If you're a writer or an aspiring writer, you probably know all about the struggle to get published in a literary journal. After you've done the work of coming up with a brilliant idea, figuring out if that brilliant idea is a story or a poem, writing that brilliant story or poem, revising that story or poem — and, hey, deciding it's actually an essay, you have to hone and re-hone your masterpiece before sending it into the world slush piles, where you hope it doesn't languish, sputter, and die.
It can all sound rather grim, but there's a way to increase your odds of landing that dream publication: subscribing to a literary journal. I've been editing an independent print journal (it's called Tammy, and we open for journal submissions on March 1 — say hey, Bustle readers!), I can attest to the importance of knowing the publication that you have your sights on. The best way to get to know the aesthetic, the editorial vision, and the vibe of a publication is to read issues. Yes. issues-plural.
Sure, not all of us readers are writers, and if that's the case, I still recommend subscribing to a literary journal. In fact, there are 10 very good reasons you should pick one and become a regular reader right now.
1It's Quick To Sign Up
If you subscribe to an online literary journal, the process might be as simple as entering your email address.
2And Sometimes Free — Or Pretty Darn Close
One Story sends you the first issue free. The next (12, one every month) will cost you $21 — or, approximately, five trips to Starbucks.
3Literary Magazines Are Beautiful Objects
Conduit, for instance, is skinny and very vertical, guaranteed to be one of the tallest entities on your bookcase.
4The Best Short Stories Being Written Find Their First Homes In Literary Magazines.
No, The New Yorker isn't exactly a literary magazine, but it did publish "The Lottery" and, in response, receive an unprecedented quantity of mail.
5Most Of Us Don't Read Enough Poetry
True story. Easily remedied.
6Literary Magazines Help Us Push Our Boundaries
One of my faves, the online journal DIAGRAM, specializes in genre-bending work that defies categorization.
7They're Easy To Peruse.
Sometimes, a book is just too much of a commitment. It's never that long of a commitment to read a short-short in, say, NOON.
8They Introduce You To New Writers
Who doesn't like new friends?
9They Keep You Contemporary
With a mission like, "whatever it is, we're against it," how can you argue with 3:AM Magazine? You know they're beyond the cutting edge.
10They Help You Grow As A Writer
OK, not if they just sit in a stack beside your bathtub. But if you read literary magazines, you're bound to encounter new voices, different techniques, and unique ways to tell a story or write a poem (or an essay, etc). All you have to do is read. And commitment-phobes, that is the key to writerly success.