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New Strategy Re: Literary Magazines (or Thuglit Redux)

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Strategy Re: Literary Magazines (or Thuglit Redux)

I have a new strategy for getting into literary magazines.  I'm going to them.  Fucking crazy, I know.  I tried this technique only once in the past.  I wanted to get into this magazine called Thuglit.  Mostly because it was called Thuglit, which is about the coolest name ever for a literary magazine.  But they wouldn't take my stuff.  I sent them a couple stories, which I thought were noir enough, the dark and hard-boiled being what they publish, or rather published since they are now on hiatus, but my work kept getting rejected.  So I decided to read the magazine and see what they usually publish, and then craft a piece specifically tailored to the tastes of its editor, Todd Robinson (aka Big Daddy Thug).  It took me exactly one attempt.  "The Burn Out" was published in November '07 (  I wrote two more stories for them, "Red Pistachios" ( and "Rags to Riches" (, both published.  Now the point of this post isn't to praise Thuglit... (Well, hold on, let's take a quick moment to do just that.

I fucking love Thuglit, and its editor Todd Robinson (Big Daddy Thug), a kick-ass writer himself, even wrote a blurb for my noir novel, The Lone Palm, which is currently being shopped.  This was an unforeseen result of reading the thing.  It turned out to be filled with amazing shit, and unlike any other journal out there. One of the problems I have with calling myself a "writer," for operating in a profession that uses words like "milieu," is that it uses words like "milieu," and that a great deal of time is spent praising the emperor's new clothes. There are certain scribes of...literature (and please say that in an English accent for full effect) who must be lauded, extolled, whose proverbial dick must be suckethed (and this goes for the ladies, too).  But I don't like David Foster Wallace, and I ain't that big a fan of Eggers, though I do see their appeal to others.  That's not the point. The point is I really fucking hate Jane Austen.  I mean, other writers I take exception to, not that big a fan, whatever, but Jane Austen is the antithesis of everything I stand for.  As a writer.  As a man.  As a fucking human being.  If you like Jane Austen, we cannot be friends.  I don't want you in my fucking house eating my fucking food and borrowing my fucking things.  Thuglit would not publish Jane Austen.  All that manner of comedy bullshit?  Wrap it up tight in your bodice and shove it up your ass.  I'd beat the shit out of Mr. Darcy if I ever met the cocksucker.  Thuglit published the real deal, balls-to-the-wall fiction, about tough guys and loose girls and fast cars and bullets and drugs and fighting and fucking, and it was the polar opposite of pretentious.  You want poems about "bat o'er a win'er's morn," go read the read the New Kentucky Literature Review.  You want stories about guys wiping their just fired gun grease on the bitch's expensive matching drape set, go check out Thuglit.  You won't be disappointed.

Though Thuglit is on an indefinite hiatus, their achieves are up.  You could do a fucklot worse with your time on a Sunday morning.

Back to my new strategy, or rather my old strategy re: Thuglit.  Now it probably seems strange that this would have to be a strategy at all.  But this is the weird thing about literary magazines.  Like my thesis advisor Lynne Barrett used to say, "Everyone wants to be in them, but nobody wants to read them."  It's true.  Most of the literary magazines I have been in, I've never even read.  Which is pretty stupid on my part, I know.  Reading is such a commitment.  At least for me (I read slowly), and since I hate most everything I read, it's a double-whammy.  I read a lot, of course (can't be a writer if you don't read a lot).  But mostly books, or short story anthologies.  Rarely do I read literary magazines.  For one, you have to buy them. And the few times I've done that, I've been woefully disappointed (still won't forgive the now-defunct Murdaland for "Roach-killer" and wasting 20 minutes of my life that I'll never get back.  Or you have to read them online.  Kind of like I expect you to read this blog.  Anyway, I've got to start reading the damned things, and who knows, maybe I'll find another Thuglit (though I highly doubt it).

I've targeted one magazine specifically.  I won't say which one until I get into it. This particular magazine has rejected a couple stories of mine in the past.  So I've started reading their archives.  Can't say I love the work overall.  But this is a study. I want to see what their editors like, and then tailor a story to their individual tastes. So it's an exercise, and here's what I'm learning so far...

  • Stuff doesn't need to happen.   One of the tendencies I had, as most writers seem to have, is I am reluctant to make stuff happen.  I like clever turns of phrase and subtle as opposed to overt and plot.  At FIU, this was beaten out of me.  And now I think I need to go back, at least a little bit.  There are a lot of fiction these days of this variety:
          She watches the clock on the wall.  It reminds her of elephants, the year her father took       
          her to Istanbul and bought the giant clock from the dwarf trader.  It was hot.  She notices the    
          birthmark on his hand.  It is shaped like dreams and breaks apart when she touches it.
          It floats up with the clouds, and then it starts to rain and it is time to go home to the circus.

          That sort of shit.

  • Keep it vague.  Again, counterintuitive.  As in the above example (which is admittedly god-awful prose), it literally says nothing.  But I've been seeing a shit-ton of these stories, the "the man eats an asparagus stalk.  He misses his cat" variety.  Almost like stream-of-consciousness.  Honestly, navel-gazing appears to be back in vogue.

  • Magic Realism?  Not sure what to call it.  But definitely been seeing a lot of "folding hearts into paper squares" and the like.  So my new story will have to implement this somehow.

  • Personal details applied universal.  So it'd be like,
         He doesn't think of her now, how she wore the cashmere socks and only listened to cowpunk. He doesn't remember she had a sock-monkey named Albert or how she sucked on chocolate bars instead of eating them.

  • Second Person.  Yup.  You're reading that correctly.  Never a good tense, and one purportedly abhorred by editors, but been creeping up...

  • Simple language and copulative verbs.  Ala... She was a dancer.  She was good.  She was happy to be a good dancer.
OK, time to get to work!  I will keep y'all up to date on my progress...


At June 5, 2011 at 3:11 PM , Blogger Jenny Dreadful said...

True to the tits. Was wondering if this was a big no-no, tailoring and slavering over a piece in hopes an editor will lap it up.

Whelp. Back to Pank to see what they really like, and if I can scramble up my balls to do it.

At June 5, 2011 at 3:19 PM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

Yeah, Jenny, Pank is one I want in, too (been turned down a few times). I've been reading it of late and trying to tailor a piece. Harder than it sounds. They seem less plot driven than most. Not sure what they are "more" of, is the problem. Best of luck to you!


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