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Question: What Does Over the Transom Mean?

In the days before air conditioning...

Question: I have two questions I hope you can answer for me. First, what is an "over the transom" piece? Second, is there much of a market for personal essays? Thanks for your time. You have already taught me so much. Rachelle

Answer: Hi Rachelle, you're more than welcome, and thank you for the compliment!

Over the transom refers to an article or other manuscript sent to a publisher on speculation. In other words, if you send in an article instead of a query, you're sending it over the transom. A transom is a small, hinged window above a door. (At least in publishing it is; boats also have transoms but that's another story.) In the days before air conditioning, publishers would often leave these windows open, even over night, for circulation.

Writers were said to hurl their unsolicited pieces through that window.

Now, in terms of markets for personal essays - it sort of depends on what you mean. Dictionary.com defines an essay as: A short literary composition on a single subject, usually presenting the personal view of the author. This could encompass everything from the personal success stories you see in magazines to a book full of your thoughts on life. Humor, political and other columns could also qualify.

Yes, I'm ignoring the term, literary, because it's squishy and tends to confuse most people, including me.

My suggestion is you write at least a few of your essays and see if you can find a market for them. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Question and Answer Index

If you have a question you'd like to see here, send an email to me at: anne@aboutfreelancewriting.com. Please, put Q&A in the subject line so it won't get lost. I don't promise to answer every question, but I'll consider it. Know too, that when you send a question, and I do decide to publish it, I reserve the right to edit for clarity, etc.



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