One of my favorite parts of magazines is the section that gives me an essay. I will even, on occasion, clip the really good ones for my folder and toss the magazine. A particularly charming one was in a recent AARP Bulletin. The writer recalls his childhood habit of eavesdropping on the adults in his life and learning much about how the real world works. Funny, I used to do the same thing. I learned many a great life lesson with my ear to the door, and that essay brought it all back to me. Clever, that writer.
So what is an essay anyway? And where does a writer sell them? An essay is a short piece of writing that’s not fiction. A good essay, like any bit of writing, has a focus. In the case of the eavesdropper, the nugget of his essay was learning that people frequently dropped dead at the least expected moment, i.e. while taking out the garbage. If you’ve ever listened to Andy Rooney, you’ve heard an essay verbalized. He’ll take the most common occurrence or social situation and give it back to you with his own special twist.
I write essays to get thoughts out of my head and I’ve sold those thoughts, too. A recent one, about a pie I made when I was nine, was published in a Southern regional magazine and subsequently re-sold to an anthology several months later.
You may not consider yourself an essayist, but you’ve probably got one or two short pieces in your inventory that would qualify. The market for essays is quite large and it may take some determined hunting to get a match, but check out these markets and see if one fits.
The ice on the surface of the essay market pond is wide, thick and deep. Scratch it. You may find you like the skating there. So, what are you waiting for? Venture an essay and possibly gain. Air your views, dredge up some memories, laugh at one of your life’s ludicrous situations or, as in the case of the eavesdropper, tell your spouse you can’t take out the garbage. After all, you read that essay, too, and it’s possible you could drop dead while doing it – then where would they be?
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