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Post Essays Online

Summer is over, and that means that millions of students are heading back to Universities around the world.  Professors are preparing their syllabi and lectures, and students are getting ready for classes (read: spending hundreds of dollars on books).

Over the next eight months there will be hundreds of millions of essays written by university students, and graded by professors and teaching assistants (TAs).  What does that mean for student publishing? Well, not much. For the most part,  students do not publish their work, which makes the professors and TAs the sole readers of hundreds of millions of essays.  

What if these essays were published online for all to read and evaluate?  What if even 1/100th of them were published? This is not a rhetorical question for us, it is something that we wish to find out.  Something that we think should happen, and hope to help make happen. 

“Aren’t you worried about publishing student essays? Won’t many be bad?”

Arguably some of the essays are not so great, but that is true for all scholars, including distinguished professors.  Indeed, in 2004 Pinker wrote that academic writing is known to use “prose that is turgid, soggy, wooden, bloated, clumsy, obscure, unpleasant to read, and impossible to understand,” and recently we’ve seen that even the underlying research is not as reliable as we would like. These problems are certainly not due to students. 

“Why publish student essays”

There are various reasons we think students should publish their essays with us. First, the limitations on scholarly publishing should never be monetary.  However, that is the case with many publishers, especially in the life sciences.  Sure, many journals may offer waivers, but it is an imperfect system that frankly discourages people from even trying to publish.  In various cases students are granted a partial or full waiver from publishers, but a waiver of even 50% may leave a student with a bill of 1,000+ dollars.  Libraries have been great for backing students publishing, but in order to get library funding you must show that your publication has been accepted and in order to get accepted you must agree to pay the publication fees before undergoing review.  Not to mention, libraries can’t afford to pay for thousands of students to publish under the current model. The whole system is complicated and a big hurdle to student publishing that basically keeps students, and their ideas, away from publishing.  We’ve eliminated that unnecessary hurdle by shifting review to an open post-publication model.

The second reason for encouraging students to publish their essays, and more importantly providing them a platform to do so, is that it is best to learn open practices early.  Learn to publish and review openly, and this will become the norm as the students become the next leaders.  This will foster the next generation of open scholars, which will collectively benefit the community and ensure more robust practices.

The third is that we need new ideas and viewpoints in science.  Historically many ideas have come from the young or people changing disciplines.  Why? Because looking at a problem in a different way after years and years of research often times can be very difficult, if not impossible.  A person can talk themselves out of new/different ideas because they know better.  Student’s may not know any better in many things and that's okay, in fact that may be quite beneficial.

How are we going to do it?

We are already doing it.  This fall a variety of professors from around the world plan to use The Winnower in their classrooms for student publishing. Here's what their syllabi read:

From Virginia Tech BIOL5854G:

“the paper is expected to be of publishable quality. As a new experiment in this course, students will be given the choice to publish their essays on The Winnower”

From Simon Fraser PUB401:

“You must submit your essay in the form of a post/publication on any website of your choosing. This may be your own blog, someone else’s blog, this site (email instructor for an account), The Winnower, or any other web-accessible location. Submit the URL to your essay on Canvas [a course management system].  The only condition for submissions is that they should be made available under a Creative Commons License.”

From Louisiana State University MC4971:

"The objective of these assignments is to produce publishable work. For each of the 7 assignments, the top (winning) article/essay will be submitted by Paige Jarreau (with your permission) to The Winnower, where it will receive a DOI and be archived as a permanent published essay!"

We hope that other professors/instructors will follow these classes lead and begin to encourage their own students to publish.  And students, don’t wait! Start publishing!

Questions? Just ask us!

UDPATE: For the latest version of this list, subscribe to Writerland in the right sidebar to receive 31 Great Places to Publish Personal Essays in your inbox!


I frequently receive e-mails from people looking for places to publish their personal essays. Fiction and nonfiction writers alike all have a great story about the time Aunt Harriet came for dinner and left on the back of a horse, or the time the cat disappeared and returned six years later, or the time they had an epiphany about the meaning of life while walking through the woods at dusk. But where can you submit that funny, poignant, life-changing essay that’s gathering virtual dust in a folder on your computer? Who will publish it? And who will pay? Here are 20 newspapers, magazines, literary journals, and anthologies to help you begin your search:

1. New York Times Modern Love—Start by reading a lot of Modern Love columns to get an idea of what they’re looking for. You may even want to buy this Modern Love collection. Don’t miss the Media Bistro article on how to turn your Modern Love column into a book, and be sure to visit the Modern Love Facebook Page for submission tips from the editor, Daniel Jones.

