Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Tips from the Editors: Creative Nonfiction

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You’ve written it, but now it needs a home. How does a submission make the cut? In this series, the editors at Literary Mama offer their thoughts on the process. This month, Creative Nonfiction editors Amanda Jaros, Kate Haas, and Maria Gupta share with readers some insight into the pieces they love and the submissions they seek.


What we’re after in the Creative Nonfiction department are honest, reflective, and universal stories enhanced by the craft techniques of fiction. We love reading your submissions and getting a glimpse inside those stories. To help you along in our submission process and make your stories stand out, we’ve answered a few of the questions we often hear in our department.

Do you pay?

We do not. We wish we could, but like many well-respected, nonprofit literary magazines, Literary Mama is an all-volunteer effort, and at this point in time we cannot pay ourselves or our writers.

How soon do you respond?

We respond to every submission within three months, but in most cases, we respond within a few weeks. If you haven’t heard from us in three months, it’s okay to send a follow-up email, but please don’t contact us before then.

Do you want pitches or completed essays?

No need to pitch; send us your completed essays.

How many submissions do you receive? 

We read between 30-50 submissions every month and aim to publish two or three in each issue.

What bugs you the most?

We realize that all magazines and journals have a different process, but it makes our work harder when people don’t follow our submission guidelines, and submissions which don’t follow our guidelines are at a disadvantage from the start. Include a brief introduction in your email, written in a standard font, not something flowery or cursive. Send your work in the body of an email. Don’t send attachments, because we won’t open them.

What topics are you looking for - and which do you see a lot? 

We’re not looking for specific topics. We’ve published essays about everything from driving lessons to death, report cards to dance classes. If it’s nonfiction that reads like fiction and its focus is the experience of motherhood, send it along. Surprise us. (However, please do not send essays about your "fur children.") That said, we tend to receive a lot of birth stories. These narratives are naturally very meaningful to the writer, but do not always transcend the individual experience to make a story that will be compelling to a wider audience. The same is often true of the many submissions we get about the diagnosis of a child with special needs. We would love to see more essays about the middle and high school years, or about parenting adult children.

What makes a good Literary Mama CNF piece?

We’re all hardwired to like stories, and we’re looking for stories that speak to our collective, universal experience of motherhood. We want to feel the writer's own emotional reactions when we’re reading CNF pieces, like in this piece about a terminally ill child "The Carry Home." Yet, a good story doesn’t necessarily require a hugely dramatic incident as its impetus. The kernel of a terrific narrative can spring from something quite mundane: an uneasy feeling at the grocery store, a routine blood draw, the acknowledgment that your pediatrician is kind of hot. However, it’s not enough to simply reflect on a situation. We want stories that draw us in with colorful and evocative descriptions of scene and situation, like this piece about a family taking a walk in the sweltering desert heat. We look for stories with pertinent dialogue, and strong characters, ones that draw readers in, where something happens, and where the writer arrives at some moment of insight, like in "Flirting With Wilderness" .

All essays published in Literary Mama meet our high standards for literary excellence. We highly encourage readers to read through our creative nonfiction archives to get a feel for what we publish. Thank you for considering Literary Mama as a home for your work, and we look forward to reading your stories!

The Literary Mama Blog Editor searches for mama-centric news you can use — including information about publishing opportunities and literacy efforts; essays and writing prompts that motivate and inspire; and announcements about events, classes, and workshops. The current blog editor is Bridget Lillethorup; read her bio here

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Amanda Jaros is a freelance writer and blogger, focusing on nature and science stories. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and magazines including, Newfound, Life in the Finger Lakes Magazine, Highlights for Children, and Cargo Literary. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Chatham University. Kate Haas is a writer and editor whose essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe Magazine, Salon, Full Grown People, and other publications. A former Peace Corps volunteer (Morocco) and high school English teacher, she lives in Portland, Oregon with her family. Maria Gupta was born in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. She moved to Montreal, Canada, for a few years during her childhood before settling in Northern Virginia. She has a BS in Biology from American University in Washington, D.C., and a BS in Nursing from George Mason University. She worked as a registered nurse, married, and stayed home to raise three children. As a middle-aged woman, she went to grad school and received an MFA in creative nonfiction from George Mason University. She lives in Vienna, Virginia, with her husband and the youngest of her three children.

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