Vela publishes longform nonfiction written by women. We are particularly interested in narrative nonfiction, essays with a research and/or reporting component, and literary journalism with a unique, compelling voice. We do publish personal essays and are suckers for powerful personal narratives, but we prefer stories that move beyond the personal realm to consider larger questions and issues.
Much of the work we publish is informed by a sense of place and/or journeying, and has an international focus; however, we do not publish conventional travel writing. We are not a “women’s magazine” and are not interested in work written solely for a female audience. Please read our manifesto and several of our stories to get a feel for what we publish before sending us your work.
We are committed to publishing emerging as well as more established writers, and yes, we pay!
Our feature stories typically run from 3,000 to 6,000 words, although we are open to longer work. Submit completed work only; we do not accept pitches. We also do not accept previously published work. Simultaneous submissions are fine, but please notify us if your work is accepted elsewhere. Due to the volume of work we receive, we cannot offer feedback on individual submissions.
Vela's 2016 Nonfiction Contest will be judged by Claire Vaye Watkins. Contest opens September 15 and closes November 1. Winner will receive $1000 and publication. All submissions will be considered for publication.
Essays must be previously unpublished and no longer than 6,000 words. Please use the cover letter box in Submittable to provide your name, email address, phone number, and mailing address. Do not include your name or any personal information in the body of your submission or in the file name of your document; submissions will be read blind. Simultaneous submissions are fine if withdrawn upon acceptance elsewhere. The Vela nonfiction contest is open to women only.
Thank you for supporting Vela!
"We know more about the air we breathe, the seas we travel, than about the nature and meaning of motherhood. In the division of labor according to gender, the makers and sayers of culture, the namers, have been the sons of the mothers."
--Adrienne RichNo other great human experience is as systematically diminished as motherhood. Though we are all, to draw from Rich, “of woman born,” motherhood has long been shoved out of the domain of critical inquiry and artistic relevance in patriarchal societies. This is in keeping with a greater tradition: The experiences of women have historically been ignored, suppressed, and trivialized into clichés or branded as taboo. The depths of female experience are belittled as precisely that: female, not fundamentally human. And yet every single human has spent his or her first months gestating in the belly of a woman.
The universality of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood offers enormous potential for women to speak to one another across culture, class, ethnicity, and race, and yet also tends to mire complex discussions in truisms. The depths of individual women's experiences are too often blurred into received wisdom and, shushed and sidelined, women have not been encouraged or allowed to challenge this by plumbing the complexities of their lives. As Tillie Olson details in Silences, women–and mothers in particular–have also simply been too absorbed in sustaining life to take aim at the brittle and antiquated stereotypes.
Thus there has been and continues to be a dearth of literary writing about motherhood by women, although this trend is being challenged by a new generation of writers, including Maggie Nelson, Sarah Manguso, Jenny Offill, and Eula Biss. This column wants to encourage more women to explore the depths and possibilities of this fundamental subject, exploring motherhood as milestone; as consciousness; as daily routine; as radical or gradual shift; as feminist awakening; as voyage; as challenge; as corporeal and spiritual and intellectual condition. Milestones is a space for women who are interested in both the inhibitions and potential of motherhood, its quotidian and epic elements, the way it restricts and frustrates, and also the way it liberates and enlightens. It examines motherhood as the human experience writ small in the belly, and huge in the scope of families, societies, and generations.
Curated by Sarah Menkedick, Milestones will publish essays between 1000 and 3000 words, as well as occasional interviews and reviews. Please see Vela's submission guidelines for more information on how to submit.
For many writers, the most difficult aspect of writing may not be getting the damn words on the page but rather the delicate organizational and existential contortions necessary to do so. The before, the after; the how, when, and where; and of course, the why. How can we afford to write or, even more ludicrously, actually earn money from it? Is writing necessary? If we make of it a "job" will we come to loathe its banality? If we don't will we cling to precious notions of creativity? Should we have a life like a separate colony in a petri dish that we may examine and occasionally steal spores from, or is writing itself our life? What does it mean to identify as a writer, or to hide one's writerly identity in a garret, or to seek official validation for writing credentials?
Curated by Simone Gorrindo and Amanda Giracca, The Writing Life hashes out these and the other hundred uneasy questions swirling around the act of writing. It asks writers to explore the shadows behind their process, work, ambition, and hopes, hewing to the belief that – as the foremost guide to The Writing Life put it in her eponymous work – the way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives.
Each month, we talk to a different writer. Their interests, styles, and backgrounds don’t fall neatly into any one category, but they all do things with words that excite and intrigue us: They write books we can’t put down; publish ambitious, unusual stories; explore difficult territory; push the limits of genre to carve out space for their own voices. We want to know more about what drives them and how they navigate their distinctive paths.
In these conversations curated by Amanda Pleau, we look at process and persistence—the hows and whys of what makes it onto the page and into readers’ hands. We investigate revelations and recurrences, how a writer’s past and present shapes her work, what sparks ideas, and why some unfold while others get shelved. We’re interested in how these writers' plans are changed and how their routes are revised. We want to know what matters, what motivates, what makes writing worth it.
“I hardly remember not hating my body. I got most of my seven arm tattoos when I was nineteen. I wanted to be able to look at my body and see something I didn’t loathe, that was part of my body by my choosing entirely. Really, that’s all I ever wanted,” explains Roxane Gay in Pen and Ink: Tattoos & the Stories Behind Them. Women’s bodies are constantly being dissected, reimagined, violated, or defined as a limitation, and this trauma – the violence of everyday life – becomes a part of their narratives.
Curated by Amanda Giracca and Simone Gorrindo, this monthly column will examine the relationship between women writers and their bodies with a focus on both the internal – how these writers navigate their personal geographies of hopes, dreams, and insecurities –and the external: how they represent themselves and tell stories.
Essays in Body of Work will focus on how women redefine the narrative about their own perceived limitations. They will explore questions such as: to what extent are our bodies ever our own? How do the stories written on our flesh, such as tattoos and scars, inform our identity and storytelling? When are our bodies barriers to storytelling, and when do they get us access to untold stories?This is a collaborative space for writers, photographers, multimedia storytellers, and women from different disciplines to share stories about their identities.
“Place,” writes the geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, “exists at different scales. At one extreme a favorite armchair is a place, at the other extreme the whole earth.”
Placed will address relationships to place, very broadly defined: the body is a place, the earth is a place, a favorite chair is a place, a city, a café, a corner shop, a cubicle, a lake, a mountain, a road. Placed is interested in work that addresses place on any scale, from the banal to the sublime, and that stretches beyond simple description to use place as a springboard to explore or weave together other ideas and stories.
Essays are likely to address, in various ways, certain kinds of questions: how do we form and maintain and describe relationships to places? How do we develop a sense of place? How do we shape places, and how do places shape us?