Christian Science Monitor
"The Home Forum is looking for upbeat, personal essays. We also welcome short poems. All material must be original and previously unpublished. For seasonal material, be aware that if you submit something that is about a particular month, holiday, event (back to school, graduation), or season, we need to receive it a minimum of six weeks ahead. These are first-person, nonfiction explorations of how you responded to a place, a person, a situation, an event, or happenings in everyday life. Tell a story; share a funny true tale. The humor should be gentle. We accept essays on a wide variety of subjects, and encourage timely, newsy topics. However, we don't deal with the topics of death, aging and disease."
Length: 400 to 800 words
Down East: The Magazine of Maine
"My Maine is our section most open to new contributors. My Maine stories are personal essays that focus on some aspect of the writer’s relationship to Maine and the Maine landscape. Pieces are often lyrical, sometimes humorous, and almost always have a strong first person component. We receive more submissions for My Maine than any other section of the magazine; please give us three months to respond to your submission before following up."
Length: 800–1000 words
Payment: Between $.40/word and $.70/word
"FATE magazine reports on a wide variety of strange and unknown phenomena. We are open to receiving any well-written, well-documented article. (FATE does not publish poetry or fiction.) Our readers especially like reports of current investigations, experiments, theories, and experiences."
Payment: $50 per article, and $10 for short fillers, which are less than 500 words, payable six months after print publication. Payment for “True Mystic Experiences” and “My Proof of Survival” is $25, including the use of the photograph, which will be returned.
Good Old Days
"Good Old Days tells the real stories of the people who lived and grew up in “the Good Old Days” (about 1935–1960). We like stories to sound informal and conversational, as if you’re sitting around the kitchen table reminiscing with your friends and family. However, we are open to any way you choose to write your story, as long as it is true and falls within our targeted period of time. We prefer the author’s individual voice, warmth, humor and honesty over technical ability. We do not accept fictional manuscripts."
Length: 500 to 1,500 words
Payment: $15 to $75
Michigan Quarterly Review
"MQR is an eclectic interdisciplinary journal of arts and culture that seeks to combine the best of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction with outstanding critical essays on literary, cultural, social, and political matters. The flagship journal of the University of Michigan, MQR draws on lively minds here and elsewhere, seeking to present accessible work of all varieties for sophisticated readers from within and without the academy."
Length: 1,500 words minimum, 5,000 average, 7,000 maximum
"We're looking for anyone with a fresh voice and a compelling story to share—basically any work that really knocks our socks off. At the core, Slice aims to bridge the gap between emerging and established authors by offering a space where both are published side-by-side. We simply look for works by writers who promise to become tomorrow’s literary legends."
Only accepts submissions during reading periods
"We are interested in literary fiction, including short stories, short shorts, and novel excerpts up to 6,250 words in length, and creative nonfiction. We select work on the basis of style, craft, freshness, and vision."
The Rusty Toque
"The Rusty Toque is a contemporary online literary and arts journal from Ontario. The Rusty Toque strives to publish innovative literary writing, film, reviews, and visual art nationally and internationally in the spring and fall of each year."
Payment: $50 (CAD)
The Smart Set
"We’re always looking for excellent, original, and previously unpublished personal essays, critical essays, reporting, memoir, travel writing, stories, photo essays, and even video projects."
"If there’s any group of people who believe the ideas around breakfast are boundless, we're obviously the ones. The editors of Extra Crispy want to hear your hot takes on hot cakes." No restaurant reviews.
Payment: Competitive rates
DAME features a variety of voices writing reported pieces, op-eds, and personal essays covering culture, politics, parenting, family, gender, sex, entertainment, tech culture, business and personal finance. DAME’s tone is irreverent, witty, and provocative. "Our objective is to move the conversation forward around trending and topical subjects most relevant to women—that is, when we're not starting the conversation. We accept narrative-driven reported features, first-person essays, Q&As, op-eds, and humor essays (especially satire).
Length: Stories are generally between 800 and 2,000 words, depending on the subject matter and the story format."
Kveller is a parenting magazine that accepts personal essays about parenting and women’s issues as seen through a Jewish lens.
