In 2012, the Asian American Writers' Workshop launched a set of online magazines in order to build conversations around cutting-edge ideas in Asian American literature, art, and social justice. Though the aims of our publications are distinct, both of them are committed to the reinvention and advancement of Asian American intellectual culture.
- The Margins is our magazine of arts and ideas dedicated to charting the rise of the Asian American creative class through essays, interviews, and creative writing.
- Open City is our narrative journalism magazine that seeks to tell the stories of Asian American neighborhoods, primarily in New York.
We’re looking for 1) original creative writing, whether poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or even interdisciplinary work; 2) essays on literature and politics by sophisticated thinkers who can speak to a general audience about race, gender, sexuality, immigration, postcolonialism, pop culture, and diaspora; 3) reportage about immigrant communities in NYC by narrative storytellers who can set a scene with rich imagery and descriptive detail.
Our stories have been linked to by the Wall Street Journal, the New Inquiry and the New York Times. Our contributors have included Jessica Hagedorn, Hanya Yanagihara, Chang-rae Lee, Bhanu Kapil, Ashok Kondabolu, Jenny Zhang, Katie Kitamura, Hua Hsu, Kim Hyesoon, Alexander Chee, Vijay Iyer, and Yoko Ogawa. See below for ways you can submit your work!
The Transpacific Literary Project is an ambitious online editorial initiative of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW) that is poised to foster literary connections between East and Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, the Asian diaspora, and a broader American reading public. The project has taken the shape of a series of portfolios published on AAWW’s online magazine The Margins. These portfolios comprise poetry and prose written by East and Southeast Asian writers, with an emphasis on works in translation, curated around broad themes, and seek to traverse geographic and other boundaries.
This is a call to you, from me. But what, in [your] language, am I? And where, among all possible distances and intimacies, are you?
The Transpacific Literary Project opens a new submission period for literary work from writers in East and Southeast Asia to engage with “the pronoun” for future publication on the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s online journal, The Margins. We welcome writing from Asian languages in translation, as well as writing in English.
In English, the pronouns of “you & i that rather tidy pair” can appear as uncharted waters that bear no markings of gender, of familial position, of age, of social status. In many Asian languages, the pair isn’t as tidy. The “mess of clandestine arrangements affixed to the personal pronouns of Vietnamese” can be excessively nuanced. Tôi & bạn, tôi & người, anh & em, tớ & cậu, tao & mày, mình & họ, con & mẹ, cháu & bà leave less room for doubt about where one stands (and can move) in relation to another. Yet while English meets a fixed wall of gender at most every turn in its third-person pronouns, Bahasa Indonesia can be gender-unbothered about whether dia is a he or a she. Or in Korean, a high context language where an implied pronoun can be dropped from a sentence, the silent who becomes more vulnerable to inscription in translation. If we recognize the self as formed by its encounters, and if a language is what shapes those encounters, then who or what are the words holding us to? And how can those words bear the most justice to an encounter?
In opening a transpacific call for “the pronoun”, I/we/they/tôi/ta/họ/dia/我/它们/kita/kami/mereka/俺/佢/佢地/ako/siya/sila/娘娘/咱们/za2men/我/limpeh/ฉัน/คุณ/มัน/நான்/நீ/நாம்/nāṅgal/म/हामी/उनीहरु/उ/私/あなた/皆/ငါ/ငါတို႔/သူတို႔/မင္းတို႔ /someone invites interrogations of the languages that situate and fix personal relationships, the languages that place them far away from us, the languages that prescribe a gender, that assume a collective commonality when there isn’t, that demarcate where a he/she becomes an it, that make a relational GPS, that make political identities, that establish a set of choices for a self being together with another self.
How do [your] languages treat selves and others? What are [your] choices?
Please send poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, critical essays, hybrid genre work, graphic (non)fiction, and conversations that touch these questions with more. To sketch some ideas of projects, we imagine that submissions might activate questions about how languages calibrate the power relations between different selves and how tiny words can fruit greater justice. Possible works might: embody a specific pronoun; transcribe a dialogue between pronouns; chart the linguistic relationality between one subject and another; or explore issues of power, positionality, and gender with regards to how one person relates to another through language and its constantly shifting references and substitutions.
Submissions should be titled “Pronoun_Lastname_Firstname”. If your submission is a translation, please include the work in its original language as well as a biographical note about the author in your cover letter. When uploading the file, please include the original language version of all works in translation.
AAWW will hold exclusive print and online rights to your piece for 90 days, and your story will be archived online. All other rights remain with the writer and translator. All contributors of original work (including translators) will be paid. We are also happy to look at ARCs of forthcoming books with a view to publishing extracts.
Simultaneous submissions are welcome, but we ask that you withdraw the piece promptly if it is accepted somewhere else. If you need more information, please get in touch with editor Kaitlin Rees at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*One of the aims of The Transpacific Literary Project will be to interrogate the idea of the Transpacific, and where exactly the region might lie. As such, the following list of countries should be regarded as indicative and non-exclusive; broadly, East and South-east Asia consists of: Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, North Korea, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and their diasporas.
When Edward Ji was seventeen, he was sent to jail to await trial for attempted murder. To pass the time, he’d hang out in the “dayroom” with an acquaintance named Qiu, wearing shackles at a table that was bolted to the floor. One day, Ji learned from the date on a newspaper that Qiu’s birthday was approaching, and he decided to make a cake.
