A Humble Literary Gem
Publishing three times a year in January, May and September and entering its 7th year of publication, A-Minor is a literary gem that has an air of humility I can only describe as being quietly content.
Founder Nicolette Wong is the Hong-Kong-based editor-in-chief of the publication as well as A-Minor Press, a notable press that publishes chapbooks and poetry collections. Ms. Wong is also a dancer, writer and translator. Per her bio, she has recently been "a recipient of a Hong Kong Arts Development Council Project Grant (Literary Arts), and has been featured at the Hong Kong Book Fair and Hong Kong International Literary Festival."
A-Minor features poetry, prose, short fiction and artwork. Guidelines for submissions are standard. They ask that you submit to one category only for now, submissions are received via email. No fee is required. They welcome collaborations of artwork paired with poetry/prose. They are partial to "surrealist, experimental and quirky writing. For poetry, (they) lean toward the lyrical, eccentric, ambivalent and wildly imaginative." Researching back issues is always a good idea to see editor preferences and to ensure the work you submit is a good fit with this literary forum.
In November of 2016, A-Minor received a great shout out from BOOKFOX which is a website "designed to help writers get from the shoebox of rejections to (their) dream publication." BOOKFOX listed them as one of "30 Small but Awesome Online Literary Magazines." With more than 100,000 monthly visitors to their page I have no doubt that A-Minor traffic will increase given this recognition.
While they do have a Facebook and twitter page, they are not routinely active on either account. As a proponent of keeping your audience engaged through social media, I found this to be unfortunate. Nevertheless, I always believe in following any publication you regularly read or submit to so click that FOLLOW button.
A-Minor is your average online publication. The site is user-friendly, clean and visually soft on the eyes. Their list of contributors is extensive and inclusive of everyone from international beginning writers/artists to seasoned published ones. At least a dozen names were writers I actively follow on Twitter and are well-known for their publications in other print and/or online literary magazines. My notable favorite bio was this one:
Jarrid Deaton lives in Eastern Kentucky. He once painted his face in blood during a softball game.
Not sure if I liked it due to its simplicity or clear commitment to the sport. Either way it intrigued me enough to click on his name and check out his contribution to the site. I wasn't disappointed. His work was archived but it was worth the search. If I am not mistaken he was published in the magazines inaugural issue in June of 2010. His story, entitled "Answer for Red Question," was a well-crafted piece that caused me to scramble for more of his work and is also a great example of the kind of poetry/prose the editor is looking for. The piece is a smart, quirky and slightly dark, soul-searching work of exceptional prose.
The magazine's fall issue, published in September 2016, features three works of poetry, two prose pieces, two modern art contributions (three if you include the cover art which was my favorite) and two pieces I believe fall under the category of short fiction. Eight in total, which appears to be the norm except for their anniversary issues which have, on average, four or five additional submissions.
The standout poem, for me, was "Trail Mountain" by Andres Rojas. This piece is exceptional in its imagery and use of language. It is if he pulled his word choices right out of Emily Dickinson's Lexicon. His two stanzas,
as the rough-winged swallows
buzzing the rhododendrons,
not at play, hunters on the fly
as are we all, each viridescent laurel
are not only coupled brilliantly, they sing, stitching this into a soliloquy that guides the reader down the trail with all the expectations and hope intended.
Hamline University MFA student, Nicola Koh, also contributed a daring piece to this issue entitled The Bride of Christ. This work of fiction draws the reader in from its prefacing quote:
And I saw a new heaven
and a new earth:
for the first heaven
and the first earth
were passed away;
and there was
-John of Patmos
The quote, along with the enticing title, had me hooked to read on and read on I did (twice). Koh weaves a story that is sprinkled with reality, faith and juxta positioned with the writers hope in God's existence despite current circumstances the main character shares with anyone who will listen. The ship she sets sail on is representative of Heaven, but not the definitive one we imagine. One where the wrong people sit in the highest chair in disregard of danger (the devil in the form of black mountains) that looms across the unbalanced sea. Koh also quietly sews in the issue of gender roles in a way that doesn't force the notion down your throat but asks you to consider what society is suppressing. A true treasure of a choice for publication and set appropriately as the last tale of the magazine because you'll need time to process what you have read. A sign of a well-crafted write.
In direct contradiction to some of the magazine's weaker stories, "This House," by Nicholas Rys left me breathless. This story moved with emotion fueled waves of imagination entangled with harsh realities. The imagery within this prose is climatic. Mr. Rys pulled me right along with him “down hallways” over the “pulse carpet blood”. I take his hand willingly, and together we explore each nuance of the house with hopeful eyes despite its apparent decay. I, too, am “tingling with electricity” as I watch the mind unfold with the possibilities within the walls of This House.
Despite enjoying most of the work of the contributing artists and writers, I am going to have to give A-Minor three stars out of five, which is hard. I just did not get the "wow" factor I think online magazines need to keep their readers returning. Unlike print magazines, online literary sites need to be sought out by the reader. They are not delivered by post; they are delivered by emails that can be easily skipped over or deleted if the subscriber isn’t getting substance from it. Other than the cover, the artwork was simplistic and the selected contributions, while many I enjoyed a great deal, didn’t fit together, offering an issue that seemed to be like a puzzle missing several pieces.
Additionally, as an online journal, engaging your online audience through Facebook and Twitter is essential to successfully draw in new readers and keep the ones your already have. Not to mention your contributors, who I feel, deserve invested time in promoting their work through social media sources. As a former social media specialist, I highly recommend this for all literary magazines, print or online. In fact, I go out of my way to ensure that the magazines and writers know I am reviewing them. I seek them out, follow them, engage them. This promotes healthy camaraderie within the writing community that relies heavily on encouragement.