Ask anyone who is actively writing fiction – and I do mean writing it as opposed to meandering into jazz clubs in their black polo necks, assuring others they definitely have a novel in them … somewhere – and they will bend your ear about the brilliant and seemingly unstoppable force of literary journals. There are so many excellent journals to choose from – Open Pen, Structo, Ambit, Gutter, Litro, Banshee, I could go on, each has their own aesthetic, a particular kind of fiction they champion, and each varies in their approach to publication. Open Pen encourages a sassy kind of voice, generally fairly youthful, irreverent and unpretentious; in Scotland, Gutter is seen as a proving ground where emerging writers can shine, whilst rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in Scottish literature; Banshee is the new kid on the block, a contemporary journal from Ireland that offers writing that is edgy, gritty and gripping. The sheer number and diversity of these journals is mind-blowing to a new writer; not just in terms of opportunities to showcase your own work, but also to let you see what other writers are producing, and to hold up as a barometer for just how far you have to go to be good enough for publication. I encourage all emerging writers who are not subscribing to and reading these independent journals to start doing so immediately. This is your apprenticeship. Forget what your mother might think when she sees the sweary words and realises that you might just be describing that amazing blowjob from first-hand experience – she’ll get over it, and wouldn’t you rather have a writing CV to show to your first publisher that had Banshee and Structo on it, than a mother safely in the dark about your sex life?
One last thought – if you’re going to submit to journals, remember to buy them too, and spread the word if you like what you read. It is this network of new writers and the dynamic, often unsung editorial force behind literary journals that will ensure a dynamic and thriving literary scene in the UK and elsewhere.
is a Scottish writer. You can read her Issue Twenty story ‘The Thursday Club’ here. Publications and websites where her work has appeared include Structo (Issue 19, forthcoming), Glasgow Review of Books, Literary Orphans, Gutter, Freak Circus, Burning House Press, The Guardian, New Writing Scotland, and the Scottish school textbook Working Words. She is currently working on her first novel. @elissa_soave.