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Might as Well Face it, You're Addicted to Lit Mags!
Reflections on a New Yorker dust-up; respect for writers & editors; learning from rejection; PANK gonna PANK; Fiction International closing; how lit mags make $$; work opportunities; markets & more...
Welcome to our bi-weekly news roundup!
Greetings Lit Magnates,
First, a note: I’ll be heading out of town in July and will be taking the month off from news roundups. There will still be the regular weekend conversations and Thursday columns from contributors. Also, there will be a new interim Monday Motivation feature where I’ll share thoughts on craft, process and other wacky notions. Stay tuned! Regular roundups will resume in August.
Now, on to the news!
Those of you who have ever been frustrated with an editor’s handling of your work might appreciate a recent Slate interview with former New Yorker Editor Bill Buford. In “A Forgotten Minor Scandal at the New Yorker, Remembered 26 Years Later,” Dan Kois looks at a dust-up at The New Yorker in 1997, when the magazine published the Lorrie Moore story, “People Like That are the Only People Here.” Kois writes,
The story, about a mother whose baby has cancer, brought enormous attention to Moore and her family—which led to her becoming very protective of her privacy. In our conversations, Moore told me she had always been upset by the magazine’s decision to publish a photo of her alongside the story, as if to connect her own life to the story’s characters. She blamed the New Yorker’s fiction editor at the time for that decision.
I’m glad she remembers I apologized, because I certainly should have apologized….I had been at Granta, where we published nonfiction and fiction and it was often hard to tell the difference between them. I was fond of fiction that read like nonfiction, and nonfiction that read like fiction. You know, the so-called traditional New Yorker story was exploiting autobiography—it didn’t need to pretend to be autobiographical—but in a lot of ways, it covered the ground that was later covered by the craze in memoir.
In semi-related news, Ann Kathryn Kelly writes about The Need for Respect Between Writers and Editors. Here you will find an exchange between writer and editor that is unsettling indeed (and thankfully not the norm!). Kelly writes,
I opened their reply with my usual expectation of a 50/50 coin toss. They were either going to thank me for considering them and tell me they were not interested in my piece, or they might surprise me and say that they wanted to republish it. What I was not expecting was the sarcastic reply I read…
At Lit Hub, author and editor Amy Grace Loyd has written “On the Joy of Literary Acceptance (and the Freedom of Rejection).” She says,
[C]onsider these yes’s: Yes to the hard work of writing, to the discoveries that come with it. Yes to defining what its rewards are for you and you alone and to refining your intentions as you move through your drafts. Yes to your own authority in your writing life and outside it…Yes, please, to not fighting it, to letting the yes’s and no’s all come. There’s pain in it absolutely. Don’t fool yourself. It will fuck you up. Life does that. Risks do.
But take it from me, someone who’s been on both ends of those proliferating and very human no’s and still writes, is writing this to you now: Stay in it.
Speaking of staying in it, one magazine seems determined to do just that. In this case, however, staying in is not such a good thing.
The magazine I am referring to is none other than PANK. You have all heard me and others say a great deal about this journal. I was glad to see another venue recently take up the cause. In “The Great PANK Swindle,” the writers at Calamari Archive relate how they reached out to PANK regarding a book for which the writer had terminated the contract, and yet PANK is still accepting money for the book’s pre-orders.
When the editors did not reply, the folks at Calamari Archive cc’ed PANK’s Founding Editor Roxane Gay on a follow-up email. Gay immediately replied, expressing “[disgust] by the allegations I’ve been hearing about” and stating, “it’s painful to see writers being taken advantage of and exploited in the name of a magazine we worked really hard to build a community around.”
Says Calamari Archive,
These are the perils of selling off a labor of love, the grifter reincarnation of [PANK] has exploited Roxane Gay's reputation to filch aspiring writers + sell books that don't even exist…These aspiring writers hopes + dreams have been soured + people that think they are supporting small press books are getting burned, it's just fucking shameful + sad.
