Georgia Literary Magazines

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Georgia Literary Magazines

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1NativeRoses
juny 8, 2007, 12:20pm

The AJC recently ran a great article on local literary mags. Here's some highlights:

LOCAL LANDSCAPE -- Lit mags of note in metro Atlanta:

The Georgia Review (see below)

Atlanta Review
• Editor: Daniel Veach
• Poetry, fiction, essays
• Twice a year
• Subscription: $9.99
• P.O. Box 8248, Atlanta, GA 31106
• atlantareview.com

Chattahoochee Review
• Editor: Marc Fitten
• Fiction, poetry, interviews, essays, reviews, creative nonfiction, photography, artwork
• Quarterly
• Subscription: $16
• Ga. Perimeter College, 2101 Womack Rd., Dunwoody, GA 30338
• chattahoochee-review.org

Five Points
• Editor: Megan Sexton
• Poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, artwork
• 3 times a year
• Subscription: $20
• Ga. St. University, University Plaza, Atlanta, GA 30303
• webdelsol.com

LITERARY JOURNAL TRANSCENDS STATE, SIZE IN 60 YEARS

By TERESA K. WEAVER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/27/2007

The Georgia Review is marking its 60th year the way everyone might like to, raking in honors and flexing considerable muscle.

No stranger to prestigious awards over the years, the stalwart little Athens-based quarterly journal of poetry, essays, stories and art has found 2007 to be especially fruitful. Early this month, an essay in The Georgia Review was cited as the year's best by the American Society of Magazine Editors.

with a Governor's Award in the Humanities.

If it seems like heady stuff for a purely literary endeavor, interim editor Stephen Corey offers some perspective:

"We're big," he says with a smile, "among the small."

Excellence remains 'main goal'

Mary Hood, the author of "And Venus Is Blue" and "Familiar Heat," had been sending stories to The Georgia Review for 10 years before she got her first letter of acceptance in 1978.

"I had told someone who asked my method for choosing where to send, 'I want to be turned down by the best.' "

Hood finally got a story accepted by Stan Lindberg, the editor of The Georgia Review from 1977 until 2000 and a man who held near mythic status in literary circles for his ability to spot and nurture talented writers — and to surround himself with other exceptional spotters.

"From the beginning, that was what kept me coming back, sending out and getting back stories — a confidence that the eyes reading me were in fact the best," Hood wrote in a gushing letter of recommendation to the Georgia Humanities Council. "They had a hopeful, shock-proof, suffer-no-fools expectancy. They did not require recognizable patterns or likeness. They respected differences. They did not serve themselves or cronies or trends or promote fashions, although as time went on they set some.

"The main goal of The Georgia Review was excellence," Hood wrote. "It still is."

Success for literary magazines is not measured in traditional numbers. The Georgia Review has about 4,000 subscribers at $30 a year. (For some perspective: The largest literary review, the Paris Review, has a circulation of about 10,000; The New Yorker has about 1 million.)

Rather, success for the little magazines is measured in the great writers discovered, in the superstar writers who keep coming back, in awards and anthologies, and in longevity.

As college writing programs continue to crank out talent and technology opens up unlimited ways to get published, literary journals face increasing competition for the niche market they serve. An estimated 1,000 literary journals are published in the United States, according to the nonprofit Council of Literary Magazines and Presses in New York.

"Starting a literary journal is a bit like starting a restaurant," says Jeffrey Lependorf, the council's executive director. "Many close after just a year or two, and a bunch more have a good run, but few are still serving happy customers after 60 years. It's no small accomplishment."

A broader scope evolved

The Georgia Review was founded in 1947 by an English professor at the University of Georgia as a strictly regional publication, to be confined "to topics that bear somewhat closely upon the history, literature, art, education and social activities" of the state. That insular focus gradually gave way to a far broader scope, as editors from the late 1960s on set their sights on national recognition.

Today, stories, essays and poems from The Georgia Review are regularly reprinted in such books as "The Best American Short Stories" and "The Pushcart Prize." And 21 years after the Review won its first National Magazine Award (chosen by the American Society of Magazine Editors), where it competes not only with other literary journals but also such slick, large-circulation magazines as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly and Harper's, it won another this year for an essay by newcomer Michael Donohue.

Donohue, a 32-year-old English teacher in New York by way of Florida (currently he's in Beijing, teaching literature to Chinese students), was the winner in a category that included powerhouse writers Thomas Friedman, Calvin Trillin and Paul Theroux.

"I'm no expert," Donohue says by e-mail from China, "but I'd say from the perspective of a reader, literary magazines are able to be more surprising and independent than the big glossy magazines. And they're more open to young writers, it seems."

The magazine award itself is a striking brass sculpture by Alexander Calder called "Elephant." Writers and editors affectionately refer to it as "the Ellie," and covet it with the same fervor that actors reserve for an Oscar. Such public affirmation informs and inspires the next Eureka moment, the next discovery amid the mountains of manuscripts.

