Friday, July 20, 2018

Literary Magazines' Minority Special Issues

When a "mainstream" literary magazine posts a special call for disabled/neurodivergent writers, you:

A.  Prepare a submission immediately!

B.  Refuse to be a pet cause and shun the call.

C.  Submit only if the publication is well-known.

D.  Research the magazine's track record of publishing disabled/neurodivergent people.

Most writers choose options "A" or "B". For people who submit immediately, they love the certainty of not being rejected because of their differences or the topics surrounding them. For people who shun the call, they see it as a breadcrumb of recognition without the literary world doing the real work of inclusion.
Some literary magazines will compile special issues just to appear devoted to diversity of talent and viewpoint. One (very advertised) special issue will become a shield against the arrows of accusation. We can't say they don't publish disabled/neurodivergent writers, there's an entire issue dedicated to us! Wow! Few people will dig into who they accept for regular issues.

Even if people do try to find out which voices are/aren't published, it's difficult. Most disabled/neurodivergent writers don't announce their disability/divergence in their biographies (which is one of the ways editors get away with feigned ignorance). So, how can you tell?
What to think about when submitting to a special issue:
  • Who are the editors? If there are guest editors, are they a good fit?
  • Is the literary magazine (or press) normally inclusive? If they haven't published anyone from a specific group, have they actively pursued submissions from that group?
  • Have the rules changed? Say, for instance, they pay contributors less for appearing in the special issue.
  • Do the editors suddenly limit topics integral or important to your group? In the trans special issue (now cancelled) of Poetry Magazine, the guest editor had a list of topics... unlikely to win him over. Maybe certain topics sorely needed fresh slants or takes, but...
  • Have other special issues ever been cancelled by the publication? If so, why? How were people notified? Was an announcement of an issue loud and the cancellation quiet?


  1. Good article. Speaking of "special issues" right after I read this, I saw a Call for Submission that might interest some of your readers. "Barking Sycamores, a journal of neurodivergent literature and art, publishes poetry, short fiction, hybrid genre, creative nonfiction, book reviews, and artwork submissions."

    1. Thank you for stopping by! We do list Barking Sycamores on our "Links of Interest" page, but don't really post about the calls on that page on our Twitter because we often think people will just go there and click the links. Huh. You just made me realize we should give certain magazines and presses more Twitter-love! Thank you, JeanMarie! :)