue really wowed me. Its theme was #Americaisoverparty, and it included some biting political poetry and prose. They just closed the submissions for their next issue on Spirituality, but they will probably have submissions open for their next issue on October 23. Full disclosure: I had a piece accepted in the next issue which I will share on this blog once it’s online, so I might be a little biased, but I was already excited about this magazine before they accepted my work.

Here are some pieces I enjoyed from their first issue:

The poem, “Portrait of a Pandemic” by Anisha Narain really struck me because it voiced so many things I’ve been feeling since March but have not been able to say as eloquently.

“#WhiteButWoke Work Week Social Media Challenge” by Jennifer Dines made me laugh and cringe at the same time (is there a word for that?).

“For Ahmaud Arbery” by Leela Raj-Sankar left me feeling broken and angry, reminding of the reason poetry and writing are necessary in this moment.