Length: 500-1000 words
New York Times: Modern Love
"The editors of Modern Love are interested in receiving deeply personal essays about contemporary relationships, marriage, dating, parenthood...any subject that might reasonably fit under the heading “Modern Love.” Ideally, essays should spring from some central dilemma the writer has faced in his or her life. It helps if the situation has a contemporary edge, though this is not essential. Most important is that the writing be emotionally honest and the story be freshly and compellingly told."
Length: 1500-1700 words
Salon accepts articles and story pitches to the appropriate section with “Editorial Submission” in the subject line and the query/submission in the body of the email. Include your writing background or qualifications, along with links to three or four clips.
Payment: 10 cents/word
Slate is an online magazine about news, politics, and culture. Please indicate which section you’re pitching to in the subject line of your email.
Payment: 23 cents/word
"The Billfold aims to do away with the misbelief that talking about difficult money issues is uncomfortable, and create a space to have an honest conversation about how we save, spend and repay our debts. We are going to break one of the last taboos in our culture — talking about what you earn, what you spend, what you owe. Interested in contributing to The Billfold? Send an e-mail to email@example.com with a specific pitch you have in mind and an editor will get back to you as soon as possible."
Payment: 3 cents/word
"We are looking for evocative first-person narratives that have a unique focus, or take a novel angle, on a slice of the parenting experience. We are open to a range of styles and tones: the only requirement is that the essay works on its own terms—be it lyrical, humorous, research-oriented, etc—and conveys something fundamental about its writer."
Length: Up to 1200 words
Payment: Not specified
Tin House is a highly regarded literary magazine that accept unsolicited submissions twice a year: in September and March.
Length: Up to 10,000 words
Payment: Professional rates
"Narratively is devoted to original and untold human stories, delivered in the most appropriate format for each piece, from writing to short documentary films, photo essays, audio stories and comics journalism. We are always interested in adding new, diverse voices to the mix and we pay for stories. We accept both pitches for story ideas and completed submissions."
Payment: Not specified
"The Establishment is looking to unearth overlooked stories, produce original reporting, and provide a platform for voices that have been marginalized by the mainstream media. And yes, we want your humor, wit, and good old-fashioned satire, too. We publish originally reported features, interviews, long-form journalism, personal essays, and multimedia of all shapes, sizes, and creeds."
Length: 800–1,500 words
"We publish essays, interviews, fiction, and poetry. We tend to favor personal writing, but we’re also looking for provocative pieces on political and cultural issues. And we’re open to just about anything. Surprise us; we often don’t know what we’ll like until we read it."
Length: Up to 7,000 words
"skirt! publishes two personal essays every month on topics relating to women and women’s interests. Essays must fit one of our monthly themes."
Length: 800 to 1100 words
Travelers’ Tales are yearly anthologies of travel writing. "We’re looking for personal, nonfiction stories and anecdotes-funny, illuminating, adventurous, frightening, or grim. Stories should reflect that unique alchemy that occurs when you enter unfamiliar territory and begin to see the world differently as a result. Stories that have already been published are welcome as long as the author retains the copyright to reprint the material."
Brain, Child is an award-winning literary magazine for mothers. "We focus on long form essays. We are excited by great writing – and by both new and established writers. It makes our day when we hear from an established writer or publish an author for the first time."
Length: 1,500 – 4,500 words
Payment: Competitive rates
Destinations uses pieces that go beyond a mere description of a trail or place. "Our destination stories are almost always first person and based upon the author’s recent trip experience. Readers should come away with a strong sense of that particular outdoor experience, a firm grasp of the location’s character, and the inspiration to duplicate the trip."
Length: 1,500 to 5,000 or more words, and most contain a full Expedition Planner sidebar (contact, permit, season, hazards, map, guidebook, and other useful information; look at past BACKPACKER issues for examples and style).
Payment: $0.40-$1 per word
"Surprise us! The only rules are that all work submitted must be nonfiction and original to the author, and we will not consider previously published work."
Length: 5,000 - 10,000 words
Note: There is a $3 fee to submit online. No charge for snail mail.
The American Association of Retired People accepts thoughtful, timely, new takes on matters of importance to people over 50. “Originality is key. Certain life events, such as caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease, inspire many more great essays than we could ever hope to publish. We’re looking for the compelling reads and universal truths in unusual, extreme or common-but-little-discussed life experiences.”
