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Photo: Leafar

So much of being a good writer is reading good writing. But books and magazine subscriptions are pricey. Luckily, there are lots of online literary magazines where you can read current issues for free–and most of them accept unsolicited submissions, so you can get your words in front of more people, too.

IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER, here’s a list of magazines to check out:

1. Frostwriting

This Swedish literary magazine—in English—is interested in cross-cultural experiences (especially as they pertain to Sweden, but they’re not picky) in the form of nonfiction essays, “postcards,” fiction and poetry. They also publish short essays about writing and the writing life.

When I was married we spent every carnival out-of-town, like any self-respecting carioca. Let the tourists have the run of the place with its beery crowds, urine-soaked sidewalks, noise, smoke, skin and general chaos; carnival is for deserted beaches. Carnival is for skiing in Colorado.
–Julia Michaels, “Horrible Carnival”

2. Anderbo

Beautiful, easy-on-the-eyes site, and beautiful literary essays (or as they call it, “fact”), fiction, and poetry by established and emerging writers.

One time I was waiting in Madrid Airport to get the plane back when I was overcome by a sense that there was a space for me here in Madrid. A me-shaped space. And so we all came together in Lombardia Street and the space was filled. Then, when nobody really expected it, two years later another space opened up. A you-shaped one.
—Donal Thompson, “Letter to Maeve”

3. Orion Magazine Online

Photo: Poldavo

Originally (and still) a print magazine, Orion is now available online. Many of the biggest names in environmental writing publish here regularly, alongside unknown and emerging writers.

Orion consistently keeps the big picture in mind, looking in depth at environmental and social issues the world over. Some of the best environmental reporting, social philosophy, memoir, and poetry (and more) anywhere in print or on the Web.

If the Transition Initiative were a person, you’d say he or she was charismatic, wise, practical, positive, resourceful, and very, very popular….The core purpose of the Transition Initiative is to address, at the community level, the twin issues of climate change and peak oil—the declining availability of “ancient sunlight,” as fossil fuels have been called.
—Jay Griffiths, “The Transition Initiative”

4. Apple Valley Review

This magazine focuses more on essays and poetry, with some essays thrown in. A good mix of voices (from gentle to edgy) and forms (from traditional to experimental).

In this story my grandfather does not die. He does not fall over while tilling the garden and my grandmother does not yell to my cousin to go get help and she does not sit by him, crushing the zucchini, while she waits for the medics who come too late.
–Suzanne Cope, “The Story That Isn’t This Story”

5. Superstition Review

Produced by undergraduate literature students at Arizona State, this magazine can be hit or miss—but they find enough intelligent, witty writing and great storytelling to make up for the clinkers. Nonfiction, fiction, poetry, interviews, and art.

“You can sit next to me,” a young man says, startling me. It’s been days since I’ve heard English. “I’m American,” he adds and waits for my relief.
–JD Riso, “Strange Bird”

6. Sub-Lit

Sub-Lit’s editors describe it as “daring in subject matter, form, or tone. Publishing should not be an academic circle jerk, or a realm where blandness is encouraged.” Their subtitle: “Sex, Literature, and Rock & Roll.”

I plopped into a metal chair that couldn’t have been less comfortable if it had leather straps and a couple of million volts coursing through it. The old man was wearing his good pants— a pair of Jordache jeans. Mom complained he only wore them when he was trying to impress somebody at the bar.
–Joe Lombo,”Changing of the Guard”

7. Narrative Magazine

Photo: Cyanocorax

Consistently high-quality literary writing. One highlight: the “Readers’ Narratives” feature—short, self-contained stories from people’s lives.

The silent war between my parents permeated the apartment. My escape was the veranda. Lying on my stomach, I peered through an old pair of binoculars and watched the gray-blue waves of the Arabian Ocean as they crashed along Marine Drive, soaking young lovers on the seawall. I watched crowds walk along the dirty gray sand of Chowpatty Beach, the women lifting their saris before wading into the ocean.
–Amin Ahmad, “Mumbai, November 1977″

8. Miranda

Fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and articles on a variety of topics, from the frustrations of the writing life to the secret lives of squirrels to getting high in India.

I purchased the bhukki and the ganja from a teen Punjabi bellhop named Krishan. He is my chauffer into extinction, but unlike his namesake he hasn’t revealed his universal forms or any silly stuff like that.
–Joe Cameron, “Moksha”

9. The Literary Bohemian

A fun site specifically devoted to travel writing in the form of travelogues and “postcard prose” (short sketches). A bonus is the “Signs of Life” feature—photos of garbled English translations on signs from across the world.