2. New York Times Lives—TheNew York Times Magazine Lives column is another great place to get published. The best way to submit to any large publication is to have someone put you in touch with the editor of the column. The rest of us can e-mail our essays to the Lives section at lives (at) nytimes (dot) com.

3. Newsweek My Turn—Start by reading “How To Get a My Turn Essay Published in Newsweek Magazine.” Then read some of the past essays that have been published to get a good idea of what they are looking for and what’s already been done. UPDATE: Submit My Turn essays to editorial (at) thedailybeast (dot) com.

4. Christian Science Monitor Home Forum—The Christian Science Monitor is a highly respected international newspaper and is not religious-based. It’s Home Forum page includes a personal essay that can run from 400 to 800 words. After you read the Monitor’s contributor guidelines, check out this article for advice on how to beat the odds of getting your essay published.

5. The Sun—A monthly magazine, The Sun pays from $300 to $2,000 for essays and interviews. They receive a thousand submissions (including fiction and poetry) for every issue, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait six months for a response.

6. The Smithsonian Magazine—The Last Page of The Smithsonian is a humor column running 500 to 650 words and pays $1000. For more information, read the submission guidelines.

7. Salon—From what I’ve read, the pay is low for Salon essays ($150?), but it’s better than nothing and a great way to get exposure. Check out this list, and then click around the different departments (Life, Sex, Poetry, etc.) to see what they’re publishing. Finally, see their submission guidelines, which aren’t all that helpful.

8. Slate—Slate publishes some essays, but I was so distracted by their targeted banner ads (Camping gear! Children’s outdoor play equipment!) that I gave up on my search before I got very far.

9. The Rumpus—An online culture magazine, The Rumpus “[tries] to maintain high standards even though we don’t have any money and can’t pay for writing.” For details on submitting essays or book reviews, see their writer’s guidelines.

10. 7×7—Another West Coast publication, 7×7 has an Urban Ledger column for which readers can pitch their personal essays. They pay $1 a word, and their essays run about 1000 words. For more information, contact the editorial department.

11. Skirt—An online women’s magazine, Skirt accepts submissions up to 1500 words, but—like most online publications—does not pay. For more info, read their contributor guidelines.

12. Granta—A British literary magazine, Granta publishes original memoir pieces between 3000 and 6000 words. They do not accept e-mail submissions. Read a few copies of the journal (you can find most journals at a library) and then read their guidelines.

13. Tin House—A literary journal, Tin House accepts essays as well as poetry and fiction from Sept. 1 to May 31. The suggested deadline for their Spring 2012 issue, themed Weird Science, is Oct. 1. The real deadline is Nov. 1. Click here for submission guidelines.

14. Zyzzyva—You have to live on the West Coast to publish in Zyzzyva, but it’s another literary journal that accepts personal essays. The best way to learn what any publication is looking for is to read several issues of that publication, and Zyzzyva is no exception. Start by buying a copy. Then read the submission guidelines.

15. Traveler’s TalesTraveler’s Tales is currently accepting submissions in the women’s travel humor and travel humor categories. Visit their website for submission details. The deadline is TODAY (Sept. 21) for their Fifth Annual Solas Awards, so get it in fast if you have something ready. Otherwise, you can submit year-round and your submission will be held for the following competition.

16. Literary Mama—An online literary magazine “for the maternally inclined,” Literary Mama is looking for “revelation so stark that it hurts. Pathos can reveal, but so can humor and joy; superior craft (clarity, concrete details, strong narrative development); and ambiguity, complexity, depth, thoughtfulness, delicacy, humor, irreverence, lyricism, sincerity; the elegant and the raw.” View their submission guidelines for more info.

17. Brain, Child—The magazine for thinking mothers (as opposed to literary mamas), publishes essays between 800 and 4500 words, which are “the signature pieces of the magazine.” They pay “as much as we can, although our fees are still modest for now.” View their writers’ guidelines.

18. Chicken Soup for the Soul—It doesn’t seem like there’s anything left to publish in this series, but there is! There is! And here are the submission guidelines.

19. Seal Press Anthologies—Seal Press publishes books “By Women. For Women.” They aren’t currently accepting submissions, but check back periodically for upcoming books.

20. Adams Media books—Adams publishes nonfiction books, including some anthologies. Right now they’re taking parodies of Jane Austen writing for an anthology titled Bad Austen.

In addition to those listed above, there is a plethora of other literary journals that publish personal essays. provides an extensive list with descriptions. Writer’s Digest also has a great article called Tips to Help You Publish Your Personal Essays. They also publish the trusted Writer’s Market directory, which you can access online.

Do you have any publications to add to the list, or details/tips about any of those listed above?