In my last post I talked about so-called fledgling markets and why newer writers may be well served to check them out: namely, newer markets attract fewer submissions than more established ones, so, statistically, the odds for having a piece accepted are much improved. This same rationale could be applied to themed publications, or, especially, themed issues of publications.
Most outlets, while they have some brackets around what they want to look at (see my post on writers' guidelines), are open to almost any topic, submitted by almost any sort of writer or poet. Some outlets, however, have an overarching theme that limits, often pretty narrowly, the kinds of work they want to consider. I'm probably using theme here in a broader way than some might, but from the perspective of up-and-coming writers who are looking for places to publish their work, any sort of qualifiers placed on submissions by a journal or publishing house constitute a theme. Some outlets, for instance, only want to see specific genres (sci-fi, or western, or romance). Others may be dedicated to specific topics (food, travel, zombies). Others limit their focus geographically, only wanting work written by people from a specific area (West Coast, Upper Peninsula, Canada), and/or pieces that are set or somehow about that area may qualify, even if the writer/poet doesn't hail from that place. And a lot of outlets are dedicated to highlighting the work of specific sorts of people, either by gender, age, ethnicity, orientation, occupation, or some combination thereof (like work by lesbian Latinas who live in Los Angeles -- all right, I made this example up because I like the alliteration, but it's certainly plausible).
Another sort of themed publication -- and here I'm using theme more conventionally -- is an outlet that usually is open to any topic by any sort of writer, but the editors decide they want to step out of that mode for a single issue and concentrate on a specific theme. Some publications have a regular schedule for doing themed issues; for example, they may do one open issue a year, and one themed issue. While others may only do a themed issue for a special occasion, like the publication's tenth anniversary or to note the passing of a literary figure.
In a few posts I've mentioned Duotrope's Digest as a very handy tool for helping writers find outlets for their work (see, for example, my post on my favorite resources). Duotrope's is handy for finding themed publishing opportunities as well in that their weekly email updates that they send to writers include a list of themed outlets. Just as a sampling, here are a few from the most recent update.
Here's a multi-themed possibility, Tales of Blood and Roses, which publishes "horror and thriller" fiction, poetry, art, and photography. Plus, for its debut issue, the editors have an even more specialized theme of "love gone wrong," according to their submissions page. This is also a fledgling market, which means it's not on a lot of people's radar just yet. So for a writer or poet who has something that seems to fit the editors' needs, this market is a great opportunity -- but you need to get in gear because their deadline is December 31!
Here's another multi-themed one, also with a tight deadline: May December Publications is wanting fiction about zombies (3,000 to 10,000 words), but only fiction written by women, for an anthology titled "Hell Hath No Fury ..." to be released, appropriately, in time for Mother's Day 2011. It'd be best to get your email submission to the editors by January 1, however. See their submissions page for further details.
This publication stood out for me, as well, because of its unique focus: you are here: the journal of creative geography, published out of the University of Arizona. Its 2011 issue is focused on the topic of "dislocation," and the editors are looking for a variety of creative projects that explore dislocation. See their submissions page. Another fast-approaching deadline, however: January 1.
These three possibilities are just the proverbial tip of the theme iceberg. It takes some time to peruse the options, and I suppose some industrious writers and poets (poets especially) may feel inspired to write something new to match an outlet's theme -- though more likely you have something available that happens to align with the theme. In either case, the competition for publication will likely not be as stiff as with an unthemed publication, whose editors may be sorting through tens or hundreds of thousands of unsolicited submissions.