On the road again! Off to the Great Plains, we’re headed to the Cornhusker State, home of Brett Biebel’s “Big Red Nation” and the College Baseball World Series: Nebraska. Check out what literary magazines this Midwest state has to offer.
Welcome to what is arguably the middle of the country (fight us, Kansas): a land so flat and wide you get almost a whole half-mile to yourself (we did the math). When the “America the Beautiful” song talks about “amber waves of grain,” this is the place you should have in mind. You likely know about Nebraska if you know someone who likes sports. Other than that, do you ever think really about it? It’s the state you avoid on cross-country road trips if you’re trying to sightsee or the one you jet right through so fast you don’t remember it if you’re trying to make good time. Either way, I bet you didn’t know it had cool literary things. Well it does and here they are:
You probably already know Prairie Schooner as the ship on which everyone wants to sail. With two of my favorite writer names attached to it—editor-in-chief Kwame Dawes and Chigozie Obioma, both faculty members of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Creative Writing Program out of which Prairie Schooner is based—I’m automatically biased already, but can we also just talk about the name? This is how you name a lit mag. RIP Glimmer Train and long live Prairie Schooner and other metaphorical bastions for the transportative powers of the written word, especially those with rippling canvas sails streaming off into the sunset while clouds of glory loom across the golden plains of the Midwest. If none of this does it for you, perhaps their esteemed annual book prize, fun Twitter account, or all-around-great-amazing-wonderful-shining-star-of-a-lit-mag will.
In the sea that is Nebraska, this little lit mag is the speedboat to the Schooner. Based out of Omaha (cue Counting Crows), Fine Lines has a quarterly publication of prose, poetry, and art along with a bonafide summer camp for what claims to be and very literally appears to be all ages, which is an odd but rich experience—a welcome and multigenerational reprieve from your women’s writers group retreat or the hipster cabin writer week in the woods you’re trying to justify affording. One caveat to submitting can be found in the guidelines: “Any writing pieces containing the following: profanity, sexual scenes, ‘dark side of the force’, and excessive violence will not be accepted.” Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to submit something that rocks this speedboat just so.
Not a lit mag per say, but a small press—and what a small press it is! Outdated internet listings hint that The Cupboard was based out of Nebraska at one point, though it’s now run remotely by editors Kelly Delaney and Todd Seabrook. Even so, it’s too cool not to plug. Quoth the editors: “We have always been puzzled by editorial statements of small presses. It has never mattered what we as editors want from our submitters. We have discovered that if we look for a particular vision of the world, we blind ourselves to that new, fantastic work that lies at the edge of sight.” Did you just fall in love, too? The Cupboard Pamphlet’s focus on putting submitters—and a good business model—first, in tandem with its quarterly publishing rate, makes for sustainable and stylish book publication. The real Easter egg, though: custom book trailers.
This “autobiography of the Lower Midwest” encompasses Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas—a truly regional effort that’s been going strong since 2015 and taking full advantage of the opportunities for trans-stateline collaborations the world wide web provides. “Our founding mission was to give a more nuanced, diverse voice to a region of the US that’s often brushed over as flyoverlandia,” says Sara Usha Maillacheruvu, Executive Editor, a mission that’s fleshed out extremely well in the magazine’s eight founding principles, stated explicitly and earnestly on the homepage below the fold. For a nation and a land all too often polarized by coastlines and party lines, something like The New Territory is a place of saving grace: one taking enough time to incorporate, integrate, and even celebrate opposing forces. They’ve incorporated a Patreon account into their business model, which is both innovative and true to their mission to connect with contributors and readers. There is also a dog on their masthead.
By Melissa Hinshaw