Whether you want to explore a difficult period in your life, remember a thrilling adventure, or share your personal journey, almost everybody has an interesting life story to tell.
If you’re keen to try out memoir writing, or if you’ve been working on your life story for some time, there are loads of opportunities out there to share your work. These can come under categories such as memoir, life writing, or creative non-fiction. And with the right hook, your memoir can also be adapted to fit a travel publication or feature for a magazine.
Throughout Australia and the world there are competitions, journals, magazines and websites that specialise in memoir. We’ve pulled together a list of places where you can send your work and potentially be published.
Competitions and prizes
Word limit: 4000 words
Due date: 31 January 2020
Prizes: 1st: €1,000 / 2nd: Writers’ retreat + €300 / 3rd: €200
Write a piece of your life, send it to Fish. The top 10 memoirs will be published in the Fish anthology and there are cash prizes for the top three.
Word limit: 2000 words
Due date: 4 May 2020
Prizes: 1st: $1000 / 2nd $500 / 3rd $250
Now in its 89th year, the Writers Digest Annual Writing Competition offers awards in several different categories, including memoir and self-published ebook. Winning entries are featured in Writer’s Digest and there’s an additional Grand Prize of $5000.
Word limit: 5000 words
Due date: 15 January 2020
Prizes: 1st $5000 / 2nd $2500
Judged by J.M. Coetzee, Lisa Gorton, and Peter Rose, the Calibre Essay Prize is one of the most prestigious awards of its kind in the world. It welcomes entries from all over the world and essays can be of any kind: personal or political, literary or speculative, traditional or experimental.
Word limit: 10,000 words
Due date: 22 September 2020
Literary journal The Lascaux Review holds a creative non-fiction competition each year. According to their website, creative nonfiction can include memoirs, chronicles, personal essays, or anything that the author has witnessed, experienced, learned, or discovered.
Publishers and Agents
There is always a need for well-told interesting stories. The good news is that publishers and agents are frequently on the look out for new memoirs.
Black Inc. Books accepts proposals for history and biographies from Australian writers only. You’ll need to take a look at their back catalogue to get a feel for their preferences and to see if your story will fit with them.
If you feel ready to send them your work, you’ll need to include all or part of your manuscript as well as a synopsis. They aim to follow-up within eight weeks if they want to take your story further.
Through their regular Friday Pitch, Allen & Unwin has simplified the submission process for writers. They are especially keen to hear from Australian writers who “have had an interesting, funny or downright bizarre life.” If you can write about it in an entertaining way, then send along your first chapter and a synopsis with “Australian Memoir” in the subject line.
Pan MacMillan has a similar system, with their Manuscript Monday. Held on the first Monday of the month, they are interested in reading history, memoir, travel and biography under their commercial nonfiction section. Manuscripts that are sent in during the right period will be read within three months.
Journals, magazines & blogs
If you give your memoir the right hook, and make it more appealing to the mainstream. For example, a story with a strong family focus can fit Kidspot or The Natural Parent. A wanderlust narrative could work well in a travel magazine or blog. And of course, most reputable literary journals will accept creative non-fiction and memoir.
This journal publishes creative nonfiction exclusively – hence the title. They are looking for true stories of between 5-10,000 words. They also accept shorter submissions with a max of 1000 words and Twitter stories of up to 128 characters.
Although it is primarily a literary journal, Westerly also accepts memoir, creative non-fiction and essays of up to 3500 words. They have two open periods during the year, with deadlines on 31 March and 31 August.
Kill Your Darlings is an online cultural journal based in Victoria, Australia, which publishes memoir as well as commentary, essays and interviews. It has its own particular style and tone so it’s worth reading through the site before deciding if you want to send your work there. All published contributors are paid.
Hippocampus Magazine is unique in that they publish excerpts from longer memoirs. They also accept personal essays and flash creative nonfiction. They do pay contributors a small honorarium, but they also have a yearly creative nonfiction competition worth $1000.
Overland publishes both online and in print and accepts non-fiction across a broad range of themes. Each week, they list a series of topics that they think could be of interest, but they also consider manuscripts that fall outside of these. A lot of the personal essays have a strong memoir focus.
What’s your story? Awaken your memory and boost your creativity with our popular Life Writing course. Expert memoir writer Patti Miller will help you to explore creative autobiographical writing and set you on the journey of writing your life.