What it’s like Working for a Literary Magazine

What it’s like Working for a Literary Magazine

You just submitted your best poem to your college’s literary magazine. You’re nervous and await the outcome as your submission is reviewed by the team. You’re curious as to how the submission process works and the steps it takes to get from A to B.  I’ve had the opportunity to work for a literary magazine, and I have the experience to provide you with all the details of what we do, and how we feel. 

1. We want you to submit your work.

I’m taking a grant writing class, and right now we are learning that despite grant applications appearing stern and intimidating, the donors want to give organizations money and see their projects succeed. It’s the same for us. We want to recognize your talent and work. Sometimes I wonder if people think litmag editors are these rigid and prestigious people who are super judgmental and hate all the work they get. That isn’t the case. We enjoy getting to read so many kinds of compositions. However, we are only able to publish a fraction of the submissions we receive, so we must be relatively strong with our critiques- otherwise we would never be able to finish and produce the journal. 

2. It’s a lot more work than you probably think. 

We don’t just read a piece, collectively say we like it or don’t like it, then take the accepted submissions and throw them onto a document and send it to the printers. It’s a long process that typically needs to be done in a relatively short amount of time. We break out into groups and choose which genre staff we would like to work with. There are four genres to choose from: Nonfiction, Fiction, Poetry, and Visual Arts. Once in our appropriate groups, we dig into the submissions. We take our time with each submission; some editors will read it over twice or multiple times. Discussion over the pieces can become our favorite part. It can lead to some (friendly) debates. In fact, one time one of our group members came into our meeting one day and made a huge case as to why she thought a certain poem should be published in our latest issue. The room lit up as she defended her case. In the end, most of the team changed their minds. I’ve only dipped my toes into the world of creating a literary magazine, which leads me into everything that happens after we’ve accepted the pieces for the issue… 

3. There are so many technical choices to make, and they can get tedious. 

What font should we use? Would glossy or rough paper look better? Format? Margins? What’s our theme? Should we even have a theme? What should our cover look like? How will the reader take this? Page breaks? You catch my drift. It can get become a lot when we reach the final production stages, but it’s so worth it in the end to receive a great finished product. 

4. Being on the team means you get a built-in family. 

We get to work with and be surrounded by people who are passionate about the same thing(s). It is the coolest feeling. When we spend hours reading through what often are more emotional or moving pieces, it’s only natural we grow at least a little closer. And we need people to submit in order to make any of it happen. So, thank you. We appreciate you.  

5. We truly love what we do. 

Otherwise we would stop doing it, right? We love being able to come together and make one big work that’s made up of smaller amazing works from talented writers and artists. We love to celebrate creativity and originality. To be a part of something that is so much greater than you is one of the best experiences. Literary magazines don’t just benefit us. They benefit all the writers and artists that have worked hard and deserve the spotlight to have their work showcased. There is nothing better than seeing someone’s face light up when they see their own work in the book. The community is also brought together. At one of our release parties, a girl had read a moving and beautiful piece about her mother, and there was not one person who wasn’t teary eyed when she finished reading. Or all the laughter and chatter as people sip on their coffee and eat homemade peanut butter cups from the local diner. We’ve seen literary magazines turn strangers into family. It’s unforgettable. 

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