The Twelve Best Literary Journals of 2015

Written by Emily Harstone | December 23, 2015

In 2015 Authors Publish reviewed well over 50 literary journals. Some were just summary reviews as part of a larger list, but most were comprehensive reviews that described submission guidelines and the journal’s preferences.

As a way of celebrating 2015, we have created a list of the top twelve literary journals we reviewed this year. We are not covering literary journals that we did not review or mention in a list this year. If one of your favorites is missing that is most likely why. Also, we never review a literary journal that charges submission fees.

This list contains a mix of journals, some are well known, others are not. This collection of journals focuses on promoting journals that are publishing consistently good work, even if the journal themselves might be more off the beaten path. These are journals that publish good writing and publication in them will help build your career.

Not all of the journals listed below are currently open to submissions, but those who are not tend to be re-opening to submissions in January. To read the full review of the journal (which includes the website link for the journal) click on the name.

The list is in no particular order.
1. After The Pause
After the Pause is an electronic literary journal that publishes one issue per season. They are always open to submissions. They publish each issue on the electronic magazine site Issuu. They publish poetry, flash fiction, and visual art. They plan to publish their first yearly print anthology in January 2016. To learn more about them, read our full review here.

2. Bitter Oleander
Since 1974, The Bitter Oleander has been publishing uncommon writing—poetry and fiction that unhinges the door of imagination. Beyond the contrivances of culture and habit, the Bitter Oleander brings readers and authors from around the world face to face with one another and their uncovered selves. Their pages host the lofty music of linguistic rhythm and the unforeseeable theatrics of deeply image-driven verse. They publish unheard of writers, often-heard writers, and all writers in-between, but they don’t publish writing we’ve all heard before—easy truisms and worn-out wording. They’re looking for honesty and invention in any form and style. To get a sense of their taste, you can read their featured work online.To learn more about them, read our full review here.

3. Up The Staircase
Up the Staircase is an online journal open to submissions of poetry, reviews, and interviews.They publish four issues a year. They pair the poems they publish with well chosen art and also sometimes with audio recordings of the poet reading their poem. Their website is easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. To learn more about them, read our full review here.

4. SOFTBLOW
SOFTBLOW is an online literary journal based out of Singapore that publishes only English language poetry. They publish work by three poets every month. SOFTBLOW usually publishes 3-5 poems per poet, and they are placed on the same page, underneath the author’s biography. To learn more about them, read our full review here.

5. Cease, Cows
Cease, Cows is an online journal of flash fiction launched in 2013. They aim to publish honest writing that unveils the animality within humanity, and strange writing that invites us to transcend it. They like prose that beats in sync with the cultural pulse and exposes its absurdist constructs. They publish fiction in any style, but especially appreciate magical realism and work that’s speculative, utopian, dystopian, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, experimental, and bizarre. With the tagline, “Life is short, and so is our fiction,” they call for concentrated submissions—potent and effective. To get a sense of what they publish, you can read past issues online. To learn more about them, read our full review here.

6. Cream City Review
Hailing from “The Cream City”—Milwaukee, Wisconsin—Cream City Review is a print journal dedicated to publishing poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, visual art, comics, contemporary literary reviews, and author interviews. Founded in 1975, Cream City Review offers both new and established writers a stable and enduring home for their work. Publishing poet laureates alongside literary unknowns, they aim to create a haven for authors to seek the limits of the contemporary literary frontier. Lively and arresting, the work in Cream City Review questions boundaries and dismantles the borders between form and content, redefining “literature.” To learn more about them, read our full review here.

7. The Gravity of The Thing
The Gravity of the Thing is an online literary magazine devoted to publishing original fiction, narrative nonfiction, and poetry. Their journal aims to present everyday objects in uncommon ways, to defamiliarize the reader with the ordinary, making it new and strange. They want their readers to be taken on a journey, to experience transformation that brings them someplace new. They like work that is aware of its form and uses structure to express its personality. Playing with possibilities of craft, each issue includes a selection of six word stories. You can read these micro narratives online, along with flash fiction and nonfiction, and featured poetry and prose.To learn more about them, read our full review here.

8. The Journal

Founded in 1973, The Journal is a longstanding print and online publication produced by Ohio State University. Debuting emerging writers alongside established authors like Mary Jo Bang, Brenda Hillman, and Linda Bierds, The Journal contributes substantially to the literary culture in its home state and beyond. To learn more about them, read our full review here.

9. Alaska Quarterly Review
Alaska Quarterly Review, hailed by many as one of the nation’s top literary journals, has made an indelible impression on our culture by publishing fresh, cutting-edge literary art. It all started 30 years ago when editor Ronald Spatz, wanting to revitalize the literary culture of Alaska, launched the magazine, housing Alaskan voices with both new and well-known writers of the lower 48. To learn more about them, read our full review here.

10. Image
Image, a print and online quarterly, publishes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction inspired by religious faith. They are a respected, competitive, and established journal that consistently publishes good work. To learn more about them, read our full reviewhere.

11.A Quiet Courage
A Quiet Courage is an online literary journal. In their own words they focus on publishing “compelling, poignant, memorable, and well-written microfiction and poetry in 100 words or less.” The title of the piece is not counted towards the overall word count. To learn more about them, read our full review here.

12. One Story
One Story publishes one short story every three weeks. They have a print and e-versions of the story that they publish. They have published a number of respected and best selling authors including Elizabeth Gilbert, B.J. Novak, Stephen O’Connor, and Aimee Bender. One Story pays all their contributors $500 per story and they also offer 25 contributor copies. To learn more about them, read our full review here.