‘A Cabinet of Wonders’: A Public Space Literary Journal
By Chloé Rose Whitmore
Edited by Hannah Laker
“A Public Space notices the world―in all of its particulars, their odd collection―and delivers this world to us… It’s a magazine committed to discovery: to discovering new voices, new places, new layers of feeling and experience.”– Leslie Jamison, American novelist
In case you missed it, our first letter from Volume 6 is now live! This one comes from Hannah Jansen, who penned a dark, lyrical letter to Snow White in the voice of her dead stepmother. In keeping with The Letters Page tradition, we’ve sent Hannah a gift subscription to one of our favourite literary journals as a thanks for letting us publish her letter.
With Hannah based in America, the subscription we’ve chosen is for the US literary, arts and culture magazine A Public Space. Here, Chloé Rose Whitmore takes a deep dive into this award-winning journal.
When submitting to a literary journal, writers are often encouraged to get a feel for the kind of pieces that journal tends to publish – to send the editors something that fits their style. A Public Space takes a slightly different tack.
With a commitment to publishing ‘overlooked and unclassifiable’ work, A Public Space looks for writing that exists outside of conventional publishing boundaries – those hybrid, genre-bending, miscellaneous pieces that might struggle to find a home in more mainstream journals. These editors don’t want to see you writing to a clearly defined, well-trodden genre – they want to see you experiment.
The focus on experimentation has been a core part of the magazine’s values since day one. After she founded the magazine in 2006, Brigid Hughes described her vision for A Public Space as ‘a literary forum for the stories behind the news, a fragment of an overheard conversation, a peek at the novel the person next to you on the subway is reading, the life you invent for the man in front of you at the supermarket checkout line.’ Staying true to that ethos, A Public Space publishes a staggering range of fiction, essays, poetry, graphic and hybrid work – and everything in between.
Hughes’ vision for diversity goes way beyond seeking out experimental work. As well as publishing local emerging writers and artists, A Public Space also showcases a wide range of international voices, with the debut issue featuring a portfolio of new Japanese fiction. And these efforts for variety haven’t gone unnoticed – in 2018, A Public Space won the inaugural Whiting Literary Magazine Prize, with the judges describing the magazine as ‘a gorgeously curated collection we experience as a cabinet of wonders.’
This isn’t Hughes’ first stint in the world of lit mags – not by a long shot. At the age of 22, she secured an internship at The Paris Review. Eight years later, she would go on to succeed George Plimpton as the editor. In an interview with Literary Hub, she recounted the things Plimpton had told her she needed to learn if she was going to succeed at the job: ‘how to play pool, how to drink scotch, and, lastly, the art of reading and editing.’
In the 16 years since the magazine was founded, Hughes has gone on to develop and expand her vision for A Public Space. Along with their tri-quarterly magazine, the publication now encompasses a fellowship for unpublished writers, an academy of online classes, and a wide range of digital and in-person events. Hughes also launched A Public Space Books in 2019, an independent imprint that builds on the magazine’s commitment to unheard voices. Recent publications from the press include Tolstoy Together: 85 Days of War and Peace with Yiyun Li, a story of Yiyun Li’s time reading Tolstoy during the pandemic.
It’s this history of publishing new and diverse voices that inspired us to gift Hannah Jansen a subscription to A Public Space – we hope she loves the magazine as much as we do. You can find out more about A Public Space, including how to subscribe, on their website.
Don’t forget – every writer we publish gets their very own subscription to one of our favourite literary journals or small presses. All you need to do is send us your letters.
Happy reading, Hannah!
The Letters Page team are back in the office, and ready to read your real letters again. We publish stories, essays, poems, memoir, reportage, criticism, recipes, travelogue, and any hybrid forms, so long as they come to us in the form of a letter. We are looking for writers of all nationalities and ages, both established and emerging.
Your letter must be sent in the post, to :
The Letters Page, School of English, University of Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK.
See our submissions page for more information.
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