The Wall Street Journal released this article about how getting read (nevermind published) from the slushpile has reached astronomically difficult proportions. For example, The Paris Review, publishes one solicited story a year, making the odds .o08%. So, do we draw up the noose, pile up the back issues, and jump?
By way of response, I would like to say that even today, in this supposed dearth, new writers get noticed. Who ever said writing was easy? People seem to cling to these glory days when the short story market paid the bills. And when was that? And how long, in the grand scheme of writing and publishing, did that era last?
Technology has made multiple submissions easy for the writer. Writers don't have to painstakingly type manuscripts, and then wait for their return. Now they can fire multiple copies off and carpet bomb if they like. Editors, lest they wind up drowned in sheafs of paper, have had to create lines of multiple defense. Having read for a lit mag, I don't blame them.
No, you can't mail your newly minted book off to Random House and expect a response, but if you are writing and submitting good work, publication is not dreaming the impossible dream. In the past three years Montana MFAers (as in, my fellow classmates) have cracked some tough markets, including The Colorado Review, The North American Review, The Black Warrior Review, The Boston Review, McSweeney's, The Atlantic Monthly, The Mid-American Review, and The Gettysburg Review. Books by former grads (that seems to take a few more years) have been published.
A quick look at The Paris Review told me this pub is not for the emerging artist. This month's issue (for example) has work by Robert Haas and Aimee Bender. Furthermore, I don't believe it's the responsibility of every lit mag to focus on emerging writers. It's not as if Aimee Bender and Robert Haas are spamming American.
Still, I'm glad for the lit mags that give us newbies a chance. Allow me to say, thanks. And if you are an emerging writer, consider supporting a mag that supports us.