Born in the southern reaches of Arizona and New Mexico, Sky Island Journal is a new, open access online quarterly of poetry, flash fiction, and brief creative nonfiction. Just like its unique geographical namesake, Sky Island Journal promises, “as a writer, no matter who you are, where you're from, or what you write about – if you’ve ever felt a connection to landscapes, art, or people, your writing might very well find a home with us. As a reader, you're in for a real treat.”
Founders and Co-Editors-In-Chief Jason Splichal and Jeff Sommerfeld explain the publication's name: “Sky islands are small, isolated mountains that rise up dramatically—like bright battleships—from the flat sea of desert that surrounds them. Physically separated from other mountain ranges, and much higher in elevation than the surrounding desert, sky islands are refugia for exotic species found nowhere else, animals that only migrate vertically, and relict species that have found themselves stranded by a continually warming climate.
“Known for their ecological diversity, many sky islands are places where species from radically different biomes meet and mingle. Conversely, some promote extreme specialization in the species isolated there. Sky islands loom large in human culture as well. They are the homelands of the Apache, the Akimel O'odham (Pima), and the Tohono O’odham (Papago). At one time, sky islands formed the beating, northern heart of Old Mexico. After the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, they became the collective muse of raiders and ranchers, writers and warriors, painters and potters — the lawful and the lawless, the indigenous and the immigrant, alike.”
Splichal, author of six books of poetry—most recently Flux (2012) and Katsura (2015) – divides his time between his ranch in Luna County, New Mexico (the birthplace of Sky Island Journal ) and his home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he teaches English. Sommerfeld, a former high school English teacher born and raised in Wisconsin, now resides in Tucson, Arizona, and comes with a diverse professional writing background. He developed successful litigation strategies for Fortune 500 clients, secured millions in grant funding for nonprofit organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago, and recently held the role of Lead Writer for the daily fantasy sports website, ReDraft Hero.
The desire to start a literary magazine, Jeff and Jason explain, comes from “our singular mission to provide readers with a powerful, focused, advertising-free literary experience that transports them: one that challenges them intellectually and moves them emotionally.” Unique to their selection process, the editors do not allow submitters to include cover letters or bios with their submissions. The editors explain, “This creates a refreshing challenge for well-established professionals who have been favored by literary journals in the past because of their credentials, while simultaneously encouraging emerging voices — writers, young and old, who would normally be rejected out-of-hand by many literary journals because of their lack of pedigree.” The writing must stand on its own merits alone.
As a result, readers can expect to be “transported emotionally and challenged intellectually by well-established authors and emerging voices, published side-by-side, on a clean, powerful, well-curated platform.” Some voices readers can find in the inaugural issue include Megan Pokrass (London, England), Carol L. Deering (Wyoming, USA), and B.J. Hollars (Wisconsin, USA).
Sky Island Journal accepts submissions year-round via Submittable, and writers can submit as often as they like. SIJ is currently reading for their second issue (Fall 2017). The average response time is seven days. “Our contributors are a top priority,” say the editors. “We consider it a privilege to experience the world of words inside every submission, and, as a result, every submission undergoes several deep cycles of reading and real-time discussion. Every submission — regardless of whether we accept or decline it — receives a prompt, respectful, and individualized response from our team that details what we appreciated and why.”
In the future, Sky Island Journal editors hope to continue growing their readership domestically and internationally by continuing to provide a dynamic platform for authors to have their literary art displayed. “We believe our journey along the literary terrain of Sky Island Journal has just begun.”