And When Your Journal Passes On
November 18, 2022 § 13 Comments
By Anthony J. Mohr
When a literary journal disappears, a little hole appears in my heart. It’s happened too often. Now, when Duotrope’s Sunday morning Weekly Wire reaches my inbox, I race to the section marked “publisher listings with major status changes” and hope they don’t say a place that once published me “has permanently closed to submissions,” “is on indefinite hiatus to submissions,” or “is believed to be defunct.” The first two phrases are usually euphemisms for the third: defunct, as in dead.
Maybe I’m unlucky, but as of this writing, too many of my homes either no longer exist or languish in prolonged hospice. Some just disappear, like Circle Magazine. The LBJ: Avian Life, Literary Arts died in 2011 and is still dead.
Others tender a tinge of hope. In October 2016, Word Riot claimed they were “temporarily closed for a six-month hiatus.” They have yet to wake up. Sometimes the hiatus is a genuine pause, not a death throe. Mason Street’s editor is looking for “a new brick and mortar home for the magazine,” perhaps a university to support them. If you have a suggestion, let them know.
A few departed journals leave traces. Diverse Voices Quarterly maintains its website, complete with access to what they published. After River Poets Journal posted its demise, it archived its printed issues in the Small Press/Little Magazine collections of the University of Wisconsin and the University of Buffalo/Poetry periodicals. Literary Orphans has a website—sort of—but the archives appear to be gone. The same with Dos Passos Review, but with linguistic irony: their archives feature nonsense written in Latin, identical jabber in every genre.
Endings come for many reasons. Medical issues stopped Literary House Review and River Poets Journal. Glimmer Train’s editors quit in favor of “a new phase of our lives with our husbands and families.”
It doesn’t matter what format you choose, online or print. Your work is at risk of vanishing. So, what can you do?
When your piece goes live or shows up in your mailbox, create a pdf, especially for online publications, or scan it. Even if you own a website, copy your work to a separate place in the cloud. Copy it to your disk. Store a paper copy in your files. If you live in earthquake, hurricane, or tornado country, or any other natural disaster country (anywhere these days), send a copy to a trusted, faraway friend. Years from now, you’ll want to linger over what you wrote, and you won’t want to hunt in vain for it.
If you learn a place that published you is going out of business, contact the editors. Several years ago, Duotrope labeled The Coachella Review defunct. Not so. After I emailed Coachella’s staff, they acted fast, Duotrope revived them, and they remain very much alive. What’s more, editors may appreciate hearing from contributors who care enough to reach out and encourage them to press on.
Next, try to find a place that will reprint your work. Few exist, but they’re out there. Sequestrum runs a yearly contest. The Writing Disorder will reprint. So does FriGG and over 175 others, according to Publishing…and Other Forms of Insanity.
Warning: Don’t submit your work as new, believing that since its former home evaporated, nobody will find it. They may. Our universe is small, the web runs deep, and editors talk with one another. I’d follow the Compose (also on hiatus) definition of previously unpublished: “the piece has not appeared anywhere in print or online, at any time.” If in doubt, ask.
If you have the desire, money and time, offer to take over a dying publication. What an opportunity to gain editing and publishing experience, and to do so with a journal that has at least a dash of name recognition, maybe lots of it. When Prick of the Spindle folded, they announced they were “on hiatus pending a possible transfer of ownership…Look for updates in August 2017.” That was five years ago. At least they tried.
Let’s admit it. Losing your work to a journal that folds can hurt. Occasionally, however, the publication may revive. Look at Collier’s, once a national magazine with over 2.8 million readers. After more than half a century in the grave, it came back to life, albeit briefly. So, if all else fails, say, “just maybe.” Then wait—with patience.
Anthony J. Mohr’s work has appeared in ZYZZYVA, DIAGRAM, Eclectica, Hippocampus Magazine, and more. He has been anthologized in California Prose Directory (2013), Golden State (2017), and elsewhere. His work has received five Pushcart Prize nominations. Once upon a time, he was a member of the L.A. Connection, an improv theater group. Currently, Anthony is the opinion/commentary editor of the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative’s Social Impact Review.
This needed saying. Thank you!
You’re very welcome.
Thank you. This is good advice. I have a situation where I submitted a story in May 2020, it was accepted in May 2021, and it was supposed to be published in an anthology. Shortly after its being accepted the publication listed itself as “temporarily closed to submissions.” My story was never published on the website or in the anthology. I’ve sent three inquiries to them through their preferred method of communication and have received no response. Someone suggested I withdraw my story. I decided that was a good idea, so I tried. However, the option to withdraw my story, which had been available, had disappeared. I thought perhaps that meant they were getting ready to publish, but no. I sent another communication and have received no response. I’m going to try writing a letter, but have no hope they will respond to that either. I’m not sure what to do at this point.
It’s time to bail. Send emails and smoke signals to every portal and address they have announcing that you’re withdrawing the piece. Then move on. This happened to me too. When I sent my essay elsewhere, I alerted the editor to the situation. They understood and published me anyway.
Thank you. That is what I’m going to do. I appreciate your advice. I will let other editors know when I submit the story that it’s frozen in limbo.
Another way to help literary journals is to volunteer as a reader. The journals get thousands of submissions, why it takes do long to resoond to your work. They need help.And seeingvwhat and how others write is a new kind of creative writing class
It sure is. I’ve been reading for Hippocampus and just started with Under the Sun. Great places with great editors.
Long live The Sun!
Thanks for the reminder to save my work in multiple places. I wonder if you—or anyone who may be reading this—know whatever happened to Open Salon. It was an off-shoot of the magazine Salon, a blog where writers could post and have the potential of being on the first page of the blog. One of my own pieces was published in Salon after it appeared on the blog. It was a big break for me. But more importantly, the writing community and the support from other writers was terrific. We got to know and appreciate each other’s styles. Then one day, it all went away. I’ve mourned it since.
Sorry, but I have no idea what happened to Salon. It sounds as though their demise was a special loss. Maybe another reader can help you.
Just getting to this on the same morning that the editors of Ruminate (which had been around for 15 years!) announced they are closing. Sad–that was a good one.
I really appreciate your input. I can understand how difficult and at the same time overwhelming it is when your journal eventually passes the barrier, but it is extremely valuable for all those researchers and authors who are going through the same procedure.
As a result, having an editor on your side who is an expert, knowledgeable, and provides the best-in-class premium editing services is critical if you want to stand out.
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It’s sad, but it happens all the time. A terrific read by Anthony J. Mohr.