Utne Blogs > Literature

The Write Stuff


Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Wednesday, May 18, at the MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference in San Francisco. From now until then, we’ll post the nominees in all of the categories on our blogs. Below you’ll find the nominees for best writing, with a short introduction to each. These magazines are literally what Utne Reader is made of. Though we celebrate the alternative press every day and with each issue, once a year we praise those who have done an exceptional job. 

Since 1932, The American Scholar has provided a forum for the spirited exploration of ideas. The “venerable but lively” quarterly, published by the Phi Beta Kappa Society, enlightens and provokes readers with thoughtful prose on public affairs, history, science, and culture.


An arts magazine with a decidedly literary bent, The Believer covers books, film, music, and pop culture with barely contained intellectual glee. Part of the McSweeney’s empire founded by author Dave Eggers, it constantly finds new ways to showcase the creative impulse.  


Brick is published biannually, and the wait time between issues is agonizing. In 2010, the Canadian literary magazine published pieces by emerging writers alongside prose by giants Robert Hass, Geoff Dyer, and Mark Doty. The editors’ mandate is “to create a beautiful product,” and they succeed twice a year, every year.  


Oversized and stuffed, The Brooklyn Rail opens with an eclectic blend of cultural discourse and political debate, then segues into an engaging array of reviews and down-to-earth interviews with both up-and-coming and established artists.  


The stories told between the covers of Creative Nonfiction are not the confessionals that dominate chain bookstore shelves; they are thoughtfully told narratives that present a universal sense of experience. Through its consistent publication of quality nonfiction prose, as well as essays examining the genre more closely, Creative Nonfiction has helped give the genre legitimacy, continuing in the footsteps of writers like Mailer, Wolfe, Capote, and Talese, who paved its way.  


There are few university magazines that, like Portland, can be described as simply profound. At its core, the University of Portland’s beautiful publication is a Catholic endeavor, but faith isn’t so much the subject matter as the fuel for essays and reportage that challenge and inspire.  


The Sun is the best of so many things—philosophy, spirituality, photography—but what always stands out is the writing. In essays, fiction, memoirs, and poetry, this ad-free, independent magazine lets all of its content shine brightly, whether it’s a story about a recovering alcoholic finding redemption in a new family or a poem about the sweet things we leave behind when we die.  


Thirteen years ago, the founders of Tin House set out to create a journal “tantamount to being guest of honor at the greatest literary house party ever.” Mission accomplished. In its 10th year, Tin House is wildly delightful, showcasing a roster of writers both emerging and established.

See our complete list of 2011 nominees.  

Image by karindalziel, licensed under Creative Commons.

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