Writers FAQ

Write For

Submitting Writing

Where do I send meditations for possible publication?
How many meditations may I send at one time?
Is one time better than another to submit my work?
What format should meditations be in?
When will I know if my writing is going to be published?
Do you pay for the meditations you publish?
May I submit someone else’s work for publication?
What is The Upper Room magazine’s copyright policy?

The Screening and Editing Process

What happens to meditations when they are submitted?
How do you evaluate meditations?
Who decides what will be published?
Do you change meditations before publishing them?
Do you ever change the Bible passages suggested by writers?
What do editors do?
Do you provide evaluations to writers?

Reasons material is returned/pitfalls to avoid

What are some reasons meditations are not used?
What can I do to increase my chances of being published?
What writing traits cause problems for translators?
What is the most common error that writers make?
What subjects should writers avoid?

International Considerations

What makes material unusable in translation?
Can we quote hymns and poems and similar sources?

 


 

 

Where do I send meditations for possible publication?

We prefer that you submit meditations using our online form, which allows us to track your meditation as it moves through each stage of the process. If you are unable to use the form, you can email submissions to ureditorial@upperroom.org.  Include the meditation as the body of the message. Be sure to include your postal and email address as well, since we will need to correspond with you if we want to publish your work.

By U. S. Postal Service: Send them to the Editorial Office, The Upper Room Magazine, P. O. Box 340004, Nashville, TN 37203-0004.

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How many meditations may I send at one time?

Send as many as you like, since not all you send will probably be accepted. We publish any one U. S. writer only three times a year, so if you send a dozen wonderful meditations if will take us four years to use them all.

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Is one time better than another to submit my work?

We need good meditations all the time, so submit your work whenever you wish. If the content is seasonal, the meditation will be filed for the appropriate issue. We prepare meditations a year in advance of use date to allow for simultaneous publication around the world.

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What format should meditations be in?

We read every meditation that comes to us, whether it is typed or handwritten, single- or double-spaced. But ideally, we like your work to come to us through our online form so that we can easily track it through the entire evaluation and publishing process and respond to you most efficiently.

Meditations that you submit should include all the elements that appear on a meditation page in the magazine -- a title, a suggested scripture reading, a quoted verse from the Bible, a story/anecdote from your life, a prayer, a “Thought for the Day” (a pithy, summarizing statement), and a Prayer Focus (suggestion for further prayer). The body of a submission can be 350-400 words long to give editors ample material to work with. Meditations will be about 300 words long, including all the elements listed above, once they are edited.

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When will I know if my writing is going to be published?

Postal-mail Submissions: We do not acknowledge receiving these submissions unless you include a stamped, self-addressed postcard asking us to let you know we have received your work. However, if your work is being considered for possible publication, you will receive a postcard from us within about four to six weeks after we receive your work. If you do not receive a postcard, your work is not being considered for publication.

Web or email submissions: If you send your work via the online form or by email, you will receive an email acknowledgment that your work has reached us. This is only an indication that your work has reached us.

All submissions: If we choose your work for publication in a specific issue, you will receive an email or letter with forms to complete and return to us. Both your postal and email addresses should appear on each meditation you submit. It may take up to a year for a final decision about publication to be made. The letter and forms will come to you about a year before the meditation actually appears in print.

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Do you pay for the meditations you publish?

We give an honorarium; currently it is $30 per meditation. This small amount is more recognition than payment. The checks come the month before the date of the issue in which the writing is published. For example, people whose writing appears in the July-August issue are usually paid in mid-June; those whose writing appears in the September-October issue are usually paid in mid-August; and so on.

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May I submit someone else’s work for publication?

Since we must contract directly with each person whose work appears in the magazine, we do not want third-party submissions. Work submitted to us should come from the writer of the material.

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What is The Upper Room magazine’s copyright policy?

All material that appears in the magazine is copyrighted. We contract with writers for the right to use each meditation in one issue of the magazine, in all its editions and forms, and in compilations of material from our magazines should we choose later to include it in a compilation. This is a non-exclusive right, meaning that writers can also offer their material for publication in other places. If writers want to re-publish their meditations as part of a collection or in some other publication later, they automatically have the right to do so, since we contract only to use a meditation in one issue, as stated above. (Writers should always indicate on the first page of a submission if the piece they are submitting has been previously published.) We ask that writers not publish meditations in other places within a year of the time the meditation appears in The Upper Room.

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What happens to meditations when they are submitted?

Meditations are considered in the order in which they are received. A first reader looks at the meditations and culls the ones that are obviously inappropriate for us -- too long, too short, completely wrong kind of writing (prophecies, poetry, fiction). Those that remain are sent to a group of staff and editors for reading. That group selects the most compelling and effective meditations. After being edited, these meditations go to a group of editors who look at them one by one and discuss whether each would be helpful to readers. These editors decide by consensus what will appear in the issue.

