This Literary Mag is Reinventing Postcards

The prevailing image of literary magazines involves thick books packed with lengthy, ornate writing.

Today, though, some publications are opting to do things a bit differently. HOOT Reviewfounded by Amanda Vacharat and Dorian Geisler in 2011, is one such outlet. The monthly literary magazine features microfiction (often referred to as “flash”), poetry, and art – printed on a single postcard.

Why a postcard? Vacharat and Geisler wanted to create something that was both sustainable and accessible. With only a single page of material, fewer resources (including time) need to be dedicated to negotiating with printers. Not to mention, the 150-word maximum for poetry and fiction makes it far easier to manage submissions. And, though the simple format means they can’t possibly publish every worthy piece, HOOT Review‘s miniature size ensures editors get to devote more time to curating eye-grabbing art and compelling (though necessarily brief) writing.

Jane-Rebecca Cannarella has been on the publication’s staff since its inception – working as an intern on the first issue, and eventually becoming Editor-in-Chief. In 2011, Cannarella had just finished grad school and was working in publishing, but felt depressed and badly in need of a creative outlet. Hoot Review‘s format appealed to her instantly.

“I collect postcards, and have since I was a child,” she says. “It’s something my mom encouraged.”

Cannarella believes it’s important the magazine comes out in a physical format, noting that reading (and holding) a postcard “activates an entirely different part of your brain” than simply seeing something on a screen. Each month’s issue also comes with a handwritten note on the back, a detail meant to draw attention to postcards’ traditional use.

“How often do we even encounter someone else’s handwriting in a non-work environment?” she asks. “Or get a letter?”

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Of course, it has become increasingly rare for people to write by hand at all, let alone communicate by traditional “snail mail.” With the availability of text messages, email, and social media, fewer people go to the trouble of sending postcards each year. Between 2010 and 2014, the number of postcards sent through the U.S. Postal Service was nearly cut in half.

To encourage the continued circulation of postcards, HOOT Review also offers a second subscription option – one where the issues are mailed inside envelopes, with the address and message sections left blank. This gives readers the option to share the magazine with their friends and family, along with a custom message.

The hope, of course, is that those who are sent a surprise copy of HOOT Review will like what they see. Cannarella hopes the publication is reaching new audiences because of its approachability. She says, “We try to balance the writing and art to be inclusive. And I think that we make converts out of people who generally would avoid reading lit journals, because it doesn’t feel overwhelming.”

Of course, in a world full of so many entertainment options, brevity helps. “No matter how busy and hectic a person’s life is,” she says. “They will always have time to read a piece of writing under 150 words.”

For those who aren’t ready to spend the $15 for a subscription, HOOT Review also publishes a supplementary online edition, which includes a limited selection of writings that don’t make the print version.