december magazine was founded in Iowa City in 1958 by a group of poets, writers, and artists who declared, “We are humanists . . . far more concerned with people than dogmatic critical or aesthetic attitudes.” december was a pioneer in the “little” magazine and small press movement, publishing cutting-edge fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and art. By 1962, the founding editors had left Iowa City; one of them, Jeff Marks, took december to Chicago and turned it over to Curt Johnson, an award-winning short story writer and novelist. Johnson edited and published december for the next 46 years until his death in 2008.
Before Johnson died, he extracted a promise from Craig Sautter, one of his friends and co-authors, to find someone to carry on december’s legacy. That promise led to Gianna Jacobson, a journalist-turned-fiction writer, who acquired the assets of december in late 2012. She plans to carry on Johnson’s mission – publishing exceptional, thought-provoking poetry, prose, and art; championing the work of unheralded writers and artists and celebrating fresh work from seasoned voices; and promoting and advocating for december’s writers in the literary and general communities.
december has a distinguished legacy of publishing the early work of little-known writers and artists, many of whom became major literary figures, including Donald Barthelme, Marvin Bell, Stephen Berg, Rita Mae Brown, Raymond Carver, Stephen Dunn, Donald Hall, Michael Harper, Donald Justice, Ted Kooser, Philip Levine, Joyce Carol Oates, Marge Piercy, William Stafford, C.K. Williams, Charles Wright, and James Wright.
december introduced Raymond Carver to the world in 1963’s Vol. 5 with The Furious Seasons, his first story ever published (outside of his school’s litmag). Carver made four more appearances in december: Will You Please Be Quiet, Please appeared in Vol. 8 in 1966 (was reprinted the following year in Best American Short Stories and became the title story of his first collection, published in 1976). Three poems by Carver appeared in Vol. 9 in 1967. His story The Father appeared in Vol. 10 in 1968, and A Night Out appeared in Vol. 12 in 1970.
december’s writers who published their first or very early work in the journal include:
• 5 U.S. Poets Laureate
• 6 Pulitzer Prize winners
• 8 National Book Award winners
• 3 National Book Critics Circle Award winners
• 6 state poets laureate
• 9 Guggenheim fellows
• 10 NEA fellows
• 3 Poet’s Prize winners
• 5 O. Henry Award winners (totaling 10 awards)
• 2 Pen/Faulkner Award winners
• 3 Pushcart Prize winners
• 5 selections in Best American Short Stories