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Lit Mag Spotlight: Superstition Review

September’s Lit Mag Spotlight is shining on Superstition Review! This fantastic journal run out of Arizona State University has a lot to say, and we’re happy to share it all with you! Find out how they got started, what they’re looking for in an ideal submission, and enter to win a FREE ASU stainless steel thermos! Sweet!

CONTEST: Leave a comment on this blog post by October 4 to enter to win a FREE, nifty Arizona State University stainless steel thermos (pictured here). This contest is now closed. Congratulations to Nancy, our winner. Thank you to all who participated!

Give us the lowdown on your journal’s mission.

I started the magazine in 2008 as a way to teach undergraduate students about literary publishing. I was teaching a lot of creative writing classes, and I would ask my students to list their favorite living American authors. That’s how I realized that my students were often not familiar with contemporary literary trends. So I started the magazine and trained students to learn about who is writing right now, what they are writing, and where those authors are publishing.

We filled our first few issues mostly through solicitations. But now the magazine is nationally known and we receive so many submissions I have to limit our reading period to four months a year: September & October and January & February.

The magazine works this way. Each fall and spring I have about twenty student interns. They choose work for publication, correspond with authors, advertise the magazine, run all of our social networks, and design the website itself. Each issue features art, fiction, interviews, nonfiction and poetry by about fifty to sixty emerging and established artists and authors. In four-and-a-half years we have published work by 500 contributors, including T.C. Boyle, Sandra Cisneros, Billy Collins, Barbara Kingsolver, and many more.

We also run a blog with posts on literary topics every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Between that and our other social networks, we stay active year-round.

I’m very proud of my interns, many of whom have gone on to graduate school and to jobs in literary publishing. I’m also very proud of the magazine we produce.

Describe your ideal submission in 15 words or less.

Fully realized; command of language; strong imagery, figurative language, and musicality; mastery of craft.  

Submit to Review Board

Tell us about a piece you recently published that got the staff really excited. Why did you love it? Why did it strike a chord? Can readers find it online?

Just one? But I could list so many. I’m going to cheat and give you two.

We received an essay last spring by John Gist that really got us going. While we’re not typically drawn to desert stories because we tend to get too many of them, this particular essay was such a lovely mix of narration, description, and reflection that we were enthralled. All the editors agreed that this essay was insightful, unique, and expertly written. Read the essay here.

A second piece that really got us going was a short story by Connor Syrewicz. I remember I was reading it on the treadmill. I hope that’s not too weird, but I have a treadmill desk and I like to read submissions while walking at about two miles an hour. When I got to Connor’s submission, I had to stop the treadmill and sit down. We don’t publish a lot of undergraduate work, partially because a goal of the magazine is to give our own undergrads experience interacting with established authors. But as soon as I read this piece, I knew I wanted to publish it, and I was even more impressed that it had come from an undergrad at Binghamton in New York. Read the story here.

Regarding submissions: What’s the most common turn-off that you encounter (in terms of craft)?

The most common craft turn-off is the overuse of summary. We get a lot of pieces—fiction, nonfiction, and poetry—that try to cover way too much time. This results in whole sentences or paragraphs that are weak because they are expected to do too much work.

What’s the most common oversight (in terms of submission guidelines)?

In our guidelines I ask for a 100-word bio. One reason for this is that I don’t publish ASU undergrads, and this helps me to weed out those rare submissions. Another reason I ask for that bio is that I’m teaching my ASU undergrads about literary publishing. So we always look at the bio before we read a piece because we talk about the implications of education, experience, and prior publications. I train my editors to be good ambassadors. I want them to respect the work that authors and editors do.

Why is your journal awesome?

Our journal is awesome because we offer so many opportunities: to our undergraduate students to learn more about contemporary literature and publishing, and to national artists and authors who want to place their work in an easy-to-access, high-quality, fully-vetted, gonna-stick-around publication. So many literary magazines these days fail, but ASU has made a strong commitment to Superstition Review, and it will continue to produce quality issues for a long time to come. I have had several contributors say to me that their publication in SR has been one of the most meaningful in their writing lives because they can share their work quickly (and for free), and the site is professional and easy to navigate. We’re really proud of that.

Where can readers find your submission guidelines?


What else would you like to say?

Yay, I get to talk about some news! This fall we are doing a total redesign of the magazine and of the blog. These will be revealed on November 30 when we launch Issue 10. We also added 2 items this past summer, thanks to the hard work of some industrious interns. We have a new iTunes U Channel where we post poetry podcasts each Tuesday. And we have a Tumblr account where we share items that strike our fancy.

Check out Superstition Review on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, LinkedIn, and on their own iTunes U Channel! You can also read their blog here.

Leave a comment by October 4 and enter to win a free ASU stainless steel thermos from Superstition Review. This contest is now closed.

