Tuesday, September 10, 2013

TCR Literary Journals Series: A Brief Interview with Linda Swanson-Davies of Glimmer Train

Issue 88, Fall 2013
The Committee Room recently talked with Linda Swanson-Davies, co-editor and co-founder of Glimmer Train, a leading American literary magazine. An independent publication based in Portland, Oregon, Glimmer Train was established in 1990 by Swanson-Davies and her sister Susan Burmeister-Brown. Neither woman had an academic background in literature. They were simply voracious readers who wanted to bring good writing to a larger audience.

The journal's title comes from the sisters having had no plans to start a literary journal but could in retrospect see that glimmers of the idea had gone through their minds. Now that the idea had fully emerged they were going forward with it like a locomotive speeding down the rails.  

Glimmer Train is published three times a year in carefully put together print issues, including a Spring/Summer double issue. Swanson-Davies and Burmeister-Brown strongly believe that a handsome physical publication reflects the enduring quality of its contents. They are also committed to paying the writers whose work appears in Glimmer Train. Over $50,000, funded by contest fees and subscriptions, goes to writers each year.


Swanson-Davies, with Burmeister-Brown, is the author of Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction, Volume 1: Building Blocks (2006) and Volume 2: Inspiration and Discipline (2007) and co-editor of the anthologies Mother Knows: 24 Tales of Motherhood (2004) and Where Love is Found: 24 Tales of Connection (2006).

Swanson-Davies recently sat down (figuratively) with TCR.


A Brief Chat with Glimmer Train Co-Editor Linda Swanson-Davies

Susan Burmeister-Brown and Linda
Swanson-Davies (Photo by Glimmer Train).
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being unaffiliated with a university writing program? ​
A: We don't get any government or institutional funding; no decisions are made by committee; vacations mean taking our work with us or getting ahead before or catching up after; we do all the administrative work, from filing and database management to paying bills and answering emails. And, being that there are just the two of us, we get to immerse ourselves completely, and on our own schedules, in stories. We also get to work with writers, often really extraordinary ones, and that is quite wonderful, too.

Q: Can you see Glimmer Train going to an online format or will it remain a print publication for the foreseeable future?  ​
A: We're really committed to presenting significant literary short stories in print, where they will persist in the real world, beyond the next post. It's more expensive for us than online would be, of course, but we think people can engage more deeply with fiction they can physically hold. We choose (and that's a challenge - there are more good stories than we have pages for) short fiction that we believe deserves focused attention, stories that will stir readers, move them beyond themselves to some fuller vision of what it is to be human.

Q: What would you like to see more of in the submissions pile? ​
A: We encourage writers to take a few more emotional risks, develop their characters deeply, and to write stories that are important to them.

Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a literary journal?
A: ​Be sure that what you love most is reading other people's stories. Design your journal and plan your operation of it so that YOU can sustain it . Literary fiction is definitely not financially profitable. If you can do this with another person you wholeheartedly trust, who is equally committed, is good at some of the things you are not, and vice versa, so much the better. All of this requires some equanimity, but if this is all up your alley, I can't imagine a more satisfying way to spend a life.

Here's more information --


"On Track with Glimmer Train." Interview with Linda Swanson-Davies. The Review Review.

The Committee Room.  Time Spent with TCR is Never Wasted.

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