"You can spend days and days looking at manuscripts without coming across one that really interests you," says editor Corey. "Sometime you stop and think, 'Hmm, gee, I should have been reading "Moby-Dick" this week.' ... But I do love doing this. You feel both selfish and very wide open when you find something that you really like. You think, 'Aha! I found this.' "

Corey, a lean 58, has been with The Georgia Review since 1983, as assistant, associate and now acting editor. An acclaimed poet and essayist in his own right, Corey and his staff — an assistant editor, a graduate student and a part-time reader — sift through about 3,000 story submissions, 8,000 poems and more than 1,000 essays every year, looking for the handful they will publish. (A typical issue includes two or three essays, two or three stories, maybe a dozen poems and a few reviews.)

"The bottom line is that I'm looking for something that I fall in love with," Corey says. "Something that I haven't quite seen before."

Some issues feature stories and poems by well-known writers; some are full of writers previously unpublished.

"We're chasing the work," Corey says, "no matter who it's by."

'It's not weird...just strong'

Shannon Ravenel, co-founder of Algonquin Books in Chapel Hill, N.C., and longtime editor of "Best New Stories From the South," reads hundreds of literary journals every year. She doesn't hesitate when asked where The Georgia Review ranks in that pantheon.

"A lot of literary magazines land in my office," she says, "but the only one I always pick up the day it arrives is The Georgia Review."

Ha Jin, Rita Dove and George Singleton are among the nationally known writers who published work with the Review very early in their careers and continue to appear on its pages.

Singleton's first story, "Welcome Homeless," was published in The Georgia Review's 1989 summer issue.

"That was my first really big one," Singleton recalls. "One that paid enough to cover my electric bill. I was really, really happy and proud. I also thought, 'Oh man, I am on my way! A book contract must be coming around the corner! Unfortunately, that took another 12 years to happen."

He laughs at the memory. Now a teacher at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, Singleton often uses The Georgia Review in his writing classes.

"It's just so strong," he says. "For instance, I'm not ashamed to admit that I like to read poetry. ... And there's always good poetry in The Georgia Review. I'm a little bit of a curmudgeon, so it's not this weird, experimental crap. ... Just strong, strong narratives."

Marking 60 years

In 1986, for the 40th anniversary of The Georgia Review, editors published two oversize retrospective issues featuring the best short stories and poems from the first four decades. For the 50th anniversary, editors offered a collection of the magazine's best essays, from Harold Bloom, Raymond Carver, Louise Erdrich and others.

To mark the big 6-0, Corey and company spent more than a year digging through the archives, searching for correspondence that sheds light on the stories behind all the submissions. Staffers found notes from T.S. Eliot, Flannery O'Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, James Dickey, E.B. White, Evelyn Waugh, even Albert Einstein.

A new second volume of letters includes correspondence from the last quarter of the 20th century — the entire tenure of editor Lindberg, who died in January 2000. The letters offer an irresistible glimpse into the people behind the bylines, all of whom played roles in the evolution of a literary magazine.

"This arthritic handwriting is awful to inflict you with," an ever-gracious Eudora Welty wrote to Lindberg in July of 1990. "But I hope you can read my thanks and my appreciation into it."

Some correspondents included elaborate illustrations with their letters. Of all the treasures found in the archives, though, Corey and his staff cite Albert Goldbarth's contributions above all others.

Two years ago, when overwhelmed editors had kept one of the esteemed poet's submissions longer than usual, they received a small package from him. Assistant editor David Ingle provides the commentary:

"Enclosed were a card, some party hats and streamers, and a photograph of a decorated cake. The enclosed card explained that on his end, in Wichita, he was celebrating the one-year anniversary of his poems' residence at the offices of The Georgia Review and that he knew we would want to do the same on our end."

On the horizon

What next, author Mary Hood wonders, when a magazine has achieved iconic stature at 60?

"Excellence and success have a charisma, a drawing power of their own," she says.

Top-caliber writers submit manuscripts and poems to The Georgia Review for $40 per printed page for stories and $3 a line for poetry. There is no sliding fee scale, no special advantage for Pulitzer Prize winners or even for friends of friends.

Editors work in relative comfort in UGA's Gilbert Hall on Lumpkin Street, although you can almost hear every horizontal surface creak under the weight of books and manuscripts and well-ordered stacks of paper.

The Review, like all literary magazines, caters to a small but passionate audience. Driven by the mission, editors sometimes wonder where their labor of love ends and obsession begins.

And for all the technological advancements in print and online (it's at uga.edu), the dual role of the Review and other such journals — to celebrate exceptional writing and discover new voices — seems safe enough.

"Technology has changed how we communicate with each other, how much more instantly we can transmit images and ideas," says Hood. "But it hasn't changed our need to communicate images and ideas. Consider how the camera brought a revolution in knowing and seeing and recording and remembering. ... Painting did not wither because of it, though some said it might. Painting deepened, found place for the personal, the intensely private, the utterly local. So did photography.

"Literary magazines gather, connect and reward readers and writers," Hood adds. "Literature is as much a process as a byproduct."

THE LONG VIEW

Literary magazines come and go with great frequency, in print and online. Some, though, have persevered through world wars and funding cutbacks.

Here are some of the oldest journals still publishing in 2007:

• The North American Review, founded in 1815

• The Yale Review, 1819

• The Sewanee Review, 1892

• Poetry, 1912

• The Prairie Schooner, 1927

• The Southern Review, 1935

• New Letters, 1935

• The Kenyon Review, 1939

• The Chicago Review, 1946

• The Paris Review, 1953