We’d like to invite editors and writers to participate in our new series on issues and representations of race, class, gender, and sexuality in independent publishing. How do these issues affect you as an literary magazine editor interested in publishing underrepresented communities, or a writer who wants to challenge dominant notions of identity? What are your thoughts, concerns, ideas about how literary communities reinforce, respond to, and confront racism, classicism, sexism, and homophobia? Contact Marcelle Heath at

"Little magazines are the furnace where American literature is being forged."

George Hitchcock, Editor of Kayak (1964-1984)


SERIES: Race, Class, Gender & Sexuality in Indie Publishing

You Girls (pt. 2)
By Helen Sedgwick

"As an editor, I would not publish a piece of writing that contained attitudes I find unacceptable anymore than I would publish a story that I thought was badly written."

You Girls (pt. 1)
By Kirsty Logan

"As an editor, I do not care about writers' gender or sexuality; I'm just interested in exciting short fiction. But I'm a woman and I'm queer and I'm a feminist. As such, I'm more likely to be interested in characters that I can identify with and themes that I agree with."

Questions of Authenticity
By Michael Copperman

"The question of authenticity, then, especially authorial authority conferred on the basis of phenotype or racial background, is the wrong line of inquiry."

Community and the Body
By Sherisse Alvarez

"My work has appeared in various publications interested specifically in issues of identity. I still struggle at times with the notion of the “mainstream,” how my work relates or does not relate to the canon."

Jarrett Haley, BULL: Fiction for Thinking Men
With Jarrett Haley

"That I am not a sociologist or gender-studier by trade I should make clear to begin with."

I Don't Know How to Write About Race
By Roxane Gay

"This is only about race."


Megan M. Garr, Versal

Jarrett Haley, BULL: Fiction for Thinking Men

Laura van den Berg, Part II

Laura van den Berg, Part I

Allison Seay, The Greensboro Review

Mary Miller

Eilis O'Neal, Nimrod International

Erin Fitzgerald, Northville Review

Don Bogen, Cincinnati Review

Andrew Porter

Nam Le

Benjamin Percy


Luna Digest, 1/5

"One of the more interesting literary magazine discussions to come about in recent months has happened via email, twitter feeds, and blogs about Andrew Whitacre’s post titled “The End of the Small Print Journal. Please.” on the identity theory editors’ blog."

Luna Digest, 12/15

"The Atlantic Monthly decides not only to be the first magazine to sell single short stories for the Kindle, but they will also charge 4 times as much as One Story does for a single story. And One Story will actually print the story out and mail it to your house."

Luna Digest, 12/8

"Today’s the day The San Francisco Panorama from McSweeney’s hits the streets. The idea is to put out an exciting newspaper edition to show the power of the medium in a world of declining newspaper publishing incentives."

Luna Digest, 12/3

"For most people who read fiction and spend much time online, this won’t be news: Electric Literature recently twittered the entirety of Rick Moody’s story “Some Contemporary Characters” over three days with the assistance of several co-publishers, of which Luna Park was one."

Luna Digest, 11/24

"I’ve been stumbling across some great excerpts recently from David Shields’s upcoming book Reality Hunger: A Manifesto..."

Luna Digest, 11/17

"Just how much did Salman Rushdie have to do with Alex Clark’s resignation from Granta? (Nothing at all, according to him.)"


Strong Recommendations
By Greg Weiss

"I had the feeling, when I finished reading, that I had been spending my time well, not just in relation to the time that I had actually spent reading it, but more generally. And I often don’t feel that way."

By David Backer

"But then I read the other stories and felt the good things they have to offer. I felt their quanta of colors and semantics congealing together and I began to like it. Because, to some degree, this is how we experience life: through concatenations of colors and emotions and words, mixtures stippling into the stories of our existences."

Between Earnestness & Irony
By Greg Weiss

"The largest problem with irony as a dominant literary device is that, similarly to Surrealist painting, it is easy to do fairly well but very difficult to do greatly."

People Like People
By David Backer

"After reading a lot of online fiction last month, I'm noticing something: people like people. People like reading about people, anyway."

The Cellist's Disorientation

"I would like to believe that in the midst of loneliness and worry (the anxious, questioning voice at the end) the world feels perfectly made for us and that we assist in its making."

There Is No Visible Circus

"Jennifer Atkinson's "A Leaf from the Book of Cities"— an ekphrastic poem written after Paul Klee's painting of the same name—caught my attention in the most recent issue of Cave Wall..."

Panorama Week Part 5: All the News

Panorama Week Part 4: The Comics

Panorama Week Part 3: Section One (or The News)

Panorama Week Part 2: The Book Review of the Future?

