NOTE: If you're not already on our mailing list, please consider subscribing so that you'll always be up to date on submissions announcement including open reading periods, special calls, etc.


These guidelines, also available at our website in slightly longer form, were updated on Dec. 31, 2017. Please read carefully; it's pretty comprehensive, but we wanted to be thorough!

What We Accept

Hippocampus Magazine enthusiastically considers unsolicited, previously unpublished creative nonfiction submissions in the following categories:
  • memoir excerpt – a self-contained portion (chapter or selection) of a larger, book-length work – 4,000 words max
  • personal essay – a short narrative reflecting on a particular life experience or observation – 4,000 words max
  • flash creative nonfiction – 800 words max
  • For our small press submission guidelines, visit our Books by Hippocampus page (closed from March 1 - Aug. 1. 2018)
  • Our articles section (review, interviews, etc.) is by assignment only, and handled by our section editors

More On What We're Looking for... And What We're Not

Please read our current and past issues to familiarize yourself with our publication. We like quirky, we like edgy, we like witty, we like gritty, we like smart, we like diverse voices. We root for the underdog, and we appreciate resilience. We like pieces that take us to new places, we like to be moved, and, most of all, we like pieces that stick with us. We’re interested in hybrid forms and unique structures (that work in an in online format.) We entertain science, nature, and travel pieces that offer a personal element.

We do not accept fiction, poetry, academic papers, editorials, political/social commentary (read: diatribes), satire, or criticism. Also, since we're an online publication, we tend to not accept pieces that may require special text formatting/extra programming, or that include lots of footnotes. We prefer not to accept anonymous work.

Because of our response time, we may also not be the best place for timely pieces, such as an essay that reflects on a current event or holiday. (A newspaper/commercial magazine/specialty website with shorter lead times may be more ideal for these!)

We do not accept story pitches, and we do not accept submissions by email or mail. [We make rare exceptions to the mail in extenuating circumstances where a writer does not have access to the internet and/or a computer, such as incarceration, hospitalization, or other sensitive situations.]

Publishing Overview

  • As of 2018, Hippocampus publishes 10 new issues per year: January/February, March, April, May, June, July (a special annual theme issue), August, September/October, November (a special contest issue featuring winner and finalist stories), and December.
  • New issues typically go live the 1st of the month, but in cases of the 1st falling on a weekend or holiday, sometimes they'll be released the first Monday or non-holiday day of the month.
  • Regular monthly issues and our theme issue feature about 8-10 new CNF pieces and an articles department (reviews, craft, writing life, interviews); our two double-issues offer expanded content, up to 15 pieces of CNF, and an articles department. Occasionally, we post news updates and additional articles throughout the month.

Guidelines: Word Count, Formatting and Submission Information

Please note: submissions not following our guidelines, below, will be automatically declined without explanation. Our blind reading process is important to us, and names on manuscripts/in filenames is the most overlooked rule. Please take care in your submissions to us and all literary journals. 

Aside from fitting our gene, submissions should be:

  • no more than 4,000 words in the memoir and essay category
  • no more than 800 words for flash creative nonfiction pieces
  • double-spaced
  • page-numbered
  • in a standard web/print font, such as Times New Roman or Arial in 10-12 pt. font. (No courier, or comic sans, please.)
  • free of your name or other identifying/contact information in the manuscript, header, and filename; you do not need to attach a cover page with your manuscript as that information is request in the submission form itself

Other Information (Multiple/Simultaneous Submissions/Repeat Contributors):

  • Do not send us multiple submissions.
    • Hippocampus will only accept one submission at a time from an author; we will automatically decline any additional submissions, keeping only the first active in our queue. The exception is during contest or theme issue calls, in which you can have a regular submission AND a contest or theme submission under consideration at the same time.
    • You may also have a book query and an essay under consideration with us simultaneously.
    • If you are interested in submitting more than one piece to us, please wait until you receive a decision on one before submitting another.
    • Effectively Aug. 1, 2017, Hippocampus will only publish work by a specific contributor once per calendar year; if you’ve been accepted by us, please wait until the following calendar year to submit again (this allows for us to have the most variety of voices possible.) The exception is contest and special theme issues, which are open to all.
  • We accept simultaneous submissions, under the condition that you will withdraw your work from us if it is acceptable elsewhere.
    • Use Submittable’s “withdraw” feature, not email; this is so the status is changed and alerts given in the system. Again, please do not withdraw via email; we do not manage submissions by email.
    • Why is withdrawing important? If not removed from the queue, your submission will continue through our editorial process, meaning our volunteer reading panel reads and comments on your work; if your work is no longer available, we’re sure you’ll agree this is not a good use of anyone’s time.

How to Submit Your Work

Regular submissions require a $3 fee ($1.91 goes to Hippocampus after Submittable’s fee.) Learn more in this blog post.

