Literary MagNet

Kevin Larimer

The waiting is the hardest part," as that modern-day minstrel Thomas Earl Petty put it so eloquently back in 1981, and in no segment of the arts community is this opinion held more firmly—and expressed more fervently—than among creative writers. The speed with which a literary magazine responds to submissions is a frequent topic of conversation among those who, as editors take their sweet time wading through the slush pile, are necessarily biding theirs. As the weeks and months pass, it can become a bit of an obsession, and with the preponderance of online journals (not to mention print magazines accepting e-mail submissions), the wait—no longer a matter of eager anticipation of the friendly postal carrier's daily visit, but an all-day in-box vigil—can be too much. Pity the writer who wonders what happened to not only her submission but also to her e-mail inquiring about her submission. Official response times vary widely. Southern Humanities Review, the quarterly journal at Auburn University in Alabama, guarantees a response in one to three months. Ditto for Nimrod, the biannual literary magazine at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Unlike SHR, however, Nimrod accepts simultaneous submissions, a policy that can improve the patience of the most restless writer. Many Mountains Moving can take up to a year to respond to a submission—a long time, but it's an annual magazine, so the delay makes a certain kind of sense. Shenandoah has been around for more than half a century, but the editors there can still respond to a writer in six to eight weeks, which seems reasonable. Ted Genoways's Virginia Quarterly Review makes a more open-ended promise: "Submissions are usually reviewed within three months, but due to the large number we receive, responses may occasionally be delayed for longer than three months." From the appeal that follows, one can assume Ted & Co. have received their share of follow-up queries: "Please be patient with us; we receive over a thousand submissions a month and have a small staff." This brings up an important—and hopefully obvious—point: Editors sometimes take a long time to respond because they're overworked and underpaid (if they're paid at all). Still, when a writer can get an income tax refund quicker than a rejection slip, a little literary impatience is perhaps justified.

Notes From the Underground is the title of what some consider the first existential novel, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. It's also the name of at least one band and several Web sites, one of which is maintained by an organization dedicated to studying the behavior of ants. Now it's also the title of a biweekly literary magazine in London. Notes From the Underground, edited by Tristan Summerscale and Christopher Vernon, was launched on December 17 as the city's first "creative writing freesheet." The tabloid-format journal, which includes, among other things, short stories and essays, is printed on recycled paper and distributed at more than thirty commuter-friendly locations throughout London. The print run of the debut issue was a hundred thousand copies.

Maria Gagliano and Celia Johnson drew from their experience in book publishing—Gagliano works at Perigee, a paperback imprint of Penguin; Johnson at Grand Central Publishing, formerly Warner Books—to launch Slice, a biannual magazine of poetry, prose, and interviews. The first issue, published last September, is arranged around the theme of new beginnings and includes, among other gems, an essay by Farrar, Straus and Giroux publisher Jonathan Galassi titled "How I Got Started" and an interview with novelist Junot Díaz. The second issue, carrying the theme of heroes, is due out in March. It's doubtful that the editors of this serious-minded mag had NBC's much-hyped miniseries in mind when they made the call for submissions last fall.

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