If you want to be a writer ... buy literary magazines

It amazes me that people expect to be published in places they haven't read. That's like expecting the barman to pour champagne for the house on your birthday when you've never graced his barstool before - it might happen, but it's unlikely: if you get lucky, then lucky you, but if you're relying on luck for your birthday treat, you'll probably go home one year older and a whole lot less celebratory than you'd hoped.

Of course we can't all read everything. Apart from anything else, lit mags are not cheap and writers are not rich. On the other hand, a sample copy costs very little and at least shows you're interested enough to explore further. Most of us can manage a subscription or two (or three, or four, or ... nine?) and if we don't keep these smaller publications alive, there won't be anywhere for us to get published.

Which brings me to Cadenza. I've just read through my sample copy (pdf file, £3, an absolute bargain) and discovered that this literary magazine is not just a good venue for publication, it provides an incredible, almost invaluable, resource for writers. The commentary on competition entries is one of the best learning tools I've seen since I became a writer. This is not just because you're given an explanation of why a story was chosen as a winner, but also for the insight into how judges work and the general information about what moves a story up through the ranks of entries to the shortlist - if you don't understand why your work doesn't win contests, then a subscription to Cadenza (www.cadenza-magazine.co.uk) will quite possibly teach you everything you need to know about what makes winning literature.

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