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I want to write about the COVID-19 pandemic, but I’m worried literary journal editors are saturated with similar submissions. Do you think that’s the case?
Dear Timely Fretting,
OK, fine; here’s why: First, literary magazines do not move fast enough to be timely in any real way. In other words, they’re not pegged to the news cycle the way that consumer magazines or newspapers are. Second, if you’re writing fiction, it’s not very common to see fiction that’s pegged to any kind of news cycle. (Related: Writers tend to work on short stories for years and submit them over years.) Third, if you’re writing an essay or memoir, what will stand out will be your unique take on the situation, not the subject itself. Fourth, I heard from some editors of timely publications like the Washington Post, Medium’s GEN, and the New York Times Smarter Living section that they’re still looking for unusual takes on this subject, so literary magazine editors might be, too. Write what you want to.
Otherwise, it’ll rattle around in your head for years anyway and take up valuable brain real estate. What a drag.
Oh, and one more thing: Why not poke around for publications that are specifically interested in hearing about how folks are reacting? They do exist.
Put a mask on and write,