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New Lit on the Block: The Start Literary Journal

cover photoWhat better way to start the new year than to introduce The Start? The Start Literary Journal is an online thematic quarterly publication of young adult poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and photograph welcoming all subgenres.

Founding Editor Amanda Cino is secondary English teacher who earned her MA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University and is currently pursuing her MFA. Formerly the managing editor for River and South Review, Amanda is “an avid reader and loves all things YA, especially speculative fiction.” She explains, “I started this journal for my MFA publishing project. I thought about what my dream journal would be. As an educator, I love inspiring my students to write, but so many feel it is impossible to find a place to be published. This is the same way many new writers feel. Because of that, I wanted to start a journal that was for new and young writers in hopes that we can give them their start in their writing careers!”

Joining Amanda on the masthead is Co-Editor Jen Tarr, a high school English and social studies teacher. Prior to her current teaching position, she taught English and social studies in Chittagong, Bangladesh. While currently working on her MFA degree at Wilkes University, she also serves as the Creative Nonfiction Editor of River and South Review. And Fiction Editor Amanda Fink, who is currently working toward her MFA in Book Publishing. Amanda worked as the Creative Director at a local expat magazine in her second home, Toyama, Japan. In her spare time, she works on her YA novel and talks books on Instagram.

While Amanda shared this all began for her MFA publishing project, she had previously been a managing editor for Wilkes University’s literary magazine. “I loved the experience,” she elaborated, “I wanted to stay on board, but I knew I wouldn’t have time to manage a magazine and do a publishing project, so The Start was born. I wanted a magazine that everyone could enjoy but that targeted new and/or young writers. Because of this, we encourage submissions from unpublished authors and high school authors as well, as long as they are at least fourteen years old.”

Moreover, she said, “I also wanted to create a journal that was interactive. I felt that providing themes, challenges, guest reader opportunities, and voting would really allow both the readers and writers to have an immersive experience! I love writing challenges, and I know my students do as well. I am hoping that we can build this journal into something so much bigger, like a true writing community. I also love YA literature. It is definitely my favorite genre. At the other literary magazine where I worked, we mostly accepted adult literary fiction. I wanted to build a journal that centered on YA and welcomed various genres. I love sci-fi, fantasy, thriller, and dystopian, so I encourage these submissions!”

It certainly isn’t easy starting a literary venture given so many recent challenges, and Amanda shared her own experience, “I think the greatest hurdle is probably starting a journal on my own. I am so grateful for my team and that they help me with the submissions and editing/proofing pieces, but really, it is a ton of work to do on your own behind the scenes. Creating a webpage took me a while to iron out the kinks. Advertising and marketing the journal is also a huge but important challenge.

Still, if it was all work and no joy, not many of us would continue. Amanda added, “Two joys that I have had though was getting pieces, really GREAT pieces, to consider for publication. I loved so many, and there were a ton that really stood out. Because we are a new journal, I was worried about if we would get enough submissions to have a first issue, but our writers came through, and I am so excited for Issue 1 that came out in October 2020. The other thing that brought me joy is getting emails back from people who submitted to us. Sometimes, we felt an edit was necessary before we could publish a piece, and all of our contributors were eager to work with us, which was so rewarding! We also tried to provide feedback for revision for some of the pieces we rejected, and we were happy to receive replies of gratitude. We want to promote writing and are happy that we are able to help writers, even in a small way like that!”

For readers, there is a great deal to engage them. “We hope you find the stories and poems that we publish to be both powerful and beautiful,” said Amanda. “A good portion of our pieces are by new writers, but these works are just as enticing as the pieces by seasoned authors. We hope you will discover a new writer that you love! The works we have chosen all connect to the issue’s first theme, Alone at Night. These YA pieces are not just for young readers, though. We believe that readers of all ages will find something that catches their attention. We are also working to create an aesthetic that is unique. We hope you will love the photos we have chosen to accompany the works. Readers can also find opportunities to get involved. They can submit an application to become a guest reader, vote for themes and challenges, and submit suggestions for themes and challenges as well.”

The first issue is available for open access reading online and features works by Robert Beveridge, Breanna Teramoto, Jordan Paul, Ronit Plank, Trini Rogando, Jana Gaskin, S. B. Sanders, Bambie Childs, Hana Jabr, Breanna Teramoto, Amanda Cino, and the first Challenge Winner: Sam Houty. Danah Lassiter was the Fiction Guest Reader and Amanda O’Dell was the Poetry Guest Reader, and the cover art was contributed by Arielle Leong. The Start includes the following publishing statistics as well: 63% of contributors had no more than one publishing credit; 36% of contributors were teen writers; 27% of contributors were high school students.

For those interested in submitting, The Start Literary Journal submissions are open for about six weeks with two different types of submissions. Amanda explained, “The first is the typical submission type, which we call ‘Genre Submissions.’ These submissions should connect to the current issue’s theme and are read by myself and Jen. We choose the pieces for publication. We also submit two to four of these submissions to Guest Readers who would like to have an editor experience. We have an application and choose a Guest Editor for each genre.

“We also have ‘Challenge Submissions.’ For these, writers craft a piece based on a challenge we create. Readers have an opportunity to submit challenge ideas as well. Once submissions are in, we narrow them down to two to three finalists and post them on the site. Readers get to vote on which piece they would like to see published. The piece with the most votes is published in the issue as a Challenge Winner!”

For hesitant writers and artists, Amanda encouraged, “We would love to have various genres in our upcoming issues, so don’t be shy about sending us pieces outside of the literary genre! All writers are encouraged to submit. Even if you have many publications, we want a diverse pool of submissions, so don’t let our name deter you!”

With such a strong beginning, there is always more to look forward to. Amanda added, “Our biggest goal is to continue to offer an interactive journal and expand our readership. We also are going to try to connect with writers and create more of a writing community with unique opportunities for writers. We don’t want to give too much away, but follow The Start on Instagram @thestartlitjournal to find out more about this in the future!”

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