The Strop is a place to whet your appetite for damn good stories. Check back every Friday for our latest recommendations.
1. Santa Monica Review and Crazyhorse
There are a lot of great magazines out there doing a bunch of cool things, reinventing the wheel or exploring digital media and whatnot, but the two journals that I consistently read, cover to cover, as soon as I get them, are these two. They’ve always got stories in Best American, every year, so they’re not exactly under-the-radar, but I hardly ever meet anybody that’s subscribed to these journals. Still, these are old-school journals with all the basic kickassery that entails: These are journals you sit down with, and you experience the incredible stories, incredible writing, and then you go and share them with people (or in my case, call them assignments so you can make your students read them) and then you wait for the process to start all over again, knowing that it absolutely will. – Brandon Williams
Though of course I love the stories they put out, I’m also a big fan of the intention behind this journal (trying to bring attention to new writers), and also the way they go about that intention. While they run contests, a hotly-debated strategy because of the high cost of entrance and the relatively low likelihood of winning, they also have a featured section of their site that is always free to submit to and that gets writers strong publicity, and money, with no submission fee whatsoever. They also offer written critique services for new writers (albeit for a fee), which is an invaluable service for the writers who don’t have an immediate cohort around to read and critique and workshop. An opportunity like that, to me, immediately makes it clear that they are making space for writers of all stripes, all experiences and levels. Full disclosure, I’ve volunteered as a reader (and as a writer of some of their critiques) for them for a few years, and I started with that free New Voices category — I can tell you they absolutely do publish writing from the slush, and every story gets read with a critical eye, and if they find something they love, wherever it comes from, they’re going to find a way to buy it and publish it. The thing that sets them apart in my mind from other journals in their tier is their savvy marketing, what with getting high-profile writers judging their contests plus a relatively snazzy website plus throwing money at the Facebook-type adverts to drum up interest in their contests. When all of that combines with a journal that’s still interested in finding that fresh, new writing and writers, well, that’s a journal more people should know about. – Brandon Williams
Fairy Tale Review bills itself as an “annual journal of contemporary fairy tales,” and it does just that, curating poetry and prose that play with the genre of fairy tales in a modern age, from poetic updates to Orpheus and Eurydice, to achingly poignant prose that braids the fantastic with unabashed beauty — always with a nod to the modern pathos, conflicts of climate, or social upheaval. It is a collection of the fantastic for the modern day, eschewing the drama of genre to contemplate the human condition in its many-faceted folk traditions. – Daniel Mazzacane
As someone who has gone most of his life never seeing his experiences on the page, I’m always on the lookout for LGBTQ+ centered work and presses. Foglifter is easily one of my favorites. Based in the Bay Area, they partner with LGBTQ+ organizations to publish a biannual literary journal that seeks to uplift voices that queer our understanding of writing. Alongside their journal, they work with local queer communities to put on readings and promote the work and world of under-served queer identities. They regularly publish new, fresh, queer writers, and are doing the hard work of building up a canon of marginalized voices. – Daniel Mazzacane