Each issue of THEMA Literary Journal is based on a different theme, often derived from unique thoughts. It is meant to inspire imagination. The editors depend on the creativity of the writers to interpret the themes. The Crumpled Yellow Paper, our current issue (35:2, Spring 2023), was born when one editor opened an envelope and pulled out a crumpled piece of yellow paper containing an author’s scrawled inquiry. It made us wonder what stories and poems might evolve from such a piece of crumpled paper. The writings that emerged are diverse, ranging from humorous to magical to harrowing. The cover photograph by Lynda Fox, featuring yellow origami horses, is especially prized for its humor. What were some of the various “crumpled yellow papers” and where were they found in these stories and poems? To name just a few, consider a yellow candy wrapper blowing in the wind, drifting yellow leaves, a mysterious paper found on a walk in the park, notes discarded either accidentally or on purpose, an enigmatic message inscribed on a crumpled yellow paper. Was it really a piece of paper, or something else?
The newest print issue of THEMA features works in response to the premise, “Get it over with!” Contributors include Lynda Fox, Linda Berry, Bill Glose, June Thompson, Ruth Holzer, Lisa Timpf, Margaret Pearce, Melanie Reitzel, R.G. Halstead, Jesse Doiron, Marica Bernstein, Melinda Thomsen, Matthew J. Spireng, Beverly Boyd, Linda McMullen, Dana Stamps, and Ojo Moses. For each THEMA issue, the premise must “be an integral part of the plot, not necessarily the central theme but not merely incidental.” Submissions can include prose, poetry, artwork, and B&W illustrations. Upcoming themes include “So THAT’S why” (deadline 11/1/22) and “Help from a stranger” (deadline 3/1/23). Visit THEMA for more information.
THEMA is a theme-related journal with three goals: to provide a stimulating forum for established and emerging literary and visual artists; to serve as source material and inspiration for teachers of creative writing; and to provide readers with a unique and entertaining collection of stories, poems, art and photography. The theme for this newest issue is “Watch the birdie!” and it inspired works from Brenda Robert, Anne Dalziel Patton, Patrick Cabello Hansel, Laine M. Harrington, DS Maolalai, Lynda Fox, Peter Venable, Julieanna Blackwell, Robert Ronnow, Margaret Pearce, Kenneth Chamlee, Martins Deep, R. David Bowlus, Pamela Hobart Carter, HB Salzer, Christine Duncan, Larry Lefkowitz, E. P. Fisher, Michele Ivy Davis, Lynda Fox, William L. Ramsey, Brenda Robert, Jeanie Greensfelder, George Michael Brown, and Juliane McAdam. Forthcoming themes include “So, THAT’S why” (deadline November 1, 2022) and “Help from a stranger” (deadline March 1, 2023).
THEMA editors note this publication as three goals: “to provide a stimulating forum for established and emerging literary and visual artists, to serve as source material and inspiration for teachers of creative writing, and to provide readers with a unique and entertaining collection of stories, poems, art, and photography.” Providing readers with a premise for each issue, “A Postcard From the Past” is the theme for volume 34.1, filling the issue with images of postcards, narratives about them, and images of some of the postcard handwriting as well. Upcoming themes and submission deadlines can be found on the THEMA website.
If you like themed lit mag issues, we’ve got some recommendations!
Each issue of THEMA focuses on one themed prompt. The Autumn 2021 issue’s theme is “Which Virginia?” Twenty contributors try their hand at exploring this Virginian theme.
While not quite a theme, Hanging Loose does feature a selection of high school aged writers in each issue. Issue 111 includes work by eleven different high school writers who close out the issue.
Bennington Review‘s Summer 2021 issue focuses on a theme that’s probably on most of our minds right now: The Health of the Sick. Michael Dumanis’s note from the editor explains, “Many of the pieces in this issue of Bennington Review display a keen awareness of the vulnerability of the human body, physically, emotionally, and psychologically.” The theme “borrows its title from Argentine writer Julio Cortázar’s underappreciated 1966 short story . . . “
Issue 22 of The Common includes a portfolio of writing from the Arabian Gulf introduced by Deepak Unnikrishnan. This includes fiction by Tariq Al Haydar, Farah Ali, and others; essays by Mona Kareem, Keija Parssinen, and Priyanka Sacheti; and poetry by Hala Alyan, Rewa Zeinati, Zeina Hashem Beck, and more.
AGNI Number 94 brings readers a portfolio of work in translation. You can expect to find work by Azzurra D’Agostino translated by Johanna Bishop, Yi Won translated by E. J. Koh & Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Ananda Devi translated by Kazim Ali, and much more.
Finally, The Missouri Review asks the question “How did I get here?” in the Fall 2021 issue, the theme inspired by “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads.
Visit each literary magazine to show some support and learn more about these issues.
In THEMA‘s Fall 2021 issue, writers and artists explore the theme “Which Virginia?” Work by Jill Munro, Dallas Gorbett, Kathleen Gunton, Virginia McGee Butler, Lynda Fox, John Lambremont Sr., J. Jackson, James Penha, Robert Boucheron, Bill Glose, June Thompson, Max Gutmann, Paula Messina, Dana Stamps II, Rachel Lister, Lorrain Merrin, H.B. Salzer, Daniel Brown, and Linda Berry. Cover photo by Chuck Galey.
