Which Magazines Earn the Most Pushcart Prizes in Nonfiction?

October 24, 2011 § 5 Comments


For the first time, Clifford Garstang has added nonfiction to his annual listing of literary magazines ranked by numbers of Pushcart Prizes and Special Mentions. He discusses the process below, with links to his full list:

Several years ago, wanting to be systematic about my short fiction submissions to literary magazines, I came up with the idea of ranking magazines based solely on the number of Pushcart Prizes and Special Mentions they had received. The ranking, I imagined, would give me an idea of the relative strength of the magazines and help me decide where to send my work. I analyzed ten years of Pushcart Prize anthologies, applied a simple formula (so many points for each Prize, so many for a Special Mention), and generated the list, which I then published on my blog, Perpetual Folly.

The list attracted a lot of attention, and so the next year when the new volume came out I updated the ranking. I didn’t look at other anthologies such as Best American Short Stories or the O. Henry Prize because it seemed to me that the magazines from which Pushcart draws represent a broader cross-section of the publishing world. And I didn’t consider any other factors—reputation, payment, circulation—because I wanted to keep the data simple, objective, and verifiable.
Friends and readers of my blog have asked me over the years to do the same thing with the poetry and nonfiction Pushcart Prizes, and finally this fall I began that analysis. The result for nonfiction is now posted on my blog: 2011 Nonfiction Pushcart Prize Ranking. (Poetry will be coming in early 2012.) The list covers the period 2002-2011 and will be updated with 2012 data when the new volume arrives in November. There were some surprises.

Ploughshares, which dominates the Fiction Ranking, is 20th on the Nonfiction Ranking. Georgia Review tops the Nonfiction Ranking by a wide margin, but isn’t in the Top Ten in Fiction. Orion, a beautiful magazine that many fiction writers have never heard of, is second on the Nonfiction Ranking and would be first if we looked only at the last five years. As with my Fiction Ranking, I stress that this is not an attempt to judge absolute quality. For one thing, online magazines are vastly underrepresented in the Pushcart anthologies and there are many fine magazines online. For another, I am in no position to judge the quality of the hundreds of magazines that are published. I have simply created lists that are useful to me and that I believe others may find to be a handy guide to the markets for short fiction and essays. I’ve done it for my own edification and I’m happy to share it with others.

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Clifford Garstang is the author of a collection of linked short stories, In an Uncharted Country (Press 53, 2009), and a novel-in-stories, What the Zhang Boys Know (forthcoming from Press 53, September 2012).

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§ 5 Responses to Which Magazines Earn the Most Pushcart Prizes in Nonfiction?

  • TR Hummer says:

    And what about poetry?

  • TR Hummer says:

    Whoops, I missed your comment there. I see what you’re doing.

  • Thanks so much for doing this, Cliff! What an excellent source for us all.

  • Amy Holman says:

    Essays have not been a part of as many journals as have either or both poetry and fiction, or at least creative nonfiction essays have not. Scholarly essays or reviews have been in the journals awhile but they don’t get in the anthologies, thank goodness. Ploughshares has only recently started publishing nonfiction, for instance. Garstang’s is a good ranking, using the Pushcart which, in turn, uses a panel of judges. The other anthologies for nonfiction draw a large chunk from the big magazines, which represent the advantage nonfiction writers have over story writers and poets. But, the Pushcart Prizes overlook the online environment of magazines, which may have been defensible ten years ago more than today.

  • Mary Akers says:

    I’m a huge fan of Orion–really happy to see them on this list. They are putting out some fine NF.

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