Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press

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Jacob Russell

The "disappeared" readers I was thinking of were the ones that looked forward to stories in Look, Saturday Evening Post--many of the women's magazines--weeklys as well as monthlys: venues that actually paid the writers for their efforts.

Evidently they (or their children and grandchildren, are all watching TV now. My point there was that while the readers vanished, the writers multiplied, making room for this rather strange market to emerge.

I'll copy and save your essay, and look forward to reading it... as soon as I recover from my move.

Jim L

I love short stories and sometimes seek out the little magazines to read them. I also subscribe to the New Yorker and while it does publish fiction, a sizeable proportion of that fiction consists of novel excerpts from the latest publicity push. One can posit that these excerpts aren't being printed for their quality but as a scratch-your-back deal with agents/publishers/pr agents or whatever. By this arrangement, the New Yorker gets its share of the hip zeitgeist pie for the hot authors and hot books, and of course the authors receive the high profile of the New Yorker.

However, this arrangement is not ideal for us readers who would rather have well-crafted short stories than, let's face it, a cut from a book that by definition does not contain all it needs (i.e. the rest of the book) to be the work of art a short story can be. I wish the New Yorker could help solve the issues you and Mr. Russell are talking about, but it isn't going to.

As far as the MFA/publishing game, hey, as long as excellent short fiction is being written and their is a possibility that quality and not politics can lead to being published - then I applaud the little magazines for still being out there.


I'm going to post shortly on our country's latest collection of "Best" short stories (it's an annual event.)
I think little mags fulfil a different function in countries with smaller populations. The editor of this collection has cast his net very wide, and the collection sells well, now being in its seventh or eighth year (I think.)
Similarly, I think writers' festivals perform a different function in Australia - more face-to-face networking is necessary because of the distances between urban centres. What will happen as our creative writing programs mature is still open to conjecture. But it appears that in Australia, as more quality writing is discovered, readership of same actually increases (though usually in book form rather than in terms of mag subs). And the mags form a vital part of that process.
To summarise this ramble, a lot of it seems related to population size as well as cross-media issues.


I can't speak of little magazines today, but when I started publishing stories in them in the mid-1970s, they were incredibly vibrant and varied. Many of the 200 or so places I published in were one-person operations, and these one-person litmags were not created by anyone in academia. (Of course MFA's were pretty rare in the 1970s.)

I recall my friend Peter Cherches (one year we were both in Transatlantic Review, probably one of our most "establishment" credits) saying that the only people he figured read most of the litmags we published in were other writers also in the same issue. And surprisingly, that was not a bad thing.

My first book by a New York trade publishing house came about, as did the first books of several of my friends, because someone -- in my case, the president of the company -- found one of my stories in a litmag (here it was Cornell's Epoch, which I believe is still publishing).

I look through the litmags I was published in during the 1975-1985 period and see the first published works by unknown writers like Madison Smartt Bell who later achieved real success.

But no, they never really had an audience outside of other writers and editors.


I'd like to direct your readers to , a literary magazine that IS trying to advance beyond the "bland uniformity" of what constitutes prose and poetry.

All big things on earth start small. Submitting to small publications is the only way for new writers to start publishing their works; it's the easiest way to reach their audience as these small publications are easier to approach when it comes to article or story submission compared to big ones who more are likely to look at the name of the author first before reading the piece. Some don't even bother to read the submitted piece if they don't know the author.

In my own opinion, readers never "disappear" and they do exist -- they just evolve. They may be reading small print mags in the year before the 90's; but now, people are reading article or short stories online with the emergence of the internet and other electronic media. -- Well, these are just my own thoughts.

Robert Nagle

First, bravo for you for linking to all those lit mags on the left. It's a good way to remind people they exist. (Btw, I'm a big fan of Dinty Moore's creative nonfiction Brevity Magazine if you haven't seen it. Online fiction is doing well, and so is blog-based creative writing.

Yes, edited/moderated litmags are great, but keep in mind that just putting it out on the web attracts a lot of random readers. My short story site receives 100,000 unique visitors per year to my site, and out of that total, I would say that 30 to 50 thousand are giving the site more than simply a cursory look. But there's a certain randomness to the traffic. Of course traffic doesn't equal money (or even fame). And ultimately what is 100,000 visitors if nobody likes what they're reading?

I don't have any problem with litmags; they are on the whole excellent. But the submission process is time-consuming and more irritating than it needs to be.

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