Literary MagNet: Sara Lippmann

Dana Isokawa
From the March/April 2022 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

I see these stories as quiet rebellions, flawed protests,” says Sara Lippmann about Jerks (Mason Jar Press, March 2022), her second story collection. The characters in Jerks search for a release from the confines of modern life—the demands of motherhood, the waning of desire in marriage, the perils of environmental destruction, the awkwardness of youth, and the disconnect between our social and private selves. Visceral and rich with sensory detail, the stories swerve from humorous to cutting to irreverent. As for publishing, Lippmann—who placed all eighteen stories in magazines—says, “All the journals I’ve been lucky enough to publish with celebrate nervy writing.” She adds, “The older I get the less patience I have for safe, competent, well-crafted fiction. I’m interested in the messy.”

Sara Lippmann (Credit: Tamara Plener)

Lippmann also looks for journals that prioritize making their content free to read, respond to submissions in a timely fashion, support their contributors beyond publication, and prize voice in writing. “I apply the same litmus test to journals as I do my own stories,” she says. “What are they imparting to the reader? Where does the risk lie? How much skin is in the game?” These criteria led her to storySouth, an online biannual that has published poetry, fiction, nonfiction, interviews, and reviews by “writers from the new South” since 2001. Drawn to their track record of championing risk-taking work by writers such as Tyrese L. Coleman and Kyle Coma-Thompson, Lippmann sent storySouth a piece about breastfeeding, infidelity, and loneliness in marriage (“probably the squirmiest and most graphic story I’d ever written” she says), which the journal ran in 2016. Since then Lippmann notes the editors continue to support her via retweets and their blog. Submissions in all genres open on June 15.

“One of the most generous, menschy publications I’ve ever had the privilege of working with,” says Lippmann of Split Lip Magazine, which, like storySouth, regularly celebrates its contributors’ accomplishments via social media and “Fam roundup” posts on its website. Split Lip features poetry, flash fiction, short fiction, nonfiction, reviews, and art through a print annual and an online monthly. The editors write they are “totally bonkers-in-love with voice-driven writing, pop culture, and the kind of honesty that gets you right in the kidneys.” Lippmann delivered on voice-driven writing with “Har-Tru,” a story featuring an earnest young tennis instructor, a pack of chatty mothers obsessed with a TV show about polyamory, and a self-aware, wry narrator; Split Lip published it in 2018. Submissions are open year-round except for during July and the last two weeks of December.

Lippmann wrote many stories in Jerks in response to invitations from editors. “Solicitations light a fire under me,” she says. “I love a good deadline. And limits. As a flash junkie I also believe we often can really startle ourselves from within confines.” After Jason Teal, the editor in chief of Heavy Feather Review, approached her for a piece, Lippmann—who praises the review’s beautiful print issues and celebration of “singular voices like W. Todd Kaneko and Anne Valente”—wrote “Runner’s Paradise,” a story she says “goes all in with the surreal, with a sharp turn into a [Hieronymus] Bosch–like joggers’ bacchanal.” Heavy Feather Review publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and art online as well as in a print annual that also appears online. Online themed columns include Flavor Town USA, Bad Survivalist, and Haunted Passages. Submissions for the review’s website are currently open.

Lippmann often finds magazines to submit to via the online journal Wigleaf, which releases an annual Top 50 Very Short Fictions list featuring flash published in various other journals during the previous year. Reading the 2017 selections, she was astounded by Justin Reed’s story “Icarus Is a Black Man,” which originally appeared in Gone Lawn, an online quarterly of poetry, fiction, and art. She submitted her story “Neighbors” to Gone Lawn, which published it in 2019; the story in turn was selected for Wigleaf’s 2020 list. Gone Lawn’s editors write that they want “sincere, well-written, imaginative, unusual, and/or innovative works that charm and displace us.” Submissions are open year-round.

The online magazine Midnight Breakfast aims to re-create the feeling of “late-night talks with friends over greasy food” with fiction, essays, cultural criticism, and interviews that are both serious and playful. Since its inception in 2014, the journal has published nineteen issues. “Visually I just love their look…and how they only publish a handful of pieces each issue, so you can settle in and spend time with each of them,” Lippmann says. Her story “Let all the Restless Creatures Go” appeared alongside works by T Kira Mahealani Madden and Bryan Washington in Midnight Breakfast’s thirteenth issue; Lippmann describes it as a story about “conservation and shitty humanity and perseverance (and turtles! And the Jersey Shore!).” Journal submissions are currently closed. 


Dana Isokawa is a writer and editor living in New York City. She is the managing editor of the Margins and a contributing editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.