As Ji wrote on the website Prison Writers, he scrounged some ingredients from the jail commissary: Rice Krispies, chocolate, red juice. “Finally, I lay out three Oreo-like cookies and carve Qiu’s three-character Chinese name,” Ji wrote. “My tiny table is covered in crumbs, my back arched like I’m dissecting a worm. I make a microscopic tear in the drink packet and painstakingly fill the cookie grooves with fine granules ... Qiu Chang Qing—as bright as Chinese New Year.”
There are countless incarcerated writers like Ji, yet hardly any of them reach an outside audience. Our newest project, A World Without Cages, aims to change that by bringing together the work of writers on the inside and on the outside. We’re interested in how incarceration reshapes culture, language, and the imagination. This might include a poem about ICE deportations, an essay about ankle monitors, or a comic strip on daily life in prison. We want to know: How does mass incarceration shape the immigrant experience? What have we learned—and failed to learn—from the historical detention of immigrants, such as Japanese Americans? How do the incarcerated fight the system that confines them, and what would a liberated world look like?
We’re eager for essays and nonfiction, but we also hope to receive fiction, poetry, and visual storytelling. We believe in the power of the imagination to cross borders and tear down walls, as it does in The Leavers, the 2017 novel by Lisa Ko. “Three hours a week I was allowed outside, in a cage inside a yard surrounded by tall walls,” says Ko’s protagonist, a young Chinese mother in immigrant detention. “The walls were a lie, a trick. I could pull them apart with my hands, gentle and determined, like pulling a shirt over a child’s head.”
How to Submit
Please limit your submissions to 3000 words or fewer, or about ten pages, one-sided. You may include up to five poems per submission. Don't forget to include a one-paragraph author bio. Send your work using our online Submittable, or using our mailing address below. Our printable version of this call for submissions can be mailed to incarcerated and detained writers.
A World Without Cages
Asian American Writers’ Workshop
112 West 27th Street, Suite 600
New York, NY 10001
A World Without Cages will appear our online magazine, The Margins, and may be collected in printed portfolios. We want to highlight work by and about the incarcerated, including—but not limited to!—Asian Americans. We can pay an honorarium to all contributors whose work is accepted, and will mail copies to contributors who are incarcerated. If you are incarcerated and need your submission forwarded or returned, please let us know. We may contact some contributors with an offer of writing mentorship.
Deadline: November 16, 2018
The Margins, AAWW's arts and ideas magazine, is now accepting creative nonfiction, cultural criticism, and essay submissions. We have published creative nonfiction, essays, and features by writers including Matthew Salesses, Hua Hsu, V.V. Ganeshananthan, Chaitali Sen, Alex Jung, Oliver Wang, Scott Kurashige, Annie Paul, Sejal Shah, Jennifer Pan, and Thuy Linh Tu.
We're looking to publish:
Essays on recently published works of Asian and Asian American literature as well as critical essays about a single writer's body of work (please note that we do not publish straightforward book reviews)
Lively essays and cultural commentary written through the lens of race, immigration, and transnationalism
Reported features profiling writers and artists of interest
Researched pieces that examine countercultural figures and movements and histories of Asian America
Creative nonfiction pieces and lyric essays
Deeply researched "explainers," or articles that help unpack topics or conversations using multiple sources (for example, an intro to queer Asian American literature)
COMPLETED PIECES ONLY, PLEASE.
Be sure to include a short biography (maximum 60 words) in your cover letter. Please double-space all submissions and limit them to approximately 5,000 words. We accept simultaneous submissions, but we ask that you let us know if your work has been accepted elsewhere. Writers whose pieces are accepted for publication will receive compensation.
If you have a pitch, get in touch with one of our editors:
Jyothi Natarajan, Editorial Director: jnatarajan [at] aaww [dot] org
Yasmin Majeed, Assistant Editor: ymajeed [at] aaww [dot] org
Examples of nonfiction features and essays we've published in The Margins:
In "Wounded Elders: Racial Identity and Reviewing," Paisley Rekdal responds to the limiting, violent ways poets of color are read and reviewed by white critics.
In "Sugar on the Gash," Divya Victor writes about the colonial wounds of the English language, and how writing poetry is an act of decolonization.
In "Sadakichi Hartmann, a “Missing Link” of American Poetry" Floyd Cheung uncovers the forgotten influence of a Japanese American poet on Modernist poetry.
Sukjong Hong writes about Don Mee Choi's Hardly War, and what gets lost in translation in the myth of American benevolence during the Korean War.
In "On Vincent Chin and the Kind of Men You Send to Jail," Mark Tseng-Putterman reconsiders the legacy of Vincent Chin's murder and the Asian American movement.
Rajiv Mohabir shares why he will never celebrate Indian Arrival Day, and the violent history of indentured labor in the Caribbean.
We’re looking for:
- Poetry that challenges/subverts convention (in both poetry and society)
- Poetry that is not afraid to be humorous, dirty, and obscene
- Poetry that explores history
- Poetry that responds to current events and issues
- Translations of poetry (given the submitter explains that he/she/they has/have acquired the rights to publish them, along with the originals)
- Poems need not be a specific length/form/style (e.g. long, short, formal, free verse, erasure)
- Submissions should be no longer than six pages total. Multiple poems may be submitted in the same document.