Literary magazines are the source and resource for writers of poetry and prose. It’s where important conversations are sparked and sustained, reputations made and deliberated.
Whether you’re a dissident or member of the faithful, as a writer, literary magazines are a necessary and enduring part of our culture. Even as venerable oldies, like Descant, close up shop, new lit mags emerge. (We’re winking at you, untethered and Sewer Lid).
Warning: this post is for analyzers and procrastinators. Taxonomically quirky. Possibly pedantic. Almost no math skills required. Bookmark under “crazy valuable.” Or “tl;dr.”
I’ve checked the current status of 90+ Canadian literary magazines (by verifying that info on their websites is up-to-date). I started out using this very good list from the National Magazine Awards blog, then added to it. I cringe to think of the stench of link rot within a year, but for this week I’m going out on a literary limb to say that what follows is the most current and comprehensive list of Canadian online and print literary magazines in the galaxy (where “most” means many-many-but-not-all).
The literary magazines listed in this blog include the long-respected and established, run by editorial boards and foundations, as well as the newer, mostly online magazines, run by dedicated and like-minded friends. My inclusion criteria was broad. I excluded only those whose websites looked more like they’re trying to sell something than publish your work, those that did not seem current by a few months, or those whose “contact” information was not listed (yep).
Below, the magazines are divided by: founding decade (to give you a sense of the longer-term and the newer players), supporting university/college (because these represent about 30% of Canadian lit mags), and province (I like to have a sense of who’s doing what, where). I’ve included what I thought was an interesting find from the National Magazine Awards blog about magazine nomination and contributor awards (because who doesn’t dream of winning one?). Most relevant to you, overwhelmed writer, some submission suggestions by genre.
These lists aren’t annotated so I’ll leave it to you to familiarize yourself with the magazines’ publication mandates on their “about” web pages. The good folks at Lexical.ca are working on such a listing so follow them for updates.
(some) Canadian literary magazines by decade
Canadian literary magazines can be traced back to the late 1700s, but most of the ones we have on our shelves now are a result of a boom that started in the 1960s when university-supported literary quarterlies became popular. Some of the most respected lit mags have been around even longer. Acta Victoriana was founded in 1878, the Dalhousie Review in 1921, The Fiddlehead in 1945, and Canadian Literature and PRISM both in 1959.
From the ’80s and ’90s, including: Broken Pencil, Carousel, The Danforth Review, Exit, revue des poesie, Filling Station, Freefall, Geist, The Hart House Review, The Literary Review of Canada, The Nashwaak Review, The New Quarterly, On Spec, QWERTY, Ricepaper, Scarborough Fair, Sub-Terrain, Taddle Creek, and XYZ.
Since 2000, including: Carte Blanche, The Dorchester Review, Echolocation, Eighteen Bridges, The Feathertale Review, Geez, Glass Buffalo, Guts, Hamilton Arts & Letters, Hazlitt, The Humber Literary Review, Little Brother, Maisonneuve, (parenthetical), The Maynard, Plenitude, Poetry is Dead, The Puritan, Riddle Fence, The Rusty Toque, Shameless, text, untethered, and Vallum.
university- and college-based Canadian literary magazines
About 30% of Canadian literary magazines are university- or college-based. Some of these magazines are run by students, but not all. Being supported by an institute of higher learning no longer ensures longevity. Just ask The Capilano Review. In alphabetical order, they are:
Acta Victoriana (University of Toronto), The Antigonish Review (St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia), Canadian Literature (University of British Columbia), Carousel (University of Guelph), The Dalhousie Review (Dalhousie University, Halifax), Echolocation (University of Toronto), Eighteen Bridges (University of Alberta), Event (Douglas College, BC), Existere (York University, Toronto), The Fiddlehead (University of New Brunswick), The Fieldstone Review (U of Saskatchewan), Glass Buffalo (University of Alberta), The Hart House Review (University of Toronto), The Humber Literary Review (Humber College), Joypuke (Mt. Allison, New Brunswick), The Malahat Review (University of Victoria), Matrix (Concordia University), The Nashwaak Review (St. Thomas University, New Brunswick), The New Quarterly (St. Jerome’s University, Waterloo), NōD (University of Calgary), PRISM (University of British Columbia), Queen’s Quarterly (Queen’s University, Kingston), QWERTY (University of New Brunswick), Rampike (University of Windsor), Soliloquies (Concordia, Montreal), and Windsor Review (University of Windsor).
list of Canadian literary magazines by province
Maybe you’re deeply loyal to the geographical terra firma of your writing youth and want to support the literary magazines that first inspired or supported you. Or perhaps you’d like to be able to say you’ve had pieces published in each region (whatever motivation works, people!). Otherwise, sorting Canadian literary magazines by region isn’t particularly helpful for your publication purposes, but it does help with the mental map of knowing who is where. Let’s face it, if a company exists “online,” isn’t your first thought still, “but online where?”
