In 2011, poet and author Ariana D. Den Bleyker saw a need for publications catering to people without numerous bylines and launched Emerge Literary Journal to showcase their work. Over the past year, staff at the magazine expanded her vision to include established writers who want to attempt a new genre or form.
“So, let’s say you’re a poet, and you want to try fiction, or you’re a fiction writer, and you want to throw in some magical realism and haven’t done that before. We welcome that,” says Diane Gottlieb, prose editor at Emerge, noting that the magazine’s tagline is “a journal of growth, change & experimentation.”
“If you feel strongly that this is a piece that needs to be out in the world, send it to us,” she says. “If it’s beautiful, if it’s funny, if it touches the heart, and if it’s pushing boundaries, we want it.”
Tone, editorial content
Rachel Abbey McCafferty experiments with math equations in the essay “Calculate for the sum of it all.” McCafferty begins:
If X equals the doors you left open and Y equals the doors that shut themselves, solve for Z where Z equals the lives you regret not living.
Multiply all the times you withheld a kindness between the ages 11 and 17 by all the things you should have said from 20 to 23. Forgive yourself anyway.
Emerge editors look for relatable stories and poems that move readers. One of these is poet Lisa Alletson’s “Locating the Body in Space,” which explores grief over her sister’s death.
I sit, folded, on a child-sized chair between our grief group leader and the biker-guy, Tim. My back on fire. Unwashed in my sweatpants. My damp armpits filling the air. Running my fingers through my hair to feel it rip. First with my left hand. Then with my right. Repeat.
Every issue of Emerge features a section called Esperanza, dedicated to writing about mental health. “We encourage people to explore mental health issues, whether they’re your own, or you’re living with someone and/or in a relationship with somebody who struggles with mental illness,” Gottlieb says.
Issue 23 includes Kathy Hoyle’s story “Maybe That’s How It Was?” about a woman who decides to commit suicide on Halloween, as well as J Saler Drees’ piece “Which is Better,” about an aunt living first in Panama and then in Kansas, while navigating hospitalization for mental illness.
Brenda Klingenmaier has a flash nonfiction piece titled “The Last Supper” in Issue 24; it’s about the writer’s experience of seeing a painting at the Museum of Scotland. The essay is just one sentence long. In it, Klingenmaier observes:
. . .this painting, no, no, no, they are not sitting, they are lying down next to one another on a square bed that surrounds a table in the middle covered with food, and they eat, their bodies and garments touching, and a shiver cracks you down the center because it’s exquisite and sensual and beautiful and so wrong . . .
Eliot Li has a piece called “Asian American Battle Royale” in the same issue. “He explores violence directed at Asian-American communities through the lens of a video game,” Gottlieb explains. Li writes:
You start at Level I: Los Angeles Massacre of 1871. You select your character, Wong Chin, railroad worker turned shopkeeper, scrappy in his tan derby. The angry white mob rides into town on horseback, chanting “Hang the Chinamen!”
Canadian writer Janet Murie is a writer in her 60s. She’d never been published until Emerge accepted her story “Winter Comes,” about swimming outdoors in the winter. In it, Murie writes:
When you’re waist deep it is so cold you can hardly breathe and then you’ll bend your knees until your shoulders are covered with the grey water. You hyperventilate until your body adjusts and you’ll stay in as long as you can. Just a few minutes. You’ll swear you can see molecules popping in the air around you.
“The language is beautiful, and the imagery is stunning,” Gottlieb says. “We nominated the piece for Best of the Web.”
Advice for potential contributors
Gottlieb says that sometimes she receives pieces that feel like rough drafts. “Writers are just so anxious to get their work out there, but I encourage people to take their time and sit with the piece before they send it out to us or to any editor,” she says.
That said, this is the place for emerging writers and experimenting established writers to send their most polished work. “We just got a phenomenal submission from someone in high school,” Gottlieb says. “There’s nothing that makes me happier than to accept a piece that’s a first publication. It just makes my heart sing.”
About Emerge Literary Journal
- Reading periods: See website.
- Length: To 750 words.
- Genres: Free verse poetry, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction.
- Submission format: On Submittable, via website.
- Contact: Prose Editor Diane Gottlieb or Poetry Editor Alisha Escobedo, [email protected].
Contributing Editor Melissa Hart is the author, most recently, of the middle grade novel Daisy Woodworm Changes the World. melissahart.com