What is Air/Light?

Air/Light is an online literary journal published by the English Department at the University of Southern California. We showcase both traditional and innovative works. We are firmly of the West Coast, but also national, international. We mean to look out expansively from this place rather than to gaze narrowly back at it, to express a West Coast aesthetic, a West Coast sensibility, and direct that lens onto the world.

California and the West Coast — the occupied land of the Tongva in Los Angeles, where we are based, and those of other indigenous peoples of the Americas — has long been defined by narrow fantasies produced by settler colonialism and racial capitalism. But the region we know has a history as diverse and expansive as it is fraught. Air/Light provides a space for writers and artists to express and explore not only the histories of violence, inequality, and exploitation—but also more intimate personal histories and lives defined by joy, triumph, and love.

Our name is inspired by Lawrence Weschler’s 1998 essay “L.A. Glows,” which describes a meteorological condition endemic to Southern California, where the air is full of oversized particles — responsible, on the one hand, for the clarity of the light (in the sense that these particles reflect and amplify its glow) but also for optical effects that are obscuring, even mysterious. Such a phenomenon is known as “airlight,” and it seems an ideal metaphor for what this Air/Light aspires to do: to walk a line between clarity and a kind of focused blurring, a necessary balance between being found and getting lost.

Air/Light operates according to a hybrid format; like a print journal, we will announce each issue — we plan four a year — and then roll out the contents over a number of weeks, a few pieces at a time. The aim is to blend, or blur (that word again), the cohesion of the quarterly with the fluidity of the digital.

Our intention is to be an artist’s journal — a place where poets and essayists and fiction writers and multimedia creators can all bring work that doesn’t fit inside boxes, that pushes boundaries, that speaks directly to some essential question or concern. A place where artists can experiment, or choose, willfully, not to experiment. A place where they can publish defining work alongside other artists pursuing the same.

We seek to be responsive to the moment. We seek to be activist and engaged. Most of all, we seek to join the vibrant, ongoing conversation — both on the West Coast and across the planet — about writing and reading and expression: the human dialogue, in other words, which has never seemed more urgent and necessary.

What we publish

We are looking for new and innovative works of literary arts across all mediums and genres. We are particularly interested in work from women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ creators.

While Air/Light is based in Los Angeles and approaches the literary arts from a Southern California perspective, we want to read and publish work by everyone from everywhere.

What we read

Nonfiction: Personal essays, critical essays, memoir, reviews, reportage, travel, interviews. Anything up to 4000 words.

Fiction: All genres and styles, up to 4000 words.

Poetry: No more than 10 pages per submission. We are interested in poems of all shapes and sizes, traditional or those that play with genre and form.

Cross-genre: Original work that blurs the lines of genre and from, whether text only or incorporating images and other multimedia elements.

Collaborations: Collaborative essays by two or more writers, or by a writer and an artist, up to 4000 words.

Visual Art: Original work in any style or genre, from comics to fine art and collage.

Music: Original recordings, compositions, and mixes.

Video: Short films, video essays, experimental collage, or anything in this territory.

Digital, multimedia, and interactive: Do you have a video game, a twine narrative, a choose your own adventure web story? Send it our way.

Guidelines for submission

We only consider previously unpublished work.

Our taste is wide-ranging, but please familiarize yourself with the journal prior to submitting to get a sense of what we publish.

Simultaneous submissions are fine, but if you decide to publish elsewhere, please notify us immediately via your Submittable account that you are withdrawing your work from consideration.

We have a small staff, so please wait one month before inquiring about the status of your submission. We’ll get to it, and we are doing our best to be as prompt as we can. Patience is a virtue.

Responses to submissions will be done via Submittable. Sadly, we are finite beings in a finite world, held hostage by the limits of Newtonian space-time and, thus, cannot respond to submissions personally.

Submission formatting

For prose, please submit your work in Word .doc or .docx format, double spaced with one inch margins, in Times New Roman 12. Please put the title and your name at the top of the first page, and please add a short bio (no more than 50 words) at the end of the piece.

For poetry, please use a new page to begin each poem, and put the title and your name at the top.

Audio, visual, or multimedia: We can work with any of the standard file types for music, image, and video. If your work demands a different file format or mode of presentation, let us know and we can work with you to figure it out.

We are looking for new and innovative works of literary arts across all mediums and genres. We are particularly interested in work from women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ creators.

While Air/Light is based in Los Angeles and approaches the literary arts from a Southern California perspective, we want to read and publish work by everyone from everywhere.

And we pay! Our rates are as follows: 

  • Poetry: $50
  • Responses and department pieces: $100
  • Fiction and essays/nonfiction: $200
  • Visual art, music, and multimedia: $200

What we read

Nonfiction: Personal essays, critical essays, memoir, reviews, reportage, travel, interviews. Anything up to 4000 words.

Fiction: All genres and styles, up to 4000 words.

Poetry: No more than 10 pages per submission. We are interested in poems of all shapes and sizes, traditional or those that play with genre and form.

Cross-genre: Original work that blurs the lines of genre and from, whether text only or incorporating images and other multimedia elements.

Collaborations: Collaborative essays by two or more writers, or by a writer and an artist, up to 4000 words.

Visual Art: Original work in any style or genre, from comics to fine art and collage.

Music: Original recordings, compositions, and mixes.

Video: Short films, video essays, experimental collage, or anything in this territory.

Digital, multimedia, and interactive: Do you have a video game, a twine narrative, a choose your own adventure web story? Send it our way.

Guidelines

We only consider previously unpublished work.

Our taste is wide-ranging, but please familiarize yourself with the journal prior to submitting to get a sense of what we publish.

Simultaneous submissions are fine, but if you decide to publish elsewhere, please notify us immediately via your Submittable account that you are withdrawing your work from consideration.

We have a small staff, so please wait one month before inquiring about the status of your submission. We’ll get to it, and we are doing our best to be as prompt as we can. Patience is a virtue.

Responses to submissions will be done via Submittable. Sadly, we are finite beings in a finite world, held hostage by the limits of Newtonian space-time and, thus, cannot respond to submissions personally.

Submission formatting

For prose, please submit your work in Word .doc or .docx format, double spaced with one inch margins, in Times New Roman 12. Please put the title and your name at the top of the first page, and please add a short bio (no more than 50 words) at the end of the piece.

For poetry, please use a new page to begin each poem, and put the title and your name at the top.

For audio, visual, or multimedia, we can work with any of the standard file types for music, image, and video. If your work demands a different file format or mode of presentation, let us know and we can work with you to figure it out.

Air/Light Magazine