Now accepting submissions for DIRT: A Special Issue. (Please otherwise scroll down for our General Submissions guidelines.)

This year was a year spent cleaning—sanitizing surfaces, doing endless dishes, relearning to wash our hands. There was so much extraneous cleaning going on, in fact, that it necessitated a new term: “hygiene theater.” The misdirection of our disinfection points to a larger phenomenon: that for all that is known about pathogens and where they live, we can’t always tell when dirt is danger, when it is superstition, or, even, when it’s good for us.

The anthropologist Mary Douglas, who memorably called dirt “matter out of place,” believed that cleanliness rituals are largely symbolic exercises that reveal a society’s most fundamental organizing principles. “There is no such thing as absolute dirt: it exists in the eye of the beholder,” she wrote. Yet dirt is also a tangible thing, a physical record of life and death on this planet. As adrienne maree brown wrote, “The Earth is layer upon layer of all that has existed, remembered by the dirt.”

In this special issue of Guernica, edited by Michele Moses, we want to examine dirt at the intersection of the societal, the personal, and the ecological—dirt as metaphor and dirt as substance. We are looking for submissions—essays, journalism, poetry, fiction, illustration, and beyond—that explore the emotional, interpersonal, and political meanings that hide inside our ideas about uncleanness and hygiene. Long before this pandemic year, the notion of dirt has been used to signal feelings of fear or disgust for other people: to enshrine class, caste, and colonial systems, to enact racism and misogyny, to express our everyday amorphous discomfort with each other. At the same time, dirt is exalted for its life-sustaining properties, and often sentimentalized. It’s something kids need a chance to play in, it’s something we need contact with to feel “grounded.”

Dirt is also sex, and dirt is gossip. Soil is homeland and a final resting place. Some examples of the kinds of stories we would be interested in: an investigation into how the rhetoric of filth has contributed to the removal of public infrastructure like water fountains or pay phones; a look at religious laws about purity and menstruation; a critical reading of the fantasies put forth in advertisements for soap and other cleaning products.

We are also looking for writing that engages deeply with the materiality of the many natural and unnatural substances that make up the larger category of “dirt”: soil, soot, grime, dust, ash, and beyond. Some ideas that appeal to us are: a chronicle of the fight for regenerative agriculture and the untapped carbon-capture potential of soil; a brief history of the humble mud brick; an exegesis of household dust; an ode to belly-button lint.

Our usual terms and payment rates apply to this special issue. We look forward to reading your submissions, which we will accept between now and September 1.

We're accepting short and longform nonfiction, poetry, fiction, art, and hybrid work for our upcoming special issue on Dirt. Please see above for submissions guidelines. 

Guernica offers honoraria of $50 for poetry, $100 for original essays, and $150 for original fiction and for reportage.

This form is for reported features of all types in excess of 3,000 words. We will not review any other kind of work submitted through this channel.

If a piece is particularly urgent, please indicate that by adding "TIMELY" to the subject line.

We do not accept pitches. Please send the full manuscript you’d like us to work with.

Response times vary; please be patient, as we read and consider all submissions carefully.

  • We accept only electronic submissions using the Submittable system.
  • Please one submission at a time, no multiple submissions.
  • Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, as long as you immediately notify the Guernica     editors that your piece has been accepted elsewhere.
  • We do not accept pitches. Please send the full manuscript you’d like us to work with.
  • We are only interested in original, unpublished manuscripts. Your work must not have been published elsewhere, including on your personal website or blog. Translations may have appeared in their original languages, but not in English.
  • Guernica  will hold exclusive print and digital rights to your published piece for 90 days, after which you will retain the rights; your story will remain archived online.
  • We are an all-volunteer organization. Allow at least sixteen weeks for a response. Response time will likely be longer than either of us would like.
  • Guernica offers honoraria of $50 for poetry, $100 for original essays, and $150 for original fiction and for reportage.

This form is for nonfiction submissions of all types in excess of 3,000 words. This includes essays, memoir, and criticism.

If a piece is particularly urgent, please indicate that by adding "TIMELY" to the subject line.

We do not accept pitches. Please send the full manuscript you’d like us to work with.

Response times vary; please be patient, as we read and consider all submissions carefully. 

