Started as a “pandemic passion project,” The Muleskinner Journal is an online publication of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that publishes “journal entries” (individual pieces) throughout their submission period as well as a quarterly journal.
While The Muleskinner Journal name comes from the nickname of Editor in Chief, Gary Campanella, the mission of the journal is in keeping with the muleskinner – or mule-driver – a profession that requires its animal companion to get the job done. “We look for writing of all kinds that uses skill, wit, and determination to deliver the goods,” which speaks to the clear partnership between writers, readers, and the publisher. “We accept and publish poetry, short fiction, flash fiction, short scripts, excerpts from longer works, memoir, criticism, craft essays, artwork, journalism, and shopping lists.” And for both new and established writers, the guidelines are clearly inviting: “We don’t care who you are, as long as you are the author of what you submit.”
“Poems that surprise, harrow, and awe. Poems that understand a reader’s expectations and then challenge or subvert them somehow. Poems that need to exist, that matter, that show us something important at stake. Poems that wake us up, that leave us different people than we were before we encountered them. Not all of the poems do all of these things, but they will all do at least one of these things. Expect poetry that feels fresh and immediate, never predictable.” This is what Founder and Editor Robert Campbell says readers can find when they visit the newly launched Red Tree Review online poetry journal.
His own education and publishing resume established, and having served behind the scenes of other literary journals, Campbell says, “What matters more to me is
The Prose Train is a unique online publication that is more than just a place to find great reading, it is also a place for young writers to engage in the writing process with other writers. The concept is in the name, according to Founder and Executive Director Irene Tsen, “’Prose’ refers to the short stories we create, and ‘Train’ refers to the collaborative aspect of how writers add sentences sequentially. Our slogan, ‘train your prose,’ is a rearrangement of our name, encapsulating how writers who join The Prose Train improve their skills with a different type of writing.”
“Having a safe space to share your art/writing and the power of publication to galvanize aspiring young artists and writers to share their voice” is a motivating factor behind Binsey Poplar Press according to Founder and Editor Sophia Smith. Featuring poetry, fiction, nonfiction, photography, and art by contributors ages 13-26, Binsey Poplar Press publishes an online literary magazine every two months as well as publishing pieces on their website. “Our website will be continuously updated with new art and writing pieces and issues,” said Jessica Gao, Web Designer and Co-Editor for Art. “We hope to make it even more visually appealing and be one of your favorite reading spots.” (more…)
Founder and Editor-in-Chief Anna Kiesewetter [pictured] shares the publication’s genesis, “The word ‘cathartic’ has always perfectly encapsulated what writing is to me. I realized that some of the most powerful writing I’ve read and created was used for catharsis – to deal with emotions, to make sense of life, to put trauma into words. I’m a firm believer in the power of vulnerability, and I’ve realized that writing has helped me with a lot of my own mental health struggles. Writing has made me more mindful of what goes on within my head and provides me with an outlet that I can’t really get anywhere else; I thus hoped it might provide similar benefits for other young people. Mental health is also a subject that has been almost taboo to discuss in the past, and even now it still carries quite a bit of stigma. Especially during this pandemic, which seems to be exacerbating existing conditions. Youth mental health is such a prevalent and important issue, yet one that isn’t often talked about. I felt like this magazine could serve a threefold purpose: to open up discussion about mental health, to encourage mindfulness and writing for catharsis, and to provide a platform for young writers as a sort of steppingstone to larger publications.” (more…)
The weight of this sad time we must obey, Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
― William Shakespeare, King Lear
Editor in Chief of The Weight Journal Matthew E. Henry shared, “At the beginning of my state’s COVID-19 Stay at Home order, it was widely circulated on social media that Shakespeare likely composed some of his greatest works in the midst of the Black Death. This was being shared as an encouragement for writers to continue producing work in the midst of the pandemic. The Weight took its name, in part, from the ending of Lear. But it is a general call for teens to take up writing as a tool to lay down the various things ‘weighing’ on their lives.”
The Weight Journal, publishing online poetry, slam poetry, flash fiction, fiction, creative nonfiction, and hybrid works by writers ages 9-12 grade, “endeavors to showcase the best in teen literature, including works that are not deemed school appropriate.” Matthew adds: “whatever that means.”
“We want work that is honest and says something profound about the human experience as can only be captured by this age group,” he explains. “We want to provide a common, public space, for those who have dared to undertake the challenge of objectifying their experience and imagination in writing.”
Matthew E. Henry knows this challenging experience, having been nominated twice for Pushcart and a Best of the Net for his poetry. He has been publishing poetry and fiction since 2003, and his first collection, Teaching While Black was published by Main Street Rag in February. Joining Matthew are six editors, current or former high school English/creative writing teachers, each with at least one MFA or MA. They are all writers themselves with a varied background of interests and publications.
Given this level of expertise and experience, writers who submit to The Weight Journal can expect their writing will undergo a rigorous process. “All submissions receive a first pass from the editor in chief,” Matthew explains, “to see if they are a potential fit for the general vibe of The Weight. After this, submissions are sent to the content editors, who pass their acceptance (sometimes with suggested changes), recommendation for resubmission, or rejection back to the editor. The editor then makes the final decision. Submitters are welcome (and encouraged!) to send in revised pieces or new ones in the future. Sometimes we’ve been able to provide one-on-one support through the revision process. We’re teachers and can’t help ourselves.”
The caliber of reading content available for the public is a standard Matthew defines clearly: “We aren’t publishing writers who are ‘good for their age.’ We’re publishing ‘good writing,’ period. So readers will find honesty and maturity from a diverse set of voices and experiences. Some works may be triggering for readers. Others will fill them with joy. All of them will make readers think, and rethink, and come back for more.”
Recent content published in The Weight includes “a conversation between what is alive, and what only pretends to be” hybrid by Anne Fu; “Broken Sanctuary” poetry by Sarah Street; “The Stages of Falling in Love with Her” poetry by Charlotte Edwards; “The Met” creative nonfiction by Alexandra Carpenter; and “Colors” creative nonfiction by Emma Kilbride.
Creating a new publication comes with joys and frustrations. Matthew focuses on what has worked well for The Weight: “Thus far, the greatest joy has been encouraging some amazing young writers. In some cases, we’ve been able to send the first acceptance letter to someone with a bright career ahead of them. We have already published pieces that I am jealous of and hope this will continue long into the future.”
In terms of the future for The Weight, “I want to see how this naturally evolves,” Henry muses. “The old man in me is thinking about a print publication or at least a ‘best of’ anthology in the future. But who knows? At this stage I am content to help usher these young authors into the literary scene.”
The Weight accepts submissions on a rolling basis, with a goal to publish new work every other Friday depending on the number of submissions. Matthew adds, “In light of our current realities, while submissions are still open for all students and on all topics, we are interested in works that are focused on matters of racial identity, especially from students of color. These works do not have to be centered on our current racial tensions, but they very well can be.”
While at times it absolutely feels like the weight of the world is upon us, how wonderful to have such a supportive and encouraging venue for young writers and readers of all ages to come together and share in the experience.