If you've ever wanted to try reading literary magazines, but didn't know where to start, I hear you. There are a lot of them and some are definitely more accessible than others.
Literary magazines feature short pieces of writing---some contain fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, while others only contain one or two of those. I've found that lit mags are a beautiful supplement to my reading life as they allow me to keep up with what's happening in the modern writing world. They're often good at predicting which writers are worthy of the public eye and which ones have staying power in the literary world.
As I've been crafting my writing, I've taken some time to explore literary magazines and have happened upon some I love that I think you will too.
Tin House is a quarterly lit mag that's actually about as thick as a standard novel. In each issue you'll find a mix of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, some by big time writers that you've heard of and by burgeoning writers. They publish the modern greats, the kind of writers that make it into anthologies and are studied in college creative writing classes as the voices of our time. And because Tin House has a reputation for picking fantastic writers for the magazine, even if the writer is previously unheard of, you can bet that those up-and-coming writers are destined for success.
To get a taste of the kind of work Tin House publishes, read Claire Vaye Watkins' essay "On Pandering," which as published in a recent issue.
In addition to the literary magazine, Tin House also publishes books. Check out their website to learn more.
If you love Humans of New York and are always wanting to know the full story behind the photos, you'll love Narratively. This lit mag is online-only and its tagline is "human stories, boldly told." Narratively lives up to that tagline, and so much more.
On today's homepage alone, you'll find such stories as French farmers' high suicide rates, the feral parrot colony in Brooklyn, life as a sexy waiter at the all-male Hooter's equivalent, and the like. Each story is interesting to the nth degree, well-crafted, and gives astonishingly deep insight into people's lives---people that we'd be interested in reading about, but wouldn't necessarily think about if unprompted. And all the stories are true. That's where the magic happens.
Learn more at Narratively's website, and since it's online-only, don't forget to subscribe.
If you think animals having sex is funny, Antioch Review won't judge you. In fact, the feature story in their most recent issue is called "Funny Bird Sex" and it's more enlightening than you might initially think. That's what I like about Antioch---they take a story you think you know and turn it on its head.
While the focus is more education than entertainment, if you're a fan of quirky knowledge or a closer look at the human stories behind the headlines in the news, Antioch is for you. Learn more on their website.
As the name suggests, Creative Nonfiction is all about showing readers that there's power in, as their tagline says, "true stories well told." Each issue has a theme---everything ranging from weather to mistakes to survival to memoir---and each story is chosen with the careful and thoughtful eye.
I enjoy being able to read several enrapturing stories on a particular theme because it's rewarding to dive into a subject I'm interested in. In fact, I've been so impressed with their current issue I'm feeling the pull to explore their backlist. Learn more on their website.
Although Frequencies is no longer being published, you can still purchase its four volumes. It's well worth it. Though the lit mag be but little, it is fierce. It was published by the award-winning indie publisher Two Dollar Radio and included writers who are well known today, such as Roxane Gay, as well as new writers bursting onto the literary scene in a way that shows they'll be around awhile.
I'd recommend buying all four issues because you're definitely going to want to read them all. And with any luck, Two Dollar Radio will resurrect the lit mag one day. Learn more on their website.
Short and sweet is Hoot Review's mantra. If you've ever wanted to read lit mags, but worry that you won't be able to work them in on top of your regular reading, Hoot is perfect for you! Each piece is less than 150 words and is delivered on a decorative postcard. So not only do you get a nice little literary espresso shot, you have a fun reason to go to the mailbox (that doesn't include bills and junk mail because that's not fun at all).
Plus, you can opt to have the postcards sent in an envelope so you can later resend them to someone else. You can also use them as decorations or bookmarks, which is what I'll be doing. Learn more on their website.
What are your favorite lit mags? Share them in the comments!