47 Responses to Lit Mag Spotlight: Superstition Review

  1. How I wish this journal had been available when I was teaching journalism at Superior High School in 1967-68.

  2. What a fabulous article! I’m so proud to be affiliated with Superstition Review, even as a newbie this semester! I can’t wait to continue learning about the magazine and working as an intern in the spring!

  3. Though I’ve only been to Arizona once in my life, I enjoyed my trip and have been in love with the state ever since. I have a mystery coming out next spring that takes place in Arizona. The thermos would look good on my display table!

  4. I really appreciate the concept behind the publication, which is to teach our future writers and editors the business. I would have loved this kind of internship! I could really use a FREE, nifty Arizona State University stainless steel thermos too!

  5. Great article! And such a great opportunity for the students…wish the college I attended had had something like that!

  6. I find this type of posting very helpful. Seeing a real person behind form rejections helps the intellect deal with the emotional hit. It also makes the acceptances and requests for more that much sweeter.

  7. It is encouraging that not all schools are dropping literary endeavours as bottom lines become the measure of worth. And thank you for the information about the blog. I’m going to hop over there to take a look.
    The comment about too much summary is an interesting one; I had not thought about that aspect of writing. I write poetry, and I can see that it can occur there too. I will have to check my poems when I edit to be sure I haven’t done that!
    Love the thermoses too, of course.

  8. Thanks for the peek inside what a college literary publication is all about. I had always wondered if they were vehicles for student writing or, as this one is, a place for students to learn about publishing.

  9. As an educator, I’m very happy to see ASU using a creative venue to teach students the fine art of writing as well as incorporating the instruction of contemporary literary trends. Bravo! ~Pamela Beers, M.S. Ed.

  10. I’m a trainee for an internship next semester and even though it’s only been about a month and I half, it’s already looking to be awesome! Looking forward to starting the next semester as a full intern. :)

  11. The interview was good, but I especially enjoyed Connor’s story. It reminded me of Robert Carver or Gilbert Sorrentino. I expect great things from this writer.

  12. I have taken several undergraduate writing classes, although that has been many years ago. I never sent anything in for publication but my dream of writing a novel has never left me. I am now writing articles and working on my debut novel. I am trying to absorb all the tips that I can, and these tips were valuable to an aspiring author. Thank you for your help.

  13. Read the interview and submission guidelines; was becoming eager to submit. However, I’m somewhat intimidated after having read John Gist’s essay. No surprise that he is also a poet–his prose is poetic. Perhaps he would promise not to submit during the next reading period? Please?

  14. My last two months with Superstition Review have been a real eye-opener in terms of social networking. Any usage of social networks that I interacted with prior to my SR experience was really limited and full of trivial posts. My work with SR has made me excited to interact with authors through Twitter and Facebook and become a part of a greater literary community.

  15. As a current intern in training at Superstition Review, I can attest to the wonderful opportunities that the magazine and its founding editor, Patricia Murphy, have provided for me. Superstition Review is a unique publication that deserves all of the attention it has received and more. I am so proud to be a part of it in the early years, as it will surely be present for a long time.

  16. To anyone out there reading the comments: I read for SR as one of itsnonfiction editors, and I really would like people to consider submitting nonfiction pieces! We have a few excellent pieces for this semester so far, but would love reading more!

  17. so many great tips, BESIDES giving us extra content to read . . . got great value out of this “click.” –

    I keep reading social media is important . . . must be a valid point because you’ve offered us an opportunity to connect with Superstition Review – Everywhere . . . thank you!

  18. Two back-to-back internships with Superstition Review helped me find my “place” in the publishing world, first with a third internship as an editor at a national beauty and lifestyle magazine (where I continue to freelance), and then with employment as a publishing assistant at a firm in Scottsdale. My experience at SR with Trish at the helm truly gave me wings.

  19. Thanks so much — not just for the opportunities you provide for writers, but also for teaching your students to appreciate and respect them and their work! Bless you for planting those seeds of respect and appreciation — it should work both ways!

  20. Superstition Review sounds wonderful! I would have loved taking those courses in college. I look forward to reading the works!

  21. What a great reason for starting the journal–and I love the idea of training those editors to be good ambassadors. I’ve also respected ASU for their dynamite Spanish department, and this makes me believe their English department must also be great. Right now I am trying to keep myself from making a bad pun, so I will stop now. But I love the tumblr.

  22. I love this interview, and I especially love (and agree with) the editor’s goal of educating undergrads about modern American writers. For years, I had no connection at all to modern writing because my high school and college classes did not teach it. It’s stunning, in hindsight.

    Kudos to SR for running such a tremendous mag with such fantastic contributors both famous and unknown.

  23. I read for Fifth Wednesday, and we have the same problem with weak writing. And over-used themes (e.g., coming of age stories). Thanks for the insight.

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