Panorama Week Part 1: Opening the Package

Teachers: Use Literary Magazines
By Nicholas Ripatrazone

"Before I go any further, I should admit that I could be doing a much better job in my financial support of literary magazines....but those who have worked in public education know the difficulties of working within community-voted budgets.  Literary magazine subscriptions at the classroom level are an educational luxury, not a need.  But that’s not a sufficient excuse."

Aiming High: The Impossible Ambitions of Versal
By Sam Ruddick

"I have no experience with gorilla suits or child soldiering, myself, but I think it’s reasonable to suspect that standing around in a gorilla suit is better than being coerced into shooting people, or getting shot at."

Espresso Book Machine
By Marcelle Heath

"On Demand Books's digital photocopier, book trimmer and binder, and desktop computer that can produce a trade paperback book in five to ten minutes."

Poets Publishing Poets: A Review of Cave Wall 5
By George Held

"When a young prize-winning poet decides to publish her own poetry journal, readers get to see how her taste compares to her talent."

I Don't Know How to Write About Race
By Roxane Gay

"This is only about race."

Interview with Former Greensboro Review Poetry Editor Alison Seay
By Jordan Elliott

"I don't know that it's a matter of being comfortable in our skin as much as it is our belief in the importance of the tangible book."

On Nimrod International: An Interview & Notes
By Jeffrey Tucker

"For poetry, we dislike poems that are actually more like journal entries rather than poems. For fiction, we see a lot of stories that are really just “talking heads,” stories in which people stand around and talk and yet nothing happens."

Dismissing Africa
By Greg Weiss

"One of the many risks of Witness, 'the magazine of the Black Mountain Institute,' presenting an issue dedicated to the theme of Dismissing Africa is that the very notion of dismissing 'Africa' already dismisses the individuals who live in Africa."

Poets and Prose: Gerard Manley Hopkins and Fiction Theory
By Nicholas Ripatrazone

"Robert Olen Butler is careful in his definition...he is not arguing that yearning is individual to the short short story form. Rather, yearning is endemic to fiction."

Literary Magazines in Peril?
By Travis Kurowski

"At least part of the problem is the usual one: All of these magazine have no doubt a vastly greater number of people desiring to be published in their pages than they have readers willing to financially support their endeavors."

Interview: Erin Fitzgerald, Northville Review
By Marcelle Heath

"I like when someone's very quietly or very openly fooling with an emotional manipulation dial."
"While my stories aren't autobiographical, I really do believe in the whole write-what-you-know thing. One time I wrote a story from the point of view of an old sick man and it was just terrible. It was like really bad Carver. The man sat around watching daytime television and eating pie."

Sort-of Prose Poems
By Nicholas Ripatrazone

"James Harms offers a contemplative effort in a lean essay that turns the prose poem discussion in a noteworthy direction..."

Poetry 2.0
By Marcelle Heath

"Setting aside, for now, its ideological nomenclature, its appeal lies in the interpretative dynamic between text and image..."

Greetings from Knockout
By Brett Ortler

"We started KO because we wanted to try something that was different than we'd seen in other literary magazines, both in terms of thematic slant and in terms of mission..."
"He said that if he were asked to be poetry editor of a magazine, he would aim for unity. I told him that was more or less the exact opposite of what I wanted to do..."

Bon Voyage
By Marcelle Heath

"I imagine party-goers huddled around a fire pit as they share stories about stalking a would-be lover..."

In Brief: The Appeal of Brevity
By Nicholas Ripatrazone

"Contemporary flash fiction has been slugged, whipped, and slapped: dragged through the literary mud, pegged as incidental..."
"Kayla Soyer-Stein recreates the wonderful magic and sense of the uncanny that fairy tales offer..."
"Recently I won a best humorous poem competition, and it appears I have a knack for healthy self-ridicule..."
"I think about that a lot—about the balance of light and dark and about allowing my characters to have an open destiny. I think that’s one of the most important aspects of story writing..."
"It calls itself the 'farthest north literary journal for writing and the arts,' which sounded a bit suspicious to me, so I did a little poking around to verify the assertion..."
"The history of Poetry is a history of resistance in all directions..."
"The 1990s was a wild, wonderful, idealistic decade in Prague. Excellent exchange rates and the possibility of a relatively uninhibited way of life lured expatriates in droves to the Czech capital. In short, it was the perfect time for the founding of a literary journal..."
"One author climbs to the top of a tree trunk support beam that’s part of the architecture of the writing space. Another is balancing a couch cushion on his head and explaining wog: a dog who uses a dog-sized wheel chair to get his back end around San Francisco..."

