Greetings Pennwriters, and Happy Winter Solstice Holidays!
I write to you today with a spotty satellite internet connection from beneath three feet of snow at the base of the Olympic Mountains. There’s nothing like a return to the basics of wood heat and melted snow water to inspire the creative (and impress you with the awesome magnitude of electric light and hot showers).
As a small gift from me to you, I thought I might share some of my favorite literary magazines and other places to read, write, and be inspired.
READ LITERARY JOURNALS
The great thing about literary journals is that there are just SO MANY out there! Each year I discover a new favorite, and each year new, brave editors attempt to join the party and launch new publications. This list is neither comprehensive nor all-inclusive, so please: tell us about your favorite journals in the comments.
In the 2006 article “What kind of Pennsylvanian are you?”, Pennsylvania Magazine asserts that “According to the 2000 census, 81 percent of the 12.2 million people living in Pennsylvania were born [t]here.” (Sandra Miller-Louden, Pennsylvania Magazine, March/April 2006).
Fortunately, writing has the ability to transport us to new places in this world and beyond. If you rarely travel outside of your home state, I encourage you to sample the writing of another region. Perspective begets inspiration: I never knew how much I was a product of Washington State until I pulled up my roots and set them down in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Published by the University of the Virgin Islands, The Caribbean Writer is an international publication featuring poetry, stories, essays, reviews and more written by (and about) the diverse peoples of the Caribbean region. I love discovering new writers in this journal – the poets of the Caribbean really know how to groove.
I was turned on to Gulf Coast by Pennwriters member Gretchen Lockwood (who, by the way, is one of the finest poetry readers I have ever met). I’ve only been reading Gulf Coast for about a year, but I am already engaged with the unique selection of work that they publish. This journal published by the University of Houston manages to surprise, titillate, and inspire – a perfect recipe for any author in search of strong, contemporary voices.
The Bitter Oleander is edited and published by Paul B. Roth of The Bitter Oleander Press. The Bitter Oleander is unique not only for its cross-section of quality literature, but most especially for Roth’s commitment to the writers who submit. While it might seem to be part and parcel with the submission process, those hopeful writers among us know just how far above and beyond the call of duty a personalized response from an editor can truly be.
Black Warrior Review is published by the University of Alabama, and is one of my favorite literary journals for a very simple reason: I LOVE what they publish. I set my sights on this publication a long time ago – I hope that one day my poetry might find a place in its pages. Black Warrior Review helps me establish a personal benchmark for quality writing: the proof is in the poetic pudding.
Editor Leah Browning launched The Apple Valley Review in 2005, and has been bringing us a cornucopia of literary experience ever since. Browning’s selections carry a consistent quality of emotional truth meted out through beautiful prose and poetry. I especially like how each author is given a few words at the end of their selections to “discuss” their own writing and engage the reader in the larger literary conversation.
The Monongahela Review is a fresh literary journal publishing upcoming as well as established authors. Editor Luke Bartolomeo includes powerful selections of artwork to accompany the literature and offers this publication both online (.pdf) and in print. I am also pleased to share that two of my poems will appear in the upcoming issue of The Monongahela Review.
I’m originally from the Pacific Northwest, and I feel that Portland Review published by Portland State University is one of the regional literary journals which distinctly reflects the West Coast culture that I know and love. Typically, when I receive a new issue of a literary journal I first dive into the poetry, and then return to read through the prose. Portland Review often surprises me by drawing my attention to its prose before its poetry.
Bellingham Review is another representative of Northwest style. Unique to its Whatcom County roots, Bellingham Review echoes the meditative quietude of Bellingham’s gorgeous surroundings. Bellingham Review is published by Western Washington University and maintains the high quality standards evident throughout this institution.
SHARE YOUR WRITING
Publication is not the epitome of writing – but it is one method for us writers to engage with the larger literary discussion of our contemporaries, predecessors, and successors. Don’t wait for an editor to sift through mountains of submissions to find your words and share them with the world! Here are three places that you can get your work in front of an audience today:
OK. Most of us must endure the requisite adjustment period to this awkward word “blog” (truncated and concatenated from “web-log”, as in, web journal). Now, get over it, start a blog, and start sharing your work. Blogs are online journals which anyone can create and for which the uses are almost boundless. Want to see a great literary blog in action? Visit Anita Marie Moscoso’s Owl Creek Bridge where she shares her tales of the macabre. What wisdom does storyteller Anita have to share with us? “Just write!”
Guess what, you’re reading a blog right now, and if you are a Pennwriters member in Area 6 you have a VIP Pass to feature your work RIGHT HERE! The Pennwriters Area 6 HQ blog is a place for all Area 6 writers to share their work, their ideas, and their aspirations. Show us what you have, ask for a critique, toot your award-winning horn, and above all: be brave and share with us.
Created by writer Harmoni McGlothlin, Notes & Grace Notes is a new online community where writers can participate in monthly contests in the areas of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. I served as a Poetry Judge for Notes & Grace Notes in November 2008, and I was impressed not only by the quality of the submissions, but by the unique arrangement of this community wherein members actively participate in the evaluation process for every entry. Even if you aren’t ready to pay an entry fee to participate in the contest, there is nonetheless a huge opportunity at Notes & Grace Notes to engage with a growing network of writers for the purposes of sharing, critiquing, and improving your craft.
ENGAGE WITH WRITERS
Serving as Poetry Judge for Notes & Grace Notes presented me with an unexpected challenge: as I read through each entry, I realized that arbitrary, numerical evaluations did little to respond to the true successes and challenges of each piece. With every evaluation I realized that I couldn’t possibly assess the accomplishments of each work. I found myself asking, “How does this piece compare with the author’s previous works?” “What does this poem accomplish for this person?” “How does this poetry fit in with the larger goals of the writer?”
These questions are better addressed in a writers’ critique group where “judging” has no place. Remember: Area 6 has several active critique groups around the region with more forming each month. To participate in a local group or to launch a new group in your neighborhood, please contact me today.
Whatever you write, wherever you live, and however you pursue your goals, I wish you all an inspiring, productive year for 2009.
At Your Service,
Jade Leone Blackwater
Pennwriters Area 6 Representative