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Queries, Pitches and Proposals

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Fifteen Paying Markets for Personal Essays and Life Stories

by Chryselle D'Silva Dias

Editor's Note: Market list updated January 2010 - sorry, it's no longer 15!

Writing nonfiction, the experts say, is often the easiest way for a writer to break into print. More importantly, paying markets abound for fillers, greeting card verses, and humour.

But what about personal stories?

Like me, if you love to write about your own experiences, putting it into perspective for a publication of your choice should be a piece of cake.

Finding paying markets for personal essays and life stories, though, is a lot harder than writing down sometimes-painful memories. While publication opportunities in the form of websites, blogs, anthologies and contests are widely available, comprehensive listings of paying markets for essays are hard to come by.

Here are fifteen paying markets for personal essays. As with all freelance markets, remember that over time, websites can close down, hyperlinks can disappear and guidelines changed. These listings are meant to get you started in the right direction. Please take the time to go through the websites and study them, like you would any other market, before submitting your work.

1. Common Ties
Ceased publication.

2. Christian Science Monitor
A favourite place for essayists, Christian Science Monitor is a good place for newbies to break in with light humour and touching personal stories. This world-famous American newspaper seeks "upbeat, personal essays from 300 to 900 words." Their current requirements include travel, parenting and seasonal essays. Read the guidelines for updated information.
Payment: $75-$160 on publication.

3. Woman's Day
No longer accepts personal essays.

4. Chronogram
Publishes "insightful first person essays, short stories and poetry."
Payment: They pay on a sliding scale based on a contract between the editor and the writer.

5. The Sun
Publishes personal essays, interviews and poetry. There is no minimum word count. Submissions must be sent by post only.
Payment: $500 to $1,500 for essays the amount being determined by length and quality. Short works may be paid less. Contributors also receive a complimentary one-year subscription to The Sun.

6. Newsweek
No longer publishes "My Turn."

7. Creative Non-Fiction
In this website devoted exclusively to non-fiction, essay writers and personal story-tellers should have a lot to contribute. (Note: this site charges a $3 "convenience fee" for online submissions.)
Payment: Pays $10 per printed page

8. Marriage Partnership
A Christian website on marriage which solicits first-person narratives for their various departments. Unusually for essays, the website requests that writers query in the first instance.
Payment: This is a paying market and each department has different payment rates.

9. Underwired
This website for women welcomes personal essays (800-1200 words) for publication every month. A list of themes is listed on the website and contributors should ensure that their submissions relate to a theme.
Payment: $100 for an essay

10. Chicken Soup for the Soul
We've all seen the books. Each has a distinct theme which is broken down into clear-cut sections. The guidelines on the website indicate upcoming books and deadlines. According to the guidelines, a Chicken Soup story is not just "a sermon, essay or eulogy".
Payment: on publication. Amount not specified on website
Guidelines: (Click on "Submit a Story" on the left-hand menu)

11. A Cup of Comfort series
Ceased publication.

12. Angels on Earth
Ceased publication.

13. Orion
Their website describes this magazine as "a magazine about the issues of our time: how we live, what we value, what sustains us". With an increasing focus on an alternative worldview, the magazine welcomes essays from new and experienced writers. The best places, they say, for writers new to Orion to break into the magazine are S&M and the Groundswell feature well.
Payment: Features, $400 - $1,000; S&M, $25 - $50; Departments, $250 - $300; Reviews, $50 - $100.

14. The Subway Chronicles
Does not seem to be accepting submissions at this time.

15. DesiLit
DesiLit is a biannual online magazine for exceptional contemporary writing and art focused on South Asia and the diaspora. Check the website for updates on their reading periods. Submissions must focus on issues that concern the global South Asian community and can be from anyone with an interest or a perspective. NOTE: It is unclear whether this publication is currently accepting submissions.
Payment: $25 for short articles (600+ words), $100 for long articles (1200 2000 words)
Guidelines: (click "magazine" in the left column, then "submission guidelines," as the URL seems to change regularly).

These are just a sample of the paying markets that are out there. Your local newspapers and magazines may also welcome a 'native' point of view on a variety of subjects. Do your research and make the most of your life's experiences.

Go on, get personal.

Copyright © 2007 Chryselle D'Silva Dias
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Chryselle D'Silva Dias is a UK-based freelance writer whose print and online articles have been published in the UK, US, and India. To see more of her work, visit

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