A Year of Reviews

Almost a year ago, when the days were quieter and travel less restricted, I announced my intention to write a series of reviews for literary journals and genre magazines. While I didn’t commit to a weekly schedule in that post, it’s what I had in mind. It wasn’t always easy, but I maintained that schedule over the past year. This week, I’m allowing myself some time off to reflect on what I’ve done so far, as well as look ahead to continuing those reviews in 2021.

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This project was inspired by the advice every literary journal or genre magazine gives to prospective writers: before sending us your story, read one of our issues to find out if your story’s a good fit for us. Over the years I’ve read hundreds of journals, but always as a connoisseur (a term we literary types prefer over fan when describing ourselves) rather than potential contributor.

As I began submitting my own short fiction, I knew I had to bolster my knowledge of the field. Reading individual issues on occasion wasn’t enough; I had to study each journal, develop a critical sense of the type of work they published. Writing these reviews has forced me to engage with the literary world to a degree I’ve never experienced. All that reading was a lot of hard work, but all that effort has been necessary for me to realize my ambitions.

The reviews have been intentionally more descriptive than evaluative. While some journals were clearly better than others — a few seemed too poor for me to ever consider submitting my work, others too erudite for the type of fiction I write — there’s little value in my alienating anyone. Here’s what I read, and this is what they publish… that’s all I wanted to accomplish.

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A few words on how I found and selected these journals and magazines.

  • Many of my discoveries came from my involvement in a local literary society. Attending workshops and seminars, hanging out at social events, finding out which journals are being read by fellow writers I respect.
  • If you want to be instantly overwhelmed by the number of journals where you could submit your work, just do a simple Google search. You can save yourself some time by clicking this link, or maybe this one. Nobody, and I mean nobody, could possibly read all of the journals that are out there. I’ve found scrolling through these lists quickly and stopping after finding two or three interesting targets to be a productive approach. Reading everything isn’t the goal; feeling overwhelmed is a sign that it’s time to stop searching and examine what you’ve found so far.
  • Several directories of journals and magazines are available online, and you can use these to search for publications in a particular genre or interest. The directory at Poets & Writers is free, but the resource I prefer, and the one I used extensively for each of my reviews, is a subscription service called Duotrope. This has become my first resource for finding out a publication’s preferred genres, word count guidelines, reading periods, acceptance rates, or any other information relevant to writers. At five bucks a month, it’s been the sounded investment I’ve made so far in my new profession.

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Fifty-one reviews, one for each full week of 2020. There’s plenty more journals out there, enough to do several more years of weekly reviews. But in 2021, I’m taking a different approach.

There are at least four journals where I’ve made submissions that I haven’t reviewed yet. I’ll do those reviews early in 2021, and when I find other publications that seem like good fits for my work, I”ll review them as well.

These reviews, though, won’t come every week. I no longer feel the urgency which inspired this project at the beginning of this year; fatigue has certainly taken a toll, but I also sense more time is needed for other work.

More reviews are coming. I just don’t know when they’re coming, or how often they’ll appear. The work continues, but the schedule ends today.

This journey has been rewarding, difficult, enjoyable, and burdensome. It took a lot of effort, and it feels appropriate to mark its completion.

3 thoughts on “A Year of Reviews

  1. Well done for achieving your goals. I have commented back to you a couple of times so hope you’ve received those as the effort you have made should be acknowledged – I am imagining you are too busy with your reviews and writing to like or comment back – but thanks for what you’ve done. Appreciate it and I now have a whole raft of literary magazines to choose from for future submissions. Great job.

    • I appreciate your comment, jillyfunnell. I thought i’d commented on you earlier comments but it’s just as likely that I didn’t. Glad you were able to identify journals for your submissions. Good luck, and keep writing!

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