Ontario has the largest population, so you’d expect the most literary magazines to come from there (36 in list below). But the smaller east coast boasts nine literary magazines, two of which are the oldest literary magazines in Canada (Dalhousie Review and Fiddlehead). Only one listed below for Saskatchewan, but it’s Grain, a well-respected journal. [Two! - just added The Fieldstone Review -- thanks for the intel, Nicole Haldoupis.]
British Columbia: Ascent Aspirations Magazine (Victoria), baldhip (Victoria), Canadian Literature (UBC, Vancouver), The Capilano Review (Vancouver), Cede Poetry (Vancouver), Event (Douglas College, New Westminster), Forget (Vancouver), Geist (Vancouver), MacroMicroCosm, The Malahat Review (UVic), The Maynard, Plenitude (Victoria), OK Magpie (Okanagan), Poetry is Dead (Vancouver), Polymath, PRISM International (UBC, Vancouver), Ricepaper (Vancouver), Room (Vancouver), Sad Mag (Vancouver), sub-Terrain (Vancouver), text (Nanaimo), and One Throne (Dawson City, Yukon; okay, not in BC, but due north).
Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba: CV2 (Winnipeg), Eighteen Bridges (U of A, Edmonton), The Fieldstone Review (U of Saskatchewan), Filling station (Calgary), Freefall (Calgary), Geez (Winnipeg), Glass Buffalo (U of A, Edmonton), Grain (Saskatoon), NōD (U of Calgary), On Spec (Edmonton), Prairie Fire (Winnipeg), The Prairie Journal (Calgary), Rhubarb (Winnipeg), and The Winnipeg Review (Winnipeg).
Ontario: Acta Victoriana (Toronto), Arc Poetry Mazazine (Ottawa), Brick (Toronto), Bywords (Ottawa), Canadian Notes & Queries (Windsor), Canadian Poetry (London), Carousel (Guelph), The Danforth Review (Toronto), The Dorchester Review (Ottawa), Echolocation (Toronto), Existere (Toronto), Exile (Toronto), The Feathertale Review (Ottawa), Guts (Toronto), Hamilton Arts & Letters (Hamilton), The Humber Literary Review (Toronto), The Literary Review of Canada (Toronto), The New Quarterly (Waterloo), Ottawater (Ottawa), Petal Journal (Toronto), Pictures & Portraits (Toronto), The Puritan (Toronto), Queen’s Quarterly (Kingston), The Quilliad (Toronto), Rampike (Windsor), The Rusty Toque (Toronto and London), Scarborough Fair (Toronto), Seventeen Seconds (Ottawa), Sewer Lid (Toronto), Shameless (Toronto), The Steel Chisel (Ottawa), Taddle Creek (Toronto), THIS Magazine, untethered (Toronto), Tracer (Toronto), and Windsor Review (Windsor).
Quebec: Carte Blanche (Montreal), Exit, revue des poesie (Montreal), Lettres quebecoises (Montreal), Maisonneuve (Montreal), Matrix (Concordia U, Montreal), Nouveau Projet (Montreal), Soliloquies (Concordia, Montreal), Vallum (Montreal), and XYZ (Ville Saint-Laurent).
East Coast: The Antigonish Review (Nova Scotia), The Dalhousie Review (Nova Scotia), The Fiddlehead (New Brunswick), The Impressment Gang (Halifax), Joypuke (Mt. Allison, New Brunswick), The Nashwaak Review (New Brunswick), QWERTY (New Brunswick), Riddle Fence (Newfoundland & Labrador), Understorey Magazine (Nova Scotia).
Canada/US: The Mackinac (one editor lives in Canada, one in the US)
( a few) Canadian literary magazines by genre
To find the most appropriate home for your work it’s advisable to read back issues of literary magazines. But, it’s also true, IMHO, that many (the majority?) of mainstream Canadian lit mags don’t distinguish themselves that sharply from one another. If your short story or creative non-fiction essay or poem is good, it could potentially be published in one of dozens of magazines.
An increasing number of new magazines are hybrid (available on paper and online) or online only, making it easier to access and assess their content. Still think print is (more) prestigious? Consider this: Canadian print magazines have astonishingly small circulation numbers (usually in the hundreds or low thousands; very low) while online publication has the potential to reach … a gajillion more. That wasn’t the math part of the blog.
Some, like The Puritan, exist only online but will occasionally publish a print anthology. More literary magazines are moving toward publishing at least some of their print content online, or publishing different content online than in their print version, like The Humber Literary Review does.
If your work fits into a specific genre, then the good and bad news is that there are a limited number of Canadian lit mags to which you can submit. It’s typically hard to find a good home for your work if you’re a sci-fi/horror/fantasy or speculative fiction writer. But you might consider new mags MacroMicroCosm, and Polymath or the established and respected On Spec.