Avian Arts: The LBJ
By Nicholas Ripatrazone

"While literary niches often result in suffocation, eighty pages of plaid, The LBJ’s aviary focus proves malleable enough..."
“'In consideration of what looks like a total collapse of our economic system,' he said, 'I thought the bookfair went very well...'"
"There are two wooden figures on my husband’s desk. Figurines. They are meant to resemble humans, black humans. African-Americans..."
Interview with Benjamin Percy



Benjamin Percy is the author of two books of stories, Refresh, Refresh (Graywolf, 2007) and The Language of Elk (Carnegie Mellon, 2006). His fiction and nonfiction have been read on National Public Radio, performed at Symphony Space, and published by Esquire, Men's Journal, Paris Review, Chicago Tribune, Glimmer Train, Best American Short Stories, and many other places. His honors include a Pushcart Prize and the Plimpton Prize. He teaches writing at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.


LP: According to your website, you've published fiction and nonfiction in over 30 literary magazines, as well as publishing in large, general interest magazines such as Equire and Men's Journal. Plus-and hardly secondary-there are your two acclaimed books of short fiction, The Language of Elk and Refresh, Refresh, which includes your Plimpton Prize winning story. Quite a list of accomplishments for such a young writer. How did your first publication come about?

BENJAMIN: Don't think I take it for granted. I'm just as surprised as anybody else. Whenever an editor calls to say, "We'd love to buy this story if it's still available," I say, "Thank you," even as I think, "Really?" It never feels old, the high I get off an acceptance. And it never fails, the worry that the piece isn't good enough, even after it's gone through the editorial ringer. I look back on all my previous work and I cringe. A word-a sentence-a character-a plot-point. Inevitably, I'm dissatisfied. I might have thought the story perfect when I wrote it, but now, months later, years later, I see the warts and ingrown hairs. So I know now to be hesitant. Even when I feel I've written a powerful story, I read it over twenty times, trying to figure out what I'll roll my eyes at when it finally appears in print.

I started submitting to magazines when I was a junior in college. I had no conception of how difficult it was, how horrible the odds were. I submitted everything I wrote to C. Michael Curtis at The Atlantic, and-generous soul that he is-he always responded. He typed out the rejections on these tiny sheets of paper, saying things like, "This is unrepentingly artificial." That's an actual quote. But he made many encouraging remarks as well, which stoked the fire and kept me going at the keyboard. I can't imagine what he thought, reading over the trash I sent him. I suppose he saw some raw talent or he wouldn't have taken the time. I certainly feel indebted to him, even though he's never published anything of mine. So I would submit to him-to any contest that struck my fancy-to some journal I happened upon in the bookstore. I ended up published several times over in the campus literary magazine at Brown, but it wasn't until the end of my first year of grad school that I published a piece in a national magazine, Mississippi Review. I don't cry very often-my son's birth and the end of Braveheart being a few exceptions-but I admit to getting a little misty at that moment. And then a pebble rolled out of the corner of my eye. But in all seriousness, that acceptance meant a great deal to me. I saw it as a beginning, an affirmation that I could actually do this. I remember blasting Lynyrd Skynyrd and drinking a beer and pacing my living room, thinking, hey, things might actually work out.

I have spoken to a lot of young writers who want desperately to be published in literary magazines-it seems because that is where they see and hear about their peers being published and it is where they are told that they should be published-and yet they themselves don't read these magazines. Do you think this is simply because literary magazines are the only game in town for beginning writers?

You've heard it before: there are more writers than readers. Sadly, I've found this to be true. Especially among my students. They have read nothing except what teachers have assigned to them. Stories should be like candy to the beginning writer. You should gobble them up with a terrible hunger, until your eyes rot, feeling love and hate and jealousy and resent and awe and contempt for what they have or have not accomplished. If you're trying to write short stories, and you're not reading short stories, you're a fraud. Because writing is born out of constant, vigilant reading. And you'll find the finest work written today-work by Rick Bass and Charles D'Ambrosio and Jim Shepard and so, so many others-in literary journals. I can't understand submitting to them and not reading them. I would accuse such a person of not loving writing-but loving instead the idea of being a writer.

What literary magazines are you currently reading?

I can only read so many, so I try to spread the love, subscribing to different magazines in different years. I'll often paw through copies in the bookstore, and if I see an author I admire or if I read a story that hooks me, I'll lay down the cash. I always read the Paris Review, Zoetrope, Tin House, Missouri Review, as the work they publish consistently knocks my socks off. Right now I've got a copy of American Short Fiction on my desk, and I've been enjoying the hell out of it in small doses.

