Greetings Lit Magopedias,
Do you all remember the controversy surrounding the Jeanine Cummins novel American Dirt? This was back in 2020. For those who don’t know, or who have lost all sense of time and reality, the basic outline is the following: Cummins published a novel about a Mexican woman fleeing Mexico with her son to find refuge and safety in the U.S.. The book got great reviews, had a ginormous marketing push, was selected as an Oprah book, etc etc.
However, once the book got to readers, the reception became much thornier. Cummins is not Mexican, the book contained various conceits that were regarded as problematic, and the book’s launch featured elements many found questionable. (Think barbed-wire nail decals.) Opinions raged, blogs ensued. Cummins’ publisher soon canceled her book tour.
There is much, much more to this controversy. You can catch yourself up here if you’re interested.
What on Earth does this have to do with literary magazines?
Well, two recent articles have come out, “The Long Shadow of American Dirt” in The New York Times and “Publishers cower in fear of ambush by woke critics” in The Sunday Times, both revisiting the controversy and looking to what the future of book publishing holds. Amazingly, both articles draw quotes from Alex Perez’s interview with Hobart. (Do you all still need the link at this point? Anyway, here is that interview.)
I’m not defending the content of either of these articles. In fact, Max Read has written a long but brilliant rebuttal to the New York Times op-ed, questioning the writer’s understanding of the very Perez quotes she uses to make her points.
What I find so interesting is how much traction that one interview in a relatively tiny literary magazine is getting, over and over. What does this mean about what lit mags do and do not publish? Whom they interview? Ideas they do and do not shy away from? Their tangible cultural influence or potential for such?
Complex questions, for sure. In the meantime a new publishing house has opened up to counteract what they perceive to be unhealthy trends in the literary world.
Heresy Press is committed to freedom, honesty, openness, dissent, and real diversity in all of its manifestations…Heresy Press and its products and representatives shall not be drawn into the vortex of cancel culture, with its apologies, mea-culpas, retractions, atonements, propitiations, etc. and instead focus on what matters—unfettered creativity and fearless imagination.
If you’re interested, the press is open now for individual short story submissions (until March 1st) and novel submissions.
Moving along, Sigrid Rausing has announced that she is stepping down as the Editor of Granta. I haven’t found any information regarding a new publisher, so my guess is that she will remain as the magazine’s publisher. But this is certainly something I’ll keep an eye on in weeks to come.
Jellyfish Review has announced its closing.
At The Virginia Normal the editors have announced “a makeover” in light of “shutdowns and fiscal challenges.” They note, “Beginning in late spring/early summer of 2021, we will begin seeking submissions for The Red Brick Review…” To my knowledge no such new lit mag has opened.
The Rupture announced its closing.
And Poetry Magazine has announced the “sunsetting” (such a lovely term) of American Life in Poetry’s “weekly column and distribution to publications.”
In “Will Thrice Return?” writer and editor RW Spryszak examines the present and future of his magazine. He writes,
On the one hand, there is a real thrill to publishing someone for the first time. And I’ve had people who got their first acceptance from us stay in touch with me and tell me what they’ve accomplished since. On the other hand…I’ve been happy in my secluded suburban hermitage where people in the neighborhood just know me as that retired guy in the barn-red house…making progress with my own stuff unbothered by some writer’s huffy middle-aged drama or another writer’s interminable displays of suicide chic hipster bullshit.
Yet while some doors close, others open. The Chatanooga Writers’ Guild has announced a new collaboration: “Nashville’s nonprofit writing center, The Porch, [and]…Leigh Anne Couch [are] launching a new literary journal called Swing…Swing will ‘publish the best work from the South and beyond twice a year in a print magazine of inventive design.’”
Obsidian got some press after two recent grant awards totaling $90,000. “Obsidian,” writes Connor Wood, “is committed to highlighting voices from across the African diaspora,” both in the U.S. and abroad.
And The Continental Literary Magazine also got some press. The journal
is anything but vague on its purpose, declaring that it “focuses on the literature of Central Europe…” [Editor Sándor] Jászberényi calls this ‘a literary dialogue between the two continents,’ and has determined that such a dialogue requires ‘American intellectuals. American writers and artists whose opinions matter in America and the world over. Our task is to bring them together with Central Europeans to exchange ideas. Because there is certainly plenty to talk about.”
If you’re looking for some craft advice from a lit mag editor, Orca’s Joe Ponepinto (whom I interviewed here) has written A Deep Dive into Backstory. He writes,
What makes fiction work? What gives readers the feeling they are reading a great story and don’t want to stop? I’ve devoted a lot of time and research to this idea, reading the opinions of successful and well known writers, as well as critical articles from dozens of academics. I’ve come to believe there are some psychological factors that appeal to readers and make them want to read more. And I’ve discovered that using backstory in fiction, especially when it is ill-timed or off-topic, often works against those elements.
For those of you looking for work in the fast-paced industry of lit mag publishing, Museum of Americana is hiring.
Mud Season Review seeks readers.
For those seeking homes for your latest & greatest:
Erika Dreifus has a long list of opportunities.
Erica Verillo has 63 Calls for Submissions in February 2023 – Paying markets; 58 Writing Contests in February 2023 – No entry fees; 21 Literary Magazines Open NOW for Poetry, Short Fiction, CNF, Speculative Fiction, Horror, and more
Authors Publish has 37 Themed Calls for Submissions for February 2023; Five Paying Literary Magazines to Submit to in February 2023
Authors Publish also has a blog post on Five Things To Do After Getting Rejected as a Writer….Weirdly, slam your fist against your desk and cry out, “Cowards! Cowards! They’re all bloody rotten cowards!” is not on the list. Maybe next time.
And that you wondrously winged angels preparing to deliver your bursting hearts upon your beloved, you smiling roses blooming from within that crinkly cylinder of cellophane, you with chocolate already on your mind—and possibly your hands, fingers and who knows, even in your hair, why wait for a holiday!—you writing cards ablaze with ravenous possession, you bathing in strawberries, you with your arms full of teddy bears so big you can barely carry them home, teddy bears which seem to get bigger in the night while you’re asleep, quite big, in fact, with a teddy bear head poking out your chimney and teddy bear arms shoving through your living room windows, and teddy bear fur balls shooting like wild coins up at the ceiling, you and you, yes, you, out there, whose faucets have stopped running water but now cough and gurgle and pour out teddy bear hair every time you turn them on, you, everywhere, wondering, is this really Valentine’s Day or some kind of deranged horror film you can’t get out of, and who knew love could be like this, is the news in literary magazines.
Have a most exciting week, pals.