5 for Friday: Literary Journals You Must Read

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I love nothing more than a great short story. In fact, most
of the real estate on my book shelf is occupied by short story collections.
Sometimes I plow right through an entire collection from cover to cover, other
times I like to pick up the collection and simply savor one story. My mother
also recently bought me a Kindle. Now, I wasn’t so sure how I felt about this when
I ripped open the package. I just love books so much—I love the way they feel
in my hands, the way they smell. Don’t even put it past me to even fall asleep
in a bed littered with books. As you can imagine, I had some trepidation
about my new gift.

I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying it. What I love
about it is that I can, with one click, order a book and have it in my hands
(so to speak) in seconds. Also, I love the ability to buy one story so I can “try
out” a collection or enjoy a small taste. There are also some wonderful
literary magazines that are available electronically for a discounted price. I’ve
found I’m using my Kindle in different ways—for its convenience and for the
ability to test drive a collection or a journal. I will still buy books (many,
many books), especially the ones I know I’ll want to hang on to forever.

Since the Kindle is sparking my love for short stories all
over again (and making it so easy to buy them), I though this Friday I would post
5 Literary Journals that you must read, 5 journals that publish the best of the
best stories. Enjoy!

1.One Story—This
journal arrives in the mail once every three weeks and it contains only one
story, as the journal’s name suggests. The stories are presented in pastel bound
paper books—very French—and are so lightweight you can just throw one in your purse
to read while you’re on the run (you could even roll it into your back pocket).One Story
says, “We believe that short stories are best read alone. They should not be
sandwiched in between a review and an exposé on liposuction, or placed after
another work of fiction that is so sad or funny or long that the reader is worn
out by the time they turn to it.” That’s why this journal is great—it’s the
perfect dose of fiction every time you receive it in your mailbox

2.
Tin
House
—Tin House comes out four times a year and is a great mix
of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and other articles and essays. The stories in Tin House are always fresh, original and
diverse. There is certainly a feel to the journal, but the writing can vary from
realistic to completely magical. It seems this journal is simply dedicated to
good story telling. I heard TH’s editor, Rob Spillman, speak at a conference
and he said this about what he looks for in a story: “I want it to make me miss
my train stop.”The most current issue
features writing by greats such as Jennifer Egan and Ron Carlson.

3.
Electric LiteratureMy new favorite lit journal! It’s a fairly young
journal with a great mission: “to use new media and innovative distribution to
return the short story to a place of prominence in popular culture.” The issues
are bi-monthly and so far they’ve had a bevy of incredible writers in their
pages including Michael Cunningham, Lydia Davis, and Aimee Bender. What’s great
about this journal: you can order it up seven ways: paperback, eBook, Kindle,
iPhone, Audiobook, Android, or Sony Reader. Rick Moody even tweeted a story
which is now available in their third issue. EL is trying to bring fiction back
by making it so easy, so convenient to access. I have all their issues currently
loaded onto my Kindle. Check out this journal. As the editors so eloquently say,
“We don’t want to be sentimental old folks in a world where literary fiction is
only read by an esoteric few.”

4.
McSweeney’s— A
journal which began in 1998, edited by Dave Eggers. McSweeney’s is committed to
finding new voices, after all the magazine says at it’s inception it “only
published works rejected by other magazines.” McSweeney’s packaging also makes
it super unique. A few issues ago the journal showed up on our doorstep and I
thought it was the newspaper! Indeed, the entire issue was printed on large scale
paper, identical to one. Not only is the content unique and illuminating, but
the creative packaging makes for great fun.

5.
Open
City
—A
lit journal dedicated to publishing writers whose bold voices may be considered
too daring or cutting edge by mainstream publishers. I love it. Yes, when I
order this journal I always seem to discover a story by one of my favorite writers,
writers I can’t always find in other journals/magazines. One of my favorites—A.M.
Homes pops up in this journal with a new story right when I need a fix. The
editors “aim to add a voice to the culture that values wit, depth, and
ingenuity, and, in particular, the exposing and elucidating of the human
predicament which is often devalued by commercial publishers.” I’m sold.

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