Philadelphia Literary Journal Pride

As I’ve been combing through Duotrope, New Pages, and Poets & Writer’s in search of new markets to submit my writing to over the past few weeks I’ve slowly come to the realization that Philadelphia has a promising up-and-coming literary scene! Not that Philadelphia shouldn’t naturally be super literary and cultural–it is one of the most historic and largest cities on the East Coast–but Philadelphia, at least from my viewpoint, has been in a bit of a hibernation-mode in recent years. Honestly, people keep leaving the Philadelphia area in favor of New York and Boston and DC because the city has been going stale. Cool restaurants have been closing, there isn’t much of a shopping-draw, the only good stuff that does exist is rather expensive–concerts and the like–and it’s generally unsafe in most areas so nobody wants their cars to get vandalized or walk around the streets exploring after dark. So the fact that literary journals are budding out of this environment like a bed of tulip bulbs is rather exciting!

Though Philadelphia Stories and Apiary magazine are the only two that show clear favoritism towards Philadelphia/Pennsylvania writers and themes in their editorial mission statements, the fact that a whole bunch of exciting, new, innovative, and ultimately successful literary journals are springing up out of Philadelphia gives me hope that lots more good things are to come!

On the old side, Painted Bride Quarterly is one of the country’s longest running literary magazines, circa 1973, and is in-part staffed by Drexel University students. On the new side, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, a non-profit flash-prose journal associated with Rosemont College, only launched last year. Same with TINGE magazine, staffed by graduate students in Temple University’s MFA program in Creative Writing, and Nailpolish Stories, the brainchild of Philadelphia writer Nicole Monaghan.

Dear Philadelphia: I’m proud of you. Good show.

Do you have some local literary journals you’re extra fond of just because they call your town home?

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10 thoughts on “Philadelphia Literary Journal Pride

  1. It is nice to know there are three new journals, and hopefully they will survive and thrive.

    I know this post is about Philly, but Pittsburgh also has its own literary scene – and both of those cities are the eastern and western poles of the state of Pennsylvania in so many ways.

    What do you think about Pittsburgh’s scene?

    • I actually don’t know much about the Pittsburgh scene, and I’ve never visited the physical city myself before. I know that Weave magazine–a fabulous publication–originates from there and that Carniege Mellon, one of the universities there, has an out-of-this-world Creative Writing program, so I’m guessing there’s crowds of talent. Are you familiar with any Pittsburgh-specific publications?

  2. Wow. It must be really exciting to know about literary journals of this kind. We don’t have any of those here, hence my choice to resort to blogging to promote my work.

    How does Philly influence its literary scene? Does it do that at all? My guess is yes, but how? My curiosity stems from the fact that I’m a big fan of noir stories.

    • I think Philadelphia ends up being the setting for a lot of the stories written there and it therefore leads to a lot of common themes–even if they’re only connected by geographic and weather commonalities (a lot of Liberty Bells and references to the Constitution signing show up). The city is, well, a city, so a lot of literature has a general city background. I haven’t read many noir stories in local publications, personally; I think the history of the area actually impacts the writing more. Upstate Pennsylvania was historically a coal region, and it’s never really escaped the coal town developments and memories; and Pennsylvania residents are usually rooted here for generations and generations, so I think family and family relations is a heavy theme in Pennsylvania/Philadelphia writing.

  3. I was in Philly just the other day and had my Philly-cheesesteak fix at Geno’s Steaks. It was a coin-toss to pick between there and Pat’s across the street. At first, you might not think a cheesesteak has anything to do with the literary world but it does for me. I was exposed to my first real Philly-cheesesteak when I was in the Navy. I was gobsmacked to say the least. So much so, I had to write about it for my hometown newspaper. Now, I do not care why I am in Philly, when I get the chance I beeline it to one of the famous cheesesteak emporiums the city offers. For me, it sets my mood for the city. It sets my mood for writing about the city. I am sure for most locals they are just part of the city’s background noise. Old, venerable Philly has a lot of background noise. That is why journals will do well there, for it is from the background the most interesting topics are found.

    • Food is so important in writing–it gives it flavor! (pun intended) I think food is as important a detail as geographic things, like a river or a mountain range affecting the culture of an area. When I travel down in the deeper South, it always strikes me that there are NO pizza places around. It’s indicative of the culture–the general lack of settled Italian immigrants–and definitely “sets a mood.” It’s just like how a combination of seafood, fishing, and lighthouses define certain ocean settings and in turn affects the literary culture.

      So you don’t have a preference for Geno’s or Pat’s? Most people are loyal–aggressively so–to one or the other. Personally, I don’t like either–they’re a little skimpy on the meat and cheese if you ask me. Steak and Hoagie Factory is the best!

      • I’ve never been to Steak and Hoagie Factory. I will give it a try next week, as I am making another visit. As far as Geno’s and Pats, I think Geno’s makes a better hoagie over all but I like Pat’s bread. I could that bread all by itself.

        Yes, down south instead of pizza places we have the meat and 3 diners. Nothing beats a roast, okra, turnip green and a ear of corn for lunch! Of course that comes with a big ol’ tea.

      • You’ll go to Steak and Hoagie and never come back. Their bread is a-mazing!

        And don’t forget BBQ in the South–gotta love that pulled pork and ribs!!! And hush puppies!!! (my favorite)

      • I will try it for sure. I do love me some pulled pork. My first real job was in a BBQ joint. We also owned a restaurant and made hush puppies every day.

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