Reading as a Writer: Is Ploughshares a Fit For My Writing?

I’ve acquired a lot of ephemera over the past year. When my mom moved out of the house I grew up in, I became the family archivist. Which is why I recently needed to clean out my office. I started with the pile of literary magazines.

It seemed a waste to pass them on before storing up some of the knowledge I’d acquired . After all, as a writer with a goal to be published in literary magazines, part of the reason I read them is to learn if they are a good fit for my writing. So before I pass them on, here’s what I learned about the first one: Ploughshares.

Three covers of Ploughshares magazines

What is Ploughshares?

Ploughshares is published by Emerson College in Boston. Emerson offers an MFA in creative writing and a graduate-level publishing program. They also offer a comedic arts program with a bunch of notable alumni.

The magazine has been published since 1971 and has quarterly issues along with an onsite blog.

Comparing Genres

I read the Spring, Summer and Fall 2022 issues and compared the number of fiction, nonfiction and poetry pieces.

  • Fiction: About 25 fiction pieces in these three issues
  • Poetry: About 75 poems in the Spring 2022 issue
  • Nonfiction: Three pieces in the three issues

I don’t need a graph to show that the genre weight of this magazine is skewed toward poetry and fiction. This means it’s probably not a great place for me to submit my nonfiction writing. Of the three nonfiction pieces published in the issues I read, two were similar in style to what I might submit and the third was a what Ploughshares calls a Look2Essay. This is an essay series about underappreciated writers.

What Did I Learn?

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Photo by Pixabay on

After reading the three issues, I could see that Ploughshares was a longshot. With only a few pages open to nonfiction essays a year, I was am likely better off submitting my writing somewhere else.

I did enjoy the magazine, especially the nonfiction and poetry. I read less fiction, so I can’t really comment on that.

If you are interested learning more about lit mags, check out these resources from people who are way more versed than me:

Becky Tuch’s Lit Mag Roundup on Substack.

BookFox List of the 100 Best Literary Magazines

Clifford Garstang 2022 Literary Magazine Ranking – Nonfiction


Add Yours
  1. crowcityblog

    I rarely submit to Ploughshares anymore or magazines like it. As a writer you end up with subscriptions to lit mags you could never possibly have time to read. I use to put them in the numerous free-library boxes around my home. No one wants to read them, no one cares. They just sit there…forever. I use them for kindling now instead.

    • Catherine Lanser

      I subscribed to some, got some from contests, got some through Journal of the Month, and picked up a bunch at a used bookstore. Somehow holding them in my hand is the only way I know I’m not good enough for them.

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