Submission Spotlight: The Chicago Review

Their door is open for fiction and poetry submissions until June 15 (nonfiction submissions are open year-round), so if you’re looking to publish a story, now’s the time! The Chicago Review accepts work through their Submittable page, where you can also set up a free Submittable account if you haven’t got one already.

The downside? They charge a steeper-than-industry-standard submission fee of $5, based on their current submissions call on Submittable. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you’re submitting one story to two dozen journals, that adds up to $120 for just one story. And since they don’t pay their contributors, it’s probably best to regard your submission fee as a donation to their magazine. In that spirit, here’s The Chicago Review‘s online issue, so you can see if it’s a project you want to support.

Based at the University of Chicago, The Chicago Review has been publishing poetry, fiction, and literary criticism since 1946. They produce two print issues a year, and judging from the back issues listed on their website, they’ve been centering each issue around an academic theme since at least 2018. These have included West Coast Modernism, the Cuban poet Juan Carlos Flores, Black arts movements—you get the picture. Stuff that’s riveting for those of us skirting the cult of academia, but that runs the risk of alienating everyone else.

I can’t speak to the print issues, which cost money I don’t have, but the online work offers a lot of variety. The only thread I could find running through the fiction is that it’s maybe a little precious. When I read the online work last year, stories recounted the bedtime routines of philosophers, fancy luncheons at fancy British colleges, and a lengthy dialogue about how to think properly. It’s not my cup of tea, but it might be yours.

Photo by Viktor Talashuk

If this strikes you as a good fit for your work but you don’t want to (or can’t) fork over the $15 for a back issue (plus shipping), here’s that link again to The Chicago Review‘s online issue. They want stories 5,000 words or less and preferably in a literary style with less concern for “traditional narrative approaches.” Beware that competition is stiff, and it seems to be a big plus if you’re at least middle class (or good at passing as such). All but two of the contributor bios that I skimmed listed MFAs, strings of publication credits in prestigious magazines, jobs as editors or MFA faculty, or (gulp) all of the above. The editors are similarly credentialed, and all of them are PhD students at the University of Chicago.

As for race and gender, they’ve got maybe a 50/50 split on white and BIPOC staff as well as women and men, and at least a couple editors are engaged with queer studies. Which seems pretty great (and for a university-based journal, it’s not bad). Still, it looks like out of the head editors, maybe only one is a woman of color? It can be hard to tell, but it looks pretty white at the top. As usual, contributors are a little more diverse.

Although the magazine is open for submissions until June 15, it reopens in October—so basically submit during the usual North American schoolyear. If you’re looking to place a review or piece of literary criticism, you’ll have to pitch it; they’ve posted guidelines here. If they accept your work, you won’t be paid, but you will get a one-year subscription. Plus, it’s a prestigious journal, so you’ll definitely want to update your author bio to reflect that. And who knows? Maybe your future agent or editor will spot you here first.


Featured Photo by Alexander Zvir


Published by M.C. Easton

Novelist and teacher.

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