Not quite fantasy or spec fiction? Toronto-based online mag Tracer is looking for stories from you: “the weirder, wilder, and more dream-like the better.”
Most literary magazines accept poetry, but a few are more exclusively poetry-focused, such as Arc, Cede, CV2, The Mackinac, and Vallum. If you’re a young poet living on the west coast, Poetry is Dead is made for you.
Speaking of the wet coast, Sad Mag wants submissions from Vancouver-based “creatives” who are “dedicated to covering Vancouver’s independent arts and culture.”
Plenitude looks for submissions from LGBTTQI writers, filmmakers, and artists. Some feminist/women’s journals include Room (the oldest), Petal Journal (the newest), Guts, and Understorey. Voicings publishes Aboriginal writing and art in Canada (though I’m not certain from their website that they’re still going and I haven’t heard back from them yet).
I don’t know that The Fuck of the Century technically belongs on this list as a lit mag but the problem with lists is always who gets left out. So I’m including The Fuck of the Century for those of you who need it. I mean, for those of you who write about film and television culture. (Not that I could find the “submissions” link on their page).
If game fiction is your genre, try Gold Shader. As I write this, their “about” link doesn’t work but they seem to be alive according to their YouTube channel and Twitter.
Leaning toward the academic with a piece of cultural or literary criticism? Try Canadian Literature, and Canadian Notes and Queries. See the submissions page of Hazlitt (Random House Canada’s online magazine) for how to pitch them your ideas for investigative research and cultural criticism. Edmonton’s Eighteen Bridges publishes “narrative journalism” as well as poetry and fiction.
Wherefore art thou book reviewers? Send your much-needed literary book reviews to The Winnipeg Review, and The Literary Review of Canada. Try Broken Pencil for reviews of indie books and presses (as well as all things alternative). The Ottawa Review of Books accepts book reviews, though not poetry or fiction (which is why it’s not in any of the lists above). Many other magazines also accept book reviews along with poetry and fiction. Lemon Hound (2005-2012) has this list of interviews with writers on book reviewing. Much has been written in recent years lamenting the loss of the literary book review. Possibly there are now more writers than readers. This can’t end well.
get nominated –> get prizes –> get serious
A writer’s first award is a big confidence booster. Many say it’s the first award that makes you take your work (more) seriously. If you check out the National Magazine Awards blog you can see which literary magazines submitted the most nominations to, and received awards from, this annual competition: THIS Magazine (nominated 84 of their contributors), The Malahat Review (83), The New Quarterly (50), Prairie Fire (45) and so on.
By far the most number of nominations, 126, comes from Montreal-based Maisonneuve. Not surprisingly, their nominated writers have also received the most awards (34 of those 126 nominated).
If your work is nominated by Geist, Hazlitt, The Malahat Review, or PRISM, you have at least a one-in-three chance of winning a national magazine award.
PRISM has the highest success ratio with their nominations, where 46% of the writers they nominate go on to win a National Magazine Award. Geist also has an impressive success rate for awards (40%). Okay, that was the math part. It’s over now.
Remember that it costs magazines between $95 and $120 for each nomination to the National Magazine Awards.
The Writers’ Trust awards the Writers’ Trust/McLelland & Stewart Journey Prize, the most prestigious prize in Canada for short story writers. This year’s winner is Deirdre Dore, for her story “Wise Baby” published in Geist. Prize winners receive $10,000 and, “in recognition of the vital role literary print and online magazines play in discovering new writers, McClelland & Stewart makes its own award of $2,000 to the publication that originally published and submitted the winning entry.”
Journey Prize shortlisted and winning stories are gathered in the annual Journey Prize Anthology. This year is number 27. You can buy it online or in bookstores that carry literary magazines.
herein ends the primer… almost
Your homework is to examine the mastheads of Canadian literary magazines (look, if you got this far I know the kind of person you are so don’t roll your eyes). If you read these masthead names closely you can discern who is sleeping with whom and which assistant editors are the biggest drinkers. No, you can’t. But you should definitely try.
Now go back to that short story/poem/novel draft. You just read this blog post to procrastinate. It’s the reason I wrote it. But it’s a good kind of procrastination, isn’t it? It has fortified and inspired us.
For everything you need to know about how to get published in these magazines, download Toronto-based writer Ayelet Tsabari’s 50 page manual on the subject (free! if you thank her, which you should do by buying her award-winning book, The Best Place on Earth), and read BuzzFeed contributor Lincoln Michel’s, “The Ultimate Guide to Getting Published in a Literary Magazine.”
More magazines are leaning towards accepting multiple submissions (when you submit your story/poem to more than one lit mag at a time). Which is good because most of us do this anyway. Just make sure to inform the other magazines immediately upon acceptance of your piece elsewhere.
Subscribe to some of the above magazines’ blogs and follow your favourites on Twitter. It’s all part of the job.
It’s a lonely galaxy, lit peeps. Submit.