In the water, a songbird thrashed. A small boat crept quietly up, its engine silent, the driver attempting to maneuver close enough to scoop the creature out with an oar. As I was doubly useless—non-Finnish speaking and netless—I returned to my son.
–Susan Koefod, “Breakfast in Helsinki”

10. Juked

Reading Juked can be a slightly surreal, or deliciously confusing, experience: they feature nonfiction, fiction, and poetry—but don’t tell you which is which. Good, solid writing.

Now the cloud makes a sound like a school bus being dropped on a row house or two. Gerry is over stimulated. He tries to strike Victor with his broom. But Victor the fat corset maker knows a thing or two about broom fights.
—Laura Ellen Scott, “Do You Know What It Means To Miss”

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About The Author

Teresa Ponikvar

Teresa Ponikvar is a former Matador editor, a current reluctant English teacher, and a future mini-farmer. She lives in rural Oaxaca, Mexico, with her husband, young son, and assorted animals and arthropods. She blogs here.

  • http://collazoprojects.com Julie

    Teresa-

    Fantastic finds. I’d never heard of any of these… looking forward to checking them out, especially after reading the excerpts you included here.

  • Frank

    I definitely have to check some of these out. Travel writing that takes a more literary bent is always good fun.

  • http://matadorabroad.com Tim Patterson

    Great collection – I’m especially glad to see Orion on there. It’s one of my favorite magazines.

  • http://wayworded.blogspot.com/ Hal

    So glad you included the excerpts. This was a fun read–and informative!

  • http://madoreable.com PHM

    I would especially be interested in reading a few travel essays as submissions for dispatch litareview. http://litareview.com. I’m always on the lookout for nonfiction but what little comes my way never flexes more muscle than the fiction I get. I like to see work that appears to have been edited thoroughly by the writer so all I’m doing as an editor is pruning. The reason for this is that in past experience going much further than pruning can be disastrous for both parties. So send your best. And oh yeah, dispatch pays (while not very much, it’s still a rarity for online magazines).

  • lauren

    thanks for these! i’m super excited about these sites.

  • http://www.tabs-examinedlife.com/ Tabatha

    It is so refreshing to read magazines, online or otherwise, where the writing is so compelling. So many of the travel magazines that I come across are full of cliches and they don’t actually say or mean anything. Thanks!

  • http://intheknowtraveler.com Devin

    Hi Teresa,

    Nice article and to know that the literary world hasn’t forgotten about travel.
    devin

  • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/eahutton Erin

    Thanks for the great list of publications! I’m excited to check out some I’ve never heard about before.

  • http://www.terrain.org Simmons

    I’m biased as the editor, of course, but I’d also recommend Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments, at http://www.terrain.org. Each twice-yearly, theme-based issue usually includes at least one excellent piece of travel writing, plus poetry, editorials, articles, other essays, photography and other artwork, reviews, an interview, and the UnSprawl case study.

    • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/david-miller David Miller

      Thanks for the link and the recommendation Simmons. Actually Terrain has been on my radar screen–you guys have an exceptional publication. When are submissions due for the next the issue, and what’s the theme?

  • http://www.terrain.org Simmons

    Thanks David! All our submission info is up at http://www.terrain.org/submit, including upcoming themes. Our next issue has the theme of “Virtually There,” which opens up some intriguing possibilities especially from a travel writing perspective, I think. It launches in mid-March and submissions are due by February 1 through our online system. Queries can also be sent at any time to review@terrain.org.

    Other upcoming themes include “The Signal in the Noise” and “Entropy.”

    • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/david-miller David Miller

      Excellent Simmons, thanks! That theme couldn’t be more relevant to our community.

      I’ll spread that info throughout the network, including our students at the U.

  • http://krackenburg.wordpress.com Meredith

    Great post! I love opening up a literary journal to find travel writing inside. The only one of these I’d read before was Frostwriting, and the others all sound absolutely tantalyzing!

  • J. D.

    It’s a nice surprise to find an excerpt from one of my pieces (in Superstition Review) on this list. Thank you!

    There are many online literary publications that take travel writing or have travel writing sections – Eclectica.org for example. Check around at publications that accept creative nonfiction and then read what they’ve published before to get an idea if they might be open to travel lit.

    • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/david-miller David Miller

      thanks for checking in J.D. glad you found this.

  • Heather

    Just a note – Anderbo pops up frequently on ‘best literary magazine’ lists, but unfortunately is no longer accepting submissions.

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