Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Audio Lit Mags
By Nadine Kenney Johnstone
Before Grub Street’s Muse and the Marketplace writing conference two years ago, I read that The Drum would be hosting an audio flash fiction contest on-site at the conference. I researched The Drum to find that they were an audio literary magazine, and I spent the next two hours listening to story clips on their site. Just as thoroughly as I enjoyed listening to books on CD read by authors, listening to these orally-told tales became my new hobby. I got to hear the authors’ accents, pauses, and intended intonations. It added a new layer to the idea of stories touching me, because the words were literally vibrating against my eardrums.
I brought a flash novel excerpt to the Muse to enter the contest. Hive-y, shaking, I read my work into a microphone in a small hotel break-out room full of recording equipment. I was thanked, and then I was left to attend the rest of the conference.
A month and a half later, I got an email from The Drum congratulating me on being one of the chosen, and in no time, “How to Meet Your Future Husband and Almost Scare Him Away” was online. After listening to myself and cringing at just how nasally I sounded, I also felt something else—more exposed, but in a good way. If someone really wanted to know what I was all about, he or she could not only read me, but hear me as well.
I started submitting to other lit mags that accept audio, but it took a bit of time searching out who accepted sound and who didn’t. Here are some that do:
4'33" broadcasts and podcasts short stories of around five minutes (up to 1,000 words). They are looking for edgy, engaging stories about modern life - stories which work well when read aloud.
BOUND OFF is a monthly magazine usually showcasing three audio literary short stories.
THE DRUM is an online literary magazine publishing short fiction, novel excerpts, essays, and interviews exclusively in audio form. They publish a new piece of audio literature each week.
PAPER RADIO is a creative audio fiction and non-fiction podcast from Australia and New Zealand, accepting pieces 4-20 minutes long.
TEXT SOUND brings together a range of experimental soundwork from the U.S. and abroad.
WORD PLAY SOUND accepts original, thought-provoking fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry.
Other sites that feature recorded stories but aren’t literary magazines:
STORY CORPS is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.
THIS I BELIEVE is an international organization engaging people in writing and sharing essays describing the core values that guide their daily lives. Some 100,000 of these essays, written by people from all walks of life, are archived here on their website, heard on public radio, chronicled through books, and featured in weekly podcasts.
Additionally, when the title chapter for my memoir-in-progress, Nine Babies On Ice, was accepted to appear online in PANK's parenting issue, I was given the option to also record the story. In that way, readers could read and listen to my work at the same time. Here are some journals that offer such opportunities:
LITRO , a London based print and online mag, also features Litro Lab, which explores audio possibilities of short stories, poetry, true storytelling, and interviews with various authors and artists.
THE MISSOURI REVIEW, the highly-regarded print magazine, also offers an annual audio contest online.
NEW OHIO REVIEW features print and audio poetry and prose.
PANK, in print and online, it fosters access to emerging and experimental poetry and prose.
QUIDDITY is a multimedia arts venue featuring an international literary journal (print and audio), a public-radio program, and a visiting writer and artist series.
WORD RIOT provides readers with book reviews, author interviews, and writing.
Imagine my delight when I later heard about The Moth’s Listen and Vote contest. The Moth is most known for its live story slams. Each month denotes a new category, and if you wish to participate, you attend and put your name in a hat. If your name is chosen, you get five minutes to tell your story on stage and then, possibly on the air.
The best news is that The Moth just expanded to four new cities, and Boston’s first event runs on October 15th at The Oberon Theater. The story category is chemistry.
As for the Listen and Vote contest online, you can submit your one-minute audio story pitch (160 written words = roughly 1 min of speech), and if it gets enough votes, you get the chance to tell your story on stage or on the air. I submitted a pitch for my memoir, and the internet recording option was acting up, so I used the call-in function and left a pitch voicemail. I didn’t know if my recording disappeared into the ether, but a few weeks later, I got an email, and my Nine Babies On Ice story pitch is currently being featured on their site to be voted on.
If tech challenges leave you fearful of submitting your story orally, don't worry. Some mags ask you to stop by to record in person, while others, like PANK, give you user friendly-software with step-by-step instructions to download.
Lastly, if you’d like a little practice before you attend The Moth’s story slam or want to know how a story appeals to a live audience so it has better chances of being chosen for an audio lit mag, read this article of tips.
Nadine Kenney Johnstone teaches at Framingham State University, Dean College, and Grub Street Inc. She received her MFA from Columbia College Chicago and is seeking representation for her novel, DISTANCE. Nadine has been published or has work forthcoming in Pank, The Drum, Chicago magazine, and Hair Trigger, among other publications. She has worked in all aspects of writing: as a literary magazine editor, reporter, fiction contest judge, story performer, and creative writing instructor. Find her writing advice here and at Grub Street Daily. A Chicago native and Massachusetts transplant, Nadine spends her free time exploring the outdoors with her husband and their dog-child.