Monday, March 19, 2012

How to Get Published, Part 2: Theme Issues and Anthologies: Sources of Calls for Submission

One good starting place for writers who are new to submitting their work for publication is to begin with theme issues of magazines and themed anthologies. Publishers announce they are looking for work for a theme issue or anthology by putting out a call for submissions. Calls for submissions often appear on several websites and in magazines. Probably the most useful listing right now for publications in the U.S.A. is the  New Pages site, since it is updated several times a week. Other sites are also very helpful, including Poets & Writers Magazine and Poetry Flash.  I also visit a website that lists calls for submissions in the U.K. and in other countries outside the U.S., called The Poetry Kit. Another useful source for UK literary magazines and presses is the list maintained by the poet Abegail Morley of Against the Grain PressLately I’ve also looked at Trish Hopkinson’s calls for submission—she focuses on publications that don't charge a submissions fee.

Why begin your publishing career with themed issues of magazines and anthologies? For those publications, editors are keenly interested in work by writers from a particular group or region, or work written on a specific topic. They tend to be much less interested in whether you have published before, or whether you are a well-known author. The editor(s) of the magazine or anthology might also solicit work from well-published authors, but that’s all the better, since your writing, if accepted, might appear side-by-side with the writing of an author you admire, whose reputation will also draw attention to the publication.

When you submit work to a theme issue or anthology, be sure to read the guidelines extremely carefully. The editor’s phrasing will give you a sense of how loosely or strictly the publication is interpreting the theme.

Here’s a call for submissions from the website of Slipstream, an excellent poetry magazine: We are currently reading for another theme issue (#32) for which we will explore ‘Cars, Bars & Stars.’ A poem could include any combination of the subjects or only one. Creative interpretations are encouraged.” Clearly the editors are leaving the theme fairly loose, as they indicate by the phrase, “Creative interpretations are encouraged.” You have some leeway here.

Here’s an example of a stricter theme I saw on the website of Poetry Flash: “Windfall, A Journal of Poetry of Place is accepting poems about places in the Pacific Northwest for its spring issue. Submit up to five short poems that should not exceed fifty lines each.” This is much more specific. You don’t have to actually live in the Pacific Northwest to submit, if I’m reading this correctly, but you do have to write about its landscape and/or geography. The length requirement is also very specific, and would rule out any poem longer than a page and a half. You have to pay careful attention to those details when you are submitting, otherwise you are wasting your time and the editor’s.

Some journals often publish theme issues, and those are ones where you might want to check their website regularly, to see what their latest theme is. You may not think of a work you’ve written as being about a specific theme, but if you look with the lens of that theme, you may discover a side to the work you never saw before.


  1. Yes, Zack, I found that themed issues and anthologies were a great place to start publishing.

    1. Vivian:

      I'm glad that themed issues and anthologies were a good approach for you. I still find those useful for introducing my work to a magazine or publisher that doesn't know my writing. It's also interesting to see how different writers respond to the same theme.