Top Lit Mags that REALLY do publish emerging writers
Baltimore Review It is always nice to see a prestigious journal publish fresh, new voices. Such is the case on a routine basis for the Baltimore Review. Most recently, you can check out Priyatam Mudivarti’s “Blue Flame.” It’s a beautifully weird and hauntingly rich story about aging, photography, and death:
At ninety-two, when I close my eyes and suck my breath, I see fire and ash, playing in smoke.
At the count of one hundred: a mountain, the remains of the cut down trees, a man with a beard and without any clothes, rotting under his limbs.
At one hundred and one, my body grows fiery, as if a log from the pyre rolled into my spine and burned my chest.
One hundred and seven. My heart comes to a full stop. I learned to stop my breath. My chest expands out of my ribs, stretches my neck.
Bellevue Literary Review, published by the Department of Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, is one of the most reputable literary magazines around. What’s more, their focus on stories and poems about illness and disease frequently leave the front doors open to literary newcomers. In the spring 2013 issue, reading Ashley Chambers’s “You Will Make Several Relaxing Cuts” feels more like cognitive re-programing than reading. From the very first paragraph, this story will immerse you, making you the unwilling subject of its hectic, gory, and often poignant hospital world:
The grieving family members haven’t left the patient’s room by the time you arrive at the hospital. The woman in admitting tells you they’re still grieving, and she remembers you. You are a contracted hospital regular. Your sneakers squeak as you walk to the intensive care unit, where you sit down in the waiting room. You play Plants vs. Zombies on your cell phone and avoid eye contact with the unit secretary. The waiting room and its keepers dematerialize as you strategically place puff-shrooms and scaredy-shrooms with your thumbs on your cell phone’s touchscreen in preparation for this morning’s first wave of zombies. What this means is you’re being paid seventeen dollars an hour to play Plants vs. Zombies while you wait to cut the eyes out of another dead person’s head.
Antigonish Review is a quarterly literary journal published by St. Francis Xavier University. Issue #173 features one first-timer, Symon Jory Stevens-Guille, whose poem “Ode to hearing a bicycle” is clever and beautiful. A number of issues in recent years include more than one newbie, in fact, making good on this journal’s claim that, “For forty years, The Antigonish Review has consistently published fine poetry and prose by emerging — and established — writers.”
Bayou Magazine Published by the University of New Orleans, Bayou is a biannual literary magazine with national circulation. It also sponsors a number of contests. To my mind, the whole point of major magazines holding contests is to provide a meritocratic forum for new writers to find their way into print. In 2012 Bayou‘s celebrated James Knudsen Prize in Fiction did just that. The winner was Ari Braverman, and her story, “Even Though He’s Still Alive” in Issue 59, was her first publication ever. I’ll let Judge Michael Knight have the honor of describing the creative exuberance of the piece:
“Even though He’s Still Alive” is one of those stories that does almost everything right while hardly seeming to tell a story at all. Driven by the unvarnished, loop-the-loop narration of a young woman who knows instinctively that there must be beauty in the world; she just can’t seem to find much of it in her own life. Her honesty, sexual and otherwise, is startling, all the more so because she directs her perception inward, often as not, without seeming to navel gaze. There’s real darkness here, real heat. This is not to mention the overarching conceit—Young Mick Jagger as a spirit guide. Sounds nutty but it works, and it works because the writer commits to it, ingrains the premise in her characterization and threads it through every section of the story, our narrator peppering an imaginary 27 year old Mick with questions, researching his old girlfriends, wasting hours gazing at his image on the internet. Mick Jagger, the narrator tells us, wears “living like a mantle, loose and heavy, completely secure.” That’s what the narrator wants, too, and through the ordinary, seemingly disjointed events of her life she finds her way to a kind of happy ending, not perfect, not too tidy, but thoroughly earned and oh so rare in contemporary fiction.
New England Review It is with some delight that the engaged browser of Volume 33 #4 (2013) of this eminent journal comes across the following bio entry: “DAVID HERONRY is an apprentice funeral director in Central Ohio, where he lives with a tall man and a small dachshund. This is his first publication.” The story he writes for the issue, “Less Awful,” is about a shy girl, Alice, who is trying to keep it together while wrestling with the grief of losing a loved one. With amazing control, Heronry is able to have scenes switch right in the middle of dialogue. He pulls it off so as to create an authentic sense of tension and psychic desperation. Here’s an exemplary set of changes. Alice’s professor has just asked her about her feelings regarding the death of her friend, whom she remembers being sick with hallucinations in the hospital:
“Get me out of here,” he whined. “I hate this dog food.”
