Narrative Magazine Soon to Celebrate its First Decade

Narrative Logo

Narrative Magazine, one of the nation’s most prominent literary venues, is about to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its founding. The magazine’s founders note that the years have been but a breath and a heartbeat but also a long sustained burning of midnight oil. So the editors and staff are really looking forward to the anniversary celebrations, to take place in San Francisco in April and in NYC in the autumn. Many good and dedicated people helped create and build Narrative, and the celebrations promise to bring together the magazine’s friends, old and new, to raise a glass to writers and great writing.

When Carol Edgarian and Tom Jenks started the magazine in 2003, there were no online or digital platforms for first-rank literary work—The New Yorker, the Atlantic, Harper’s, the Paris Review, none of them, nor any other quality publisher of literature, had an online presence. And, according to studies done by the NEA, readers were falling away from literature by the millions, and certainly the rise of technological media was a big part of the shift away from reading. A general sense of depression and indirection was overtaking the literary community, and Edgarian and Jenks wanted to show what quality literature could look like online. They started with six authors and about a thousand readers. (The contents of the first issue are available here.) And the founders recall that when they started the magazine, no one—friends and authors—seemed to understand what an online magazine would be, though observers were all cheerful enough about it, as if to humor Edgarian and Jenks by saying, Sure, why not?

Today, of course, everyone grasps the challenge and opportunity that technology presents for literature, but until Amazon launched Kindle in 2007, the handwriting on the wall wasn’t read by many publishers and litterateurs, who should have been reading it much sooner. Change, especially the kind of radical change that has taken place in publishing, is always met with resistance, and existing book and magazine content was less immediately available to be digitized than were film and music files. Old-line publishers, clinging to print rights, sunk costs, and traditional bona fides (a digital publication was not considered a “real” publication), harbored reluctance and denial, though the shift from bricks-and-mortar to digital was inevitable once the technological revolution started and the Internet caught the collective imagination. In the early stages of this shift, Douglas Coupland observed that the Internet had begun to look like a cross between a shopping mall and a bordello, and today online commercialism remains a big challenge to literary values. Amazon’s “the readers decide” is a great consumer-oriented retail credo, but as a literary value it’s akin to a popularity contest. Narrative began and continues as an example of excellence, combining old-school values with new media technology. Narrative was one of the first two periodicals to release an iPhone/iPad Application (it’s free) and was one of the first periodicals available on Kindle. The magazine has 150,000 readers and publishes several hundred writers and artists each year. Narrative has been much watched and imitated by other periodicals with vastly greater resources, and now in an environment in which technology and business investment seek scalability and ROI above all, Narrative continues to look for ways to co-opt the means of production for the sake of literature. “We can’t take its existence for granted,” Jenks notes, “or think that the free market values it as we do.”

He also notes that the constant readership for good writing forms a small subculture within mass-culture. Sometimes a book or author crosses over from the small world to the large, most often in the case of a film adaptation. Cormac McCarthy’s first five books sold about three thousand copies each. Then came the film version of All the Pretty Horses. There are other examples, but the point is that all who care deeply about literature and its generative effect on society recognize that anything and everything that can be done to encourage good writing and reading needs to be done. Narrative has sought to reach as many readers as possible, to put forth the best work by the best writers, to engender an intelligent and respectful level of discourse, and to further the best of traditional literary values into the new age.

With Narrative the editors offer as transparent a medium as possible to connect readers and writers. The magazine aims to advance no editorial stamp or personality such that anyone might say that a particular work is a “Narrative Magazine” sort of piece; rather, the editors’ interest is in good writing and narratives that are entertaining, unpredictable, and charged with the shock of recognition that occurs when the human significance of the work is made manifest. The editors look for pieces in which the effects of language, situation, and insight are intense and total. Many of the authors featured in Narrative are well-known, but the magazine is also dedicated to presenting new and emerging writers and features many first-time authors.

Asked about the magazine’s name, Edgarian reported, “In 2003, a friend of ours, the essayist Susan L. Feldman, knowing we were preparing to launch a new magazine called Narrative, sent us a one-line quote from a Paul Baumann review of a Thomas Keneally novel. Baumann, the editor of Commonweal, wrote, ‘Only myth, only narrative . . . can capture the mystery of human goodness and evil.’ A few years later, at a Narrative Night event, Robert Stone noted, “Stories are as necessary to us as bread. There is no sense or order to experience outside of narrative. Whether in prose or poetry, writers continually revivify the myths that illuminate our lives as we move from the known into the unknown.”

Looking ahead to what the next 10 years may bring for Narrative, Jenks said, “Ha! Where’s my crystal ball? As a kid growing up in the 1950s and ’60s and hearing about the Soviet Union, the five-year plan always struck me as a good model, provided you didn’t have to adhere to it rigidly. That is, you can chart the future, knowing that as you reach each milestone the landscape looks somewhat different than imagined, and the chart must be adjusted again and again as you go forward. But Narrative’s primary goals remain the same as when we started: Expand the readership for good writing; support writers by paying them as well as possible and by providing keen editorial encouragement; train young publishing professionals in the best traditional values and new practices; help shape the future of literature within the new media.”

