When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Lit Mags!
What's up with Beyond Words?; inside O'Henry Prize picks; US Presidents in lit mags; lessons from submitting; working with editors; jobs at Cincinatti Review & Narrative; 200+ markets and more
Welcome to our bi-weekly news roundup!
Greetings Lit Magdom,
This morning a new-ish lit mag caught my eye. Beyond Words, founded in 2020, “offer[s] a warm and welcoming stage for emerging writers and visual artists.”
After looking through this lit mag’s site and its submission guidelines, my very professional assessment is,
For general submissions, the submission fee is $18. This is for poetry and short prose, i.e. prose under 1,000 words.
To be fair, the editors offer a fast-track response of less than 24 hours. Still, I consider $18 to be a steep (and highly unusual) submission fee for non-contest submissions. Other submitting options are $12, which I also consider to be both steep and unusual.
Speaking of submitting options, I always get a bit nervous when editors hide the fee. Notice how the last option has no cost listed at all:
Arguably, hiding the fee here might be because once you click “Submit,” the costs vary.
Or it might be because they are worried the high fee will turn people away. For feedback on a 500-word story, the cost is $60. For a 5,500-word story, the cost is $290. For a 6,500-word story, feedback will cost you $340.
In addition to these numbers, there is no mention of payment for writers. With submission fees like this, you would hope for at least some remuneration. Also, there is no masthead. There is no editor’s name anywhere on the site.
I bring this to everyone’s attention not to “out” this particular publisher. They’re not forcing anyone to pay these wild fees. And frankly, they are not my concern. You are.
I want more writers to know what to look for when assessing places like this.
For all this, I would give this literary magazine my own personal ranking of FGRF (Four Giant Red Flags).
What do you think?
In other news, plenty of good, uplifting things are happening all around. At LitHub, Lauren Groff discusses her rationale for the selections of this year’s O’Henry Prize winners. Her passionate love for the form is contagious and fun:
It has been a delight to revel in short stories the past several months, to read hundreds upon hundreds, written by people from all over the world, with so many exquisite voices and so many idiosyncratic understandings of what a short story is and what the form can be stretched to do. I could have selected five times as many great stories and made five equally marvelous books; alas, I could only choose twenty stories for this year’s anthology.
At Compact, Valerie Stivers reviews Earth Angel, a new collection of short stories by Madeline Cash, one of the Founding Editors of Forever Magazine.
Cash, with her friend Anika Levy, is also part of the print-magazine renaissance; together the two run indie-lit Forever Magazine, and the hopeful spirit of this movement also seems to infuse the book. If you don’t like what’s out there, make something yourself. If mass-market fiction is processed, formulaic, and predictable, write something more interesting and publish where you can.
This profile of writer Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of the critically acclaimed collection of stories Friday Black, describes the author’s early experiences “[working] at a clothing store in the Palisades Center mall in West Nyack, where he spent his lunches and time between shifts at the Barnes & Noble…There were the literary magazines he discovered on the racks, like Ploughshares and The Paris Review…”
And, can you guess which American president once published in a literary journal? Always on top of lit mag history, Nick Ripatrazone takes us through the literary aspirations of various US leaders. I won’t give away the answer here, as the article is worth a read. What I will say is, my goodness, imagine what it would be like to have a US President today say this:
“‘When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations…When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstones of our judgment….I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all our citizens.’”
For those of you looking for advice and insights, this essay at Brevity about the writer-editor relationship might be of interest. Amanda Le Rougetel writes,
Every blank page is open to the truth, but doesn’t hold it until the writer fills it with words. Even then, the truth is probably not as polished or powerful as it could be, so the editor’s role is to join the writer as creative partner, to walk beside the writer while coaxing and coaching refinements from them that show up iteratively on the page as sharper, bolder renditions of that writer’s truth—the truth of whatever story they are telling. For this relationship to work, the writer must engage willingly and be receptive and responsive to feedback. The editor must provide specific and actionable comments, be supportive of the writer and respectful of the writing.
At Write or Die Magazine, Eleanor Ball has written 3 Lessons From My First Year of Submitting to Lit Mags. She reminds us, “At its core, writing is about curiosity and joy. If we don’t have them, we have nothing.”
At The Irish Times, Stinging Fly Editor Lisa McInerney notes, “‘People ‘sending us something they think we want to read, rather than something they wanted to write,’ is a common mistake…Lack of passion or conviction is easily spotted…Whatever excites you will excite us.’”
For those of you looking for work in the world of lit mags, here is what’s out there:
Cincinatti Review seeks an Assistant Editor.
Narrative Magazine is seeking a Director of Advancement and Partnerships. It’s only $300 to apply.
(Just kidding! That is a little inside joke as Narrative Magazine charges notoriously high submission fees. There is no cost to apply for the position…that I know of.)
If you’re looking to place your latest and greatest, here are some guides:
Erika Dreifus has posted a helpful handful of fellowship, teaching and writing opportunities.
For the young writer in your life, here are 11 Literary Magazines Accepting Writing and Art from Teens.
Winning Writers has a boatload of free writing contests with deadlines coming up.
Poetry Bulletin has a bunch of important deadlines for poets.
Authors Publish has 35 Print Magazines that Publish Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry and 52 Literary Journals and Magazines Open to Genre Work.
As for us, if you’re in the Lit Mag Reading Club, I hope you’re currently enjoying your copy of Pleiades. I just got mine in the mail today! I will have a lot of cramming to do in the days ahead, but can’t wait to dive in.
Also in the days ahead, I will be sending the registration links for all our upcoming events. Please keep your eyes peeled for that email. For those of you who are new around here or may have missed it, click below to see what’s coming up this month!
And that you beautiful flowers sprung from the soil of the most earthly of mothers, you who were born into the light and you who were born under a bad sign, you raised by wolves, you raised in a barn, you brought up on a steady diet of Cheerios and Kierkegaard, you who were guarded and also you who have been guardian, you who spread nurture across the community like so much butter over toasted bread, you for whom there is no greater pain than the stab of a Lego piece into the meat of your bare foot (and you who would not trade that most special of pains for all the world), you who juggle, you who manage, you who cope (sometimes barely), you who make tiny miracles happen for all the tiny miracles in your life, you and you, everywhere, bath-bombing, relaxation-craving, hustling, desperately dancing and soggy with so many cutely clinging dependents, you and you, every day creators of a million marvelous somethings from a trillion mysterious nothings, manifesters of life, birthers into form, caretakers and protectors for of all that is sacred and unspeakably profound, is the news in literary magazines.
Have a most nourishing week, pals.
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Hi! I have a contrasting opinion about BEYOND Words. I have been in this magazine a few times, and they have accepted some of my favs. It's a really beautiful print publication with good stuff in it and art complementing the lit. And they don't take everything--they have rejected me a whole bunch of times, a vast majority of times. And I know the editor's name, and she is easy and fun to work with. And I'm no newbie--lol! In fact, I'm so old, I don't buy green bananas, and that's why I like fast tracks. All that said, I understand the criticisms and I currently have a few other fast places I am concentrating on that don't have such high fees, and who I like as much. So I get it. But I just wanted to tell another side of the story.
Thank you for this, Becky. That first enterprise isn't a literary mag. It's a money making scheme to bilk newbees out of their dollars. $18 general submission is outrageous.
I took a quick look at where the O Henry selections came from and I seem to recall they're all from the big name mags. Really?
Those are the only hills where gold can be found? Something is rotten in Denmark', Becky! Something is rotten in Denmark!