Duotrope is a great site that lists various fiction and poetry markets for writers (and, when I think about it, it’s actually fairly workable for readers, too,). It also has this interview template that editors of these markets can take advantage of. One that I recently read is for the antinews publication Toylit. Toylit is a pretty unique enterprise, to say the least, and while Khakjaan Wessington had more than a few interesting things to say (check out the interview at Duotrope here), this struck a chord:
“. . . the literary community in America is so insular, they fear alienating potential allies . . .”
It reminded me of what may be a recent example of that insularity—the call of submissions for the newest theme issue of Tin House Magazine:
“For the Fall, 2012 issue, we will be dedicating the entire issue to Portland and Brooklyn writers, artists, and musicians. We’re looking for work that goes beyond the clichéd images of single-speeds and sideburns. We’re looking for poetry, fiction, essays, art, and interviews that showcase the unique character of each place, and how these hothouses produce such unique characters and art. First and foremost, please surprise us.” – From their Submission Guidelines (circa 2/27/12)
If you’re reading this on this particular blog, there’s a decent chance that you might not know just how well represented Brooklyn and Portland are in the landscape of contemporary American literature (very well). When it comes to Brooklyn, whose latest prominence in the nation’s consciousness is mostly due to its gentrifying population, I’ve been surprised by the presence of someone there like Linda, whose blog is in my links section and whom has a sensitivity for the tensions between the sort of mobile and the not-so-much—as well as the some of the contradictions of what those positions are supposed too entail. But the unfortunate thing about both Brooklyn and Portland is that their most self-celebratory residents have defined them. An element that has made these places such “hothouses” for artists are the concentrations of people who have a silent agreement to not hold up a mirror to each other. Though, to be fair, I’m not sure that that isn’t an element in any community. It just doesn’t stick as well anywhere where there aren’t as much resources. (Difficult people on the other side of the tracks have been mocked in comedy sketches way sooner and far more than the ones in “Portlandia,” for instance.)
If the Tin House editors want to rectify some of that, that would be a surprise.
I don’t mean for this to be some personal slight to the magazine’s editors. Among their FAQ’s section is a question about why their rejection letters are so impersonal. The answer:
“It’s mostly a matter of volume; with over 1,000 submissions received each month during our reading period, we must unfortunately be very ruthless in our selection process. It keeps some of us up at night.”
That last line speaks to something that I wouldn’t want to slight.
Maybe it seems easy enough to say the bulk of this, seeming as from the outside of Tin House as I might. But I think you really have to be ingrained in that insular literary world to just chalk this up to nonsense from someone on the outside. Because it’s pretty reasonable to look out at the literary landscape and see plenty that’s put Brooklyn and Portland in a special light already.