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Start a Lit-Mag Reading Club

The best way to determine which literary journals to submit your work to is to read them. But this is time consuming and costly since there are so many journals to consider. That's where a Lit-Mag Reading Club comes in.

In this reading club, instead of reading the same book at the same time, each member reads a different literary journal a month. If there are five members in your group, then by the end of six months, you'll have gotten to know twenty-five journals (the first meeting is a get-to-know-you meeting).

Here's how it works. To find group members, query writer friends, post to local writer-group e-mail discussion lists, or hang up flyers at libraries and bookstores. A mixed genre group is fine providing you stick to journals that publish poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

At the first meeting, introduce yourselves and your work and talk about the journals you'd like to get to know. (Print the Literary Journals page of this Web site for a list to choose from.) Be sure to choose electronic as well as print journals. By the end of the meeting, each member should have a self-assigned journal to study.

If you live in a place where it's difficult to track down copies of print journals (bookstores, newsstands, and university libraries are good places to look), then you'll need more than a month in between meetings to purchase current or back copies of journals directly.

Read the journal to get a sense of what it publishes, and answer the following questions:

  • How many editions are published per year (look in the front matter)?
  • How many poems, stories, and essays are included?
  • How many new and/or emerging writers are included (read the bios)?
  • Is the work traditional, experimental, other, or a mixture?
  • What types of poetry are included (narrative, prose, etc.)?
  • What types of fiction are included (short-shorts, novel excerpts, etc.)?
  • What types of nonfiction are included (memoir, creative nonfiction, etc.)?

After reading the journal, visit its Web site and poke around for more information. Does it publish special editions, such as a poetry-month edition? Does it sponsor writing contests? Is it a student-run journal? If so, there's a good chance the masthead or parts of the masthead rotate yearly. If this is the case, then the tastes of the editorial team may change as well. Make a note of this so that your group knows to check back in on this journal in the future. Print copies of the submission guidelines for everyone in the group.

When the group meets again, go around the circle and report on your findings.

A Lit-Mag Reading Club will not only help you determine which journals to submit your work to, it will also get you in the habit of reading literary journals regularly. Consider subscribing to a few. Journals make more money from subscriptions than they do through bookstores and newsstands. And as a writer, it's in your best interest to help keep them afloat.

Copyright © 2003–2009 Angela Jane Fountas. All rights reserved.
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