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How do you evaluate meditations?

We look at each meditation first to assess its potential helpfulness to our readers around the world in their Christian life. Content is the most important consideration. Then we look at the meditation’s use of scripture, the length of the piece, and the writing style. We do this to assess whether a particular meditation will require more editing than is feasible with our staff limitations. If, for instance, a meditation is much too long, is missing many of the elements needed for our format (a suggested Bible reading, prayer, “thought for the day"), or has many grammatical errors and unclear statements, editing it to fit our needs may require too much staff time to justify publishing it.

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Who decides what will be published?

Preliminary readings by editors eliminate the meditations that are obviously not useable -- those that are much too long, much too short, not clearly written, or do not use scripture responsibly. The final decision about what will be published is made by a group of editors. This group includes laity and clergy, male and female, people from various denominations, people of various ages, and people from more than one cultural/ethnic group. In addition, persons new to our staff in any capacity are invited to participate in the group editorial session, to help them learn about how we choose material for the magazine. Decisions are made by consensus. If the entire group cannot come to agreement that we should publish any particular meditation, it is not used.

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Do you change meditations before publishing them?

All meditations that appear in the magazine are edited. The most common reason for editing is that the meditation is too long. We have to cut out words or rearrange material to fit the meditation on a page of the magazine. We also edit for correct grammar and for more forceful style and to make meditations understandable in other countries. We verify all matters of fact (spellings of place names and proper nouns, heights of mountains mentioned, facts of nature such as animal habits, and so on) and correct/change the meditation when necessary.

We also sometimes change the suggested scripture reading or quoted verse in order to avoid duplicating them within an issue. However, many times the content of the meditation is so closely tied to a particular scripture passage that no other will do. (We like meditations that are closely linked to scripture.) In those cases, we defer publication of the meditation to a later issue if necessary to avoid duplication.

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Do you ever change the Bible passages suggested by writers?

We do sometimes change the suggested reading or the quoted verse, for one of three reasons. First, we do not duplicate suggested scripture readings or quoted verses within an issue of the magazine. If two writers suggest the same reading or quote the same verse, we change that element on one of the meditations. Second, writers may misinterpret or misconstrue the meaning of a scripture passage. For example, the Bible verse “Blessed are the pure in heart” refers not to moral purity but to having a heart that is filled with only one thing -- essentially, it refers to having a focused heart. In cases where a writer makes a point that is not intended in the scripture passage, we change the reading or quoted verse. Third, in many settings, each day’s meditation is read aloud/heard. The quoted verse must be understandable and be a complete sentence without the context of the full scripture reading, since this is usually not included, so we may change the quoted verse if the writer quotes only a part of a verse.

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What do editors do?

Basically, the editor’s job is to help writers look good. Editors help writers:

  • Say it well (clearly and concisely)
  • Say it correctly (help with grammar, spelling, etc.)
  • Tell the truth (by verifying facts -- names, dates, scientific information such as the temperature at which water boils or the height of a mountain)
  • Tailor writing to the audience

A good editor preserves the writer’s unique voice (amplifies and tunes it; removes “static") and cuts the material to fit the available space without changing meaning. The editor takes out words or ideas that might be perceived as confusing or distracting by the reader, anything that obscures the writer’s point or distorts the writer’s voice. At Upper Room Ministries, we celebrate the diversity that characterizes the worldwide community of believers. We want to help writers tell their stories in the most effective way possible. All material that we publish is edited.

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Do you provide evaluations to writers?

We do not usually return meditations that are sent for consideration. If your work makes it through several steps of the evaluation process and then is eliminated, it will be returned to you with an encouraging letter asking you to try again. We are serious about this invitation; nine out of ten of those who submit their work do not get this far. If we encourage you to try again, we really think you will be able to write for us, but for some reason this particular meditation did not make the cut. The letter includes a list of possible reasons that otherwise good meditations may be eliminated.

However, because we receive several thousand submissions each year, it is not possible to provide individual evaluations of meditations. We do not have enough staff members to do this.

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Reasons material is returned/pitfalls to avoid

The most common reason for meditations being eliminated is their not being clearly written. A meditation may be so general as to be vague and not give readers anything specific to “see.” However, even some well-written meditations cannot be used. Here are some of the reasons:

  • The illustration is dated, overused, or similar to a piece already chosen.
  • The meditation lacks a clear scriptural basis or misinterprets scripture.
  • The tie between the Bible passage and the illustration/application is not clear.
  • The meditation deals with too complex an issue or too many issues.
  • The theological issue addressed may not be understood by our readers.
  • The meditation is too long or too short (should be about 300 words) and would require extensive editing to meet our requirements.
  • The illustration is specific to one culture and therefore would be a problem for translators (too technological, for example, or tied to a holiday or a custom that is unfamiliar to readers in many countries).
  • The meditation is not specific about the experience that led to the writer’s insight and lacks concrete, direct description of what happened.
  • The meditation contains material that is not easily verified.
  • The meditation contains material that has been published elsewhere.
  • The meditation is based on a very familiar scripture passage that many other writers choose to write about.
  • The meditation does not make a clear application to daily life and relationships.
  • The meditation uses poetry or hymns or is built on some device such as alliteration, rhyme, or repetition of a structure. These do not translate well.

