I’m a busy writer. Not too long ago (two years to be precise) I decided that if I wanted to be a writer, I had to get busy and write some things. That’s what being a writer means, right? But I also committed myself to community. I committed to submitting. I’m going to share with you a few things I’ve found as a part of this process.
This fall, I stumbled upon a neat little site called Sixfold. Sixfold is an online literary journal where selections for publication are chosen by submitters. There are no editors involved, just writers reading the work of other writers. Sounds interesting right?
The way it works is this: You pay $5, along with several hundred other writers (the full number is unknown) and you vote on a series of manuscripts in three rounds. Each round you vote on 6 manuscripts. The highest voted manuscript gets $1,000. The top 30 poem manuscripts get published. (More about the process is available here.)
I’m in the second round of voting right now, and I have to say I’m enjoying the process. It is challenging to rank manuscripts – Which read slightly better than the last? Or slightly worse? It reminds me of working at a literary journal in college. Except, I can give feedback to my fellow writers! This is my favorite feature of the website.
I don’t know whether my manuscript will get very far in the voting process, but even if it doesn’t the fun of getting to rate poems and receive feedback from other writers hooked me. With NaNoWriMo on, I panicked this week because I realized it was the second round of voting, but I got my vote in.
The voting process is pretty easy. I enjoy reading which poems were picked. The top poems get voted on by a total of 390 writers. This differs greatly from a normal literary journal, which might have 1-2 slush readers, then an editorial board or one editor reading second tier submissions. The economic model makes more sense too. Writers have to pay to play, but they are guaranteed feedback. It is rare (read: doubtful) for a literary journal to offer feedback, especially on poetry. Yet most journals charge for submissions, expecting writers to be happy to pay and receive nothing in return but a rejection letter.
I’m not saying it’s perfect. Sixfold just underwent a serious funding campaign (which it met) to stay alive. No options exist for genre writers. But the model calls into question the traditional literary journal format, and suggests that in our digital world, there are other ways literature can thrive.
What does it mean that literary journals are increasingly crossing into the digital realm? Print is certainly not dead yet, but the space that Sixfold inhabits is one of both democracy (user-generated, user-voted content) and digital community. These two ideas coming together may mean something for the future of literary journals, or they may just be a passing fad.
Let’s just say, it’s another way I’m keeping myself busy.
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Holly Lyn Walrath is a freelance editor and author of poetry, flash fiction, and short fiction. Find her on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath
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