After former sportswriter Scott Bolohan got COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, and after his position coaching high school baseball was eliminated, he turned to Ken Burns’ documentary about baseball for comfort. He thought about how the sport provides solace for so many – especially in fraught times – and decided to launch The Twin Bill, a literary journal devoted to the game.
“I never guessed that by the end of the year, I would be interviewing Darryl Strawberry, whose signature was in the palm of my very first baseball glove,” he says. “We’ve just launched our third issue, and it’s been incredible to see how excited people are about what we’re doing. We want to be a place where people can celebrate baseball.”
Writers don’t have to be experts at the game in order to write for The Twin Bill, nor do they have to be well-published. Bolohan is excited to publish diverse voices from around the world. “Some of our best and most interesting pieces come from peripheral baseball fans,” he notes.
Tone, editorial content of The Twin Bill
Bolohan, fiction editor Bryan St. Amand, and poetry editor Chris Viner look for submissions that are less about recounts of memorable home runs and more about deeply personal connections to a player or a team or an event.
“You go to a baseball game, and there are 40,000 people there, all watching the same thing. But each of those 40,000 people has their own story about what they saw. We want those stories,” Bolohon explains. “We want the personal angle, what an incident means to the writer, as opposed to simply recounting what happened on the field.
One of the most popular pieces on the magazine’s website so far is Carey Bowman’s posthumous piece “Let’s All Get Up” (Issue 1), submitted by the writer’s father. The piece explores Bowman’s biggest regret in life: He hit a home run in a tournament and didn’t let his dad carry him off the field on his shoulders. “It was a beautiful essay,” Bolohan says. “It made me realize that baseball is so much more than a game to people. It’s a huge part of their lives.”
Along with prose and poetry, The Twin Bill publishes art and comics, including Andy Lattimer’s “Nobody’s Here to See” about Chicago White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito’s first-ever no-hitter, thrown at an empty stadium in August 2020. Bolohan describes it as a joyous comic in a dark time. “If a man accomplishes the unthinkable in an empty stadium,” Lattimer writes in his final panels, “the world gets a little bit easier to live in.”
Former semi-pro baseball player and high school baseball coach Lauren McNulty has a debut short story in the first issue of the magazine. Titled “The Edge of Caring,” it’s about a teen boy struggling with anger because his best friend – a girl who’s played baseball with him for years and excels at the sport – is banned by their high school’s administration from trying out for the team. More than baseball, Bolohan says, it’s about two teens exploring the politics of the sport. McNulty writes:
Fearghus couldn’t believe that Coach Franklin, who he knew thought Emily was good, could go down without a fight. And his own parents. So willing to accept defeat. Content that that was the way things were going to be.
The Twin Bill publishes other serious pieces, like T.R. Healy’s short story “Horseplay” about the hazing one teammate endures at the hands of others – a subject, Bolohan notes, that seldom gets talked about.
There are lighter pieces as well. Joe Hitchcock has a piece titled “The Mysterious Yankees Logo,” about growing up in England with other kids who wore Yankees hats without knowing why. Hitchcock writes:
That ornate, interlocking N and Y was definitely a mysterious thing to a nine-year-old in millennium UK. Sure, baseball was connected. But how? What, or where, is a Yankee? Manchester United plays soccer in Manchester. Chelsea in Chelsea. Yankee must be a New York borough, we decided. But, a Yankee must also be more than that because Jay-Z wears the logo.
Robyn Millikin has an essay titled “Veterans ‘85” in the first issue of The Twin Bill; it’s about her first trip to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, a trip that left a permanent impression on her. “Never have I ever been more part of something than in those stands,” she writes. “Has anyone?”
Advice for potential contributors
Bolohan gets plenty of beautifully written submissions about watching a player hit a home run or hitting a home run oneself, but he and the other editors look for more unexpected works that dive deep beyond the game. “Bring your writing into a personal realm so we understand something about you the writer as well as your appreciation for the game,” he says. “We want stories that only the writer can tell.”
He urges new writers to break in with a piece for the magazine’s “Favorite Player” series. “Everyone has a favorite player, so tell us who yours is and why,” he says. “Really, if you’ve had any sort of appreciation for the game, or if you’ve had something impactful happen through baseball, we want to hear about it.”
The Twin Bill at a glance
“We celebrate the rich history of the game while also recognizing its vibrant present through essays, fiction, poetry, interviews, and visual art.”
Reading period: Year-round.
Length: Fiction to 3,000 words; personal essays to 1,000 words; five poems; comics and illustrations.
Genres: Fiction, poetry, interviews, essays, art.
Submission format: Word
—Contributing editor Melissa Hart is the author of Better with Books: 500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens (Sasquatch, 2019).Twitter/Instagram @WildMelissaHart