LINKS UPDATED 06/27/2016
Do you have the knack for writing on a very personal level and connecting with the reader like an old friend? If so, you may have what it takes to expand your writing repertoire to include personal essays. A personal essay differs from a slice-of-life vignette and an op-ed piece. A slice of life vignette is a short fiction piece centered on an interesting moment or event. An opinion-editorial piece expresses a controversial opinion backed by facts and research and is commonly used in newspapers.
A personal essay gets up close and personal. It’s based on a personal perspective and a topic that the writer has a strong passion for. The writer uses their own experience and communicates their feelings to the reader. It gives the reader a glimpse into the writer’s life and intellect. A personal essay can derive from a number of encounters including news stories, life changing events, tragedy, adversity or joy.
The most important advice for a writer contemplating the personal essay is to write from the heart and let your readers feel your emotions. You can’t fake a personal essay – it has to come from within. A writer proficient in the creation of personal essays is an observer of life. He observes the world around him and lets his emotions govern his writing.
Personal Essay Writing Tips
Pick a topic you can get intimate with. The topic should be something you feel passionate about, and you should feel comfortable letting your audience know how you feel and where you’re coming from. Your topic should stir up some inner emotion inside, whether it be sadness, anger, or joy.
Treat your audience like a friend. Tell them your story and make them feel involved in your life.
Reveal and analyze your emotions and put them down on paper. Your aim is to divulge your emotions and let the reader benefit from your experience.
Keep your writing style simple. Don’t be stuffy or overwrite. Your article should read as though you and the reader have shared a private moment over a cup of coffee.
The first line of your essay should open with a hook to pique the reader’s interest. A good hook can be in the form of a question, quotation, statement or metaphor. Another idea is to take a snap shot of a moment in time and build the essay from there.
Personal essays are usually written in the first person. Write your essay with the freedom to write how you feel – there is no right or wrong. Convey your ideas, thoughts and experiences in a sensitive, purposeful manner and you will create a memorable piece.
Personal Essay Markets
Monthly publication focusing on events, activities, issues, personalities, arts and culture in Hudson Valley, Manhattan to Albany region.
Editorial Needs: Personal essays, political journalism, pieces on issues of regional concern, and profiles of area figures in culture and the arts. Buys one-time print rights and Web rights.
Contact information online at:
First Things Magazine
Pays: From $400 for Opinions to $1000 for Articles and Review Essays, depending on length.
A journal of religion and the public life. Editorial Needs: Personal Essays, reviews, opinions, articles, and book reviews. Topics include Theology, Philosophy, Books, Culture, Political Theory, and Law. Buys all rights. Guidelines not available online
Submission Editor: James Nuechterlein. Editorial Office: 156 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010. Contact information online at: https://www.firstthings.com/menus/contact.html
Hemispheres – The Magazine of United Airlines
Globally circulating in-flight magazine for United Airlines. Editorial Needs: Personal essays of interest to an affluent, educated global readership (devoid of any provincial content). Buys first world rights. Submission Editor: Selby Bateman, Senior Editor.
Editorial Office: Pace Communications, 1301 Carolina Street, Greensboro, NC 27401.
Queries via email or regular mail. Request guidelines via email. Contact information online at: (click on Contact Us)
The American Scholar
Pays: $500 for essays and journals; $50 for poems
Quarterly journal comprised of literature, science, and culture published by the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Recent contributors include Nicholson Baker, J. M. Coetzee and other notable authors. However, open to contributions by unknown writers if they’re accomplished prose stylists. Editorial Needs: Essays (personal and expository), journals, poetry and book reviews. Topics include author’s own life, the arts, sciences, current affairs, history and literature. Buys first rights. Editors: Managing Editor, Jean Stipicevic; Book Review Editor, Natasha Wimmer; Poetry Editor, Robert Farnsworth.
Guidelines via email. Queries and all submissions via regular mail. Editorial Office: The Phi Beta Kappa Society, 1785 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Fourth Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036. Contact information online at: https://www.pbk.org/contact/scholar.htm
Pays: $75 – $3000. “A more complete schedule of fees is available upon request.”
A weekly alternative tabloid for the Chicago area. Publishes information on arts and entertainment criticism-movies, pop music, theater, dance, art, etc. Editorial Needs: Essays, book pieces, feature stories. Various sporadic columns open to unsolicited contributions. Buys first serial rights and archival rights (microfilm, microfiche, etc). Guidelines: https://www.chicagoreader.com/readerinc/freelance.html. Managing Editor: Kiki Yablon. Editorial Office: Chicago Reader, 11 East Illinois Street, Chicago, IL 60611. Contact information online at: https://www.chicagoreader.com/readerinc/freelance.html (see bottom of page)
The Funny Times
Pays: $60 for stories
The nation’s leading liberal leftist monthly humor review. Editorial Needs: Personal essays, stories and cartoons. Buys one-time, 2nd serial repro rights. Guidelines: www.funnytimes.com/submissions.html. Submission Editor: “The Editors”. No electronic submissions. Editorial Office: c/o The Editors, P.O. Box 18530, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118. Contact information online at: https://funnytimes.com/submission-guidelines-potential-contributors/
Christine Cristiano has been freelancing for ten years and hangs her hat in Ontario, Canada. Her work has appeared in several local and national markets including Income Opportunities, The Toronto Sun Newspaper, Friends and Neighbors Newspaper, Epregancy, writersvision.com, fundsforwriters.com and others.