The longtime editor also had some advice for writers looking to publish. “About 70 percent of unsolicited manuscripts begin with someone waking up, or with someone taking a drink, or with a phone call. Sometimes all three of these motifs are combined, as in, ‘I woke with a dreadful hangover to the incessant ringing of the phone.’ The clichéd waking beginning tends to be an unconscious metaphor for the dawning consciousness of the writer. I’m not saying not to use a waking beginning, but it’s well to be aware of the odds against it and, if using it, then to do something original and essential with it. The opening of Anna Karenina offers an inspiring example.”

For writers thinking about submitting work to Narrative, Jenks said, “You should submit to Narrative only if you have taken the time to read the magazine and to know its cast. If the magazine appeals to you, and if you have assayed your work in relation to the work you see in the magazine, then a submission may be in order. An unfortunate perennial circumstance is that many more people tend to send their work to any magazine than actually trouble to read the magazine with any accurate attention. We give Narrative away for free to encourage reading first.”

Wild in the Plaza of Memory: Pam Uschuk

Wild in the Plaza of Memory by Pamela Uschuk

We are very excited to announce the publication of Pamela Uschuk’s fifth poetry collection, WILD IN THE PLAZA OF MEMORY, by Wings Press, San Antonio, Texas.

The book is available from Amazon as well as online from the publisher at www.wingspress.com

It is a paperback, but it is also available as an eBook, iBook and on Kindle.

You can read Pam’s poems in Issue 7 of Superstition Review.

Narrative Goes Digital

Each week we feature a blog post by one of our many talented interns here at Superstition Review. This week’s contribution comes from Nonfiction Editor Jennie Ricks.

The literary magazine Narrative has started to dig deep into the changing digital world by offering a variety of options to its readers. Its ultimate vision is to connect writers and readers around the globe, which has prompted the publication to distribute their issue online for free.

Narrative was the first literary magazine on Amazon’s Kindle; it also offers an App, which is a free download for the iPhone, iPad, and the iPod. Their readers are able to access new stories each week the second they are published, as well as watch and listen to authors speak at events, and browse and select stories from award-winning authors like Sherman Alexie, T.C. Boyle, and Joyce Carol Oates.

Not only does Narrative publish fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, it also provides unique opportunities for writing and reading. One category is the “six-word story:” authors tell their story in only six words. Cartoons, graphic stories, and audio readings are also available to readers.

Narrative offers a wide selection of writing contests for writers to hone their craft. The most recent contest targeted writers between the ages of 18 and 30. Their next contest is open to both fiction and nonfiction pieces and called the Winter 2012 Story Contest (deadline is March 31). Not only are the winner’s published, but they also walk away with cash prizes.

Narrative is an intriguing literary magazine that offers many varieties of writing and reading for individuals with different preferences. It opens up options to people who want something fun and different, and have adapted to incorporate new options for a changing digital age.

Are eBooks Pushing Print to Extinction?

There is something about the aroma of a worn book that induces a sense of nostalgia. Print aficionados have fought to maintain the sanctity of printed press, but as the popularity of eReaders and tablets continues to rise, how long can book-advocates withstand the pressures of a technology-driven society?

With Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s Kindle, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook leading the revolution, more and more readers are turning to the instant gratification of eBooks and digital readers over more traditional mediums. They can now hold entire libraries in their hands, buy a book with the tap of a finger, and read until their screens go dark. So what’s not to love?

Some argue the experience is not the same. A book’s battery never goes dead. Browsing an App Store can’t compete with wandering the shelves of a bookstore and running your fingers along the spines. Holding a book in your hands, with its binding and tangible pages, doesn’t feel the same as holding plastic, aluminum, or glass. Books are permanent entities whereas digital media feels ephemeral; an ebook you own could be there one day and gone the next, but a printed media will withstand decades. Actor and journalist Stephen Fry said recently, “Books are no more threatened by the Kindle than stairs by elevators.” Other authors would agree that while eBooks are convenient, they will never replace print.

However, some statistics show that the move towards eReaders is happening more aggressively. In a recent article, The Wall Street Journal estimated that one in six Americans now uses an eReader, a number that has nearly doubled since 2010. That statistic is estimated to more than triple in these next few years, which leads to the question, what will become of print?

The bright side to this new trend is that eReaders aren’t entirely replacing books in American households; many readers own both an eReader and a hearty bookshelf filled with volumes of print. According to the Wall Street Journal, amongst eReader users only 6% admit to not purchasing a single book in the past year, which is a much better percentage than the 32% of Americans who haven’t purchased a book at all in the past year. Perhaps the accessibility of books on an eReader increases not only book sales, but also reading and literacy rates.

Both book lovers and eReader advocates have strong feelings on the topic. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for both print books and their digital counterparts.

Storyville Winter 2012 Story Contest: Deadline February 15th

The Sidney Prize. Here is what you need to know.

Prize: $1,000 cash and publication in Storyville.