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What can I do to increase my chances of being published?

  1. Study the Bible and listen for how it connects to your daily life. Then include those insights in a meditation to help others connect scripture with their life.
  2. Study less-well-known parts of the Bible for insights that you can share with our readers. We get more meditations based on the New Testament than on Old Testament/Hebrew scripture. Since we try to balance New Testament and Old Testament readings and quoted verses, basing meditations on Old Testament books of Law and prophecy puts writers in a smaller pool of writers. However, we receive many more meditations based on the Book of Psalms than we could ever use.
  3. Write about current events and what constitutes Christian response to them.
  4. Write in a conversational way, as if you are talking to a friend. Don't try to be literary or eloquent. Just be yourself. We want real people to talk to other real people about what it means to live their faith in specific situations.

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What writing traits cause problems for translators?

Almost everything written in English seems to be longer in translation, so anything that requires explanation in addition to actual translation is a problem because it takes up more space. Here are some examples:

Allusions: References to familiar hymns or stories cause problems because translators have to explain the content of the hymn or summarize the story in order for their readers to understand the connection between the illustration and the spiritual insight and its application to daily life.

Geography: For people familiar with the United States, mentioning moving from Florida to Oregon as an example of long distance is fine, but that would require translators to explain where these two states are on the continent; mentioning North and South within the USA as culturally different would require explanation for readers in other countries. Similarly, when writers from any other country refer to local geography or topography, translators and editors must add to the meditation to explain the meaning of the reference.

Similar-sounding words: Building a meditation on confusion or similarity of two words (cents and sense or scents; presents and presence; sun and son) will not work in translation. Many meditations about children mispronouncing words or saying cute things fall into this category.

Rhetorical devices: Structures such as repetition of a sound that writers use effectively in English can cause problems for translators. For example, a meditation that relies on “the power, the promise, the possibility” as a framework for moving from paragraph to paragraph within the meditation would be a problem because three words equivalent in meaning in another language would be unlikely to have the same beginning sound. Quoting rhymed poetry is always a problem, both because of copyright issues and because keeping rhyme is seldom possible in translation.

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What is the most common error that writers make?

Many writers fail to move from their particular story to a wider, general spiritual truth that applies to all readers. Most people need help in order to see the link between someone else’s experience and their life. As you write, ask yourself, “What do I hope a reader will do after reading this meditation? Have I made this clear enough for the reader?”

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What subjects should writers avoid?

First, though no subjects are taboo, some subjects are too big to approach in only 250 words. Controversial and complex theological subjects can seldom be dealt with adequately in short meditations. On the other hand, our goal is to help readers reflect on the meaning of scripture for their daily lives and to respond to God’s call to them. If there is some aspect of a difficult subject that can be dealt with as it relates to everyday life, in a way that deepens personal responsiveness to God, we would be glad to have a meditation on that subject.

Also, there are some subjects that do not cross cultures well. For example, people in the United States consider their pets to be almost as important as human members of the family. Dogs and cats are allowed indoors; we grieve when they die and spend money on medical care for them. However, in some cultures dogs and cats are sources of dietary protein. In many countries, animals are valued primarily because they are tools in earning a living. Therefore, meditations that make pets central characters are often not useable. Meditations on subjects like dating or dieting are often so specific to first-world, affluent cultures and so foreign to other cultures that they would be unusable without extensive changes.

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What makes material unusable in translation?

Meditations built on word plays or acrostics (M-O-T-H-E-R, where each letter begins a sentence or is the initial in a word) do not translate; these make the meditation containing them unusable.

Slang words and phrases are often difficult or impossible to translate. Using standard English helps to assure that material can be translated and will in ten years still mean what it means today.

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Can we quote hymns and poems and similar sources?

Using quotes from hymns or assuming knowledge of familiar hymns often makes meditations unusable because these require additional explanation for readers in other countries. This makes the meditations too long in translation.

Poetry is a problem for translators because the structures that make it poetry in English do not survive translation. In addition, use of as little as two lines of poetry requires specific permission from the copyright owner and often payment. Quotes from secondary sources can be included provided they are verified and the copyright owners do not require payment.

Writers should submit with the meditation a photocopy of the quote from the printed source and the copyright information for the source. Meditations containing quoted material that is not verified cannot be used.

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James harnish

Good News

"The good news of the Resurrection really does shake the foundations of our lives and gives us a new way of seeing everything." Read more . . .