His mother knocked on the door and then came in, followed by Héctor and Mike and Lena, and even though they all sat together around his bed, they were a million miles apart.
“I’m sorry,” said Mr. Hasslinger. “I’ve embarrassed you by saying that.”
“No, it’s fine. Of course you miss him. Of course we both miss him.” April glanced at the clock on his desk. “I should probably head out, though. Class.”
Mr. Hasslinger stood up and held out his hand. “Will I see you next week?”
“Yeah,” said April. “Of course.”
“No way,” said April, continuing what had so far been a monologue. “I refuse to take any more biology than necessary. I mean, the dissections and stuff? I don’t know how anybody can be so cruel.”
Caitlin paused, then turned around to look at her. It was the first time April had ever captured so much of her attention.
No one time affair, New England Review published a first-timer in the issue just before this one. Check out Brendan Grady’s poem “Moths” in NER 33:3 (2012). There’s also Amanda Haag’s brilliant story “Little Girl’s Point” in the latest issue, 34.2. How would that be for your first every publication?… Appearing alongside some guy named Seamus Heaney and his poem “Du Bellay in Rome”!!!
River Teeth –as some of you may know, is one of the premier journals devoted to CNF, or Creative Non Fiction. In the most recent issue, 15.1, they include an astonishingly eloquent essay by one Jesse Bardoni entitled “Stained Glass”. What is most compelling about the piece, other than its shard-sharp language and shimmering voice, is the fact that its author gets to experience publication for the first time in it, but that she is also a high school student from Ithaca. Here’s the opening paragraph:
Most afternoons as a child, I would sit cross-legged and rest my chin on my bedroom windowsill and watch the world in front of me. The windowsill was chipping, and my picking at it didn’t help. The panel at the base was even beginning to bend from my leaning on it. On rainy days I was hypnotized. The tiny metal strings of the screen took in moist soil and the cool aroma of the cypress tree that stood alone in the back yard. Billions of soft putterings and slappings of thin drops trickled on the cement driveway below. Beyond, the smatting of the drops on the maple’s deep green leaves would slip off in an accumulation and slap the ground, completing the rhythm that played so majestically. Except for the rain, these were silent days, days where I learned patience, patience for a dream.
New Delta Review “a literary journal produced by graduate students in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Louisiana State University. Since 1984, NDR has published the work of emerging and established writers.” In Issue 3.2 they publish Ashish Shrestha’s soaring tale “Where and Sky and River Meet,” which seems to gather some of Shrestha’s familiarity with Nepali funeral rites to sketch out the odd mythology of a death rite, from a brash perspective. One rich paragraph from the story should do the trick in giving you a taste of Shrestha’s skill:
Some of the old man’s relatives went next to the feet of the body and almost touched them with their foreheads as the priest began humming. They then offered food, flowers, and money to the dead in plates made of leaves. Some of these plates would later be pushed into the water, while others remained on the platform. We cannot eat what remains, at first, since the priests say the dead turn into dogs before they can travel into the new world. So it is still their share. We have to wait for the dogs to eat. Sometimes there is still some food left for us. There is money to be collected though, since the dogs have nothing to do with it. Searching for money in the debris of leftover food and torn flowers is rough; there is a lot of pushing and pulling so I never let Sky go there. I do not go there because I wait for everything to be pushed into the river. I can collect more this way because I can swim faster than the others.
Georgia Review Julie Riddle published her first piece ever, an essay in the Fall 2013 issue of Georgia Review entitled “Shadow Animals.” The summary information from that issue calls Riddle’s piece “a beautifully horrific essay about growing up among pioneer dreams, guns and child abuse.” When you look into it, you’ll find that Riddle was not exactly a nobody in the world of creative writing prior to this windfall of a publication, but still. Having your first piece ever in this world-famous journal is like hitting your first home run in your whole life on opening day for the Yankees. That part of my brain and soul that have yet to give over to the cynicism of the world–the parts that cry during cotton commercials and still believe in the American Dream–leap with joy at the thought of Julie Riddle’s accomplishment. I would have been that fly dancing along on the wall when she received that acceptance email.