  • We accept only electronic submissions using the Submittable system.
  • Please one submission at a time, no multiple submissions.
  • Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, as long as you immediately notify Guernica     editors that your piece has been accepted elsewhere.
  • We do not accept pitches. Please send the full manuscript you’d like us to work with.
  • We are only interested in original, unpublished manuscripts. Your work must not have been published elsewhere, including on your personal website or blog. Translations may have appeared in their original languages, but not in English.
  • Guernica  will hold exclusive print and digital rights to your published piece for 90 days, after which you will retain the rights; your story will remain archived online.
  • We are an all-volunteer organization. Allow at least sixteen weeks for a response. Response time will likely be longer than either of us would like.
  • Guernica offers honoraria of $50 for poetry, $100 for original essays, and $150 for original fiction and for reportage.

This form is for nonfiction submissions of all types between 1,000 and 3,000 words. This includes essays, memoir, reviews, and criticism.

If a piece is particularly urgent, please indicate that by adding "TIMELY" to the subject line.

We do not accept pitches. Please send the full manuscript you’d like us to work with.

Response times vary; please be patient, as we read and consider all submissions carefully.

  • We accept only electronic submissions using the Submittable system.
  • Please one submission at a time, no multiple submissions.
  • Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, as long as you immediately notify Guernica     editors that your piece has been accepted elsewhere.
  • We do not accept pitches. Please send the full manuscript you’d like us to work with.
  • We are only interested in original, unpublished manuscripts. Your work must not have been published elsewhere, including on your personal website or blog. Translations may have appeared in their original languages, but not in English.
  • Guernica  will hold exclusive print and digital rights to your published piece for 90 days, after which you will retain the rights; your story will remain archived online.
  • We are an all-volunteer organization. Allow at least sixteen weeks for a response. Response time will likely be longer than either of us would like.
  • Guernica offers honoraria of $50 for poetry, $100 for original essays, and $150 for original fiction and for reportage.

Please send up to five poems of any length. Translations are welcome. If you need to withdraw an individual poem, you can add a note to your submission.

  • We accept only electronic submissions using the Submittable system.
  • Please one submission at a time, no multiple submissions.
  • Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, as long as you immediately notify Guernica     editors that your piece has been accepted elsewhere.
  • We do not accept pitches. Please send the full manuscript you’d like us to work with.
  • We are only interested in original, unpublished manuscripts. Your work must not have been published elsewhere, including on your personal website or blog. Translations may have appeared in their original languages, but not in English.
  • Guernica  will hold exclusive print and digital rights to your published piece for 90 days, after which you will retain the rights; your story will remain archived online.
  • We are an all-volunteer organization. Allow at least sixteen weeks for a response. Response time will likely be longer than either of us would like.
  • Guernica offers honoraria of $50 for poetry, $100 for original essays, and $150 for original fiction and for reportage.

This form is for fiction submissions, which should be no fewer than 1,500 and no more than 7,000 words. Please submit only one story, or one excerpt from an unpublished novel, at a time.

Submissions sent in hard copy or via email will not be considered. We do not consider flash fiction or genre, nor do we serialize longer works.

Guernica strongly prefers fiction with a diverse international outlook—or if it's American, from an underrepresented or alternative perspective. (No stories about American tourists in other countries, please.) 

Works in translation are especially welcome as long as we will have the rights to publish the piece. Guernica tends to publish stories that have a beginning, middle, and end; fiction that enlightens the reader about culture and place. We don’t publish satire or genre. We don't publish fiction that is more political screed than story. 

We must have exclusive rights for 90 days after publication, and we'd appreciate credit if your piece appears in a forthcoming book.

  • We accept only electronic submissions using the Submittable system.
  • Please one submission at a time, no multiple submissions.
  • Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, as long as you immediately notify Guernica     editors that your piece has been accepted elsewhere.
  • We do not accept pitches. Please send the full manuscript you’d like us to work with.
  • We are only interested in original, unpublished manuscripts. Your work must not have been published elsewhere, including on your personal website or blog. Translations may have appeared in their original languages, but not in English.
  • Guernica  will hold exclusive print and digital rights to your published piece for 90 days, after which you will retain the rights; your story will remain archived online.
  • We are an all-volunteer organization. Allow at least sixteen weeks for a response. Response time will likely be longer than either of us would like.
  • Guernica offers honoraria of $50 for poetry, $100 for original essays, and $150 for original fiction and for reportage.
Guernica Magazine