- Prize: $1,000 and publication in Fourth Genre. All entries are considered for publication.
- Entry fee: $20 per submission (and we accept multiple submissions).
- Word limit: 6,000 words (please include word count on the manuscript).
- We use Submittable.com.
- Manuscripts should not contain the author’s name anywhere–in file name, headers, footers, or in the body of the essay.
Find complete guidelines on the Michigan State University Press site here. Each year’s contest judge is announced both here and on our Facebook page.
Please familiarize yourself with Fourth Genre before submitting to us. We publish only nonfiction. We accept only work that has not been published previously, online or in print. We’d be happy to send you a sample back issue if you send $5 (check made out to Michigan State University) for shipping and handling, with full mailing information.
Selected content from our previous issues is available here and on JSTOR.
You may also access all content previous to the current issue on Project MUSE.The contest is named in honor of Fourth Genre’s founding editor, Michael J. Steinberg (www.mjsteinberg.net/works.htm).
Published twice annually by the Michigan State University Press, Fourth Genre is a literary journal devoted to publishing notable, innovative work in creative nonfiction. We love essays in which the ideas accrete, accumulate, and augment, but definitely not those that appropriate. We don’t want essays about your penis. We don’t want essays about your cat. Well, some of us do. But we’re in a market of cat-saturation right now, so paw softly.
During our editorial discussions, these are some of the questions we find ourselves asking: Whose story is it to tell? Whose voice is this essay amplifying? Whose existence is it erasing? How does the writer situate their experiences and histories in relation to other experiences and histories? What’s this essay doing or addressing that we haven’t seen before?
We are thirsty for essays that give us something to drink besides mainstream ideologies and forms, that showcase imagination and meaning-making capacities, that embrace a love of a sentence’s shape. That center the margin or marginalize the center, or even better, that blow up the center-margin borders. We want essays that make the common uncommon—that’s not about the thing that it’s actually about. You know, the essay about your shoelace that’s not really about your shoelace. We want to read more of the nonfiction essays that reflect the intersections of race, ethnicity, culture, class, identity, gender, sexuality, diasporas, borderlands … that are cultural, lyrical, experimental, personal, environmental, self-interrogative, meditative, and reflective, as well as expository, analytical, exploratory, or whimsical. Although we can’t publish in color, we’re interested in essays with visual elements—graphic essays, blackout essays, and so on. We want to publish the best creative nonfiction essays, understanding that notions of “best,” of taste and genre, are political and cultural.
The two (2) issues come out usually, hopefully, in late August and early February. The February issue contains the contest winner and is featured at the annual AWP conference.
- General submissions are accepted August 30 - November 30 only. Reading fee is $4. Authors selected for publication are paid with two (2) complimentary copies of the journal.
- Where Submittable prompts you, please include your name, mailing address, phone number, email address, title of piece, and approximate word count. But DO NOT include this information anywhere on the manuscript you upload--not even in the file name.
- 8,000 word limit
- Multiple submissions not accepted from individual authors during the general submissions period.
- Simultaneous submissions are accepted, but require immediate notification to FourthGenre if accepted elsewhere
- FourthGenre Steinberg Essay Prize submissions are accepted January 1 - March 15 only. For additional information about contest submissions, visit the Essay Prize Page.
- Reading fee for the Essay Prize: $20 (U.S.) for each individual submission (multiple submissions accepted).
- NOTE: For both reading periods, we read blind, so be sure your name or any other identifying information does not appear on the manuscript or in the file name.