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A roadmap to better diversity in literary magazines

Literary magazine editors discuss re-drawing the landscape and outline ways to get under-represented voices heard and read.


Representation in leadership

Alcalá points out that historically, literary magazines have been started by white men with assets and backing. The landscape has changed, of course, and “there has been progress in that more and more magazines have been started by people of color,” she says. Although these magazines do sometimes fall into ethnocentric categories (magazines with content exclusively by Black or Asian writers, say), publications like Raven Chronicle have strived to create a space for all ethnicities. “A couple of us were hired freelance to do special issues of the Kings County Arts magazines [in the early 90s],” she says. “We wanted to highlight writers and artists of color, and after that project was over, we thought, well, why can’t we publish this way all the time?” (Raven Chronicles’ last print issue was published in the spring of 2018, and the magazine is now pivoting toward a book-publishing model.)

It was a similar mission that led Alexandra Watson, founding editor of Apogee Journal, to create her magazine. Watson was pursuing her MFA in creative writing at Columbia University, where she noticed a lack of outlets for the “general marginalized voices.” Apogee, which publishes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in both digital and hard copy form, is now in its eighth year, and has become an independent publication. (The magazine was previously affiliated with Columbia University’s MFA program.) 

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