Understanding Personal Essays: Parenting and Publishing

Abigail Green

By Abigail Green

If there’s any topic that lends itself particularly well to the personal essay, it’s parenting. Let’s face it: families are a gold mine of material. From pregnancy to child-rearing to caring for aging parents, the “parenting” category encompasses a wide range of issues.

Fittingly, there are numerous publications that print parenting essays — from the aptly titled Parents and Parenting magazines to the more cerebral Brain, Child to websites like Babble.com. You can also find these essays in markets not specifically geared towards parents, like the New York Times and AARP magazine.

Of course, it should come as no surprise that practically every freelance writer who’s a parent tries his or her hand at penning parenting essays. That means the competition’s stiff. Parenting’s “Mom’s Eye View” department, for instance, is a favorite of freelancers. But since the magazine publishes just 12 issues a year, that means that out of hundreds of essay submissions editors can only buy a dozen. I’ve been discouraged to get the response: “We like your piece, but unfortunately we have too much in inventory already.”

The good news about parenting essays is, you have plenty of options. You could:

Reslant your essay. Let’s say you wrote a personal essay about co-sleeping. You could easily get some quotes from doctors and other parents and turn your essay into a first-person reported piece. Similarly, you could rework a straightforward topic as a humorous essay.

Think outside the essay slot. Lots of magazines have one clearly labeled essay section. Some that I know of are titled “In Your Words”; “Self Expression”; and “My Turn.” However, outside that department the publication may run other first-person pieces, even if they’re not labeled as such. Put on your detective’s hat. Is there a travel or health essay masquerading as a regular article? A big clue is whether the writer uses “I” in the lead.

Broaden your definition of parenting. Along the lines of the previous tip, you may increase your odds of selling your parenting essays if you expand your thinking. Sure, parenting essays can be about choosing a name for your baby, potty training your toddler, and finding a babysitter, but they can also be about finding time for yourself after kids, your relationship with your spouse, and getting back in shape after baby.

Step off the beaten path. The trouble with many of the national parenting magazines is that everybody knows about them. Why not try to sell your essay to a regional parenting magazine? (Google the term and you’ll find dozens.) Or how about a bridal magazine for an essay on your daughter’s wedding? Or a travel magazine for an essay about your family reunion at Yellowstone? Newspapers, websites, and anthologies like the Chicken Soup and Cup of Comfort series are other markets that publish tons of personal essays on parenting topics.

Writing and selling parenting essays can be fun, challenging, satisfying, frustrating, easy, and time-consuming-just like raising kids!

Abigail Green is a freelance writer in Baltimore. Over the past 12 years, she has written for national, regional and online publications including AOL, Bride’s, Baltimore Magazine, Cooking Light and Health. She blogs about the lighter side of pregnancy, parenthood and potty training at Diary of a New Mom. She teaches Personal Essays that Get Published, a six-week e-mail class.
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1 Response to “Understanding Personal Essays: Parenting and Publishing”


  1. 1 Perry P Perkins March 16, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Abigail,

    Great post! I’ve used the “re-slant” on a number of my SAHD blog posts and have had several published.

    Also, I second you referral of Chicken Soup. I’ve found them to be VERY open to new writers and they are often in need of “just one more” great story to finish off a book.

    Another great avenue, if I may suggest one, are the “free” magazines (both topical and local) that you find at the pediatrician’s office. These are usually ad-funded and so do they have a small budget for freelance work. I think they tend to be more open to submissions because they often get overlooked.

    Okay, I’m going to go put some of your suggestions into play, lol, thanks again!


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