A few lit mags announced closing or hiatus recently.
Fiction International has announced that after forty years, their current issue will be their last. Editor Harold Jaffe’s brief and rather grim editorial note states, “I thank the large numbers of writers who have published or submitted their writing to be published. Good luck to you all in this failing world.”
Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal shared news with readers that Arts Council England “refused us funding earlier this year,” so they will have to take a break. They plan to reapply for funding, as they “have every intention of continuing to publish our fun and fierce little magazine.”
The journal’s editor, Naush Sabah, spoke to The Guardian last week, noting that “There’s really no such thing as a viable business model when it comes to poetry magazines.” The article looks at the rise and struggles of various British poetry journals.
If you’re wondering how exactly lit mags do make money, Chill Subs’ Ben Davis breaks down the numbers on the Chill Subs ‘stack. He notes, “There are only 44 Lit Mags who pay writers, don't charge fees, use a paid manager, and have survived 20+ years.”
Ben does an incredible deep-dive here and provides useful advice for newer editors. “[F]or those considering how to start a lit mag who don’t have the connections or means to receive external funding, here are some practices that seem to help based on all this research…”
Meanwhile, Authors Publish has announced the closing of its program that provided funds for literary magazines. The reason for the closure is quite astonishing! (Bold emphasis below is mine.)
In September 2020, we started a new fund for literary journals, and sent out 150 USD per month to a different literary journal. We selected the recipient of the fund using a random number generator and we really liked being able to support literary journals in this way. Unfortunately we are now closing this fund, not because we don’t want to continue supporting literary journals (we very much do!), or that we don’t have the money (that’s also not an issue), but because the logistics of giving the money away was too time-consuming and difficult. Often literary journals would not respond to our emails offering them the fund, and also over the last six months we had a lot of journals close as soon as they received the fund.
For those of you seeking gainful employ in the land of lit mags, here is what’s out there:
The Drift seeks an Essays Editor.
Unlikely Stories seeks a Staff Reviewer.
For those of you looking for homes for your latest & greatest:
Authors Publish has 35 Magazines Publishing Hybrid Writing.
Erica Verrillo has 59 Writing Contests in July 2023 - No entry fees.
New Pages also lists current calls for submissions & contests.
As for us, I hope those of you in the Lit Mag Reading Club have been enjoying the May issue of The Sun! We had a fun and lively discussion about it last week.
Tomorrow, June 27th at 12:30 pm est, I will be interviewing Editor Derek Askey about this issue and what goes into selecting work for The Sun generally. If you’ve not yet registered to attend, you can do so here:
Have you been enjoying The Lit Mag Reading Club? I have! It began as a bit of an experiment, which you can read all about here, if you don’t yet know what it is.
I’m excited to announce that we will continue the club all next year. We will take July and August off, then kick off the fall with The Gettysburg Review in September. I’ll provide the discount code for this journal as soon as I get it. I’ll also be putting together next season’s lit mag reading list and interview schedule very soon!
And that you trip takers and luggage luggers, you suitcase schleppers and stuffers of too many books alongside your already crowded compartments, you train-catchers and plane-boarders, you beach readers and sun-soaker-uppers, you soaring into the clouds of your unwritten future and you gliding on tracks destined for unresolved pasts, you escaping into nowhere, you drifting into the minds-eye everywhere, you with your limbs-of-sand jet lag, you with your hearts-of-hope journey dreams, you who are always up for adventure (or not), you for whom, truly, the only adventure is the daily one, alone in your study, wading through the wandering wisdoms of all those words, words which travel eternally through your own wicked and wonderful yet always watchful world-viewing wonderland, you and you, everywhere indeed, scaling heights, soaring infinitely upwards, seeking all that’s unseen, unsaid and secretly stowed away in someone else’s oversized carry-on, is the news in literary magazines.
Have a most extraordinary week, pals.
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