The Review Review Story
In the spring of 2008, I stopped submitting to literary magazines. As a fiction writer, trying to get my work published felt as futile and inconsequential as trying to write my name on a snowflake. I spent so much time sending work out and buying envelopes, printer ink, stamps, and paper only to receive one after another rejection letter, sometimes not even written on a full piece of paper but cut from the bottom third, as if rejection of my work were not even worth wasting a full page.
Of course getting published is not easy and if it were, the rewards would not feel so valuable and hard-won. And I know that public recognition can take months, years, if not a lifetime or more.
However, I also felt that there was something unsettling about this entire process. I was not reading any literary magazines. Not only did I not subscribe to any, I hardly cared what was in them. There were even the magazines in which I'd had stories appear, magazines in which I'd won contests. Even those I didn't read.
Worse, I was not the only writer like this. What I found when I talked to my peers was that everyone wanted to be published in these magazines, but no one knew who published what, who edited which magazines, which ones were printed from universities and which were independent, or at the very least which magazines they liked and which they didn't.
Wanting to get published in lit mags had started to feel like doing community service so that it would look good on your college application. That is to say, lit mags did not represent pleasure, engagement or intellectual growth, but merely a stepping stone toward recognition from book editors and maybe agents.
At first, this discovery was comforting. I'm not alone, I thought. No one reads these things! But the more I considered the situation, the worse I began to feel. How could we expect lit mags to care about our work, when we didn't care about theirs? Why would anyone make time or pay money for our stories if we were unwilling to take a lit mag on our morning commute or shell out the twenty bucks a year for a subscription?
With over 600 print and online journals, however, it can be hard to know where to begin.
So I decided to make this website. Here, writers can get a deeper sense of the journals by reading reviews of the latest issues. This is not intended as a substitute for the actual journals, but merely a way to guide writers toward the journals that most interest them. Plus, this site offers a way for writers to keep in contact with editors. A story might not be right for a magazine, for instance, but a thoughtful and heartfelt review will be sure to make editors aware of your writing skills.
Through speaking to more editors, I also learned how challenging this process is for them. The magazine staffs are small and so are the budgets. Yet editors continue to labor over their projects, just as writers labor over theirs. This site, I hope, can give much-deserved feedback to editors. Through the interviews, editors can also have an opportunity to talk a little about their journals. Thus the entire process can feel less like community service and more like an actual community.
I hope that you--writers, editors, educators, friendly visitors--will find something useful on this site. Hopefully you will get information that helps you. Even better, you will feel inspired to keep up all the hard work.