Fresno State’s locally grown, nationally known literary magazine, The Normal School, will become an online-only publication starting this fall, ending an 11-year run as a printed periodical. The Spring/Summer 2019 issue of the magazine, due to hit bookstores by late August, will be its last physical issue.
The end of The Normal School’s print run follows a national trend in literary magazines to move to online-only formats. In 2018, highly regarded journals Tin House and Glimmer Train were among the latest to make the transition.
Steven Church, a professor of English at Fresno State and one of The Normal School’s co-founders, said it’s sad to say goodbye to the print publication after more than a decade. He said he’s proud of what the print magazine has accomplished and is excited to see what the future holds online.
“This difficult decision was made in consideration of both the rising costs and logistical challenges of producing a bi-annual print magazine, as well as the personal and professional goals of the founding editors,” said Church, in a letter to the magazine’s subscribers. “The magazine will maintain our commitment to the core values of innovation, inclusivity, quality and literary citizenship.”
From 2014-17, The Normal School has consistently earned high marks in the VIDA Count, an annual report that examines gender parity and inclusion in national literary publications by counting the number of women writers, non-binary writers and writers of color who are published or reviewed.
In recent years, the print magazine — one of the few small-market literary journals produced out of a graduate Master of Fine Arts program, as opposed to a large corporate entity — has fared better in the VIDA Count than most other major publications in its class. The 2018 report is forthcoming.
The Normal School is staffed by graduate students and faculty from the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing. Church serves as coordinator for the magazine, which provides students with real-world experience in publishing and editing.
Church credited the graduate students, who are the first readers of The Normal School’s hundreds of submissions each year, as the primary force behind the magazine’s successes in diversity and inclusion. With the move online, he said the students will take on an even greater role in editing, production and editorial decision making, offering more professional practice.
“We believe the magazine can become an even more dynamic, multi-modal and inclusive publication, which reflects the energies, aptitudes and passions of these students,” Church said in a note to readers published in the final print issue.
The online version of the magazine will continue to publish outstanding original poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, Church said. It will add more interviews and columns, will begin producing a regular email newsletter, and will publish new bi-annual, downloadable special issues focused on a central theme or idea. He said an online archive of back issues from the print magazine will also be a future goal.
Submissions are open through Sept. 5 for The Normal School’s first online-only special issue, on the theme of pop culture. The call for submissions says the magazine is “looking for fiction, nonfiction and poetry that is inspired by or engages with other texts from pop culture — including but not limited to movies, television, music, games, advertising, etc.”
Church co-founded the magazine in 2008 with author colleagues Sophie Beck, who is based in Colorado, and Matt Roberts, who is based in Louisiana. Beck served as the magazine’s managing editor for its entire print run.
The magazine is funded by the College of Arts and Humanities and in part by the University’s Instructionally Related Activities fund.