More info at the THEMA website.
I enjoy a themed lit mag issue, and if you do too, here are some suggestions to pick up.
Rattle‘s issues always have a special section, and the Fall 2021 issue includes a Tribute to Indian Poets. Poets included are Tishani Doshi (who is also interviewed in the issue), Kinshuk Gupta, Zilka Joseph, Pankaj Khemka, Sophia Naz, and others.
The Summer 2021 issue of Nimrod International Journal brings us work that focuses on “Endings and Beginnings.” The editors promise “work that presents familiar beginnings and endings in new and compelling ways as well as work that illuminates smaller, unique kinds of endings and beginnings.” Angela Sucich, Sarah Carleton, Katie Culligan, and Bethany Shultz Hurst are a few who take on this task.
Every issue of THEMA is a themed issue. This time around for the Summer 2021 issue, writers and artists responded to the prompt “The Tiny Red Suitcase,” including Lynda Fox, Laura Ruth Loomis, James Penha, and Laura Blatt.
The latest issue of THEMA explores the theme: The Tiny Red Suitcase. Work by Madonna Christensen, Cathy Bryant, Stuart Jay Silverman, Lynda Fox, Jesse Doiron, Rayna Bright, Sivakami Velliangiri, and more.
Writers and artists follow the theme of “Not of This World” in the Spring 2021 issue of THEMA. Some of the authors’ takes will definitely surprise readers. Contributors include Kayleigh McKee, James Swafford, Lynda Fox, Emily Hanlon, Margo Peterson, James Armstrong, Jennifer Erickson, Linda Berry, John Grey, Tricia Lowther, and more.
The writers in the Autumn 2020 issue of THEMA all explore the theme: What a Strange Question! Stories, short-shorts, poems, and photographs by Andrew M. Seddon, Virginia McGee Butler, Linda Berry, Beverly Boyd, Lynda Fox, J. Jackson, John Hill, Dick Moody, and more.
For the Summer 2020 issue of THEMA, writers and artists explore the theme “The Clumsy Gardener.” See how Sarah Gramelspacher, Charlotte Stacey, John Delaney, Madonna Dries Christensen, Virginia McGee Butler, Donna Aycock Meares, and others interpret the theme.
Magazine Review by Katy Haas
Each issue of THEMA invites writers to explore a given theme. The Spring 2020 issue’s theme is “Six Before Eighty,” which Editor Virginia Howard explains in her Editor’s Note, gave writers a run for their money. It “tended to puzzle more authors than usual.”
Despite the challenge, sixteen on-theme pieces made it into the issue. H.B. Salzer in “Her Number Six” writes of a woman’s bucket list—six things to do before she turns eighty. James “Jack” Penha in “Eulogy for My Elder Brother,” writes fondly of his brother who passed away at age seventy-four—six years before turning eighty. In “Written in Gold,” Larry Lefkowitz’s characters try their own hand at translating the theme finding it in a Mayan inscription in a temple. But my two favorite pieces in the issue each interpret the theme as different roads.
In “Mantra” by Lisa Timpf, the numbers are a reminder for a man’s fading memory. Regional Road 6 comes before Sideroad 80 and then he’s home. Readers can feel the anxiety in the piece as he repeats his mantra, trying to get home while admitting he “hasn’t told his wife / how much has slipped away.” But his mantra always gets him back home.
Cherie Bowers’s “Off-Ramp” is a short poem conjuring up Exit 6 as it merges onto 1-80. Here, a memorial with “fading words” reads, “We love you, Jason.” “To see it clearly,” the speaker says, “you must slow down,” a reminder for readers it’s necessary to slow down to truly see everything around us and to give thought to these fading signs we see beside the road.
I’m sure it was a lot of run writing for this issue of THEMA, and it was a lot of run reading what everyone was able to come up with.
The latest issue of THEMA explores the theme “Six Before Eighty.” Find stories, short-shorts, poems, and photographs by Matthew J. Spireng, J. J. Steinfeld, Cherie Bowers, H.B. Salzer, James “Jack” Penha, Margo Peterson, Alison Arntz, Lisa Timpf, Lynda Fox, Yuan Changming, Georgia A. Hubley, Annie Percik, Robert Wooten, Larry Lefkowitz, and Virginia Howard.
Since 1990, literary magazine THEMA has been publishing issues focusing on unique themes. Their latest issue is themed “Six Before Eighty” and features work by Matthew J. Spireng, J. J. Steinfeld, Cherie Bowers, H.B. Salzer, James “Jack” Penha, Margo Peterson, Alison Arntz, Lisa Timpf, Lynda Fox, Yuan Changming, Georgia A. Hubley, Annie Percik, Robert Wooten, and Larry Lefkowitz.
Interested in trying your hand at writing short stories, short-shorts, and poems on a theme? Check out the upcoming themes and deadlines.
- The Tiny Red Suitcase (July 1, 2020)
- The Other Virginia (November 1, 2020)
- A Postcard from the Past (March 1, 2021)