Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Three Great Literary Magazines

During my blogging hiatus, I took a writing class through The Loft in Minneapolis, MN. It was a really great experience, one I highly recommend to anyone living in and around the Twin Cities. During one class my teacher mentioned how non-fiction and short fiction were starting to gain momentum, and expanding their formats to include some literary freedoms previously reserved for poetry. As an example, she mentioned the short non-fiction journal called Brevity. Intrigued, I did some googling and spent a good deal of my off-blogging-time reading and/or subscribing to literary journals. This entry is dedicated to three of my favorites.

Brevity describes itself as “a journal of concise literary nonfiction”, publishing works of 750 words or fewer. The best parts about Brevity? First and foremost, you can read current and past issues online for free! Secondly, Brevity focuses on publishing new writers; I love that! And last but not least, the short format is awesome in and of itself; the narratives are boiled down to their essentials and each sentence has power and meaning. It’s a terrific format. In fact, the magazine has become so popular that they are suspending submissions between May 2011 and September 2011 to give their poor staff a break. My favorite essay so far, White Guy by Steven Barthelme, is a mere three sentences long, but I laugh every time I read it.

Glimmer Train was founded by two sisters, who read and hand select each piece for their magazine. Many of their short stories come from sponsored monthly competitions. And like Brevity, Glimmer Train also focuses on publishing works from emerging and new authors. I subscribed to this magazine ($36 for 4 issues) after seeing an issue in my library, and I have not been disappointed. In fact, my renewal is coming up in a few months and I may re-subscribe for the next two or three years. Not only are there eight to twelve short stories per issue (enough stories to skip around based on your mood, or breeze over any that don’t suit your tastes), but each edition is gorgeous! Beautiful cover art, matching bookmarks with quotes from the featured works and author signatures, and childhood photographs of the authors. It’s a very homey publication. And just look at how lovely the editions are:

I am very proud to support this publication and encourage you to check it out. You can buy single issues online (though they sell out quickly), or subscribe for one to three years. Glimmer Train also has a related newsletter called Writer’s Ask where accomplished writers or teachers talk about writing techniques and offer advice to other writers.

One Story is a literary magazine featuring just that, one story. It’s really quite a clever format, as it allows the reader to really focus on the short story. Each edition has three parts: the short story, the author’s biography, and a Q&A with the author interview that focuses on the writing process for the published work. I absolutely love it! And I would imagine that it is perfect for commuters. Perhaps my favorite thing about One Story is that they never publish the same author twice–each edition introduces you to a new author. One Story is published every three weeks, and at $21 for 18 issues, it is a bargain! Not only that but for $1.49 a month, Kindle users can have it delivered wirelessly to their device; this is how I receive my subscription. And let me tell you, I am always so excited to see a new edition pop up in my Kindle, that I (usually) read it immediately upon delivery. After all, as the website says “there is always time to read one story”.

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So often we only focus on novels or published anthologies centered on one theme or year. In fact, I’m sure there are many readers out there who aren’t even aware that literary magazines exist, aside from The New Yorker. Having only recently discovered these magazines myself, I feel proud to support these smaller publishing efforts. I highly recommend checking out these or other literary magazines, especially for voracious readers. There is enough material to keep you entertained until the arrival of the subsequent editions. Plus these literary magazines are like tiny little treasure boxes and an absolute joy to read.


The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson

The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson
Kindle Edition, 7380
Published by Crown Publishers, 2003
ISBN: 978-0375725609

Non-fiction doesn’t feature often in my “TBR” list, but The Devil in the White City has been on my radar since my friend, Lucy, read it in college. She had recommended The Time Traveler’s Wife to me, which I loved, but I didn’t pick up the book until recently.

Marvelously paced, the book chronicles the lives of two men–Daniel H Burnham, the architect tasked with the impossible job of creating and managing construction for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and H. H. Holmes, a serial killer who uses the World’s Fair and his self-designed “Murder Castle” to sate his sickening blood lust.

The book is exceptionally well-written and engrossing; there is no mistaking that Larson loved researching for the book, and this love is projected onto readers. Larson alternates between Burnham’s and Holmes’s stories on a by chapter basis, a frustrating and rewarding experience for me. I would get so absorbed in Burnham’s tale, that I would find myself almost annoyed when I had to switch over to Holmes’s story. However, such is Larson’s story-telling, that I would immediately fall into step with Holmes’s story, and greet the next Burnham chapter with the same amount of annoyance and interest. As a reader, I strongly felt the “one more chapter” or “I’ll read through the next Holmes chapter” drive, and I found myself accidentally staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning just to finish “the next chapter”. One might think a serial killer’s story would be more compelling than that of an architect who has to overcome a dying economy and years worth of bureaucratic red tape, but I found myself devouring each chapter and equally interested by both narratives.

Larson also manages to place readers in time. There were so many new products and inventions introduced during the Fair, that Fair goers were thrust into the future with wide eyes. But such was Larson’s talent for revelation, as a modern reader I found myself as in awe of Shredded Wheat and Ferris Wheels and rows and rows of electric bulbs powered by alternating current (AC) as were the Fair-goers of 1893.

And on a personal level, Larson could not have captured Chicago more perfectly. I spent juinor high and half of high school in the Chicago suburbs and Larson made my heart ache for the city, and for the people, and for the wonder feel of wind blowing over the lake and onto my face.