Saturday, September 20, 2008

The scholarly and literary journal experiment and challenge

I'm a fan of the idea of both scholarly and literary journals, but like so many other people I think about them more than I actually buy and read them. I've had recent subscriptions to The Virginia Quarterly Review, Eighteenth-Century Studies, The Oxford American, Studies in Bibliography, Lapham's Quarterly (more of a history review), and more, but when the physical thing actually arrives in the office it tends to sit around, less-than-read (which is to say "not read"). Would that these journals were more like The New Yorker, with all those lovely middlebrow comics to keep the pages turning. But somehow I get the sense the journals would say that's Not Funny. There is something serious about scholarly and literary journals.

To support them, though, I propose a new challenge. Submitting and financially contributing to them. The rules will be simple, and invite anyone reading this blog to join with me in doing it, and I'll happily post your results as well as mine:

(1) Get to know some scholarly and literary journals. This involves taking a little tour and learning about them. I'll start with one I already subscribe to (VQR) and then branch out. I'll blog about each one.

(2) Read said journals more closely than usual for a while to get a feel for how they function and what their rationale is beyond the stated thing. Get a sense of who's the company and why.

(3) Submit to 'em. For me this does NOT involve entering writing contests (transparent fundraisers in which somebody "wins" and the rest "lose," and bad for the arts generally, contests are cruel), but it does involve sending a check with each of my submissions. Of course none requires money with submissions, but I want to support journal publishing, so I'll add $10 as a voluntary reading contribution. This is on top of actually subscribing to the journal, which I do whenever possible.

(4) Blog about it. I'll write about the weirdness of submitting in this way, and the excitement of it, and what it feels like to get various kinds of responses from editors.

The scholarly publishing tends to be self explanatory. For the literary work, I'll use the helpful guidance of and Poets & Writers magazine (another one to which I subscribe) to choose places to send work. If you edit a journal and you would like to get on my dance card, please drop a note. If you're an author/reader and you'd like to participate in the submission game, that's great too. Tell me your experience, and some of you will get the chance to blog here about it.

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