With all of this brouhaha around Canadian magazines, I thought it would be a good idea if I actually started writing about them. I read many Canadian literary magazines. I enjoy them, obviously, because I like new short fiction and I like poetry and I like reading reviews of books. I also read them because I’m a writer, and I would like to get published, and in order to get published I need to know what kind of stuff specific journals are looking for. I don’t want to submit a coming of age story about a girl in the suburbs to a magazine that focuses on experimental poetry. That would be embarrassing. And a waste of an editor’s time.
I get some magazines delivered right to my mailbox – stuff like The Malahat Review, Room Magazine, Geist, This Magazine, Matrix – and others I pick up along the way at bookstores (i.e. Book City or Pages in Toronto, Paragraphe in Montreal, but in a pinch Chapters or Indigo generally has a copy or two of certain lit mags in their shelves) or events like Expozine or The Blue Met.
Many of my subscriptions stem from the fact that at a point in time I entered one of those literary magazine contests. The subscription fee doubles as the entrance fee for the contest and I know, I know, people get whiny about this. Sometimes I do too. But, then I got over it. If you don’t want to pay to enter the contest, you don’t have to. These magazines accept submissions on a regular basis anyway and all you have to pay for is the stamp to mail the manuscript (most magazines archaically do not accept electronic submissions, although my guess is that it also has to do with weeding out email happy burgeoning writers who would bombard their inboxes with multiple submissions if given the chance). But with these contests you get the advantage of getting a subscription and finding out in a timely fashion if you’re going to be published. And working with a deadline in mind is usually good motivation to get that story done and mailed off.
I’ve also read articles about people complaining about the whole “contest” thing in Canadian literary magazines, how they tend to be biased, how judging is not done blind, etc. My first cynical reaction is, well, duh. Unfortunately, like most arts, writing depends heavily on who you know. Sometimes it’s slimy, and sometimes it just makes sense: no one gets paid very much (or anything) for reading submissions. If a writer comes approved by another writer, chances are their writing is readable and maybe, hopefully, good. It saves time. That doesn’t mean that it’s pointless to enter a contest or to slog through the submission process. I’ve know many people who have gotten published without having any connections.
Here’s my track record: I’ve entered many contests. I haven’t won any. I’ve been shortlisted for This Magazine’s Great Literary Hunt twice, which I’m proud of (and I don’t know anyone who works at This). Stories that I’ve entered in contests have subsequently been published in other magazines where I have never met the editorial board (i.e. “Baby Teeth”). And, as a result, I’ve got the chance to read and support a lot of magazines. Not so bad. (Here’s a good article about assessing the validity of contests: http://www.sfwa.org/Beware/contests.html)
Up until March 15, 2009, Magazines Canada is having a Buy 2 Get 1 Free deal for Canadian magazines (not just literary ones): http://secure.magazinescanada.ca/
You can also read about the Canadian magazine industry here: http://canadianmags.blogspot.com/
Ok, so now that I’ve talked about how easy it is to acquire magazines, I’ll start actually writing about what I’m reading in them.