Chinchillas are amazing little creatures that have grown in popularity as household pets over the years. Touted as quiet, clean, and attractive, even I have been tempted to bring one into the family. But the added responsibility of supporting another life form stops me short, which is why I was all on board for the new young writer’s publication, Chinchilla Lit. Publishing poetry, prose, plays/scripts, and visual art by contributors ages 11-25, the site greets visitors with cuddly chinchilla portraits and an equally soothing graphic layout and design.
“The chinchilla perfectly represents the welcoming, cozy atmosphere we hope to foster in this community,” the Chinchilla Lit Editorial Team says. “When writers submit to Chinchilla Lit, they know they can trust us with their work. As young writers ourselves, we understand how intimidating the publication world can seem, especially for those who are just entering it. In creating our magazine, we aimed to become a friendly, accessible face that encouraged writers instead of scaring them.”
Those young editors working behind the scenes are themselves also experienced writers. Poetry Editor Arim Lee is a high school student based in Massachusetts and Seoul. Her work has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Writers, The Harvard Crimson, The Fitzgerald Museum, Smith College, and more. She also edits and reads for The Courant, The Hanok Review, and Polyphony Lit. Poetry Editor Chloe Wong is a high school student from Arcadia, California. In addition to attending IYWS with her co-editors, she is a 2022 Kenyon Young Writers Workshop alumna and California Arts Scholar. Poetry Editor Gia Bharadwaj is a high school student from Boston, Massachusetts. An alum of the Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship, she has been published in the Galliard International Review, Crashtest, and the Augment Review, among other literary journals. She is also a Literary Apprentice for the poetry team at Breakbread Magazine.
After meeting at the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio, these young creatives quickly grew close and shared their hopes, passions, and fears when it came to writing. Long after the program ended, their friendship helped them channel how it felt to be a part of the writing community and how they wanted to shape it in the future. “We realized that much of the anxiety that comes with submitting work for publication comes from the intimidating nature of trusting someone else with work that feels deeply personal,” the editors share, “and we knew we wanted to create a space where submitting work could be more exciting than terrifying. Chinchilla Lit was ultimately born from a mission to inspire the creative and eliminate the fear that comes with expressing oneself.” The Editorial Team wants to be “the friendly face that young writers can trust to always be in their corner.”
To support that mission, the editors have a clear process in place for managing those submissions. “Our magazine places a lot of importance on teamwork and collaboration,” they explain, “so all of us read every submission to our magazine before we make a decision. Each submission period, we have multiple video calls to read submissions together and discuss our thoughts on them; much of the process draws from constructive discussion and collaborative thinking. We provide detailed feedback for submissions upon request, and we typically respond in 2-4 weeks.”
The experience of starting a literary publication can be a bit rocky, as the editors relate, “So far, we’ve encountered the most difficulty when it comes to managing the various aspects of a publication. We started with only three people, and we have a lot to do — reading submissions, running social media accounts, and designing issues have definitely been a challenge when put together. To tackle this issue and expand our team, we’ve developed a staff application form now on our website.
“The rewards of running a literary magazine have far outweighed this challenge though! We absolutely love reading the work of such creative young minds, and we learn something new every time we dive into our submissions. It’s wonderful to realize that so many young writers are excited to be a part of this community and that the writing world is as a strong and vibrant as ever. Publishing our first issue has also been a highlight of this experience. We felt so proud to spotlight beautiful work and give every piece a loving home. After dreaming of creating a literary magazine for so long, it’s incredibly cathartic for us to have reached that goal.”
Readers of Chinchilla Lit can expect to find “vibrant work that challenges convention and finds a story in the smallest of moments.” There are works that explore morning routines, conversations with ghosts, existential road trips, and everything in between. “Before you even realize it,” the editors say, “you’ll find yourself reconsidering your values and the way you view the world. Ultimately, we publish work that peels back layers of normalcy to reveal the chaos, darkness, and beauty beneath.” Some recent contributors include Divyanshi Dash, Hannah Dunn-Helton, and Katie Macmillan.
Going forward, Chinchilla Lit hopes to expand its team to incorporate a variety of staff members from around the world who share the editors’ passion for writing and collaboration. The next issue will place a greater spotlight on contributors by creating featured blog posts on their work. The editors add, “We also want to increase our outreach to younger writers in our submission pool by potentially offering workshops and other creative writing resources. As we grow our magazine, we ultimately want to make sure to emphasize inclusivity and instill a desire to write in the next generation of creatives.”