TRAVEL WRITING TENDS to get pigeonholed. You rarely find anything on it–from literary criticism to reviews of prominent or up and coming writers–outside of the same small group of online publications.
This is due partly to the sense that travel writing is often storytelling or language commodified, writing corrupted by marketing, which unfortunately is an on-point assessment in many cases.
Getting dozens of submission each week filled with salesman-y language makes me wonder what people are reading, but then coming across a New York Times travel section with the same cliches (here are some today: “Handsome beaches, bohemian design and youthful chaos”) answers my question.
One thing we’ve always believed at Matador is that travel writing should be an open and creative, ultimately literary form. Its only real requirement is that it’s based on faithful reporting, that the author doesn’t make anything up. And it should also give the reader a strong sense of place. In other words, the setting itself is almost like another character.
With that definition in mind, I wanted to share some of my favorite sites, magazines, and blogs, all of which publish, analyze, or at least touch on writing that has these elements, writing that goes by different names – “narrative nonfiction,” “creative nonfiction,” “literary nonfiction,” “place-based writing”- but is essentially “travel writing” even if it’s not recognized as such.
These are general magazines on literary criticism / writing, but not publishers:
1. HTML GIANT
HTML GIANT‘s tagline is “the internet literature blog of the future.” Those who take themselves and their writing very seriously might reject this magazine ‘on its face’ (there are lots of f-bombs and an occasional crotch or breast shot couched as self-effacing promotion or “venturing into art”), but I haven’t found anywhere on the web with more vibrant and hilarious discussions on writing, authors, form, and just about anything.
Last week there was a post on Joyce that had almost 350 comments, many of them spontaneously written mini-essays that could’ve stood alone as posts on literary criticism and writing.
2. Pank Magazine’s Blog
Pank Blog self defines: “PANK inhabits its contradictions.” Some really good discussion, voices, and they also have their own magazine / publication.
3. New Pages
New Pages: “News, information and guides to independent bookstores, independent publishers, literary magazines, alternative periodicals, independent record labels, alternative newsweeklies and more.” Their blog has great posts on authors, new releases, contests, grants, and more.
These are places that publish–albeit under a different label–travel writing:
Memoir is pushing all kinds of new forms of writing that have to do with memory.
5. 4th Genre
4th Genre writes: “We invite you to experience Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction, a journal devoted to publishing notable, innovative work in nonfiction. The title reflects our intention to give nonfiction its due as a literary genre—to give writers of the fourth genre a showcase for their work and to give our readers a place to find the liveliest and most creative works in the form.”
6. Words Without Borders
Words Without Borders “opens doors to international exchange through translation, publication, and promotion of the world’s best writing.” Just getting into this publication–seems really strong.
Camas is the literary magazine based out of University of Montana’s writing program. Former contributors include Matadorians Teresa Ponikvar and Adam French. Camas publishes writing on place, with a special focus on the Rocky Mountain West.
8. River Teeth
River Teeth is a journal dedicated to “nonfiction narrative.” The authors they quote on the homepage (Tim O’Brien), and in the About Us (David James Duncan) are two of my favorites.
9. Virginia Quarterly
These are the ‘big-time’ markets.
10. The Sun
The Sun gets nationwide distribution at bookstores and places like Whole Foods and seems really fresh and new even though it’s been around for 30 years.
Orion – publishes great writing with regular contributors like Rick Bass and Barry Lopez. Like The Sun it’s ad-free.
These are some of the highlights. There are definitely more out there. What do you like to read?