Thursday, December 17, 2009

Discovery Friday: Glimmer Train

Today we feature Glimmer Train. I've been familiar with Glimmer Train for many years. I think I was in college when I first started reading it. To my lights, it's one of the best literary journals out there for fiction writers. They publish new and established writers in a very quality format. As part of our regular Friday exercise in literary discovery, I've asked one of the co-editors, Susan Burmeister-Brown, a few simple questions. After reading the interview, go have a look at Glimmer Train's Web site. And the next time you're at The Writer's Center, pick up a copy of the journal in our bookstore.

Glimmer Train has “only” been around since 1990, but in that time you’ve not only published some of the biggest names (and many up-and-coming names) in contemporary American fiction, you’ve also established Glimmer Train as one of the most indispensable literary journals in the country. When you started 20 years ago, what was your goal?

Our goal was to bring a different sort of story to print. In the 80s, many literary short stories were rather cool to the touch. We were looking for literary work that was more fully engaging. That remains our focus.

How has the literary journal scene changed for you during that time?

This is a particularly poignant time to be asked this question. So many journals are shutting down, it’s heart-rending! On the positive side, online journals are making a stronger presence. While the printed page is something pretty special (enduring), the important thing is for there to be good outlets for literary work, for writers and for readers.

“In a year’s time,” you write in the winter 2010 issue of Glimmer Train, “you give more than $45,000 to writers.” With all the changes happening for literary journals today, that’s a shocking (but wonderful) number. Though I can’t prove it, I think Glimmer Train must be one of the biggest supporters of independent fiction writers in the country. Can you talk a little bit about how you manage to achieve such success while other journals are falling by the wayside?

Glimmer Train was a dream for us, and has been our life work for 20 years now, supported largely with personal funds from the beginning, so perhaps people know they can count on our continued commitment to writers and readers. And the 571 contributors whose work we’ve presented know how much we value their stories and, in fact, the writers themselves. We hope it shows in the publication. I think even those writers whose work hasn’t yet made it into our pages know that we two sisters read and value their work. So maybe in part what we have is a mutually appreciative relationship; there is a sort of pact between readers and writers and the editors who publish stories. We are utterly dependent on one another and we know it.

In each issue of Glimmer Train as far back as I can remember, you’ve published photographs of your contributors—often of them as children. That’s unique. How did it come about?

We decided from the beginning that we wanted author photographs to reveal the essence inside. Childhood photographs offer that because they haven’t yet learned how to compose themselves for the camera. Even when children think they are putting on their “camera face”, their true selves are leaking through, and those true selves are the ones that later write the stories.

What is the single most important thing a writer should know before submitting to Glimmer Train?

Have faith in your work. And check our guidelines. (Sorry, that’s two. :-)

In what ways can readers of this blog get involved with Glimmer Train?

They can read the wonderful literary short fiction published in Glimmer Train. Subscribing supports the writers and helps support a publication that has always welcomed the work of emerging writers. And your readers can let us read their own stories. Stories are, obviously, the heart of Glimmer Train.

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