Written on the Bluffs

by Beth Weimer
Above: Editors Alyssa McMillen and Destinee Wilson with Jim Sullivan at the release party for the Bluffs’ third issue in 2016.

With the upcoming release of its fourth issue, the Bluffs Literary Magazine continues to evolve as a platform for a growing community of writers. Editors Alyssa McMillen, Destinee Wilson and Erica Pamson are curating more than 50 submissions of local poetry, flash fiction, memoirs and nonfiction, as well as photography and artwork, to present the work of some of Peoria’s brightest creative minds.

ICC English professor Jim Sullivan and former Journal Star reporter Danielle Hatch established Bluffs in 2013, seeking to create an accessible outlet for area poets. Sullivan still assists with the editing process, but turned over the magazine to McMillen and Wilson in 2016.

Writers at any level are welcome to submit up to three pieces for each issue, so long as they have a connection to the Peoria area. “There aren’t many restrictions, and we don’t really conform to a theme,” McMillan explains. “We look for pieces that convey strong emotions—pieces that illustrate the commitment and passion of the people who wrote them.”

The current editorial team is steadily expanding the scope of the magazine, collaborating with businesses like Lit. on Fire and Peoria Pizza Works to host open mics and fundraisers while supporting other literary events in the community. In addition to the new issue, they plan to release a miniature digital zine and spoken-word videos online, host workshops, and explore grants and funding options to help the magazine become self-sustaining.

Anyone interested in writing or literature is encouraged to attend the open mic events, whether or not they’re ready to share on stage. “It’s a great way to find inspiration and gain confidence in your writing,” Pamson notes. “Once you witness other people doing it, it becomes a lot easier,” adds Wilson.

In the meantime, the Bluffs’ editors are working hard to cultivate an inclusive community for artists of all kinds. “Going through the submissions, its surprising to see how many people you know that you didn’t realize were such amazing writers,” Pamson says.

“We’re seeing Peoria blossom into this cultural hub where people are putting out tons of amazing creative work,” explains Wilson. “The more people that get involved, the more successful the entire movement will be.” a&s

Connect with Bluffs Literary Magazine on Facebook and Instagram for upcoming events and submission deadlines—and look for the new issue in Peoria bookstores this summer.