It’s hard to imagine that the nationally recognized literary journal celebrating its 15th year once had trouble getting submissions. Of course, that may be because in 2007, when Delmarva Review first started, it was an Eastern Shore Writer’s Association membership publication. At that time, both the submissions and the audience were the group’s small membership.
Wilson Wyatt, writer, photographer, and communication specialist, was president of the Association then, and he had an idea. If the purpose of a literary journal was to publish the best writing around, why not open it up to writers beyond the Association and maybe even beyond the region? The membership agreed, and with Wyatt as executive editor, the new Delmarva Review was born.
Their first order of business was to notify authors that they were taking submissions for an open national review. Although no advertising was done, they received 200 entries that first year. The first issue was thin. Today, with 4,000-6,000 submissions worldwide, the group no longer has to ask or wonder how they will fill the 300 or so pages. “We have published authors from 42 states and 16 foreign countries, including Russia and China,” said Wyatt.” One year, we got about half a dozen submissions from Ukraine, probably from a writing class, and that’s always interesting. But what really comes down to the acceptance is quality. Quality is what we’re after.”
Although the quality they seek has not changed, how it’s been presented has. To ensure the widest readership possible, the Review is available worldwide at major online retailers in print and digital editions to anyone and everyone interested in excellent writing. Besides, the Delmarva Review now has a reputation for discovering and providing a platform for new and emerging voices in the literary community. It is a goal they strive to maintain, issue to issue. The yearly publication features a diverse selection of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. They will even consider art/photography submissions for the cover. The journal has a solid online presence, with a website that features guidelines, information about past issues, and much more. And it’s all done on a budget.
As a 501(c)(3), Delmarva Review is a nonprofit run by a small team of dedicated volunteers, all experts in their field. There is no charge for submission or reading fees. Some of the expenses are covered by the money from sales of the yearly publication, some by individual contributions, and some by grants from the Talbot Arts Council and the Maryland State Arts Council.
But don’t underestimate what this team is capable of accomplishing. The selection process is extremely tight and competitive. Every entry is read by at least one editor, and by the time something is accepted, it’s been read several times by at least three.
While there are no predetermined topics, the submissions seen year to year usually revolve around the same common themes. “Most of the topics have to do with the issues we all share as human beings,” says Wyatt. “If there is one quality in common, it is the challenges of dealing with change: loss, loneliness, love, your place among others, nature, and aging.”
What is discouraged by the Review are overtly religious, sexual, or political topics. “But then again,” says Wyatt, “if something really good comes in that flirts with one of those subjects, if the writing is good, it’s well-crafted and interesting, then it may well have a home in the publication.” Ultimately, what they look for is a universal and relatable message.
The Delmarva Review has received numerous accolades for its commitment to discovering and promoting new voices in literature. It has been recognized and included in the annual list of the best literary magazines in the country. So have their chosen writers gone on to successful careers? “I’m not sure,” said Wyatt. “We don’t track the authors, but we do hear from some after they’ve published books by major editors. It makes it all worthwhile when you receive that kind of communication.”
One measure of satisfaction that is quantifiable for the publication that bears the name of the region is that there has always been a significant number of writers from Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Of the 490 authors published since that first issue, 46% have been from the area.
What’s keeping that percentage high, Wyatt believes, is that the Delmarva region is a growing and thriving writer’s community supported by associations such as the Eastern Shore Writer’s Association, the Maryland Writers Association, and the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild, to name some of the largest. It also helps that the Review is a literary journal whose home is in Talbot County and is better known by writers in the region. Says Wyatt, “When we became independent, it gave us the strength to become a good home for all writers. And if I’m a serious writer, I want to be in a publication that has some value to me in the future; I want to be in the Delmarva Review.”
An author in the current issue who might find some future value, should she decide to pursue writing, is Maxine Poe-Jensen, a high school senior at St. Michaels High School. Poe-Jensen was the first recipient of the Youth Writing Mentorship and Scholarship Award, a high school scholarship and mentoring initiative encouraging outstanding writing among students in regional schools. “This was funded by a special grant that we received from Talbot Arts,’ said Wyatt, “and it worked so well that we’re going to do it again next year.”
Being published in a literary magazine can be a valuable experience for young writers. It’s something they will probably never forget. Besides the exposure and encouragement, the experience of submitting a story for publication, collaborating with an editor, and seeing one’s work in print can be a valuable learning experience and a stepping stone to bigger opportunities. Poe-Jensen’s fictional short story, E Duo Unum, is featured in the latest issue.
Wyatt hopes that she also might be the future of the Review as they seek young writers to add to their list of authors.
It is of note to mention a recent addition to the Review’s business model. It involves the weekly republishing of either a poem or a prose selection in the Spy. The Review gives the Spy publication a reservoir of pre-edited, high-quality literary content while offering Delmarva Review authors a new local audience. To Wyatt, this is a win-win. “It’s a significant advantage for regional authors looking to publish their best work to a growing general readership and helps writers build a presence outside their traditional writers’ circles. Our success has been in fulfilling a need for both writers and readers. So far, technological advances have worked well with our independent, volunteer approach toward publishing, allowing us to offer print, availability worldwide, and digital reading on electronic devices.”
Delmarva Review’s 15th anniversary edition includes 78 poems, 11 short stories, and 12 nonfiction essays. The 60 featured authors come from 18 states, the District of Columbia, and six foreign countries. The issue is available on Amazon
The submission period for the 16th edition of Delmarva Review will be open through March 31, 2023, for publication in November 2023. For more information, go to the Delmarva Review website. (https://delmarvareview.org)
Interested in volunteering? Delmarva Review welcomes new skilled editors and readers, regardless of geographical borders.