Tips and Markets for Personal Essays

The last couple of weeks have been very productive and I am starting to feel more comfortable writing queries and making submissions to magazines.  Not so comfortable that I don’t want my resource books near for guidance, but more comfortable none the less.  I’ve been submitting personal essays and poetry.  Made a couple of mistakes, but I’m learning still.

One mistake was easily remedied with a quick phone call.  Not a major mistake, but accidentally left the SASE out of a submission.  Luckily just wasted one stamp.  Found out just needed to reprint my submission, pop it in an envelope with the SASE, and mail everything out again.  The other mistake was one of those lost in electronic translation ones.  A place I was submitting to needed the file in .rtf instead of .doc.  I submitted it after reviewing it looked right on my end, but found out upon opening it after it was sent that the spacing in a couple of places was off.

Thought I would share a few resources with you I’ve found useful as I’m learning about personal essays and narratives.  I’ve found I really enjoy this kind of writing and for me it flows so much more easily than fiction.  I found an article, Profitable Personal Essays by Dawn Goldsmith at Writers Weekly ezine, which includes a list of the authors five favorite places to submit personal essays.  Another useful article was Tips to Help You Publish Your Personal Essays at Writer’s Digest.  The site Writing to Heal, Writing to Grow has a great list of Paying Markets for Personal Essays.

Quick Tips for Submissions :

  • Visit the actual magazine website to make sure it is still in existence and accepting submissions
  • It is preferable to become familiar with the magazine before attempting to submit to it; some will provide a sample issue for a fee and many have links to published works on their websites
  • Check if submissions are accepted year round or there is a specific submission period
  • Read and follow submission instructions closely, may accept via postal mail and/or electronic submissions
  • Remember to include SASE if requested
  • Check if accepts simultaneous submissions; if your work gets accepted by one magazine, then politely notify the other magazine

As I’ve been researching in books and online to find homes for some of my writing, I’ve been keeping a list of places to possibly make submissions.  May be a personal opinion, but I would also say to make sure the possible future home for some of your writing is a place you feel is compatible with your values prior to submitting your work.  Here’s my list of places to makes submissions to :

Do you have a favorite writing tip you’ve learned along the way?…


Thoughts on Books about Writing

Amazon Kindle DX Graphite displaying Pride and...

Amazon Kindle DX Graphite displaying Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know I have mentioned before, I love bookstores and love to read!  This week I got a new book on my Kindle from Amazon and also picked up a new book at Barnes & Nobles in the mall on a trip with my daughter.  I have spent way too much time reading this week.

The book I put on my Kindle is Crafting the Personal Essay : A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction by Dinty W. Moore.  Actually saw it in the mall, but just wrote down the title for future reference.  Well, ended up deciding to get it sooner than later, so did the Kindle version.

The book was so good to me, I have already finished reading it.  It contains so much information on writing personal essays.  Many different types of essays are discussed : memoir, contemplative, spiritual, gastronomical, lyric, nature, travel, and humerous.  I found out there are way more types of essays than I even knew existed.  The author does a good job of providing personal, historical, and more modern examples of essays.  There are also plenty of ideas provided for writing exercises and prompts.

The author shares essays are in a way like poetry as you have the freedom to explore any subject without being forced into a certain mold.  As with other forms of writing, details are important.  Again I saw the recommendation I’ve read in other places of the importance of “show, don’t tell.”  Making a point to try to include the reader of your writing into the world you are sharing with them.

There is general information and recommendations in the book, which would be beneficial to any writer.  Things such as expect the first draft of anything to be bad, expect rejections, and write anything as long as you are writing if faced with writer’s block.  There are sections about blogging, writing groups, and preparing submissions as well.

Even the appendixes in this book are great.  They contained lists of essay examples, books about writing, and places in print as well as online that will accept personal essays.  Overall it was an easy to read book written in a friendly tone and the only sections I occasionally skipped over were if there was a rather lengthy essay example that was not catching my attention.  It is a book I plan on referring to again for pointers and ideas for writing essays.

The other book I got at the mall was Writing The Life Poetic :  An Invitation to Read & Write Poetry by Sage Cohen.  Besides writing essays, I have found a true love of poetry and enjoyed this book on my initial thumb through.  It has 80 short chapters and instead of reading it straight through as I do most books, I’ve started on chapter 56 and read about 10 chapters so far.  So far so good.  Has lots of examples of poetry, good information about writing poetry, and how to share your poetry with others.  I will try to share more once I finish reading it.

Finding a Voice Through Writing

Image of a modern fountain pen writing in curs...

Image via Wikipedia

I read a lot.  Maybe too much for my own good sometimes, but sometimes you learn some interesting things.  Since much of my reading has been about writing, I have found a common thought shared amongst most writers.  It is usually said, “Write what you know.”  It calls out over and over again from writers much like  “use the force” from Star Wars.

Many fiction writers say many of their characters and scenes come from real life.  Topics for many non-fiction writers are derived from situations in writers’ lives.  Many poems have been written throughout history because of something that touched the poet’s life.

Anyhow, sometimes I am one of those people that can know something, but not really get it.  Sometimes my little insecurities keep things hidden from me.  The other day it did dawn on me.  I made the connection.  I do have something to share.

Writing is an amazing outlet to speak what is inside us.  Writing even allows some things to come out, which are not necessarily so easily spoken.  Writing is giving me a voice.  A form of writing I have just become acquainted with is the personal essay.  I am in love with this form of writing.  It tops my list with poetry.

Just this week I have written several personal essays.  Some I will keep to myself, not sure they should be shared yet, but others I want to try to find places to submit.  Here is an online article about writing personal essays : http://www.poewar.com/having-your-say-writing-personal-essays/.

Another type of writing I am becoming familiar with are editorial pieces.  I have submitted one before, but just found out this week my second editorial piece was accepted and I got offered a small payment for it.  Hooray!  Here it is :
http://voices.yahoo.com/pharmaceutical-advertising-profit-driven-medicine-11092326.html.

It is a slow process, but writing is helping me to find my voice.  Right now I am still exploring and haven’t per se found my niche.  I am trying different types of writing, sometimes out of my comfort level such as writing short stories.  I guess the main thing that matters is I am writing.