Curious about where to find personal essays that engage on both craft and storytelling? Here is my curated list of the websites that are publishing the best personal essays around. I go back to these sites over and over, for inspiration and entertainment. I love the variety of voices and dedication to publishing under-represented groups. These stories are inclusive and salty, unafraid, bold and emotional looks at life.
We Are Mel/ Mel Magazine: The first-person essays published here are not afraid to take a hard look at what it means to be a man today. Focused on the sociocultural, Mel explores the nooks and crannies of masculinity and is willing to go off the beaten path. My favorite essay, “I Lead a Class for Dads on How to Style Their Daughter’s Hair” is quirky, sweet and inspiring.
Narrative.ly is a universe of storytelling, with first-person essays about pretty much everything. From the “it happened to me” trope to reporting on people who make our culture the strange mishmash that it is, Narratively always shows the panoply of humanity. Each story sucks you in and gives you a lesson in empathy. One of my favorite essays, “Fifty Years Ago Our Best Friend Was Sent to Vietnam. The Luck of the Draw Still Haunts Us” is a timely punch in the stomach. Many people are carrying stories of luck and loss, and this is a poignant example.
Lenny Letter was started by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner – two of the most badass storytellers alive today. “Yoga is for Every Body” by Jessamyn Stanley was one of the first pieces I read that stuck out to me as a sea change. I like stories that make space for more people to have their stories heard – and in doing so confront the status quo. With the female body at the center of many of the stories, we get to see how the personal is political.
Longreads is a compendium of the best long-form essays published online. One of my favorites from 2016 was culled from Mother Jones, and is called “My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard.” I’m a big fan of citizen journalism when a writer is able to unveil the complexities of a situation/ culture where you very rarely get direct reports from what it is like on the inside.
The Billfold knows that money is power. How we choose to use it, where it came from and where it is going can affect every decision we make in life. Just like sex and religion, money is woven so deeply into our consciousness that it always makes a great read. One essay I really liked was Paulette Perhach’s “A Story of a Fuck Off Fund” about how a saving account can be your parachute out of a dreadful situation.
Modern Loss is a community centered around conversations about loss and grief. As someone who has spent the last year coping with the loss of a family member, it can be a balm to read about others who have found themselves in a similar place. An example of an essay from the site is “The Nine Things No One Tells You About Scattering Ashes.” Some things you just don’t know who to ask, and having a kind first-person account is a good place to start.