Publishing Your Personal Essays
Written by
Kaye Curren
November 2018
Written by
Kaye Curren
November 2018

A writer friend emailed me recently with:

“You've had stories published in multiple places, including in the Laugh Out Loud book and in Chicken Soup for the Soul, what advice would you give someone who wants to publish their personal essays?”

This set me to thinking about what I have done over the past two years to make myself noticed out there. And believe me, I am surprised at the good response I have had. I credit that success to my years of plugging away at writing even when I was too occupied with day jobs to publish.  

Here are seven suggestions for getting started writing and publishing personal essays:

Have a website and blog carefully formatted for what you want editors and publishers to see. Let your blog posts be potentially interesting to editors.  Post regularly. As you write each day or week, you will gain confidence in your abilities.  My website/blog won the best website award last year. You might like to take a look at it for ideas.

When you are ready to submit something, follow the publication guidelines to the letter. If they call for a word count limit of 1200 words, don’t send 1245 words. Do your best to know the editors’ names and preferences. I don’t just read their content. I Google the editors’ names to see what interests them in their own lives. 

Read multiple copies of your target publication. Memorize their website. See what they have published recently and avoid those topics for a few months. Then find something you have to say that fits their publication.

Research what others are presenting on your current topic. I find I gain perspective for an essay from agreeing or disagreeing with another writer’s point of view.

Write your story, not someone else's. Neil Gaiman tells us: "Start telling the stories that only you can tell because there'll always be better writers and there'll always be smarter writers than you...--but you are the only you." As I engaged in writing this time, I promised myself I would not write anything that didn't fit me. I can have a somewhat edgy style, and it may not fit some publications. That’s OK. However, I have found editors get so MANY of the same old thing, carbon copies, as it were, that if you hit them between the eyes with something new and real, they may grab it. Remember they need to fill their websites and blogs with new content every day.

Get beta readers and editors to read anything you plan to send out before it goes out. Others will see things you don't see. Search online for beta reader groups on FB and Goodreads. Or ask writer friends to read your essay. A consensus of three to four readers can help you focus your essay and make it the best it can be.

Engage with other writers: a writers' group, classes, read up on how others get published, attend workshops and readings. Offer to critique and share successful strategies. I have gained much from reading and editing for others. And I owe much of my publishing success to my sassy local writers’ group.

Have fun! Why else are you writing?



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