Journals of Writing and Environment
By Chris Wiewiora
As the managing editor of Flyway I recognize the two sides of what might be called our ethos following the colon after our title: A Journal of Writing and Environment. I’m not too confused by the first half—A Journal of Writing—since I worked on editing another literary magazine (a.k.a. “journal”) The Florida Review the past several years. However, it’s the last word—Environment—that I struggle to explain to potential-contributors as well as to myself.
While I worked at the Florida Review, submissions set in Florida, about Florida, and dealing with Florida/Floridians (mostly stereotypes) arrived weekly. I rejected them. Those submitters assumed our name meant that we took Florida-themed work. [Note: If you’re looking for a great Florida-themed magazine, then check out SawPalm.]
However, at Flyway we do seek pieces about place. Anyplace. Our guidelines call for submissions “exploring the many complicated facets of the word environment—at once rural, urban, and suburban—and its social and political implications.”
Unfortunately, many times I’ve read manuscripts sent to Flyway about recycling, pets, and metaphysical experiences with the universe. Those pieces focus on a different definition of environment. I don’t want to complain, but I guess I am.
I know if I want solid submissions, then I should be able to explain what I want sent to Flyway. Since I couldn’t initially figure out what we were seeking, I stopped writing this article. Then I did whatever I do when I’m not writing: I read.
From my bookshelf, for guidance, I picked out the oldest copy of Flyway that I own (from subscription exchanges I did at the Florida Review). In the managing editor’s note of that issue of Flyway, Melanny Cowley wrote:
When a writer migrates, she serves as an environmental reporter of sorts, recounting fresh beauty experienced for the first time, or revealing the impact political injustices have made upon landscape and culture.
Melanny goes on about the migrations of Americans and pilgrimages of, and written by, writers. She calls on folks to pay attention to their surroundings and then recall those places. And that’s what I, too, want: I want to read pieces set in a place that has an affect before, during, and after the writer experiences it.
Thankfully just as I’m just one of a line of managing editors for Flyway, Flyway is one of several wonderful journals of writing and environment. If you’re still with me after my meandering preamble, then I’d like to offer more than a handful of these other environmental journals—from deeply rooted to just-sprouted as well as print and digital publications—and their manifestos:
In the 1982 inaugural June issue of Orion, editor-in-chief George Russell boldly wrote, “humans are morally responsible for the world in which we live, and that the individual comes to sense this responsibility as he or she develops a personal bond with nature.” And now, thirty years later, Orion is more than just one of the oldest award-winning environmental literary magazines (also with a digital edition). Orion encompasses a vibrant online community of interviews, reviews, and podcasts; book and anthology publishing; and a national society focusing on grassroots education and activism; which all continue the focus on environmental and cultural concerns.
Terrain searches for the interface between the built and natural environment. This “soul of place” integrates human culture along with non-human, natural ecosystems. The journal publishes columns as well as art, prose, poetry, reviews, and interviews. More than just a journal, as an organization, Terrain extends itself as a partner with Terra Nova, Ocotillo Design, and Orion’s Grassroots Network.
Ecotone seeks to reimagine place. A literary image of an ecotone is the shared middle of a Venn diagram, while a scientific definition (as well as from the journal’s website) of an ecotone is the transition zone between two adjacent ecological communities, containing the characteristic species of each. The journal blends literary and scientific perspectives, showcasing their overlap.
Hawk & Handsaw (named from Shakespeare’s Hamlet; Act II, scene ii) contemplates the environmental lifestyle with reflection, philosophy, and humor. The magazine—from UnityCollege “America’s Environmental College”—collages written and visual art. The contributors include established and emerging artists from the field, which adds authenticity to the conviction of this journal’s creative sustainability.
Precipitate lauds itself as the “journal of the new environmental imagination.” They welcome complications and investigations of human relationships to place, from all angles—aesthetic, social, cultural, scientific, speculative, etc. Their lively online community evolves with constantly updated and relevant blogs.
Poecology—celebrated its first anniversary on August 31 of this year—weaves place-based writing into a comfortable online quilt. While their name suggests a focus on poetry and ecology, they also include prose and experimentation with environmental, human-perspective themed work. In addition to the journal, the editors and staff hold literary events in the San Francisco Bay Area. They plan to grow into a house (the Greek translation of “eco”) full of resources such as essays, news, and education on the environment.
Chris Wiewiora is a MFA student at Iowa State University’s Creative Writing and Environment program where he is the managing editor of Flyway. He mostly writes nonfiction, which has been published in Under the Gum Tree, nerve, MAKE, Swink, and more than a dozen other magazines. He is a regular contributor to the Good Men Project. Read more at www.chriswiewiora.com