Unlike many magazines, Creative Nonfiction draws heavily from unsolicited submissions. Our editors believe that providing a platform for emerging writers and helping them find readers is an essential role of literary magazines, and it’s been our privilege to work with many fine writers early in their careers. A typical issue of CNF contains at least one essay by a previously unpublished writer.
We’re open to all types of creative nonfiction, from immersion reportage to personal essay to memoir. Our editors tend to gravitate toward submissions structured around narratives, but we’re always happy to be pleasantly surprised by work that breaks outside this general mold. Above all, we’re most interested in writing that blends style with substance, and reaches beyond the personal to tell us something new about the world. We firmly believe that great writing can make any subject interesting to a general audience.
Creative Nonfiction typically accepts submissions via regular mail and online through Submittable. Please read specific calls for submissions carefully.
We try to respond to all submissions as soon as possible. If you submit by regular mail, you will receive an email from us (typically within a week of your manuscript’s arrival in our office), confirming we have received your manuscript. If you submit online, you will receive a confirmation email from Submittable.
We read year-round, but it is not uncommon for a decision to take up to 6 months; unfortunately, this is especially true of work we like. If you have not heard from us since the initial confirmation email, please assume your manuscript is still under consideration.
Please follow the links below for more information about:
A Note About Fact-checking
Essays accepted for publication in Creative Nonfiction undergo a fairly rigorous fact-checking process. To the extent your essay draws on research and/or reportage (and ideally, it should, to some degree), CNF editors will ask you to send documentation of your sources and to help with the fact-checking process. We do not require that citations be submitted with essays, but you may find it helpful to keep a file of your essay that includes footnotes and/or a bibliography.
Current Submission Calls
WRITING PITTSBURGH: NEIGHBORHOODS
The first book in the Writing Pittsburgh series will focus on Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods as a defining and transformative feature of the city and surrounding areas. We’re looking for stories that show change over time; that feature vivid characters; and that have something important to say to a national audience. Deadline: June 12, 2015. Complete guidelines »
Whether you've celebrated your 50th anniversary or 5th marriage; eloped to Vegas or fought for (or against) marriage equality in DC; just filed your divorce papers or proposed to your high school sweetheart, we’re looking for well-crafted essays that truthfully portray what married life is all about. Deadline: August 31, 2015. Complete guidelines »
PITCH US A COLUMN
Have an idea for a literary timeline? An opinion on essential texts for readers and/or writers? An in-depth, working knowledge of a specific type of nonfiction? Pitch us your ideas; Creative Nonfiction is now accepting query letters for the following sections of the magazine. Accepted Year-Round. Complete guidelines »
Since every issue of Creative Nonfiction features original illustrations, we are always on the lookout for new work and new artists. Accepted Year-Round. Complete guidelines »
TINY TRUTHS CONTEST
Can you tell a true story in 140 characters (or fewer)? Think you could write one hundred CNF-worthy micro essays a day? Go for it. We dare you. There's no limit. Simply follow Creative Nonfiction on Twitter and tag your tiny truths with the trending topic #cnftweet. That's it. We re-tweet winners daily and republish 10-12 winning tweets in every issue of Creative Nonfiction. Not sure what we're looking for? Check out all of our past "Favorites".
Previous Submission Calls
GENERAL (UN-THEMED) SUBMISSIONS
Closed: January 1, 2015
We currently are not reading submissions that are not for one of the themes above. We plan to re-open this category in the near future, so if you have a story that doesn’t fit one of the above categories, watch for updates in our newsletter!
Closed: October 14, 2013
This anthology, subtitled: True Stories about Conception, Adoption, Surrogacy, Pregnancy, Labor, and Love will be published in October 2015. More here >>
Closed: September 22, 2014
This special issue of the magazine is in production will be published in early summer 2015. The contest prize winner and runner-up will be announced in the month leading up to the issue’s release.
EXPLORING THE BOUNDARIES
Closed: January 20, 2015
We are actively reading and responding to the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work by early summer 2015. Selections will appear in upcoming issues of Creative Nonfiction.
Closed: February 9, 2015
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work by early summer 2015. The anthology is slated for publication in spring 2016.
BECOMING A TEACHER
Closed: April 6, 2015
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work by late summer 2015. The anthology is slated for publication in summer 2016.
Closed: May 11, 2015
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work by late summer or early fall 2015. This special issue of the magazine will be published in December, 2015.
How much do you pay for a published essay?
We typically pay a $50 flat fee + $10/printed page, plus a copy of the magazine.
My essay is over your word limit. Will you still consider it for publication?
We’re very sorry, but we have to draw the line somewhere.
Do you always charge a reading fee?
No: you can always submit non-themed essays for consideration without a reading fee, if you send a hard copy via regular mail. Like many other magazines, we charge a $3 convenience fee to submit essays online through Submittable. In the case of contests, reading fees generally offset the costs associated with those issues, as well as (in most cases) the prize money; or, for a small additional cost, you can become a subscriber, which also helps keep the lights on at CNF.
Will you consider excerpts from longer pieces?
We are happy to read excerpts from longer pieces, though in our experience it rarely works to pull 4,500 words from a longer piece and call it an essay. Rather, we suggest you consider adapting part of your longer piece so that it can truly stand alone.
Can I change the names or distinguishing characteristics of the people in my story to protect their privacy?
We typically prefer that you not do this, and would argue that, in most cases, there are better ways to approach this type of challenge. That said, in some cases—for example, if you’re a doctor writing about your work with patients—sometimes this may be appropriate. Regardless, we’re big fans of transparency, and greatly appreciate a note in the cover letter or perhaps even footnoted in the manuscript itself, if you’ve taken this type of liberty.
Will you give feedback on the essay I submitted?
Unfortunately, due to the high volume of submissions we receive (in the neighborhood of 100+ essays per month), we can’t send detailed feedback or responses. If you are interested in having a professional editor review your manuscript, we encourage you to check out CNF’s mentoring program and online courses.
Can I submit an essay I wrote in one of CNF’s online courses or in the mentoring program?
Sorry, no. But we do wish you the best of luck placing such work elsewhere, and hope you’ll keep in touch with your teacher or mentor and let us know about any successes!
What are CNF’s copyright requirements?
CNF typically considers only unpublished work and seeks first publication rights. After publication, CNF typically retains certain reprint rights, and some other rights revert to the author. We find that when people ask this question, they usually mean, “I’m submitting a chapter from a book I’m writing, and I need to have the rights to it.” Please know that we absolutely do not retain any rights that would interfere with your ability to publish your work in your own book.
Can I make changes to my essay once I submit it online?
The work you submit for consideration should be the final proofread and edited version of your essay. We do understand that mistakes happen, however, so in the event that you submitted the wrong file, realized that your essay was a poem, or some other obvious oversight, we do allow editing of submitted essays within a limited set of parameters--usually within two weeks of the original submission date or up until a contest deadline. After the essay has been assigned to a reader, changing files can cause a lot of confusion and may result in our not giving your work our best attention.
I found a typo in my submission. What should I do?
While your essay should be carefully proofread, a small typo will not influence the overall evaluation of your submission. In the event that we accept your essay for publication, it will go through a careful editorial process, and you will have plenty of opportunities to review it carefully.