Portland Literary Magazine Glimmer Train Blinks Out
It began over pizza and beer. In 1990, at Northwest’s Escape from New York Pizza, Susan Burmeister-Brown asked her sister Linda Swanson-Davies what they should call their new literary magazine.
“In some ways, you could see there was a glimmer of what was to come. So Glimmer Train seemed sensible,” says Swanson-Davies.
“I didn’t steer you wrong,” Burmeister-Brown says with a laugh.
But after nearly 30 years and 100 issues, that magazine is closing for good this fall. Glimmer Train has published some 850 writers and helped put many locals on the map, including Gina Ochsner and former Portlander Carmiel Banasky. The quarterly, which circulates worldwide to more than 9,000 subscribers, pays a total of more than $50,000 each year to its writers. It receives nearly 40,000 submissions annually—from as far as Brazil, the Philippines, Uganda, and Australia—for up to 16 spots per edition.
The sisters say they will miss reading the stories they receive, many of which are reflections of the times. (Only one submission in the magazine’s history, they say, included a nude photo.) Politics, natural disasters, sexuality, and immigration: nothing is off the table.
Aspiring writers hoping to catch one of the last Glimmer Trains can submit stories through May 2019 for the final two issues—the last of which will be released in October. “We are all so much the same in the end,” reflects Swanson-Davies. “Every story we read gives us another perspective on life, on what it means to be human in this world.”