If you’re like most writers, you know what it’s like to send out a play, short story, poem, or essay and have it summarily rejected by the journal or magazine you submitted it to. Often we feel just like Isabella describing Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights when she says “I gave him my heart, and he took and pinched it to death; and flung it back to me.” No matter how hardened they become, for most writers rejection is still a bitter pill to swallow.
Nowadays submissions usually come back with little more than an impersonal, albeit polite, form rejection with a generic thank you and the encouragement to keep on trying. But every once in a while an editor will take a moment or two to add a personal note, to point out things that were really good about your submission or the things that needed work, and even though it was still a rejection in the end, that added bit of thoughtful criticism or support can be a life-saver for the validation-starved author.
With this in mind, I’ve come up with a list of five journals where you can get valuable feedback on your submissions, for little or no cost. In most cases, the fee is nominal and requires just a few dollars. If you check out the data base for literary journals at Writers & Poets you’ll see that there are more options, with some publications charging higher fees and providing more in-depth feedback.
Even if you are a starving artist, several lines of constructive criticism is well worth the few dollars you might have to spend, so check out these options:
BlazeVOX is “a haven for undervalued writers to convene with readers worldwide.” According to their guidelines, “articles of submission depend on many criteria, but overall items submitted must conform to one ethereal trait, your work must not suck. This put plainly, bad art should be punished; we will not promote it.” However, the editor assures that all submissions will be reviewed and “the author will receive feedback.” Send Geoffrey Gatza your work here. And good luck!
Black Heart Magazine is on online journal that strives to “publish the best in short-form modern literature, from pulp and literary fiction to poetry, along with all manner of literary commentary to keep readers informed and entertained.” They feature new writing by both up-and-coming and established authors, and every year they nominate authors for Best of the Net as well as the Pushcart Prize. Black Heart accepts artwork, short fiction, poetry and a wide variety of literarily-oriented nonfiction via submittable and for just $4 poets and short story writers can choose the “WITH Feedback” option.
Foundling Review is “looking for submissions that captivate, entertain, and ruminate in refreshing and creative ways, with a strong emotional core.” An online literary magazine that wants to give you an opportunity to publish your best work, it publishes once every ten to fifteen days. Go to their submissions page on submittable and you’ll find a “Tip Jar” option that costs only $3 for a bit of feedback.
Golden Walkman Magazine is a new journal with an interesting twist: it shuns the written word for the spoken. Each issue comes out “in the form of a podcast aimed at giving the written word a voice. In that vein, all work accepted and published will be presented solely through that medium.” Authors are encouraged to read their own works, so it’s a great way to hear poetry and fiction by its actual creators as well. They also accept craft and creative non-fiction, as well as music. If you’re interested in submitting, go to their submittable page, where all submissions received “will be given workshop-quality feedback” for a $3 reading fee. You can also skip the workshop option and submit free of charge by emailing your submission. Don’t feel pressured into paying, though, because both methods of submission have the same odds of acceptance.
The esteemed American Athenaeum is “a cultural magazine that features fiction, poetry, essays, opinion, author book reviews, and other literary contributions. Each journal explores the world of words like a patron explores a museum—by offering a view of the past, right up until the present.” Its editors consider this journal to be a museum of artistic endeavors, “filled with cultural appreciation and stories that not only teach, but demonstrate the frailty of the human condition.” American Athenaeum accepts a variety of literary contributions. Go here for further information on what makes them different. Go to their submissions manager and opt for the “Donation” Option for $2.05 if you’d like some affordable feedback on your work.