Over at The Review Review, Dan Chaon has some advice to young writers: "if you want to be rock stars, you have to read."
Occasionally, I have students who want to be rock stars... Without fail, these kids know everything there is to know about new music. They are listening all the time—they can discourse on Bob Dylan as easily as they can talk about the new e.p. from a new band from Little Rock, Arkansas, or wherever, and they have a whole hard drive full of demos from obscure artists that they have downloaded from the internet.Chaon rallies against the "lame-o people who want to be published in journals even though they don’t read the magazines that they want to be published in."
I wish that my students who want to be fiction writers were similarly engaged.
I'd add a few more reasons why writers and readers should support their literary magazines. For one, lit mags give writers a chance to showcase their small (in terms of length) triumphs without having to worry about amassing a book’s worth of triumphs and convincing a publisher to pony up with the money to get it out there.
For readers, a good lit mag is a chance to find new-to-you writers and spot new-to-the-scene writers who may go on to make waves.
There’s also something to be learnt from individual pieces. Just because Joe Poet never got it together long enough to publish his own collection, doesn’t mean ‘Upland Road, November 1994’ can’t be the greatest poem ever written in your opinion (just as rock star wannabes are wont to proclaim b-sides by CBGB scenesters as the greatest song of all time); or Jenny Prose’s story written in the second person plural won’t open your eyes to a new way of approaching a story.
The number and variety of literary magazines in New Zealand is less than in the States, but per head of population we probably do quite well. In print there are the stalwarts like Landfall, Sport, JAAM and Takahe, and new comers like Hue & Cry and Enamel. Some Australian publications like Etchings encourage NZ contributors. There are enough opportunities out there to get published without being swamped with reading material. Us writers should all subscribe to as many lit mags as we can.
I wonder how a subscription to Landfall would go down as a secret santa present?