Friday, May 15, 2009

MFA Lit Mags on the Chopping Block

Anyone about thinking about applying for an MFA in the next season (or, for that matter, those about to start a program) would do well to check out a couple of posts over at the Virginia Quarterly Blog about how the current publishing and financial shake-up is affecting university presses and university sponsored literary magazines. VQR editor-in-chief Ted Genoways reports that times are hard. LSU's Southern Review is under threat of closure, as is Middlebury College's New England Review, and other venerable titles — The Kenyon Review, Shenandoah, Oxford American — might have folded if not for emergency fundraising.

Genoways argues that these literary outlets are essential for academic depth and breadth, as training grounds for future writers and editors, as homes for innovative writing, and, not least, as valuable PR for the institutions that create them. "If not for Kenyon Review, Shenandoah, and The Oxford American," he writes, "I would never think of Kenyon College or Washington & Lee University or the University of Central Arkansas. The excellence of these publications gives their universities a national profile."

University sponsored lit mags are also MFA recruitment tools. LSU's MFA website states: "LSU has an extraordinary English Department, and LSU Press has made important contributions to American poetry and fiction. The MFA program offers opportunities to gain editorial experience by working for our many magazines and publications. The New Delta Review, The Southern Review, and The Corpse . (If you are interested in editorial experience and would like to be considered for an assistantship at a particular review you are advised to make your interest clear in your application letter.)"

And if The Southern Review folds, LSU? Then what?

You can read the original VQR blog posts here and here. This MFA blog entry is cross-posted from Boolah.

30 comments:

Vince said...

Oh man..this makes me sad. I will only add that in the broader picture: people's tastes are changing. I know people in the journalism field. Venerable newspapers (The Rocky Mountain News and The Seattle Post Intelligencer) are folding and the ones in still afloat are slashing budgets and staff. And I do read the Shenandoah...hmmmmph.

Emma Jewel said...

I want to stay put in my MFA program, but due to family and work obligations, school has to take a back seat - unfortunately, Minnesota is going through a huge budget crunch, so the MFA program is taking alot of hits - only 2 workshops will be offered in the fall, and neither of them is my focus - only a couple other courses fit under my program, but they're both on the same night... scary, will we be able to pull out of it?

Nancy Rawlinson said...

Emma - what is your discipline? Fiction? Nonfiction? The situation sounds scary and I seriously think that if a program can't provide courses in your declared concentration, they are failing you and you should be allowed to withdraw, transfer, or take a year off, without consequence.

MV said...

This really is sad --

If advertisers aren't spending marketing dollars on the journals, and if the journals are losing readership and subscribers, then I guess they'll burn through existing cash quickly.

They might stop printing for a time, and then pick up again 1-2 years down the road.

Mike Valente

Vince said...

i think these publications are an invaluable resource. they might have to take on a more austere livelihood with the broader picture in an economic slump. One idea (heavy sigh)...migrate to only a digital issue while times are tough. give students the experience while not wasting money to go to a print press. we'll put you in our web browser favorites.

Samara said...

No matter what anybody says (and I'm not referring to anyone here, just other commenters in response to other links to articles like this), WEB LIT MAGS ARE NO REPLACEMENT FOR A PAPER ONE I CAN HOLD IN MY HANDS! I love curling up with my Boulevard at night, or taking it on the plane. I hate reading stuff online. If people read stuff online they just pick and choose what grabs their attention off the bat. There are many writers whose work I wouldn't have known to seek out but who I am now aware of because I came across their story in a lit mag and didn't have to worry about getting a headache or my eyes stinging or not being able to flop down on my couch and read it. I hate the internet sometimes. It's the justification for the destruction of all I care about. Signed, the luddite.

Samara said...

And I would add that any of us who call ourselves writers have no excuse for not subscribing to at least one literary magazine. For instance, the above-mentioned Boulevard is $30 for THREE YEARS! That's cheaper than most, but seriously. It's not realistic for our only interaction with literary journals to be scanning their submissions guidelines. My current workshop teacher requires us to subscribe to one. I think we should all require ourselves to do so. Make a pact or something.

Rant over!

Vince said...

let students experience the joy and wonder of MFA lit mags through a manditory reading and report assignment in freshman composition...it can make the class more rigorous..writing in the real world brought into the classroom.

Vince said...

These lit mags have served a purpose in their years (some decades) of existence. Did we forget what that purpose was as we've moved into the digital age? I think that they should be brought back into the writing departments and even reintroduced inside the classroom..the earlier rather than later. Students might actually love them.

Vince said...

Make it a manditory assignment...i'm serious. in an intro survey of art class, we all had to visit a local museum and select a painting to write about. i learned that i don't really mind visiting (historical and artistic)museums.

Lincoln said...

This is definitely a major bummer. There is probably a glut of lit mags out there, especially ones tied to universities that go through rotating staff with little care paid towards the issues.

