- Navigating the New
We use the word “blog” as if it were a genre when, really, it is a means of managing content. It says far more about what the site’s administrators see than what the readers do. Of course, you can put anything in a blog—popular contents include fiction, poetry, gobbledygook, news, commentary, polemic, memories, and press releases. If we were to choose one of these categories as most characteristic of the NewPages blog, then it would have to be the press release. The typical post announces the launch of a new magazine, the winners of a contest, or, very occasionally, the publication of a new book from an obscure press, offering the key facts and a quote about how excited the editors are to be sharing these words or what makes this particular project special. These posts seem to be edited versions of public announcements. To the NewPages contributors’ credit, they do an admirable job of trimming much of the empty, self-congratulatory language that characterizes such press releases, rendering them actually readable and potentially useful.
It’s not entirely clear how the press releases are selected for publication on the blog. (Is there an email tip line? I don’t see one.) They may be culled from creative writing listservs or the inboxes of the blog’s contributors. Regardless, the results are eclectic: you might expect that a clearinghouse for official statements would be mostly populated with information about Ploughshares and Tin House and The Missouri Review—i.e., operations who can afford to pay people for the intentional manufacture of publicity—but you’re more likely to learn about something new on any given visit than to be reminded of some established literary quantity. On the one hand, this means that there are a lot of stories about things that you are sure to find completely uninteresting. Monthly online journals with weirdly specific editorial missions seem to launch weekly, and NewPages finds room for most of them. On the other hand, this constant sharing of new opportunities is what NewPages is for.
Experienced writers familiar with literary magazines and small presses know NewPages. After all, NewPages is not really a blog—it is a comprehensive reference website with many useful lists. They list publications, presses, contests, calls for submissions, creative writing programs, and more. Once you have a sense of what you’re looking for and where your own writing fits in among the rest, this other, larger NewPages becomes easy to manage in spite of a structure and interface that has probably seen little change since the site’s 1999 launch. Initially, however, it can be quite overwhelming, with too much information to process and too little context to help the uninitiated writer.
The blog does not provide this context (it lacks the necessary editorial voice, avoiding opinion and controversy as carefully as some lit blogs cultivate the same). Rather, it offers each day one or several entryways to communities and sub-communities that can provide this context. Visitors to the larger NewPages site who feel overwhelmed with all it offers might begin by reading a month of the blog’s content (this will not take too long) and opening, in new tabs, any links that even briefly catch their interest. Most of these will turn out to be duds. Those that retain interest will of course vary according to taste. And this is the point. Once you’ve figured out where your interests lie as a writer, the NewPages blog has largely served its purpose. You can use that knowledge to help you focus your navigation of the site’s other offerings, while other blogs and forums more suited to your particular tastes will most likely replace this general-purpose blog in your daily rotation. But you have to start somewhere, and the NewPages blog offers a better starting point than most, protected by its eclecticism from much of the myopia that more focused communities tend to encourage.
The NewPages blog is, like the larger site, very strictly a resource for writers. Even the section of the site that reviews literary...