Writer's periodicals

Do any of you read periodicals focused on writing? Like Writer’s Digest or anything like that?

If so, what do you read and why?

I don’t really read periodicals about writing, so much - although I have bought an issue here in the past if it’s had something I’ve been interested in, though. I’ve always been disappointed. They always seem to be written by people who have either never been published, or who have written the sort of books published by sub-Mills’n’Boon publishers. That’s all fine and good if that’s the sort of book you are writing, but the formulaic approach they tend to push never really appealed to me.

I do occasionally subscribe to magazines that publish short stories, though. There are precious few in the UK, sadly. My other half bought me a subscription to Granta at Christmas (Granta is pretty good, though, like the London Magazine, they never publish short stories by unknown writers). I also have a subscription to Ambit, which publishes short stories and poetry. Sadly, the poetry outweighs the stories (I’m not a poetry fan, particularly - not of modern poetry, anyway). It also galls me that the editors publish so much of their own work in there. But at least they accept unsolicited submissions and do publish completely new writers, some of which are really good (even if they did never even bother to send me a rejection slip for a short story I sent them a few years ago, despite the SAE, harumph).

I used to subscribe to Stand Magazine, which is beautiful. It is small (A5-ish but narrower), with a landscape format and two columns on each page. I ought to subscribe again, as I came across some brilliant short stories published by unknowns in there (two stick in my head years later - No Christmas, No Kafka and Funerals; I’d have to look up the authors as they were pretty much unpublished, though, I think). Sadly, again the poetry outweighs the stories, and sometimes they have nearly all-poetry editions, which is annoying if you can’t stand the poetry and have a subscription. Likewise, they sometimes have special editions based on certain themes, whereas I prefer it where they just publish an eclectic mix of new writers and translations. Still, it is probably the best literary mag in England.

I also used to subscribe to The Third Alternative (did a book review for them once, too), by TTA Press. That was a brilliant mag - focussing on publishing “slipstream” fiction, i.e. stuff that falls between science fiction, horror and fantasy, mixed with a dose of realism. I was about to re-subscribe and was gutted to find that it is dead in that form, though. Apparently the publishers acquired Interzone - the premiere UK sci-fi magazine - and so, rather than have to decide with sci-fi stories to place in Interzone and which in The Third Alternative, they stripped all of the sci-fi and fantasy stuff out of TTA and placed it in Interzone, and then renamed TTA to Black Static and now have that as a pure new-horror magazine. (They also publish Crimewave, which publishes new crime/thriller magazines.) TTA Press are probably doing the most interesting thing in the UK in terms of publishing short stories - and Andy, who started out as the TTA editor and is now the sort of head of publishing there, I guess, is a really nice and cool guy. I do find it a bit of a shame that there is nothing like The Third Alternative out there any more, which published stories that were just plain weird and brilliant. I may subscribe to Interzone to see how that stands up.

Hmm, that wasn’t really the question, was it? Oh well!
All the best,

I think Writer’s Digest is aimed at new writers, because back when I was reading it, they said the same things over and over, and so a year was all I needed to grasp the basics they were stressing.

However, that year was a great time to read it, because it was when word processors were just beginning to be available to the average person, with the personal computer explosion. What a lively time to hear from other writers; the ones, like me, who embraced it wholeheartedly, with all it’s weirdnesses; the ones who claimed the computer was just WRONG, the typewriter was the tool of choice!; and the ones who wanted to wait until the technology had gelled (I wonder if they are still waiting?)

I think they might be caught in a classic bind; the information they purvey is now freely available on the internet, but maybe with the classic caveat; you have to know what to look for.

The nuts and bolts approach to writing in their articles is useful at first; I think people outgrow it. But of course, one should know the basics!

The lack of outlets for short stories is one of the sad victims of our age. Then again, many writers are of the opinion that short stories are actually harder to write. Maybe that’s why I write so few of them… and have written four novels to date.