But its one thing to envision losing those magazines no one reads or really edits, it is another to imagine losing Shenandoah or the Oxford American. American literature would be much poorer if that happened.

Lincoln said...

Also forcing students to subscribe to at least one journal if they take a creative writing class is something I am down with.

Vince said...

Please don't deprive undergraduate students of these treasures. They'll never know w/o having the chance to peruse them.

Eric said...

While the slow death of the lit mag makes me as sad as anyone here, I do think the survival of the industry is dependent on it changing itself with technology. I mean, you can really see how the digital age has impacted media in general, with newspapers, magazines, and books declining in sales and the death of some of our most revered institutions, while on the flip side you have other industries flourishing (music, video games, movies, niche TV and cable shows) thanks to the on-demand mindset of the internet.

Is it pretty? No, I'd love to have those beautiful physical copies of the Kenyon Review in hand everywhere and have it as widely read as Harry Potter, but that's just not the way media is consumed these days. As the newspapers have shown us, the industry needs to either change or die.

Lincoln said...

I don't disagree with you that industries need to change or die, but do you really think music and movies are thriving in the digital age? I thought those were two of the hardest hit industries with the most rampant piracy?

Eric said...

That's a good point, Lincoln, you're right about the music and movie industries. But in general, when faced with the alternative of existing in a dying format (who buys CDs nowadays?), I do think that both the music and movie industry were better served to transition to the digital format in the long run.

Plus, piracy tends to be a knowledge intensive form of theft -- you don't often see mom and dad, who both have to work and take care of the family, sitting down in their free time to pirate their favorite movie; I doubt they even know how. There are exceptions to this of course, but the advent of on-demand, convenient, and easily accessed media (iTunes, NetFlix) makes buying much, much easier. Anyway. That's a bit of a tangent, and I do agree that piracy is a problem... it's just a better alternative than irrelevance ;)

Vince said...

i do think that things will change. this blog is first rate evidence. Rolling Sone (no longer a larger size than others) and Vanity Fair (did a "new redesign")are shadows of their former selves. there is something; however, to be cherished in hard copy issues of any publication. Introduce these lit mags in the classroom: some people will react with disgust while others (we are hoping to reach) will feel like they have a new puppy...the ones who will become writers.

Vince said...

Please make undergraduate writing courses more fun and interesting with a new manditory assignment.

Vince said...

i meant Rolling Stone not Rolling Sone in the earlier comment...apologies.

Vince said...

btw--piracy is real world plagiarism.

Smoke-oi said...

I get so mad at lit mags that receive non-profit funding and don't let you read them online for free. Cabinet... Harpers... N+1... cheapskates!

Nancy Rawlinson said...

Some links to respond to some of these comments:

Will piracy affect books sales? This post looks at the idea in detail.

Will literary mags go under in the new economy, or as a result of new technology? Not if the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses has anything to do with it. Their annual NYC based Lit Magazine Marathon Weekend is next weekend. Follow this link for more info.

Lincoln said...

My magazine, Gigantic, will be participating in some of the CLMP lit mag marathon, definitly the Housing Works event, if you any blog readers want to say hello.

Vince said...

Provide students with a comprehensive list of these lit mags and make it a part of the class. Kinder teachers will make it extra credit or bonus work. Some are obviously more enriching than others. Make it a part of the course reading list. High school English AP courses can also benefit.

Vince said...

i don't think we're going to see paper publications totally die anytime soon. there are too many prestigious libraries filled with real books, and book collections..even rare book collections that are priceless. lets not throw away old literary journals that were robust until the end of the nineties. it's called an e-journal and libraries do have subscriptions to them.

Emma Jewel said...

Nancy (from days ago), My disciplines are poetry and playwriting, and the small program of MN State in Moorhead, MN is really falling. The entire MN University system is looking at pay cuts and layoffs, as well as already canceling courses for fall (summer session hasn't even started yet). So much is happening in the state of Minnesota - I'm glad I live and work just over the border in North Dakota. Unfortunately where I work doesn't have an MFA program - so I'm finishing up my 2nd bachelors instead... maybe in a few years the MFA program will either be back up or I'll be able to relocate... for now, it's courses that make me happy... unfortunately, they don't include higher-level writing courses.

Mike said...

Hi Everyone,

I subscribe to Poetry. What other lit mags would you recommend a young poet/writer read regularly?

Thanks

MV said...

Hi Mike,

I'd recommend checking out Duotrope's listings of journals, specifically the online poetry publications that you can easily browse in one sitting.

The website might also point you toward print journals that catch your eye.

Mike

Vince said...

engineering majors learn how to use a graphing calculator amd even a slide rule, which they must buy themselves.

Mike said...

Hi MV,

Thanks for the suggestion! I've checked Duotrope out and it's an excellent resource.

Best to you!
Mike