American Short Fiction is great. Is that the issue with your story in it?

I did read that issue—I read all the literary journals my work appears in to see who my neighbors are—but I’m referring to the Fall 07 issue, featuring some knock-out stories by Naomi Williams and James Scott, among others.

You mention the support you received as a beginning writer from Atlantic Monthly’s C. Michael Curtis–a man well-known for his generous responses to submissions from talented new writers, especially those in writing programs. Is there any literary magazine experience or editors that have been helpful? Anything you’ve been particularly proud of?

Philip Gourevitch and Nat Rich at The Paris Review. With two of my stories—“Refresh, Refresh” and “Somebody is Going to Have to Pay for This”—they removed or rearranged, with surgical precision, the guts, making forty pages into eighteen pages. And with their help, the stories became so much more powerful. They have an uncanny editorial vision and they’re able to communicate with their authors so respectfully, the conversation never one-sided, so change becomes possible. I owe them the world.

One thing that stands out in your stories is their location, Oregon, a state fairly untouched by literary fiction–at least since Raymond Carver died. Charles D’Ambrosio, a writer who you earlier mentioned, is also known for setting stories in the Northwest. Similar to your stories, the landscapes in D’Ambrosio’s stories–whether Washington, Manhattan, or the Midwest–seems to haunt the characters. The environment becomes a central element of the story. This seems even more true in your own work. Sometimes, such as in your story “The Caves in Oregon,” the environment becomes dominant, affecting everything in the piece. Do you think location is particularly important to you as a writer? Were Carver and D’Ambrosio very influential to your own writing?

If you think of the way Faulkner wrote about the South, or Hawthorne wrote about New England, I want to carve out a similar place for myself in the Northwest. So my characters hike through bone-dry desert flats and raft snake-shaped rivers and hike across moraines where every step is a sliding uncertainty. To me, location is a character, a central character—and the way the sun sets or the way the wind howls is no different than a gesture or a facial expression in informing scene. Carver is one of my favorite writers, but his stories aren’t at all grounded in landscape. They’re grounded in character. And he taught me that the type of people I grew up with, the type of people I’m related to, are very worthy of fiction. As for D’Ambrosio, I read Dead Fish Museum for the first time last month and thought it was a powerful book. I hope to share a beer with him someday, since—to a certain degree—we’re partners in crime.

Aside from D’Ambrosio, you also mentioned the writers Rick Bass and Jim Shepard–all of these men are respected, well published writers working at the top of their game (and who all, incidentally, still continue to publish their work in small literary magazines). Are there any younger or new writers whose work you have recently been impressed by?

Bret Anthony Johnston. Patrick Somerville. Nic Pizzolatto. Karen Russell. Paul Yoon. Kevin Wilson. Scott Snyder. Owen King. Richard Lange. Laura van den Berg. Kyle Minor. William Giraldi. Dean Bakopoulos. They’re young and they’ve got big guns. If you haven’t heard of them already, you soon will.

It seems there are two sort of readers, those who enter a bookstore and go straight to the magazine stand and those that go for the bookshelves. Which one are you?

I usually browse the New Fiction table first, then head to the magazine rack, not to check out the latest issue of Cosmo or Cigar Aficionado, but to leaf through the literary journals. From there, sometimes an hour later, I hit the bookshelves.


mcsweeney's 32

Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern 32; Editor: Dave Eggers; Published: San Francisco; Est: 1998.

Luna Digest on Fictionaut Blog every Tuesday:

Fictionaut Blog


Joseph Brodsky's literary executor launches new poetry magazine: Little Star

New lit mag: Artifice

New indie publishing wiki is launched by Dave Housley and Roxane Gay

CLMP's Lit Mag Adoption Program for Creative Writing Students

Upcoming Creative Nonfiction redesign

Galley Cat says Rick Moody's Twitter story generates Twitter backlash

"Fictionaut and the Future of the Literary Journal" at Galleycat

More editors leave Granta after magazine "restructuring"

Trailer for Colson Whitehead's short story "The Comedian" from Electric Literature #2

McSweeney's offers preview of their upcoming newspaper issue, the SF Panorama

On the lit blog Bookish Us: “Why Don’t Aspiring Writers Read More Literary Magazines”



Opium magazine Literary Death Match: NYC, San Fran, Denver, Beijing, etc [ongoing series]

One Story cocktail hour at Pianos, New York City [ongoing series]

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Hitotoki — A narrative map of the world