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Oh I've Seen Fire and I've Seen Lit Mags!
Holy mess at Hobart; Confrontation closes after 50 years; Catamaran Literary Reader hits 10 years; money talk for writers; new lit mags, and more
Greetings Lit Magnesiums,
What a week, eh? If you are one of those magical unicorns without a Twitter account, I shall do my best to fill you in on all that’s transpired of late. If you are indeed on Twitter, I shall try to be brief, as I’m sure we are all a bit exhausted by…THE DISCOURSE.
This recent ordeal started with an interview. Last month, Hobart Editor Elizabeth Ellen interviewed Alex Perez who, according to Ellen, “went to Iowa [Writer’s Workshop] for fiction but took a (very) different path post-graduation than most of his Iowa peers. Than most of the lit world, in general.”
In the interview Perez discussed his experience as a former baseball player, “a jock—with intellectual leanings,” a Cuban-American “from a completely nonliterary family,” who, at Iowa, “began to feel like there was no place for a guy like me—someone writing masculine fiction…” and who describes this interview as “my swan song. My final goodbye to the ‘literary community.’”
Why goodbye? Among other reasons, Perez observes,
“The literary world is so bland because of the ideological uniformity of the scene…[M]ost writers are seemingly aligned with progressive orthodoxy and wokeness…Isn’t it weird that most writers sound like operatives for the Democratic Party? Do they want to be the press secretary for Joe Biden or do they want to be writers? Do you have to wear a pussy hat and pray to RBG and idolize little doctor Fauci if you want to be a writer?…”
“The humor is gone because writers are so well-mannered and politically correct; to be funny, you need to be unhinged or at least court “unhingedness,” which is an impossibility for the contemporary writer seeking to ingratiate himself with the woke gatekeepers. To be a writer today is to know what you can and can’t say; the talking points are passed down and disseminated online.”
There is much more to the interview. Perez opines on issues ranging from the cancelation of Junot Diaz and Sherman Alexie; his view that “the literary world only accepts work that aligns with the progressive/woke point of view of rich coastal liberals;” that what ultimately connects us to one another is “the existential despair that comes for us all;” and more.
As Gawker reports, “The initial publication didn’t cause too much of a stir, but almost two weeks later on October 11, a Twitter thread by Evan Fleicher (one of Hobart’s own editors) denouncing the interview started gaining traction. The ensuing response led to five editors resigning from the magazine yesterday.”
Indeed, in the wake of this interview’s publication, several of the magazine’s editors have resigned. They posted their resignation letter to the Hobart site.
However, Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Ellen then deleted the staff’s resignation letter.
This came after Ellen stated in the interview, “I believe in free speech” and in which Perez stated, “It’s crazy how liberals turned against free speech and Democrats became the party of worshipping authority. As for me, I’m a free speech absolutist.” Ellen also tweeted, “I don’t pull pieces,” before deleting the editorial staff’s resignation letter.
The statement from the five editors can now be found here.
Ellen has posted her own Letter from the Editor on the Hobart site.
As for the responses from writers, the interview has been polarizing indeed. While some have supported it and related to parts of it, many others lambasted it, calling it “unhinged, crappy…racist [and] anti-woman,” “racist, sexist,” or else just wanting more open conversation.
Many writers who have had work published in the magazine have asked that their work be removed, as they no longer wish to be associated with Hobart.
In response, several editors have offered to republish work removed from the site. One such editor is Aaron Burch, who is Hobart’s founder. As of last week, he has severed ties with the magazine. His journal HAD is now its own entity, with a submission form for those pulling work from Hobart.
The entire kerfuffle led some people to start naming “problematic lit mags.” In backlash to this backlash, people objected to the listing of such magazines, with one writer stating that “passing around lists of journals and people [some] deem “problematic”…is some McCarthy era shit and has no place in any artistic community.”
In “Who Killed Creative Writing?” Meghan Daum wrote about the ordeal. She observes,
“To be honest, my appetite for this sort of online blowup diminishes hourly. Though I’m as prone to schadenfreude as any other media professional trying to hold onto relevance in an increasingly winner-take-all economy, there’s something about watching extremely online people have noisy meltdowns that makes me feel like I’m inhaling my own body odor.”