Final judge: Legendary editor and literary tastemaker Richard Nash.

Entry Deadline: February 15, 2012

Eligibility: Current subscribers of Storyville may submit one original, unpublished story of up to 5,000 words.

Entry fee: None, if you are a current Storyville subscriber. (Okay, so that means if you’re not a current subscriber you have to pay $4.99 for a subscription. Go to the Apple App store and subscribe, or subscribe on Kindle.) Click here for Apple iTunes. Click here to buy Storyville on Kindle.

How to Submit: Send an email with your story as a Word doc attachment to storyvilleapp1@gmail.com. In the subject line write “Sidney” and your last name.  In the body of the email include your name, phone number, email address, and (* importantly) your Apple or Kindle receipt for the subscription. If you lost it send the email address you used to subscribe to Storyville. Briefly list relevant publication credits.

Winner Announced: March 15. Publication in Storyville in April 2012.

The Sidney is named for Sidney Story, the architect of New Orleans’ famed red light district that gives Storyville its name and will be awarded to the author of the best new American story.

Storyville publishes stories from newly-published collections, giving the general reader an overview of contemporary literature as well as hand-picked gems that might not otherwise be found. This year, translated works have appeared alongside selections of big commercial houses and small presses, including Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Egan’s first published work, “The Stylist,” which appeared in The New Yorker in 1989. Other writers who have graced subscribers’ screens this year include Anthony Doerr, Yiyun Li, Robert Boswell, Steven Millhauser, Emma Straub, Josip Novakovich, Lynne Tillman, Edna O’Brien, Xiaoda Xiao, Rahul Mehta, Tiphanie Yanique, Mavis Gallant, Alan Heathcock, Edwidge Danticat, Seth Fried, and more.

 

Meet the Interns: Nicole Dunlap, Development Coordinator

Nicole Dunlap will be graduating from ASU in May with a degree in English Literature.

Superstition Review: What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

Nicole Dunlap: I’m working on the development of SR–putting together documents for Kindle–I will be composing all of the past issues into organized word documents.

SR: How did you hear about Superstition Review and what made you decide to get involved?

ND: My adviser recommended I apply for the internship Fall 09.

SR: What are you hoping to take away from your Superstition Review experience?

ND: More experience with working with a team, learning how the line of production works for publishing a magazine.

SR: Describe one of your favorite literary or artistic works.

ND: I don’t like choosing favorites…but a couple contemporary pieced I like include Mark Danielewski’s book House of Leaves–it’s a combination of literature and visual arts. Also the only book I’ve ever reread (by choice) is Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

SR: What are you currently reading?

ND: One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey.

SR: What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

ND: I’d like to be the non-fiction editor. I would love to be forced to read all submissions–good and bad.

SR: Do you prefer reading literary magazines online or in print?

ND: I like reading things in print, just because I like the physical act of turning pages, dog-earing pages, etc.

SR: Do you write or create art? What are you currently working on?

ND: I’m working on a dual collaboration with my friend Kara Roschi–I’m printing photographs directly onto wood slabs. I think it’s being displayed in the Practical Art gallery in April.

SR: Besides interning for Superstition Review, how do you spend your time?

ND: I work a lot. In my free time I like taking photographs, writing, and going out with friends.

SR: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

ND: I hope to be in graduate school in 10 years. Hopefully in the meantime I’ll spend some time in Germany.

Meet the Interns: Scott Sivinski, Development Coordinator

Scott Sivinski is a Senior at Arizona State University majoring in Literature, Writing and Film.

Superstition Review: What do you do for SR?

Scott Sivinski: I am formatting the work we have to be sent out to Amazon to use on Kindle.

SR: How did you hear about or get involved with Superstition Review?

SS: I heard about the Review in an email, probably from the English department.

SR: Who is your dream contributor to the journal? Talk about him/her.

SS: David Sedaris who is one of my favorite authors and memoirists would be a great contributor. He has stories for everything.

SR: What job, other than your own, would you like to try out in the journal?

SS: I would like to be involved with the nonfiction group, probably as editor.

SR: What are you most excited for in the upcoming issue?

SS: I just can’t wait to read all of the submissions and just see the issue in its entirety since it is something I helped produce.

SR: What was the first book you remember falling in love with and what made it so special?

SS: Weekend by Christopher Pike was the first book I remember loving. It was a mystery and involved people just a little older than me and it really kick-started my reading habit. I still mostly read mysteries or thrillers along with the occasional memoir.

SR: What are you currently reading?

SS: I am currently reading the new memoir by Kathy Griffin who I find to be hilarious.

SR: What are some of your favorite websites to waste time on or distract you from homework?

SS: I like Entertainment Weekly’s website because it covers all aspects of entertainment including music, film and book reviews. I also like a site called dlisted because it makes fun of our cultures obsession with celebrities and his blogs are always hilarious.

SR: Do you write? Tell us about a project you’re working on.

SS: I do write on my own and keep a journal, but right now all I am writing is papers for other classes. I have six classes and five of them are English courses so I’m doing a lot of drafts and stuff right now and working on my applied project for graduation.