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In the latest issue of Midnight Mind Magazine (www.midnightmind.com), editor Brett Van Emst admits he is not a good businessman. His previous get-rich-quick schemes—before he arrived at the bright idea of starting a literary magazine—included a trading-card shop called Left Field Cards & Comics and a personal DJ service. His latest venture isn’t what you would call lucrative either. Midnight Mind Magazine is published from a camper: a restored 1970 Coachman Space Age travel trailer that was bought from a farmer in Indiana who intended to rent it to hunters. From its mobile headquarters, the three-year-old biannual publishes “unusual work by mainstream authors and mainstream work by unusual authors.” It is distributed nationally by Ingram, Bernard DeBoer, and Baker & Taylor. The sixth and most recent issue is devoted to crime writing from the outer boroughs of New York City and includes as an added bonus—old dreams die hard—a Magnum P.I. trading card.

Since its launch in 2000, the online literary journal Small Spiral Notebook (www.smallspiralnotebook.com) has attracted a loyal readership for its poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction—not to mention for its interviews with authors such as Aimee Bender, Phillip Gourevitch, and Jonathan Ames. In May, editor Felicia Sullivan celebrated the launch of the annual print edition of Small Spiral Notebook at KGB Bar in New York City. Featuring a glossy cover with artwork reminiscent of the “anti-depressed” blob that’s just bob, bob, bobbin’ along in those Zoloft commercials, the first print issue of the magazine has significantly higher production value than a small spiral notebook. Notable contributors include Gary Lutz, Steve Almond, and Daniel Nester, whose first book, God Save My Queen: A Tribute (Soft Skull Press), is a prose poem meditation on his obsession with the rock band Queen.

The biannual literary magazine Swink (www.swinkmag.com) made its debut in April with launch parties in New York and Los Angeles. Leelila Strogov writes in her first Editor’s Note that there is “something peculiar about people who spend a good portion of their days worrying about what words to use....” It’s precisely this kind of swink (Old English for labor, toil) to which the “bicoastal” magazine is dedicated. The first issue displays Strogov’s penchant for special editorial sections, including “Peregrinations,” essays on travel or journeys; “Takes One to Know One,” essays written by a writer about a like-minded writer; “Debut,” which is pretty self-explanatory; and “Damaged Darlings,” collaborations in which one writer finishes another’s work-in-progress. The second issue of Swink, available in the fall, will feature a special section on comic books. Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, and Chris Offutt will contribute comics they drew as children.

Cynthia Roth and Paul Guest have endured Strogov’s peculiar brand of swink in their pursuit of the mot juste (French for the exact, appropriate word), which is the title of their new online literary journal. The first issue of Mot Juste (www.motjustepoetry.com), dedicated to the Man in Black, Johnny Cash, as well as to June Carter Cash, is actually a 44-page PDF file. For those who don’t have the required Acrobat Reader: Welcome to the 21st century; you can download it for free at www.adobe.com.

Automotive companies have been naming cars after animals—usually big, strong animals—for decades: Ford Taurus, Dodge Ram, Jeep Eagle. This lesson in successful marketing is not lost on the editors of literary magazines, many of whom have taken the names of animals—usually not big, strong animals—as titles: The Canary (www.thecanary.org), Blackbird (www.blackbird.vcu.edu), Ducky (www.duckymag.com), Parakeet. One exception in this minimenagerie is Rhino (www.rhinopoetry.org), the annual literary magazine published by the nonprofit Poetry Forum, Inc. in Evanston, Illinois. The 2004 issue of Rhino, which bills itself as “the little magazine with a big horn,” is 160 pages and 82 writers strong.

Kevin Larimer is the associate editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.

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Literary MagNet (July/August 2004)
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