Needless to say, Hobart is now seeking writers, ideas for columns and editors to begin working in the new year.
In other news, Confrontation, which has been based at Long Island University for the past half-century, has announced its closing. While it appears the news has not yet been posted on their site, a sad and heartfelt letter has been sent to contributors.
Editor Jonna Semeiks writes that the journal, “After more than fifty years of publishing…will cease to exist very soon…My small staff and I battled for its existence for years…But in fact, we lost the war.”
A friend shared her letter with me:
For some positive news, Catamaran Literary Reader, based in Santa Cruz, has just celebrated its ten-year anniversary. Reports Wallace Baine,
“From its office at the Tannery Arts Center, Catamaran has consistently hit the mark for 10 years, meeting the standards it set for itself early on, producing a coffee-table keepsake four times a year, giving exposure and the satisfaction of publishing to dozens of writers and artists (the most recent issue lists more than 40 contributors). It also does what many of the more successful literary journals do, holding an annual writers conference and weekend workshops, sponsoring an annual poetry prize.”
In the Department of Show me the Money, Erika Dreifus has some advice for poets. In Making Poetry Pay: Five Ways to Increase Your Poetry Income, Dreifus observes, “Not everyone writes poetry for financial profit. But for some writers, earning payment beyond bylines, copies, and karma matters. Sometimes, it matters a lot. In 2016, I earned more than $500 for my poems…No, $500 isn’t a fortune. But it’s not nothing, either.”
In the newest Poets and Writers, Aaron Gilbreath also talks about getting paid. He says, “[I]f your rule is to never give your work away, then don’t. Submit to the highest-paying markets first, then work your way down to smaller-paying markets…I gave away much of my early work because I wanted to build visibility and my reputation, but I did so intentionally, to magazines I loved.”
As for us, whoa baby, it’s getting busy around here. Firstly, thank you to everyone who came out to our Submissions Q & A yesterday. It was so fun! I absolutely love meeting you all in person!
Lots of other events are coming up. This week I’ll be speaking with the good folks behind The Opiate, Wild Roof Journal, and GASHER. Then on Friday afternoon there will be a Submissions Study Hall.
Also on Friday (I hope), I will be kicking off our discussion of Cleaver Magazine with my first Lit Mag Club discussion thread. I’ll just write up some of my thoughts, then ask you for your thoughts, like I tend to do. If you’re partaking in the Lit Mag Reading Club, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for this conversation to get rolling.
Later this month I’ll also be starting the Story Mag discussion thread, as well as conversing with the Editors of Cleaver, Latin American Literature Today and Story Magazine.
Reminder: It is never too late to join the Lit Mag Reading Club. And if all you get around to doing is skimming a few lines of a story or poem but would still like to hear what everyone else has to say, don’t be shy. Come on and join the party. You can now find all the info about The Club including how to sign up, how to register, who, what, when, where and why right here.
And that you wicked tricksters, trekking through the tundra of your tunneled-out thinkspace, you sneaky treaters, with nothing but chocolate on your chipper young mind, you wild witches of the west, you scary scarecrows of the south, you whose heart shines like a jack-o-lantern within its very own triangular eyes, you whose whole world has gone slippery in fallen yellow leaves and you who cannot wait for the candy to come pouring across the floor, you so spooky, you so haunted, you who for so very long, your whole life perhaps, has known no good way to answer the question—“What are you going as?”, and you who know precisely who you will be, with teeth of a vampire or ears of a wolf, rubbery masks and blood down your collar, you and you, getting ready, getting dressy, getting spectacularly cobwebby and candy-sweet scary, you everywhere, in all your combed, costumed, contradictory, coordinated, colorful, convoluted, creepy-crawly, supercool childlike celebratory glory, you who never fail to glow, least of all on this, the most frightening upcoming candled eves, is the news in literary magazines.
Have a most inspired week, pals.
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