“10 Free Literary Magazines Publishing Outstanding Fiction, Poetry, and Nonfiction”
Have you started reading free literary magazines yet?
You have your pick of some amazing books to bring to the beach this summer, but don’t forget about all of the FREE & fine literature you can find on the internet. If you are a book lover who hasn’t made your plunge into the wonderful world of literary magazines yet, you’ve come to the right place.
And if you’re a writer, you might be thinking that all the big literary magazines have closed their reading periods. But have they?
Many literary magazines operate on fixed reading periods, often in spring and fall. Unfortunately, that sometimes leaves us writers high and dry in the summer. So where can we submit our latest writing?
Here’s a list of ten free literary magazines that publish great literature and, for the most part, accept submissions year-round. So now you won’t have any excuses for getting your work out there! And hey, did I mention they’re free to read yet?
(Tip: Always, always, always read a magazine to see if your writing is a good fit before submitting!)
Fiction less than 2,000 words | Poetry | Essay
Hobart publishes 365 days a year and is always on the lookout for web-friendly content. Their stories have appeared in O. Henry and Best American Short Fiction anthologies, so you know they’re out here publishing high-quality work.
As of Summer 2020, Hobart’s Sunday feature theme is the “Rejected Modern Love Essays.” I particularly enjoyed Sarah Ruth Bates’s take on the theme with her essay, “Call Me By Our Name.”
The editors are active champions of their contributors on Twitter @hobartpulp. Follow them for teasers and announcements of their newest publications.
Fiction | Prose Poetry
Gone Lawn is partial to experimental forms. Their archives are probably the best way to get to know the types of works they publish, but here are a few highlights that exemplify just how experimental they can get:
- “Lexicon of Wife of Man with a Wandering Eye” by Anu Kandikuppa
- Told in the form of dictionary entries
- “The Box Plague” by Henry Crawford
- A sort of interactive flash, where you have to click to read
- “Scenes from the Two-Table Bakery Shop” by Emilee Prado
- Intersplices screenwriting with prose
- “Funeral for a Dreamer” by Peter Wood
- 124-word microfiction
If you’re a writer hoping for a quick turnaround, Gone Lawn makes Duotrope’s Top 100 list for magazines with the fastest response times! You might not even wait two weeks before hearing back from editors.
Fiction between 2000 and 7500 words
The editors at Bourbon Penn publish fiction that you might describe as “odd,” including genres like:
- magical realism
If you’re still uncertain of what kind of “odd” they mean, check out these features from issue 20 like “The Kool-Aid Stoppers” and “Emptying the Bunkhouse.” It’ll answer your question; trust me.
They do ask for exclusive consideration of submissions for writers, but they are a paying market at 2¢ per word.
Fiction less than 8000 words | Poetry | Creative Nonfiction
The FRiGG editors ask only one thing: submit honest writing. This magazine is an interactive digital artwork, and it changes with each of their biannual issues! You know you’re getting a wide range of honest work—whether fiction, nonfiction, or poetry—when you click on over to their site.
There are a wide range of great reads in their latest issue (55), including three flash fictions from Thaddeus Rutkowski about family and a sweeping historical fiction called “The Last Dinner Party.”
FRiGG’s archives extend all the way back to 2003 so you can get more than a taste of their aesthetic with two decades-worth of past contributions.
Fiction between 500 and 2500 words | Poetry
African Voices is a dedicated space filled with creative work from Black writers and other people of color. They embody “literary excellence while showcasing the unique and diverse stories within the African Diaspora.”
This non-profit organization has been publishing since 1992, and it promotes access to arts education with over 800 community programs. When you head over to their website, you’ll see all the special things they’ve been up to.
The magazine is accessible for free online (preferably with a donation!). The Spring 2020 issue is the second part of a tribute to Ntozake Shange. Shange is the award-winning writer of for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.
African Voices is a paying market offering between $25 and $300 depending on length.
Fiction less than 2,000 words
Any kind of story flies at Monkeybicycle — as long as it’s 2000 words or shorter. Monkeybicycle publishes on a rolling basis, so you can always count on new content. Their since-discontinued print journal even featured the likes of Roxane Gay, Sarah Silverman, and Patton Oswalt. Pretty cool, huh?!
On Wednesdays, they publish these great-to-browse one-sentence stories. You can fly right through them here, like I did.
Fiction less than 1500 words | Poetry | Essay
If you’re a non-traditionalist, Contrary is for you. This magazine wants writing that “defies.” In the Spring 2020 issue you’ll find:
- a roommate who takes apartment-flooding baths (Gauraa Shekhar’s “Bathwater“)
- a blood-drained viper (Kassandra Montag’s “Asp & Venom“)
- so-called “unpopular discontent” (according to the editors)
You can check their submissions page for issue cut-off dates. This market does not send rejection letters.
Accepted writers receive a $20 honorarium.
Fiction | Poetry | Essay
Minimalistic magazine DIAGRAM has a unique fascination with schematics. Peruse their latest issue and you’ll find art and writing that lives up to the magazine’s name.
“We want art and writing that demonstrates / interaction; the processes / of things, both inner and outer; how certain functions are accomplished; how things become. How they expire. How they move or churn, or stand.”
Not sure what to submit? Check out an issue. Traditional poetry (a sonnet, a sestina) shares space with experimental writing (a lesson plan, a baseball series), but you’ll see what they’re talking about after just a few stories, poems, or essays.
Fiction less than 2500 words | Poetry
The editor-in-chief of Wildness (Michelle Tudor) wants “work evoking the unknown” according to her Duotrope interview. This journal is an imprint of Platypus Press.
Wildness’s clean, no-fuss website has been showcasing fiction and poetry since 2015. The editors accept submissions by email on a rolling basis.
Issue 22 offers two delectable fiction reads: “This is Not the End” and an excerpt from Subduction by Kristen Mallares Young.
Fiction less than 6000 words | Critical Writing
“At CRAFT we read short and flash fiction with a focus on the elements of craft, the art of fiction. We love when a writer teaches us something or surprises us with their use of an element or elements.”
CRAFT’s wish list for submissions is all in the name. Send your best crafted writing their way!
The editors also consider:
- critical essays
- book annotations
Learn all about craft from their published authors. Mike Corrao’s “Interiors” demonstrates tone and tension. Or brush up on close third-person while reading Noley Reid’s “Origami Dogs.”
CRAFT publishes on a rolling basis. BIPOC writers are able to submit to a free fast-response category. Payment is between $50 and $100 for accepted writing.
And that’s all you’re getting from me this time! Which free literary magazines would you recommend? Let me know in the comments!
About the Author
Anita Trimbur is a writer and litfic enthusiast. She has a BA in English from the University of Pittsburgh. Find her on Twitter @anitatrimbur where she gushes about all things literary.
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Thank you for your list. I have a short story 3000 words about a long-lived intermarriage (Jewish and Catholic convert to Judaism). My story needs a home where differences of culture and religious observance are recognized as publication-worthy. Do you know of such a literary magazine? Thank you. Kirsten Levy