Today's Top Craft Magazines for Writers
By Anne-Marie Yerks
Anyone new to creative writing will inevitably encounter the holy trinity of writer’s magazines. They are 1) Writer’s Digest; 2) Poets & Writers; and 3) The Writer. Let’s discuss the merits and demerits of each:
With colorful type shouting things like “Write Your Novel in 30 Days,” it’s possible you have already picked up a copy of Writer’s Digest. I recommend taking it into the Barnes & Noble café to skim after you have, indeed, worked on your novel. With a writing session behind you, it’s time to worry about writing a standout query letter, formatting a manuscript, choosing an agent, and negotiating a screenplay contract, all topics the Digest covers in exhaustive tedium eight times a year. Although The Digest primarily addresses commercial and genre markets, it also provides some good craft articles and essays – I’ve distributed this one on shape poetry to students plenty of times. A warning: DO NOT ENTER THEIR CONTESTS. Millions of people from around the world enter those contests, so the chances of winning are very low. (I did enter one once and placed 12th.)
Poets & Writers
OK, you’ve dismissed every publishing industry genre because what you write can only be described as “literary.” You will wade the waters alone. Wait, what's this pretty magazine with the large black-and-white photo of a serious but serene writer on the cover? Well, it’s Poets & Writers. Welcome to the writing intelligentsia! Soon you’ll be drinking wine at Breadloaf and bumping elbows with Rita Dove.
But watch out -- that advertisement of a writing desk overlooking a windowed mountain range is luring you into the teaching trap. Slap your hand before it starts filling out MFA applications. Focus instead on the magazine’s too-long ruminations about craft and those thoughtful interviews with writers eternally more successful than you. Pour a cup of coffee, get a pen, and mark up the “Calls for Submissions” section. Maybe you’ll find a few good contests and an anthology just begging for that story you wrote three years ago. And, whatev, scout around for a well-funded MFA program. There’s nothing to lose but your lame housemates, low-paying retail job, and writing freedom. Go for it. What’s better validation of your talent than grading papers for the rest of your life?
To appreciate The Writer, you must know that it is not only the oldest trade magazine for creative writers, but also one of the longest-running magazines in United States history. At age 125, it has endured through many editorships and publishing approaches. Today it looks like a low-budget version of Writer’s Digest, a shame because – for a very long time – The Writer was a classy rag.
Back in the 1990s, The Writer was my favorite writer’s publication. The cover artwork – usually a mod-retro pop art graphic design of some kind – contrasted against the dreamy cursive headline, The Writer, was romantic and secretive, delivering its pragmatic philosophies to eager English majors and anyone with a pen, page, and something to say. Its newsprint pages formed an egalitarian space for both genre and literary writers. It was in The Writer where I found the only personal essay on writing ever published by the tragic but best-selling V.C. Andrews, author of “Flowers in the Attic.”
The Writer seems to be remodeling themselves lately and are thin on content, but I have my fingers crossed they’ll be a comeback kid. Look on eBay and Etsy for vintage issues, then take one to a writer’s conference to attract a few brilliant eccentrics as kindred kind.
Keep on with creative writing long enough and you’ll likely find a use for any of the holy trinity sooner or later. Get serious about submitting, pitching, and publishing and maybe someday you’ll see your own photo inside. Make sure to look really serious and stand in front of a bookshelf when they take it.
Anne-Marie Yerks is the author of a novel, “Dream Junkies” (New Rivers Press), and lives in the suburbs of Detroit, MI with her husband and cat. She has work forthcoming in "Modern Memoir" (Fiction Attic Press) and in “Juked.” Find her on Twitter @amy1620 and on the Web at www.annemariewrites.com.