A Lit Mag Lives On!

A few months ago, I shared news on this blog that [PANK] was shutting down, after its editors, M. Bartley Seigel and Roxane Gay, announced the news about the cutting-edge mag via social media. The announcement sent ripples through the literary world. New York Times Magazine called PANK “a raft of experimental fiction and poetry.” Travis Kurowski, editor of Story Magazine and columnist for Poets & Writers, said, “Like McSweeney’s was nearly 20 years ago (and The Paris Review 40 years before that), PANK has been one of those lit mags that seemed to represent the zeitgeist of a generation—a literary turn towards diversity, queerness, raw authenticity.”

These quotes come from the introduction to an interview Electric Lit just published with outgoing editor M. Bartley Seigel, and the interview contains some huge news about the fate of the magazine. It’s going to live on! It has been purchased by John Gosslee of Fjords Review.

The interview features a lot of other interesting tidbits. For instance, Seigel states that he and Roxane Gay decided to step away from the magazine because they are in their mid-40s now and have too many projects happening.

Here is what he said about his time editing [PANK] and the state of American literature:

Overall, I ended my tenure at PANK in a very, positive place. American literature is robust, vibrant, and very much kicking and screaming. Reading and editing and publishing PANK only drove home for me that the foundational world of American letters, underpinning the big publishing houses, the major awards, the world of literary magazine and small and independent presses, is wide and deep and teeming with the most amazing publishers, editors, writers, writing, and readers. If I have a critique of American letters, it’s that the average American doesn’t read broadly enough, not enough work in translation, that we’re too isolated, too narrow in our reading habits, still too locked into boxes like the one built out of white male heteronormativity.

I encourage anyone to read the full interview. It provides a lot of insight into the contemporary literary landscape and the future of one of America’s most important lit mags.

Another Lit Magazine Closes Its doors

Last night, the editors/founds of [PANK] shared some sad news. The magazine will close at the end of the year. Here is the official statement shared on social media:

Dear friends and family,

Please accept this brief note as PANK’s formal notification of resignation, effective as of the end of this calendar year, 2015. We’ll publish one last print issue and two final online issues of PANK Magazine; look for those in the months ahead. We are immeasurably proud of our publications and have boundless gratitude for all the staff, contributors, and each and every reader who has labored alongside us over the last decade. It’s been an immensely gratifying ride. PANK loves you.

Yours sincerely
M. Bartley Seigel, Roxane Gay, & Co.

Over the last several years, [PANK] has been one of the edgier and influential literary journals in the country, whose following grew from year to year. It should also be noted that when the magazine started, Roxane Gay did her best to feature several female voices, which is important to note, since the literary world is still very much dominated by men, even in 2015.

I’ve had the pleasure of writing book reviews for [PANK] over the last five years or so, and I’ll always be grateful for that opportunity, and for the reviews that they did of my first two poetry collections. RIP, [PANK]. Oh, and before any assumptions are made regarding funding cuts or someone dying, here is what Seigel said in response to the comments on Facebook:

This outpouring of support is humbling. Thank you. But three points: 1. No one died, no one yanked our funding, there’s no scandal, we just decided we were ready to move on to other things. 2. Who knows, maybe PANK will be back one day, new, better. 3. Translate some of this energy into going out and supporting the wonderful litmags that are still at it and will still be at it when PANK closes its doors. -M. Bartley Seigel

Let’s hope that the magazine does return even new and improved. In the meantime, go read it!

The Writer’s Showcase Reading Series Returns!

A few years ago, I started a reading series in Scranton, Pennsylvania with my friend and fellow writer, Jason Lucarelli. We wanted to showcase the work of local, regional, and national writers. Our series ran for about two and a half years at a few different venues. In that time, we had over 100 readers, including some from as far away as Boston and Chicago. Due to venue closures in the last year and the fact my co-host moved out of the area, the reading series went on hiatus. However, I’m happy to announce that it’s back! We’re making our return this Saturday, June 27 at 7 p.m., at a new location, the Old Brick Theatre in Scranton. There is also a new co-host, the wonderfully talented poet, Dawn Leas!

For our return, we have five featured readers. Check out their bios below:

Mischelle Anthony is Associate Professor of English at Wilkes University, specializing in poetry and eighteenth-century literature.  Her scholarly edition of an 1807 memoir, Lucinda; Or, The Mountain Mourner is available from Syracuse University Press.    She is founder and coordinator of Luzerne County’s Poetry in Transit program that places local writing and visual art on public buses. Foothills Press published Mischelle’s own poetry collection, [Line].  She has also published work in Calyx, Nimrod, Found Poetry Review, and Slush Pile, and is currently at work on a second collection, about living in and away from Oklahoma, titled Barbed Wire. 

Barbara J. Taylor was born and raised in Scranton and teaches English in the Pocono Mountain School District. She has an MFA in creative writing from Wilkes University. She still resides in the “Electric City,” two blocks away from where she grew up. Her first novel, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night, was named a “Top Summer Read for 2014” by Publishers Weekly. She is currently working on the sequel, All Waiting is Long, due to be released in June/July, 2016.

Bill Landauer  is the author of the novel We Are All Crew (Kaylie Jones Books). He has been a journalist for the past two decades, most recently with The Morning Call in Allentown. He lives in Bethlehem, PA.

Macaulay Glynn earned a Bachelor’s of Communications Arts and Humanities from Keystone College, where she served as editor-in-chief of the literary magazine, The Plume, and is a three-time recipient of the Edward M. Cameron IV American Academy of Poets prize. She is an associate editor for New York Quarterly, and hopes to attend graduate school.

