Personal essays are everywhere you look lately, and many of you love to write them. Whether they are your go-to format, or just something you dabble in from time to time, it can be intimidating when you are starting out placing your first personal essays. We’ve put together a list of ten publications that not only publish personal essays, but also love to hear from new writers!
The Rumpus – Editor-in-Chief Marisa Siegel describes The Rumpus as “Great writing that might not find a home elsewhere.” They like unique perspectives and deep-dives into pop culture. They also plan to publish more political pieces in 2017. While opt-in payment is very small (usually less than $20 a piece), The Rumpus is a respected publication on the radar of many writers due to the quality of story they publish, and their reputation for publishing unique and diverse points of view. Submission Guidelines; Editor Q&A with Marisa Siegel of The Rumpus
SheKnows – This site publishes writing on women’s issues including parenting, beauty, food, health, and even pets, to name just a few. Many writers publish on the thriving open contributor platform known as SheKnows Community. Writers are unpaid, and enjoy gaining instant exposure to a segment of the SheKnows monthly readership, which spans into the tens of millions. If your piece is selected as a staff pick, enjoy even more visibility among SheKnows readers. While the SheKnows Community does not offer paid writing opportunities, SheKnows.com has editors with small freelance budgets. They can be contacted individually by vertical at Parenting@sheknows.com, Health@sheknows.com, Love@sheknows.com, Entertainment@sheknows.com, Food@sheknows.com, and Pets@sheknows.com. Rates vary for freelance opportunities, however flat rates in the $50-60 range seem to be frequently reported by writers.
Editor Q&A with Colleen Stinchcombe of SheKnows
DAME – DAME publishes reported pieces, op-eds, and personal essays covering culture, politics, parenting, family, gender, sex, entertainment, tech culture, business and personal finance, and more. DAME’s wheelhouse is starting and continuing conversations on trending topics. Oh, and they love humor essays (even satire) if you’ve got ‘em! Founder, Jennifer Reitman is very supportive of bringing new writing voices to DAME. Rates vary, but are very competitive for new writers.
Submission Guidelines; Writing For DAME Magazine – With Founder & Publisher, Jennifer Reitman
Bustle – This very popular women’s interest site is known for shareable content. Features Editor, Rachel Krantz doesn’t care if you are brand new to submitting your work, or only have a few bylines, and is very open to hearing from new writers. Bustle looks for personal essays that have “strong, intimate narrative with a distinctive voice that is authoritative yet still fun and accessible for Bustle’s audience.” P.S. Their offspring publication Romper is looking for similar content about millennial motherhood. Rates for Bustle are not published, but based on writer reports from WhoPaysWriters.com, rates hover around a .05/word on average.
Submission Guidelines; Practical Submission Advice from Bustle Features Editor, Rachel Krantz
Modern Loss – If you are writing about navigating your life after a death, Modern Loss is a great site to consider. While they don’t yet pay, top agents do canvass the site, and a byline here is a nice feather in the cap for a new writer. Authors span new writers to best-selling authors, so you’ll be in good company.
Submission Guidelines; Writing For Modern Loss About Your Life After A Death – With Co-Founder & CEO, Rebecca Soffer
Narratively – This site is one of a kind and practices “slow storytelling” of untold human stories. Selected by TIME magazine as one of the top 50 websites in 2013, the quality of writing and unique stories you’ll find here are riveting and special. Submission guidelines specifically call out their interest in adding new voices to the mix, and they pay $150 for personal essays.
Submission Guidelines; Editor Q&A with Lilly Dancyger of Narratively
Buzzfeed READER – A strong voice that speaks to readers is what READER is looking for in the personal essays they publish. Pretty much any topic can work, though they suggest money, family, food, religion, sexuality, relationships, disability, illness (mental or physical), hormones, race, body image, drugs, and travel. They also encourage critical essays on cultural aspects such as books, technology, sports, entertainment, celebrities, politics, and fashion. And don’t forget, this is Buzzfeed people, so you are talking about a large audience. READER promotes their rates as competitive.
Mothers Always Write – One of the smaller publication on this list, MAW publishes literary essays about “the mothering experience” whether that be young children, teens and tweens, or adults. Mothers Always Write pays $25 for pieces selected in their published issues, and nominates for a number of awards including the Pushcart Prize. Check guidelines for suggested themes.
Submission Guidelines; Editor Q&A with Julianne Palumbo of Mothers Always Write
The Sunlight Press – The newest publication on this list, “The Sunlight Press is a digital literary journal that provides a home to new and established voices…We want to hear the ways people turn toward light and hope, whether it is through the arts, culture, spirituality, or humor, and also how they respond to the darkness and navigate unknown spaces.” Rates are unpublished, however TSP does pay writers
Chicken Soup for the Soul – At any given point in time, CSFTS usually has 4-5+ open calls to submit stories for their possible book topics. While many authors return to write for more than one book, they are always looking for new writers. Submissions are very competitive and can take months or more to hear back, however, published authors rave about this publication and the benefits received. Benefits include $200 for a published story, major bragging rights, 10 free copies of the book you appear in, discounted books, and exclusive CSFTS author communications.
Submission Guidelines; How To Get Published In Chicken Soup For The Soul With Editor-in-Chief Amy Newmark
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