By Becky Tuch
Remember when you didn’t know how to cook? When you were in your teens or twenties (or your thirties, maybe even forties) and you didn’t know the first thing about what should fill your kitchen cupboards and pantry shelves?
I have a distinct memory of being twenty-two years old, just out of school, excited to cook my first big meal in my first big-city apartment. There I am, stocking up on groceries, feeling proud of all my responsible vegetable choices, eager to hurry home and start cooking. Only, when I get back to my apartment, I discover that I’m missing something crucial: pots and pans. Also, silverware. How could I eat beans without a can-opener? Or eat anything at all without a plate?
In good time, I learned how to fill a kitchen with basic supplies. I’ve also relished those cookbooks that have little sections at the beginning explaining what one should always have in the kitchen: olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic. Certain basic spices should also be at hand: basil, curry, bay leaves, cinnamon. And of course, if you like to eat soup, it’s probably good to own a pot. And a ladel.
All of this came to mind recently as I looked at my bookshelves full of lit mags. Through The Review Review, my website that reviews lit mags, I’ve come in contact with hundreds of literary magazines over the years. Like a trained chef working quickly in the hot kitchen of literature, I know exactly which magazines to turn to if I need a great essay for a writing prompt or if I want stories emphasizing strong characterization. If I want to find a voice from abroad or from right around the corner, feel politically riled up or chucklingly entertained, certain lit mags will do just the trick. I know where these flavors are and I generally know what proportions I want to add to my literary diet.
But let’s say you’re brand new to lit mags. You want to subscribe to a few (as you’ve been told time and time again that reading lit mags is the key to publishing in them), but you’re not sure where to begin. You may know what you like…or you may not. You may have a clear sense of your own writing style or you might have no idea what you’re doing at all. You know you like to write. Or perhaps you simply like to read. You want to learn more about what’s being done today, by modern writers, both heavyweights and those brand new to the scene. But what are the basics? Where is the lit mag starter kit? With what lit mags should you begin to stock your literary kitchen?
I think I can help. Below is the first part of a series I will be doing featuring lists of lit mags grouped into aesthetic categories. Today’s installment features hearty, high-quality, not necessarily experimental print journals. If you like straightforward narratives, moving accounts, clear prose, evocative imagery, stories that take emotional risks but tend to stick to a beginning-middle-end format, stories that perhaps focus more on character and plot than experimentation with language and syntax, these are the lit mags for you. … Continue Reading