Myths About Lit Mags
By Jennifer de Leon
This week, I asked Becky Tuch to respond to some common misconceptions about literary magazines. Here are her responses.
1. No one reads them.
Literary magazines may not have a mainstream audience. But they do have a very specific and enthusiastic audience. Their readers are poets, lovers of the short story, admirers of flash fiction, lusters for the lyric essay. That’s not most people; it’s a minority. But it’s a valuable and passionate minority.
If you go to a conference like AWP, if you talk to other writers, if you read interviews with literary agents, if you do a search for “literary magazines” on Twitter, if you eavesdrop on conversations at writing residencies, what you’ll find is that many people do in fact read literary magazines. What’s more, they enjoyreading them and look forward to new issues when they arrive on the shelves and online.
2. Anyone can start one.
This may be true. But can anyone maintain one? Starting a lit mag is fun and thrilling. It has all the buzz-and-tingle of a new relationship. But to stay in it for the long haul, to commit to the project after the buzz has worn off and the real work sets in, to see it through the periods of financial duress, working nights, weekends, making sacrifices in your life to keep the project afloat—that requires deep commitment and stamina. It’s not for everyone. For those who do it, let’s tip our hats.
3. Editors don’t actually read all the submissions.
To say editors don’t read every submission seems tantamount to saying novelists don’t write every word in their books, or pianists don’t play every note in their concertos. Editors want to find good stories, poems, and essays. That’s their job. That’s their love...Keep reading on the Ploughshares blog.