Length: 1,200-1,500 words
Vox First Person
Vox.com is now publishing thoughtful, in-depth, provocative personal narratives that explain the most important topics in modern life.
The Bold Italic
The Bold Italic is an online magazine that celebrates the character and free-wheeling spirit of San Francisco and the Bay Area. For pitches, comments and general inquiries, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bustle is "for & by women who are moving forward as fast as you are." Topics range from politics, to motherhood, to books, fashion and entertainment. Although the focus is on women, articles by men are accepted. Payment varies. Read their submission guidelines.
Length: 800-2000 words
Payment: Averages about 5 cents per word
The Penny Hoarder
"We’re looking for freelance writers who have fun, unique ideas for earning, saving or investing money. We’d love to hear your personal experience, especially if you can share detailed numbers, strategies and advice."
Length: 700 to 900 words
Payment: Averages 8 cents/word
"We’re interested in seeing finished pieces that intersect culture. We realize it’s a lot to ask for people to to write something without knowing if it will be published. On the other hand if you aren’t driven by the story so much that you have to write it then it’s probably not a good fit for The Rumpus."
Payment: Averages 13 cents/word
Human Noise Journal
"[Our] goal is to publish pieces that are intriguing and unique. Pieces that make you think. Pieces that encompass all of the human experience. Pieces that are multimedia and experimental. We want to give a voice to the voiceless. Most of us here have been a struggling artist in one form or another and now it is our turn to give writers, novice or experienced, a place to get published. So send us your darlings, if you are brave enough to put them out into the world."
Length: Short Stories and essays should be no longer than 10 pages
Note: See submission periods
Two weeks ago I had the privilege of sitting on a few freelance writing panels at the San Francisco Writers Conference. Beyond questions about pay, building a portfolio or pitching reported articles (a subject I’ve written on in depth), I was struck by the number of questions about personal essays and submitting personal essays.
Of course, such interest in personal essays makes sense. They’re a more literary form than journalistic writing, and a good way for folks who are writing memoirs to practice concision. Even more important, however: They’re an excellent way to break into a publication for writers with few prior clips (journo-speak for published articles that serve as samples of your work) to their name.
Without robust writing samples of articles published in reputable venues, it can be difficult to get your foot in the door at a new publication. But because personal essays present your full work up front and don’t require approval from an editor before writing the piece, they can be a terrific vehicle to get an in with an editor. Once the piece is published and you’ve developed a personal relationship with that editorial staff, you can then approach them with ideas for reported pieces, because you’ve already demonstrated your writing chops. You can also catalog that personal essay in your portfolio as a work sample to reference when you pitch other publications.
All that said, there are a few important things to know before you start:
Submit personal essays on spec.
To submit an essay on spec (short for “on speculation”) means to submit a finished, written and polished piece—as opposed to the few short paragraphs in which you would try to sell an idea in a standard article pitch. The obvious downside is that you’re stuck writing the entire thing beforehand, on your own dime, without any certainty the piece will sell. That said, personal essays are a great opportunity to show off your distinct voice as a writer. Editors will be more likely to consider your essay based on its storytelling merits alone, instead of on your portfolio of past work (or lack thereof).
Use small moments to convey big ideas.
An important thing to keep in mind when actually penning a personal essay is that they require a different approach than a full-fledged memoir or a reported piece. The most successful personal essays are built around small snapshots of moments that come together to express a greater theme. Consider approaching such writing with a healthy balance of anecdote and analysis. You’re not just telling a story about yourself, but providing context as to how your personal experiences contribute to a greater cultural conversation.
Look beyond literary journals.
Lit journals don’t have a monopoly on excellent personal essays. In fact, personal essays have a strong tradition in magazines and newspapers. Today there are many fantastic venues, both print and online, in which to share your experiences. Here are links to the submission pages for eight of my favorites:
- Vox First Person
- New York Times Modern Love
- The Rumpus
- The Sun
- Creative Nonfiction
- Writer’s Digest 5-Minute Memoir
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This post is part of a series offreelance writing-related postsfromWriter’s Digest Managing Editor Tyler Moss. In addition to working with new submissions and a regular stable of freelance contributors toWD, his own freelance credits includeConde Nast Traveler, The Atlantic, OutsideandNew Yorkmagazines.
Follow Tyler on Twitter @tjmoss11.
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