In case you didn’t notice: Glimmer Train Magazine has left the station for good

When I was in college, a fair number of commercial U.S. magazines published short stories. Many of those are gone now. Those that aren’t gone, stopped publishing fiction–though I have seen rumors that Atlantic will begin including fiction again.

There are plenty of so-called “little magazines” that publish fiction. Competition is fierce. Payment is often low or in contributor’s copies unless you win one of the yearly contests where the competition is fiercer and requires an entry fee.

For thirty years, Glimmer Train Magazine (a quarterly) helped fill the gap. The Fall 2019 issue was its last as editors Linda Swanson-Davies and her sister, Susan Burmeister-Brown are moving on to (as folks say) the next phase of their lives. While the magazine had high standards and a lot of submissions (once again, meaning the competition was fierce), it included many emerging writers and paid fairly for stories that were published.

As Linda and Susan say on their website they hoped to:

  • Publish literary short stories that were emotionally significant. We knew that at its best, a story could add depth and breadth to real life, and those were the stories we wanted to print.
  • Present stories in a handsome physical publication that people would keep, giving the stories the long lives and future readings they deserved.
  • Keep a keen eye out for new voices, favoring pieces by emerging writers.
  • Pay writers well for stories we accepted for publication. (Each year we have paid nearly $50,000 to writers, almost 3/4 of that to emerging writers.)
Glimmer Train Photo

While I’m sorry to see the magazine go, I think it accomplished what it set out to do. Fortunately, the magazine has not been told, so it won’t linger around under new management that may not keep up the high standards of the publication.

Thank you, Linda and Susan, for all of your hard work and for helping keep the issues coming out with contributions from personal finances.

A labor of love, I would say.




You have to write what you can write

One thing I hear from other authors is how easily they become discouraged when they look at the websites of other authors and/or the authors’ listings on directories such as the one maintained by Poet’s and Writer’s Magazine.

Even though many of these authors are publishing books, stories, or articles, they feel they’re coming up short when they look at the bios of other authors and see lists of grants, awards, fellowships, and literary magazines. It’s always worse, I think, to see that an author one has never heard of has been published in literary magazines that have rejected one’s work.

I’ve never been able to get a short story of mine published by Glimmer Train Magazine. They’ve been around for 30 years and are notoriously difficult to get into. They pay better than most, so they attract the best. When I heard that the magazine was discontinuing publication at the end of this year, I tried one more time. No dice. Had the story been accepted, I would have received a nice payment and some wonderful resume material.

But, there’s no sense dwelling on that. I have to accept that in addition to nonfiction, my strength is novels rather than short stories. So, I am grateful for that rather than the fact my shorter fiction work hasn’t found an audience. And, as for poetry, forget it!

Dwelling on what one usually cannot write is, for sake of a better analogy, rather like a successful tennis player wishing that s/he was also a successful Olympic swimmer. There are different skill sets involved. So, why not improve the one where your talents excel rather than feeling down and out about the venues where your talents don’t seem to fit? Nonetheless, I like submitting stories (and even poems) to a few contests a year because it’s good practice. Sure, one usually ends up editing and polishing material that might not win or even be called a finalist, but I think this work helps make our writing better.

If you’re interested in finding contests that might give you a chance to practice your craft, “Poets and Writers Magazine” has a well-maintained listing of opportunities on its website. Also, check out the listings on Funds for Writers: they have a free newsletter as well as a more extensive newsletter you can subscribe to.

As “they” often say with the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t pay. The same is true for grants and contests: if you don’t enter, you can’t win. (Even being listed as a finalist looks good on your website.) Unlike the lottery, contests require some work. That’s time well spent.