Allison K. Williams loves a particular literary magazine…
I love that this magazine releases all their issues by pdf, which makes them both free and also delightful to print out and carry around (I get carsick if I read off a screen in a vehicle). Their new issue is out, I saw on Twitter.
I didn’t retweet it.
I started to. I started to type “Another fab issue of @…” and dig through for a good quote to make a quality tweet instead of just a RT, and then I stopped. Because I remembered that I’d submitted to them–after reading many issues, carefully choosing what to send, polishing it for hours, formatting, tracking down where to send it (not as easy as many mags)–and gotten no response.
Well, not entirely true–they responded the same day to my cover letter that said how much I loved the magazine, to ask if I’d be a Reader of the Week. I took a photo of myself reading the magazine in an interesting setting, sent it in, then when they sent it out I happily spread it all over my social media, linking to their site. But my actual submission? Not a word.
You want my 30 seconds to retweet, multiplied by a couple of tweets a month, twelve months a year? You want my positive word of mouth, my recycling printed copies by shoving them into the hands of strangers in airports reading literary fiction? You want to engage in social media?
The remainder of her rumination is on the Brevity Blog
Novelist Brian Morton talks about novels that shift and change in the process of writing, with main characters who appear out of nowhere, eventually replacing the protagonists and plots he had first envisaged.
Decades ago, when I was in college, I had a writing teacher who told his students to “write the novel you want to read.” I’ve been trying to follow this advice for almost forty years now, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.
I found the essay intriguing, because I don’t write like that. This is not to claim that my way is better; I’m still getting good at this novel-writing thing. Only for me, I tend to just get stuck in places until I re-see my original ideas more clearly, work out the missing element whose absence was making the writing feel flat. When that element is finally perceived, of course, it can provoke new scenes, additional characters. But rarely to the drastic extent Morton describes.
How about you? How open are you, in your writing, to the unexpected?
Long time readers of this blog may remember a couple of posts I wrote last year about the front covers of literary magazines.
One, written for Burlesque Press, and a follow up, on this blog — Do Literary Magazines Want to Be Popular? — responded to Calvin Hennick’s original article on The Grub Daily (which currently seems not to be available).
At the time, I missed Lee Gutkind’s take on the situation. Although he essentially agrees with Hennick, he also takes aim at perhaps an even more basic question: what is a front cover? Does it still matter? Can it be art?
Lee Gutkind, “Creating a Cover Story–With The Cover“:
Hennick is not saying that literary magazines should revert to hucksterism to gain readers—although a bit more commercialism wouldn’t hurt their reputations or their budgetary bottom lines. But his point is that it is time for literary magazine publishers and editors to understand that they are not above attempting to make a connection to their readers and to catch up with modern times.
In the “old days,” let’s say as recently as 20 years ago, great art was a valuable bonus feature of literary magazines because fine precision printing and quality paper was an art in itself, and because the works of master artists were not so accessible through the Internet, as they are now.
And let’s face it. It makes sense for a magazine to visually represent on the cover the contents of the issue inside. The traditional practice of listing the author names on the cover of the journal only serves to narrow readership to the people who would have purchased the magazine no matter whose name was plastered on the front. Whether you are a playwright or poet, you probably have more of an interest in great sex for life than an obscure author.
You can read the rest of Lee’s thoughts about magazine covers on his blog.