Cover Letter:
A cover letter is not required. If you submit one, you must use the cover letter field, not as a page within your uploaded document; then, please know your letter is not visible to the reader panel. Your work will stand alone in our blind reading process, the way it should be.

Submission Turnaround Time

  • We will respond to everyone who submits, but please be patient. Typical turnaround time is 3 to 4 months.
  • We accept—and expect—simultaneous submissions so, if another publication picks up your work in the meantime, please let us know via Submittable, as noted earlier (not through email).
  • We accept submissions on a rolling basis. If we accept yours, we'll let you know in which issue it will appear. Sometimes there is more lead time than others.

Terms of Publication

  • By accepting publication, the author grants Hippocampus Magazine one-time electronic rights and one-time print anthology rights.
  • By accepting publication, the author gives Hippocampus Magazine the right to publish the work on, to archive it indefinitely as part of the issue in which it appeared, and to be included in future anthologized print or electronic editions of our publication. (Note: In some cases, we’ll re-feature archived work on the homepage; this does not constitute a new publication.)
  • Authors whose work is selected for publication will receive a contract outlining these terms in more detail.
  • If we accept your story, you will receive notification via Submittable’s email system, so be sure you are set up to receive those notifications and periodically check your spam or promotion (or other filtered boxes.) Your story will also change to “accepted” status in Submittable. Also, if you change your email address, be sure you update your Submittable account so you don’t miss a notification.

  • If we accept your story, you must respond to us with your intentions within 30 days; we’ll send one reminder email. If you do not hear back from you, we’ll assume you no longer wish to publish this particular piece with us. We will then change the status in Submittable from "accepted" to "withdrawn."


Hippocampus Magazine is an independent, volunteer, mostly editor-funded effort. As of January 2017, we offer a $40 honorarium to authors whose work is accepted in the memoir, essay, and flash categories. If your story is selected for publication, your payment will be issued via PayPal within 60 days of the date of publication.

Other perks and opps:

  • One contributor from each issue can win bragging rights AND a prize if their piece is deemed “Most Memorable.”
  • Also we have an annual contest, The Remember in November Contest for Creative Nonfiction which offers a grand prize of $1,000.
  • Contributors receive a discount on HippoCamp, our annual creative nonfiction conference, as well as special recognition on the conference name badge.

OTHER NOTES - Communication Channels

Added this new heading 8/16/2017 due to personal boundaries being crossed more often:
Please only correspond with us through email or Submittable; the magazine nor individual editors do not use the Hippocampus or personal  Twitter or Facebook accounts, especially Facebook Messenger, for professional and official communication. We DO use these channels for general audience engagement, but not to talk submissions, whether for the magazine, books division, or our annual conference. Thank you for helping us streamline our communication. (Note: We’re firm believers in the email charter; give it a read and see how you can help save inboxes everywhere!)

About Passing on Submissions

Just because we pass on a particular submission does not mean it does not have merit — we publish 8-10 pieces in regular issues and 12-15 in expanded double-issues, and this often means turning away strong work. Sometimes it's as simple as an essay with similar theme or style was recently published. Do not take editorial decisions personally. Just sitting down and getting your thoughts on paper is a task for which you should feel great pride—not everyone can do it. Every piece of writing has value. We feel it is important to spread the message of being persistent and diligent in your search for publication. Never let rejection discourage you from sharing your story. Just because it is not right for us or right for us at this time does not mean it will not find a more fitting or timely home. Write on.


Hello, creative nonfiction friend! Below, you will find our abbreviated essay submission guidelines; Please read full guidelines on our website or on main Submittable page first if you have not done so already. Otherwise, please fill out the brief form, including checking off if your piece is an essay, memoir excerpt, or flash. 

Essay submissions should be:

  • No more than 4,000 words
  • Double-spaced, with pages numbered
  • Free of your name in header/footer, title page and file name. (We do realize that in creative nonfiction, your name might be necessary within the content. Please use your judgement.)

Greasy Spoons: Essays on Bottomless Coffee, Homefries, Pie, and Other Things We Love About Roadside Diners (working title) is looking for submissions.

Whether you’re restaurant owner, former server, or a truck driver or avid road-tripper who has been fueled by daily specials and bottomless coffee, we want to hear your story. What memories do you have about your local diner, an eatery you stumbled upon during your travels, or friends and family members who put their blood, sweat, and tears (not literally) into operating a cherished greasy spoon? Whether your tale is from the booth or from behind the counter or along a desolate highway or smack dab in center city, we want to hear from you!

We’re not just looking for a rundown of you what you remember, though: we’re looking for stories with a narrative arc, deeper meaning, and universal truths: essays that move us, humor us, and leave us wanting seconds. Submissions should be set in a diner or revolve heavily around greasy spoon culture. And, given the topic, we’re looking to fill our menu with rich and flavorful stories that drip with detail like au jus on a daily blue plate special. We must be transported into that diner with you; you’re requesting a table for yourself—and a swarm of hungry readers.

