Pros: Geared to the writer, in-depth interviews and biographies, fewer ad pages than most
Cons: expensive, virtually no color pages
Poets and Writers
In addition to being a big reader, I enjoy writing and have subscribed to various relevant writing periodicals over the years. My current favorite is Poets and Writers. Since it only comes out every two months, I swear every time that I will read it slowly, just one article at a time and enjoy it the whole two months. Then like a bag of Hershey Kisses, I'm devouring it at a rapid rate. I look up, catch my breath, and find it smeared all over my face. Ahhhhhh.
The funny thing is that many of my favorite magazines have lush photography, pictures of food, slick pages, and perfume ads with scratch and sniff strips. I like to have all my senses tingled. Poets and Writers is none of these. There are only a couple of pages with color, the photos are nearly all portraits of writers being profiled, the only smell is ink on paper. Never-the-less, all my senses get a workout from the black and white words on paper. Powerful words in the biographies and interviews, amazing words in the excerpted novels and poems, hopeful, energetic words in the contest winners and announcements. Sorrowful words in the list of names "In Memoriam."
The cost to subscribe to Poets and Writers for one year, six bi-monthly issues, is officially $19.95 ($38 for two years) though the several subscription cards in each magazine indicate a price of $17.95. The single issue price is $4.95. You can also subscribe online at pw.org. The current issue (September/October, 2003) arrived at my house on August 21, has 156 8"x10" pages, including the sturdy front and back covers. Of those, 73 pages (and cover) were advertisements, or 47%. Most ads are half page or less. Nearly all ads sell books, colleges with writing degrees, or writing seminars, contests and retreats.
News and Trends - this section includes some of my favorite information! In the Sept/Oct issue are: an article about the new director of the NEA and how the budget is being apportioned to include more literary endeavors; quick excerpts from twelve new books; industry news; an article showing the trend for mainstream authors to write scientific narratives; a bit about the upcoming movie, "Sylvia," about poet Sylvia Plath, starring Gwyneth Paltrow; an article about the new editor for the O. Henry Awards; and "In Memoriam."
The Literary Life - in the Sept/Oct issue: a very touching article by Deborah Garrison about bringing Stan Rice's (Anne Rice's husband) final book of poetry to print--After reading about him and sampling his poems, I feel a huge loss; and a rollicking article by Lance Contrucci about his trip to Ireland to meet J. P. Donleavy, an American immigrant to the Emerald Isle whose popular first novel, "The Ginger Man," enabled him to be a full-time writer, publishing an additional 26 novels that were never as popular or acclaimed.
The Practical Writer - in the Sept/Oct issue, three articles: one about online 'zines; another about how getting an MFA can legitimize an author to the writing world, that there are many authors (not their work, just their standing) languishing without it, but is the cost of acquiring an MFA, losing the author's true voice?; and the final article about including friends, relatives and acquaintances in writing, both as characters and as their real stories.
Resources - Nearly half of each issue is devoted to these next sections
Grants & Awards - There are four parts to this section: Deadlines, Submission Calendar, State Grants Index, and Recent Winners.
Conferences & Residencies - a listing of where, when, and who to contact.
Classifieds - all those who have something to offer writers - retreats, colleges, submission services, software. etc.
Coda - insights into Poets and Writers, Inc., the non-profit organization which publishes Poets and Writers as well as putting on readings and workshops throughout the country.
In This Issue
If the News & Trends section is appetizer, the Literary Life-salad, the Practical Writer-soup, the Resources sections-dessert, then the monthly feature articles are the entree. For those of you who eat meat, think pot roast with potatoes, carrots and peas; for those of you who don't, think of the best frittata or veggie lasagna. It is full of flavor and utterly satisfying. In the September/October of Poets and Writers there are five of these tasty pieces.
The first is an inspirational piece about writer Maxine Hong Kingston. As she was completing a modern day version of the Chinese "Book of Peace" a rampaging wildfire blew through her neighborhood, devouring her manuscript and its many electronic versions. (Wow! If that isn't a point for off-site storage!) In the next ten years, she regained her original vision, added to it, and brought together the community of war veterans (mostly Viet Nam era), conscientious objectors, and even Vietnamese to create peace through writing together.
If that wasn't enough, take in the interview with Jhumpa Lahiri. This young author at 32 won a Pulitzer for her first novel, much to her astonishment. Her second book, "The Namesake" comes out soon.
For a different flavor, the next two articles are about small print houses and print-on-demand technology (just as I was writing this, a television commercial by Xerox was playing about this very topic!).
The final article is the third in a series about book reviewing. The first two articles in the series were from the viewpoints of writers and editors. This one is from the reviewers' viewpoint. As an opinion writer here at Epinions, I (and I think many will agree) that the chance to write about a book is just what the reviewers in the article espouse--it is the ability to converse with other readers and the author about what we read. Reading is often a very solitary endeavor-though my husband, son and I usually share out loud the words we love and what we think about them. Wow! Can you imagine getting paid to review books full-time? :)
What I Like Best
The one feature I like best about Poets and Writers is the "Recent Winners" pictures and kudos sprinkled throughout the Grants and Awards section. It is so good to see that there are real people out there struggling each day to put pen to paper and succeeding.
What I Hate
Many times the contest deadlines in the current issue are only a very short time from when I am reading the magazine, thus unless I'm already prepared with a suitable piece to submit, not enough time is allowed. Since many writing contests are annual, I have to reference my past issues to get inspiration in advance.
Sue's Acid Test -- what happens to this magazine when I'm finished reading it? Poets and Writers is carefully stored in magazine holders so I can easily read the spines.
If you liked this review check out my other magazine review --
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Martha Stewart Living