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Ploughshares (magazine) Spring 1998 cover.jpg
Discipline Literary magazine
Language English
Edited by Ladette Randolph
Publication details
Publication history
1971 (1971)-present
Frequency Quarterly
Standard abbreviations
  • Journal homepage

Ploughshares is an American literary journal established in 1971 by DeWitt Henry and Peter O’Malley in  The Plough and Stars, an Irish pub in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since 1989, Ploughshares has been based at Emerson College in the heart of Boston. Ploughshares publishes issues four times a year, two of which are guest-edited by a prominent writer who explores personal visions, aesthetics, and literary circles. Guest editors have been the recipients of Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, National Book Awards, MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, and numerous other honors. The journal also publishes a digital-first series for longer stories and essays called Ploughshares Solos, all of which are edited by Ploughshares' editor-in-chief, Ladette Randolph. Ploughshares launched their literary blog in 2009 which publishes new writing daily.


In 1970 DeWitt Henry, a Harvard Ph.D. student, and Peter O'Malley, an Irish expatriate, joined together at the Plough and Stars pub to fill a void they felt existed in the literary scene in Boston. Neither one was happy with what was currently being published, and, with their friends and followers, decided to create their own literary magazine. Realizing that they and their supporters would never be able to agree on a specific editorial outlook for the magazine, the co-founders decided that the position of editor would be a rotating one. Since then, Ploughshares has been edited by a different author for every issue, giving the magazine a unique and constantly changing voice. The first issue was published in September 1971.[1]

The magazine soon became recognized as a beacon for talented new writers.[2] Some of the writers whose first or early works have appeared in Ploughshares are

Thomas Lux John Irving Raymond Carver Russell Banks
David Foster Wallace Sherman Alexie Robert Pinsky Jayne Anne Phillips
Sue Miller Mona Simpson Ethan Canin Tim O'Brien

In later years it has gone on to publish some of the leading voices in contemporary literature, including

Stephen King Toni Morrison Joyce Carol Oates Grace Paley Sharon Olds
Jack Gilbert Mark Strand Jennifer Egan Lydia Davis ZZ Packer
John Ashbery Annie Proulx Ann Beattie Gordon Lish Louise Glück
Haruki Murakami Amy Hempel Joy Williams Mark Doty Alice Munro

In 1989, Ploughshares became affiliated with Emerson College. Author Don Lee took the reins as Editor-in-Chief, and would serve in that position until 2007. Nine years after becoming affiliated with Emerson, Ploughshares received the first of three large grants from the WallaceReader's Digest Funds, and thereafter came rapid growth, state-of-the-art computers, a new design, and aggressive marketing campaigns. In 2008, Ladette Randolph replaced Don Lee as Editor-in-Chief. The quality of the magazine's content remains the same, though its appearance has changed to reflect its firm place in today's literary world.

Beginning in 2012, Ploughshares underwent a series of changes to its format and content. First, Ploughshares launched the Ploughshares Solos series of digital-first long stories and essays. Then in 2013, the first Ploughshares Solos Omnibus was published and all Ploughshares back issues were made available in digital formats. Upping its digital presence, Ploughshares launched a newly designed blog and website in 2014. Most recently, Ploughshares launched an archive subscription to its back issues and a fall longform issue comprising nine longform stories and essays originally published from the Solos series.

Ploughshares has had more selections in The Best American Short Stories than any other literary journal in the past ten years.[2] In the past several years, it has had more stories published in The Pushcart Prize anthology than any other publication, and the magazine continues to be considered one of the most prestigious in the country.[3]

Awards and recognition

Ploughshares publishes writers who go on to achieve major accolades and awards within the literature community. Since its founding in 1971, stories, poems, and essays from Ploughshares have appeared over 150 times in the following award series anthologies: The Best American Poetry, The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Essays, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses.

  • 2007 Commonwealth Award from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC)
  • The New York Times hails Ploughshares as the “Triton among the minnows.”[1]


In 2009, Ploughshares began publishing daily content onto their blog, which is now an avenue for an amalgamation of critical essays, book reviews, and interviews. The blog offers a platform for both monthly contributors and pitched book reviews. Following Ploughshares’ commitment to paying writers for excellence in the literary arts, blog contributors and one-off pitches are paid.

Cohen Awards

For a list of past winners, see Cohen Awards.

Between 1986 and 2010, we honored the best short story and poem published in Ploughshares with Cohen Awards, which were wholly sponsored by Ploughshares’ longtime patrons Denise and Mel Cohen. Finalists were nominated by staff editors, and the winners, each of whom received a cash prize of $600, were selected by Ploughshares’ advisory editors. This award is not open for the submission of manuscripts, and has been replaced since 2011 by the Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction.

Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction

Inaugurated in 2011, the annual Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction honors a short story published in Ploughshares in the previous year (the Spring issue of the previous calendar year through the Winter issue of the current calendar year). The Prize is sponsored by member of the Ploughshares advisory board and longtime patron Alice Hoffman. The winner is selected by Ploughshares editors and receives a cash prize of $2,500. The announcement of the award, along with a short profile of the author, is printed in each year's Spring issue.

Previous Winners

Victor LaVelle Viet Dinh Nick Arvin
Karl Taro Greenfeld Angela Pneuman Elise Juska

Ashley Leigh Bourne Prize for Fiction:

Forthcoming in 2019, the annual Ashley Leigh Bourne Prize for Fiction honors a short story published in Ploughshares in the previous year (the Summer issue of the previous calendar year through the Spring issue of the current calendar year). The prize is sponsored by longtime patron Hunter C. Bourne III. The winner is selected by Ploughshares editors and receives a cash prize of $2,500. The announcement of the award, along with a short profile of the author, is printed in each year's Summer issue. This award is not open for the submission of manuscripts.

John C. Zacharis First Book Award

For a list of past winners, see John C. Zacharis First Book Award

Since 1991, the John C. Zacharis First Book Award has honored the best first book published by an author who has already published work in Ploughshares. The $1,500 award, which is named after Emerson College’s former president, is judged by Ploughshares editors. The announcement of the award, along with a short profile of the author, is printed in each year's Winter issue.

Previous Winners

Weike Wang Danez Smith Carole Burns Roger Reeves Lysley Tenorio
Heidy Steidlmayer Christine Sneed Julia Story Paul Yoon Susan Hutton
Ander Monson Thomas Sayers Ellis Richard McCann Mark Turpin Mailie Meloy
Doreen Gildroy Aleksandar Hemon Dana Levin Elizabeth Gilbert David Gewanter
Carolyn Ferrell Kevin Young Debra Spark Tony Hoagland Jessica Treadway
Allison Joseph David Wong Louie

Emerging Writer's Contest

In the spirit of the journal’s founding mission, the Ploughshares Emerging Writer's Contest recognizes work by an emerging writer in each of three genres: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. One winner in each genre per year will receive $2,000 and publication in the literary journal. Ploughshares consider authors “emerging” if they haven’t published or self-published a book.

Over the years, Ploughshares has helped launch the careers of great writers like Edward P. Jones, Sue Miller, Mona Simpson, Tim O’Brien, and many more.

In pop culture

See also


  1. ^ McWhorter, Diane (1979-07-29). "Letter from Boston". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  2. ^ James Parker (November 8, 2009). "Stephen King's Glass Menagerie". The New York Times.

External links

  • Official website
  • Ploughshares' namesake celebrates its 40th anniversary
  • Ladette Randolph's website
  • DeWitt Henry's website
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