Finally, diners are indeed a staple of Americana, but our call for submissions has no geographic boundaries. No matter where you hometown is, we bet there’s a place for unforgettable homestyle cooking and camaraderie.

Please note: We truly are only interested in local diners; please no stories revolving around chains* or restaurants that require reservations, would balk at flip-flops, or use cloth napkins. We’re looking to highlight those special places that keep their ketchup on the table, have that one booth where the vinyl is a little too torn, where the eggs are served all day, and where everything is made better with butter.

More details:

  • Word count limit: 5,000 words

  • Deadline: extended to May 15 (Note that we will not begin reviewing submissions until close to the deadline, so our typical turnaround time will be extended for this project.)

  • Compensation: $40 + 2 contributor copies upon publication; special pricing on additional bulk purchases.

  • Submissions not selected for the print anthology may also be considered for either an online extra or for publication in Hippocampus Magazine, both of which will have different terms.

  • As a thank-you for their interest in this project, everyone who submits, regardless of outcome, will receive a special discount on the anthology when its ready.

  • Reminder: this call is for essays or memoir excerpts, not for short works of fiction.

*We’ll make an exception on the chain thing in some cases, as many brands often have humble origin stories; so if by chance your piece reflects upon a then-start-up, we may consider it.

Hippocampus Magazine is awarding three scholarships to HippoCamp 2018. One will definitely be awarded to a full-time student, while the other two student status does not matter.

For this scholarship competition, we’ll consider quality of writing and financial need, so we’re looking for a writing sample and some additional information.

Essay theme: Lessons Learned – up to 750 words

Hippocampus Magazine’s three-fold mission is to entertain, educate, and engage readers and writers of creative nonfiction. Our annual conference fulfills all three aspects of our mission, but especially the educate part. For this essay contest, we’d like to hear about a writing lesson that had a profound impact on you. It can be straightforward, such as a teacher or book that inspired you, or it can be more abstract.

Along with your essay submission, aside from the basic biographical information, there are also two required open-ended responses as part of the application form; you’ll have 200 words max for each section:

1)      How would you benefit from attending a professional development conference for writers, such as HippoCamp? Please be specific, focusing in on this time in your life, at this stage in your career, about what you hope to gain, where you hope to go from here.

2)      Please explain how and why you need this scholarship; for example, from a financial perspective, how would this prize help you participate in an event that you might not otherwise get to attend?


Submit by April 6, 2018


A panel of HippoCamp 2018 committee members will read all entries, and decisions will be based on the quality of writing and financial need.


·         Grand Prize Award (3): Complimentary full conference registration to HippoCamp 2017 ($429 value) and the pre-conference workshop for your choice ($60); plus, a $150 travel stipend. (TOTAL PRIZE VALUE: $639)

·         Two runner-ups will receive a partial scholarship ($200) toward the conference registration.

·         The winning essay, as well as runner-ups, may appear as a Writing Life column in a future issue of Hippocampus Magazine.

Rules and Eligibility:

·         The grand prize is for conference registration and a $150 travel stipend only, and it does not include hotel accommodations; please take that into consideration before you enter, as we want to be sure the winner is able to attend; hotel and travel information is located on the conference website under “Location & Lodging.”

·         Winner must accept prize by May 1, otherwise it will be forfeited and will be offered to the first runner-up.

·         Attendees who already have registered for the conference may still enter the essay contest; if someone already registered should win the grand prize or runner-up prize, their conference registration will be refunded (minus the EventBrite or credit card processing fee, for which our organization has already paid.)

·         Hippocampus Magazine and HippoCamp staff and volunteers, their relatives, spouses and current mentees/students, are not eligible to win.

·         Note that travel stipend will be issued prior to the conference on the honor system; if for some reason recipient does not/cannot attend; it will be expected that the award is returned.

TIP: We highly recommend working on this application in a Word document, outside of this form, so you can spend time on the essay and questions and save your work, rather than work directly with this form. Then, you can return to this form and paste in your answers. This also is a great way to ensure your responses are the right word count.

GRATITUDE: We'd like to thank the HippoCamp 2018 attendees who've donated to our travel-stipend fund as an add-on during the conference registration process. Their kindness helps make the three $150 travel stipends possible. 

This category is to give select submitters the chance to resubmit a piece we declined in its current iteration, but one that we read with interest and on which we provided suggestions for reworking. This is a separate category as to not charge a submission fee for the same piece the second time around.

Submitters: Please include your original title (in case you changed that) and date of your first submission in your cover letter; this will help us keep track of its progress.

Note: Submitting a revision does not guarantee acceptance; it is vetted just the same.

If you use this category and were not invited to re-submit, your submission will be declined.