Online Mag Redefines Literary Content
At a time when many literary magazines are closing up shop, at five years old Across the Margin (ATM)is adding to theirs. More than adding. It’s reconstructing—not only its image as an online magazine, but also many notions of what it means to be ‘literary.’
Take a look at the magazine’s website to see how this plays out. The magazine is sleek and the content is divided into eight, easy-to-navigate categories: Art & Fashion, Fiction, Film & Television, Life, Music, Politics, Sports, and Poetry. Instead of issues, the magazine publishes content regularly, and all of its archived content is searchable and accessible.
This is a great time for first-time readers to explore the magazine because there are Best of 2016 lists for fiction; nonfiction (filed under Life category); film, music & television; and the magazine’s take on the top 50 music albums of 2016. Browsing these lists is a sure way to get to know this magazine. Take the nonfiction lineup for example: 12 pieces, including writing by a paranoid schizophrenic remembering a night along a pier, a psychologist whose dialogue-heavy piece on post-miscarriage relationships reads like fiction, and other writings on climate change, campaign reform, race and law enforcement and more.
But be sure to explore beyond 2016. One nonfiction piece that is unique and worthwhile to try is an audio recording of a roughly-15 minute radio play written by Jack Ratliff, titled "Everyone Carries, Ten Years Later." Initially published as speculative fiction on ATM in 2015, Ratliff took his story about gun control to new limits by revising it as a play, which aired over the radio waves of Sacramento, California under the guise of a news report.
Another way to get to know ATM is by browsing the articles featured in the footer under headings, Latest Articles and Most Commented. A few visits to the sight will show that although there is always fresh content, the articles with the most buzz remain steady. Of the six articles listed under the Most Commented heading, three were written by Maureen Onuigbo, including an excerpt from her forthcoming novel, three of her poems, and a personal essay. The other three most commented pieces are all nonfiction and include an essay about a Phish concert and two articles about the TV show, Breaking Bad.
Whichever way you choose to browse, the art-heavy aspect of ATM will shine. Each piece of writing in the magazine is paired with at least one crisp art image, which range from photography, sculpture, drawing and painting to name a few. Sometimes, as is the case with Cristina Rutkowski, the author and the artist are one in the same: Rutkowski’s darkly colored painting of a woman reaching up toward the cosmos pairs nicely with her personal essay about experiencing art.
Rutkowski’s pairing also shows off one of the unique aspects of ATM: the editors introduce each piece of writing in the magazine with a thoughtful insight that does more than summarize. Take Jon Krampner’s fiction, "The Mazeroski Blues" for example, which is introduced with this line: “What if the one thing in life you wanted to change, changed everything in your life?”
Speaking of fiction, Maureen Onuigbo is not the only author whose work is featured multiple times in the magazine. Fiction writers, T. E. Cowell and Frederick Foote, have each had more than 20 stories published in the magazine, including flash fiction that ATM publishes in pairs. Both authors are featured in the magazine’s best fiction for 2016 fiction; Foote is also featured in the best of nonfiction for 2016. In a world when many magazines ask their contributing writers to wait one or even two years before submitting again, ATM’s loyalty to their contributors sets them apart.
But it’s not just the content, or the loyalty, that makes ATM unique. It’s the voices—more specifically, the variety of voices. Men and women from across the U.S. are equally represented, but the ideas reach beyond America’s borders. For example, numerous writers indicate in their bios that they’ve translated work of notable writers: HC Hsu, who wrote a nonfiction piece on Prince for ATM, translated a biography of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo. Elena Rivera, whose poems are featured in the magazine, won a prize for her translation of Bernard Noel’s writing. Also, in one of their regularly published podcasts, ATM interviewed the novelist and regularly ATM contributor, Jonathan Marcantoni, on diaspora, identity and corruption in Puerto Rico.
In addition to their podcast series, ATM editors Michael Shields and Chris Thompson have expanded their publishing reach in 2016 with a print edition of a young adult fantasy novel, Seneca Rebel, by Rayya Deeb. ATM also plans to open a digital storefront for selling merchandise.
Submissions of previously unpublished work are free and accepted on a rolling basis through an email address on ATM’s website. The only caveat, it seems, is that the writing speak of “dangerous things” and that the writer “allow the writing to take [readers] where it may.”