Real Life Essay Contest

As always, this month’s cover of Glamour features a pretty woman, some cleavage and shouty cover lines including “558 STYLE GOALS.”

But, what the cover doesn’t exclaim is something that (in my opinion) deserves the loudest coverline of all: GLAMOUR IS HOSTING A WRITING CONTEST, AND THE WINNER TAKES HOME $5,000.

(I really hope you internally shouted that as you read it.)

The Deets on Glamour Magazine’s Writing Contest

This writing contest is free to enter — and most importantly, the deadline is rapidly approaching: Nov. 1.

Your prompt? You can’t write about just anything, of course. Glamour wants stories about its female readers’ life-changing moments. (Sorry, boys.) The piece needs to hover between 2,500 and 3,500 words — typed, double-spaced, just like high school.

Your prize? Five thousand dollars, your name and story published in Glamour and a chance to speak with a “top” New York literary agent.

The fine print? The contest is open to legal residents of the U.S. who are 18 years or older as of Nov. 1.

How to Enter Glamour Magazine’s Writing Contest

Submission is simple. Visit

You’ll type in your basic information and copy and paste your essay (formatted in paragraphs) in the open slot. (And ignore the part that says November 1, 2014. Looks like Glamour missed that one.)

If you’re old school, you can snail-mail your typed manuscript and address it to:

“My Real-Life Story” to Glamour, Essay Contest

One World Trade Center, 30th Floor

New York, New York

Be sure to include your name, age, address, daytime and evening phone numbers and email address.

You can only enter once.

Do note that once you submit your essay, it becomes property of Conde Nast and will not be returned. The copyright is still yours, but you’re basically giving Glamour permission to publish it — which would be awesome because that means you won!

You’ll find out if you’re the winner by May 1.

Scope out all the fine print at Then, start writing — or polish up an old piece — and send it in.

Good luck, folks, and I’d like a portion of that $5,000 if you win.

Just kidding.

If you’re interested in other ways to make money, visit our Facebook jobs page.

Your Turn: What’s life-changing moment will you write about?

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After recently completing graduate school, she focuses on saving money — and surviving the move back in with her parents.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.

Adrienne Rich, “Diving into the Wreck”

Five years ago, an essay I wrote won Glamour magazine’s “My Real Life Story” essay contest. Part of the prize package was a chat with a literary agent. That essay was the first I’d ever written outside of schoolwork; prior to that, I’d been a poet and then a playwright and monologuist. But when the agent asked me what I was working on, I told her I was writing a book.

Then I had to figure out what kind of book it was.

A memoir had crossed my mind; after all, the Glamour essay was a personal narrative. But that piece dealt with a painful chapter of my life; it was draining to write. I didn’t fancy the idea of spending months dredging up childhood hurts. So I opted for essay collection in lieu of memoir. My thought was that I would tackle ideas, something I’d done in my work for the stage. I’d investigate what mattered to me, things I had questions about or couldn’t entirely figure out—like friendship and fear and love. I’d write about those things and tell some stories from my life in which they played a part.

Last fall I finished The Saltwater Twin and Other Mythical Creatures, a collection of seventeen linked essays, and crafted a query letter. Out of thirty queries, I had five or six requests for the manuscript. Almost every agent who read it said something along the lines of, I love the writing but it feels like it wants to be a memoir.

I took another look and understood what they meant.

Through writing about the issues I’d struggled with, the questions I’d had, the discoveries I’d made over the years, I’d constructed a roundabout memoir—a looping, back and forth journey through my life.

So this spring, I set about remodeling The Saltwater Twin from a not-quite memoir into a memoir memoir. I rearranged and reconstructed chapters, cut one entirely, added connective tissue and arrived at something new, something I like. Definitely something that packs a bigger punch.

And—I found an agent!

I’m represented by Ellen Geiger at Frances Goldin Literary Agency. I really like Ellen, and I really like the agency. In one of our first conversations, Ellen told me to go online and find Frances Goldin’s Occupy Wall Street video.




Frances is eighty-seven in the clip, which is from 2011, and she’s trying to get a cop to arrest her. He refuses. She’d been arrested nine times for civil disobedience and was working toward a dozen. She passes out buttons that say “Tax the Rich.”

I hope I get to meet her.

One of the reasons I queried Ellen is because the agency represents Barbara Kingsolver and Dorothy Allison, both of whose work I love. In fact, though I’ve never met Barbara Kingsolver, her advice got me through the first round of rejections to my query letter (I wrote about that here):

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address.’ Just keep looking for the right address.”

Ellen also represents the estate of poet Adrienne Rich. With all the undersea imagery of The Saltwater Twin, I thought often of Rich’s famous poem, “Diving into the Wreck” when I sat down to write. I almost used a few lines from it as the book’s epigraph:

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth

It goes without saying I’m over the moon at being in such august company!

On Ellen’s advice, I did one more round of revisions this summer. I sent the new manuscript to her this week. After Labor Day, we take the next step on the journey: finding a publisher. In Barbara Kingsolver’s words, we look for the right address.

It’s out of my hands for now. So, between daydreams about what’s next for The Saltwater Twin, I’ll be thrifting my back to school wardrobe, beginning the search for a new puppy, and oh yeah—starting work on a novel.

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