Thursday, 24 October 2013

Writing journals - love them? Hate them? by Jo Carroll


What writing magazines do you read? I ask because I’ve had 

a cull recently (no, not like the badgers, no guns involved, no rotating goal posts). I found I had several writing magazines lying about in the house unread, and no time to read them, and some of them not as interesting or as useful as I once thought, and so it made sense to reconsider what I look for in a journal and subscribe only to those that give me greatest pleasure. Which has made me think a little deeper about what I like about them, and why, and what I learn from them.
            I’m down to three – which feels like an achievement. The number may well creep up again as I come across new ones that inspire me. But my three are:

Mslexia – I’ve subscribed to Mslexia since I began writing. Not only because it celebrates women’s writing – though that is what drew me in the first place. But also because it is funny, and informative. It assumes its readers are intelligent and imaginative, but also accepts that we have wonderful lives even when we’re not writing. It has long pieces that explore the ins and outs of writing and publishing. It has flash fiction, monologues, snippets of information or weblinks. It runs short story competitions, and poetry competitions, but there are also countless outlets for contributions to ensure that all its readers feel part of the Mslexia process. (If I had to choose just one, I’d stick with Mslexia.))

The New Writer – this has revamped itself recently and is settling down into its new shape. It feels wonderfully exploratory at the moment – without becoming self-indulgent or self-serving. There are writing tips, and exercises, and competitions, and it’s informative as well as being fun. (The current Life Writing competition is entitled, ‘And then I laughed’ – they are looking for pieces that are fun, rather than the usual explorations of misery. Quick, it closes on November 1st.) So – while it takes itself seriously, it also acknowledges that most people read for pleasure, and hopes that writers can reflect that.

What the Dickens – this is even newer, and is available online. (The link takes you to the magazine, but you can also get into the website with all its goodies from there.) The title alone sucked me in, and it’s beautifully designed. It’s full of original writing – from plays to screenwriting to short stories. My one complaint – it’s very long. I’ve seen an edition that was about 100 pages. I hope they settle to something shorter, and keep some of their wonderful pieces over for subsequent issues rather than publish them all as they come in. Maybe future issues will be themed – I think they are still feeling their way at the moment.

That’s my three – what about you? What do you look for in a writing journal? (Or maybe you resist them?)

Does it make any difference to my writing? Maybe you should be the judge of that - drop by my website for links to my books.

6 comments:

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Your post caught my eye, Jo, as I've been wondering if I should do the same! I get far too many and I've been getting Mslexia from almost the beginning. Know of the other two but don't read regularly yet.

Dan Holloway said...

Ah, *that* kind of writing journals - I couldn't imagine you were questioning the value of the notebook! I love Words With Jam. I can't afford print journals but online, I wouldn't miss anything in For Books' Sake

julia jones said...

Do you think perhaps that the time one might have spent reading a writing journal is now taken up by reading blogs?

JO said...

Thank you all.

Rosemary - good to meet someone else who loves Mslexia!

Dan - I've dipped into both Words With Jam and For Books' Sake - maybe I should look at them more closely.

Julia - that's an interesting thought. I find blogs can be random - some are wonderful and relevant, and others fun (or not) - but I don't curl up with my laptop to read blogs like I settle down with a mag. But maybe that's an age-thing?

Rosalind Adam said...

I used to subscribe to Writers News but after several years I found that they were repeating themselves. I still have a cupboard full of them and am convinced that one day I'll reread them, goodness knows when!

Miriam Drori said...

There's so much to read about writing. I'd love to read it all, but if I did I'd never have time to write anything!