Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lit Journal Complaints & Compliments

I’m not sure I can buy into this recent literary journal initiative, even knowing the tough economic climate and that putting out a journal costs $$ that has to come from somewhere:

--Glimmer Train, a journal that I tend to view favorably, just sent out an email announcing a contest for “Best Starts.” That’s right—you don’t need to cope with the bothersome challenge of actually finishing your story…just come up with a good beginning.

That seemed weird to me, though not cause for undue alarm until I saw who the contest is geared to and what the prize is. Here are the rules taken exactly from their email message:

“Best Start (not to exceed 1,000 words)

The 50 most engaging pieces will each win $50 and make Glimmer Train's Best Start list, which will be announced in our December bulletin as well as on other major blogs for writers.

Other considerations: Reading fee is $10 per piece. Open only to new writers whose fiction has not appeared in a nationally distributed print publication with a circulation over 3,000.”

In short, this well-respected journal is asking writers to pay $10 in the hope of being one of the 50 best “starts” which will then get them $50. I think there’s a reason this is being pitched to beginning writers…because they may not know that this is one step away from a scam. It’s hard to write a real “beginning-middle-end” story (though I might suggest that's what a fiction "writer" does), but who doesn’t think they can’t slap together a great beginning? And then what? This is a line on your c.v.: “One of 50 great story beginnings”?

Also, I have to note that printing a real “beginning-middle-end” story takes a lot more pages and commitment than just listing 50 names and titles in a bulletin and press release.

If you want to read more (or enter; hey, no judgments here!), here are the details. The deadline is September 30…but, obviously this contest is a moneymaker, as it seems to run four times a year.

--Okay, now that I’ll never see my work in Glimmer Train, I’ll say something nice about the submission process at Fence. I also recently received an email from this excellent journal and saw this:

“Hi. We're going to be opening up our Submissions Orifice on October 1--AND CLOSING IT AGAIN ON OCTOBER 30. We're changing over to a one-month reading period in an attempt to handle the pretty unmanageable volume of submissions we currently receive. We'll have another reading period in the spring.”

I know that there are other journals that have short submission periods, and I have to say that as a writer, I appreciate that system, especially since this particular journal notifies interested parties in advance. If it makes for quicker turn-arounds and happier editors who aren’t constantly beating back a flood of stories, I’m all for it.

More information about Fence--including the opportunity to sign up for the free newsletter--can be found here.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.