Christian W. Thiede earned a M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College in 2009 and is the primary host of Poetry Thursdays, the Almost Uptown Poetry Cartel’s weekly open mic in Harrisburg. He has performed in venues all across the country, including Boston, New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Harrisburg, Montpelier, Minneapolis, Madison, Boulder, Hilo, and Anchorage. His work can be found in the Pitkin Review, Aquila Review, Cerebral Catalyst, Zygote in My Coffee, Bent Pin Quarterly, Fledgling Rag, and numerous other publications and anthologies. He has authored books in both poetry—Gazing Behind My Eyes, Random Poems Now With Homes, Confluenza, and Little Buffalo Rumblings—and fiction—Death and Deception Shake Hands and Holden Resurrected.

We will have one more showcase this summer, at the end of August. Details about that will be posted here when the reading is closer.

school.graduateschool for English and Creative Writing. Her first chapbook of poetry, Good Girl, can be found in the trunk of her car.

An Opportunity for Short Fiction Writers

I received a press release/call for submissions from Pixel Hall Press worth sharing. Later this year, the press plans to start a series entitled PHP Shorts, a “series of stand-alone short stories and novellas that will be published as eBooks. Some PHP Shorts may also be collected into print anthologies.” The press already publishes print and e-books, but wants to launch this new series because of the proliferation of Kindles, eReaders,  iPads, and tablets.

Here is more specific information on the submission process:

Before submitting a story to Pixel Hall Press, send a query email to Info@PixelHallPress.com. Wow the editors with a summary or synopsis, then tell them a bit about yourself. They will respond to all queries, but please be patient, since it may take a few weeks. Also, please understand that, as a small boutique publishing house, they cannot say “yes!” to every query, regardless of how good it is.

I know the editorial team behind this press, and they work hard to promote books they publish, so if you write short fiction, this is well worth checking out.

Salon Says There Is No Short Story Boom

In reaction to a New York Times article stating there is a short story boom, thanks to digital technology and shortened attention spans, Salon published an article saying there is no boom. Laura Miller, the article’s author, notes that the only book mentioned in the Times article selling well is George Saunders’ The Tenth of December, and Miller attributes that to other factors, writing, “Saunders has built a devoted following over the past 17 years, hadn’t published a book in a good while and — most important of all — was heralded in the headline of a long, radiant profile in the New York Times Magazine as producing ‘the best book you’ll read this year.’ All of that could have happened 10, 20 or 30 years ago and produced the same result.”

Yet, the Times articles does not necessarily make the case that short story collections are selling well. (Really, how many books are selling well now-a-days?) The Times instead makes an argument that the Internet has made it easier to publish short story collections and has even given rise to some indie presses focused solely on short stories. Miller does, however, acknowledge that the advent of smartphones changed reading habits, but she wrongly states that the Times claimed smaller screens  have led to a resurgence in the short story. I’m not so sure that is what the Times  articulated but rather that reading habits are changing and the Internet has shortened attention spans. As a creative writing and literature teacher, I see this all the time. Trying to get students to read a novel, or even a long poem, is a challenge. Now I don’t have particular evidence that the Internet has fundamentally altered the brain and changed attention spans, but it does seem likely. The youngest generations have grown up with the Internet, with instant information, and with a culture of soundbites. They want entertainment easy to digest in a sitting or two.

Regardless,  the Times and Salon articles provide interesting debate about the place of the short story in contemporary society and whether or not it is undergoing a resurgence because of the Internet.

Resurgance of the Short Story

Short story writers rejoice! No longer do you have to feel like your medium is the oddball cousin of the novel. According to this recent article by the New York Times, short stories are undergoing a resurgence, due to the Internet and our short attention spans. For a while, the short story market was tough. A lot of publishers didn’t want to release short story collections and instead focused on novels and memoirs. Even some journals shied away, due to a shortage of funds that made their page counts smaller and smaller, thus making micro fiction or poetry the preferred genre.

But all of that is changing, thanks to the Internet. Several well-known fiction authors have released short story collections recently, and the trend will continue. According to the article:

“Already, 2013 has yielded an unusually rich crop of short-story collections, including George Saunders’s Tenth of December, which arrived in January with a media splash normally reserved for Hollywood movies and moved quickly onto the best-seller lists. Tellingly, many of the current and forthcoming collections are not from authors like Mr. Saunders, who have always preferred short stories, but from best-selling novelists like Tom Perrotta, who are returning to the form.

Recent and imminent releases include Vampires in the Lemon Grove, by Karen Russell, whose 2011 novel, Swamplandia, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Damage Control, a first collection by Amber Dermont, whose novel The Starboard Sea was a best seller in 2012; and another first story collection, We Live in Water” by Jess Walter, just off his best-selling novel Beautiful Ruins (2012).”

While literary journals that have traditionally published short stories may be dwindling, the Internet has offered new publishing opportunities. For instance, Amazon created its Kindle Singles program a few years ago for publishing short fiction and nonfiction. The cost for the reader is cheap and authors get 70 percent of the royalities.  Meanwhile, some smaller Internet publishers, such as Byliner, are pushing short stories.

What the Times article proves is that the Internet is creating yet another change in the publishing world and making it more possible for short story writers to find a market. The article also notes that our attention spans are rapidly decreasing and we want work we can read in one sitting. Short stories, however, have long been around, and some of the most well-known fiction authors of the last century, including Hemingway, Carver, Cheever, and Nabokov, have written memorable short story collections. Now there is an emerging market for such a form.