Florida's Hot Literary Scene
by Chris Wiewiora
Orlando, Florida offers something beyond Disney World. Orlando is also a vibrant literary scene. Publications and readings appear hand-in-hand. The University of Central Florida hosts both the national Florida Review and the undergraduate literary magazine Cypress Dome, which runs the Writers in the Sun reading series. The private school Rollins College houses specs as well as Brushing and hosts the annual Winter With the Writers. The independent Burrow Press has evolved into Burrow Press Review, which curates the 15 Views of Orlando—an exquisite corpse-like series with a different author writing a 1,000-word story set in a different location linking a narrative through fifteen weeks. Additionally, Burrow Press produces the monthly four-person prose reading and publishes the e-chapbook series There Will Be Words.
While I grew up in Orlando, graduated from UCF, worked as an editor at both FR and CDome, contributed to 15 Views of Orlando, and read twice at There Will Be Words, I don’t want to only hype Orlando’s literary scene. Because just like there’s more than Disney to Orlando, there’s also more to Florida than Orlando.
A parallel public and private literary scene in Florida comes together in the Tampa Bay Area, which the “15 Views” series—now franchised—plans to highlight next. SawPalm—from the University of South Florida—champions the unique experience of Florida life, landscape, and trope. Not only does SawPalm publish place-based work from and about Florida, but also they place work on Florida. Meaning the magazine publishes short-short pieces on an online interactive Google Earth Map of Florida. Hover over a location stuck with a pin and the piece as well as GPS coordinates will appear.
On the private side of school and publishing, the University of Tampa hosts both the Tampa Review and the new TRON (a.k.a. Tampa Review Online). While the Tampa Review publishes full color and in hardback editions, TRON expands the print scope of the magazine into a bi-monthly online endeavor run by the low-res MFA students of the University of Tampa.
A few years ago Gulf Stream—at Florida International University in Miami—transitioned completely from print to online, thankfully keeping itself in continuous publication since 1989. While the university hosts the Writers on the Bay reading series, the magazine offers standout, thorough, and unexpected interviews with Henry Rollins, William Giraldi, and Edwidge Danticat. In addition to regular submissions via their online submission form, Gulf Stream also welcomes postcards mailed to them that they then post on their blogroll the Streamline.
The two Florida schools—the University of Florida and Florida State University—compete beyond football, but also with friendly rivalry of their literary magazines. UF’s Subtropics’ content and design pair well. Many of the tri-annual issues include a short-short piece printed on the backcover. The magazine accepts longer form, too; including prose up to 15,000 words. Since its inception selections from Subtropics have appeared in many yearly anthologies and Best of… series. While you have to pay $3 to submit, if you’re published, then you’ll be paid a flat rate of $1,000 for a story or $100 for a poem!
Florida State University’s Southeast Review comes back to the focus of a literary magazine combined with author readings. The university hosts the Warehouse Reading series and Southeast Review shares these full-length interviews via podcasts with their seasonal online issues. Beyond content for readers, the magazine offers an affordable ($10 to $15) youth and adult 30-day Writing Regime for writers.
Just as Orlando isn’t the only literary scene in the state, these other five magazines aren’t the home of the rest of the writers, readers, and editors. Rather, these five sample the diverse Florida literary communities. Explore these and then discover more.
Chris Wiewiora is a MFA student at Iowa State University’s Creative Writing and Environment program where he is the managing editor of Flyway. He mostly writes nonfiction, which has been published in Under the Gum Tree, nerve, MAKE, Swink, and more than a dozen other magazines. He is a regular contributor to the Good Men Project. Read more at www.chriswiewiora.com