Use Your Essays to Get Published!


David Monk recounts a personal experience to illustrate how Reddit essays can lead to publication.
You’ve just handed in yet another essay for your semester. You heave a sigh of relief that it’s over and move on to your next essay while you wait for the tutor’s mark.

But wait a minute: what if that essay can be turned into something that will get you a foothold in your upcoming career? Something that will look good on your portfolio? Something that could even get you published? This is what happened to me. I am going to share the story of how one of my university essays turned into a booklet that got me published.

It all began when I was taking a World War I topic for my Bachelor of Honours in history. One of our requirements was to submit a 2000-word report on a local World War I memorial. However, it was not just a simple matter of retelling that memorial’s particular history. We were expected to show how that particular memorial was actually used to commemorate Anzac Day commemorations (New Zealand’s World War I Day, honoured on 25 April), and what it said about Anzac Day commemorations. We had the choice of a well-known memorial, or a totally obscure one. If it was original research, then so much the better.

I chose the World War I cenotaph outside our public library (itself a memorial, to World War II soldiers). The choice was made once I found out that nobody had done a serious study of it before, so my report would be an original piece of research. All the information the library had to offer were photographs, newspaper clippings, and mentions in local studies. So choosing the cenotaph for my report would be breaking new ground. The local studies librarian was so impressed with my final report that he had a copy bound for the library.

This led to my associations with Lower Hutt Historical Society and Hutt City Council. Hutt City Council commissioned me to research World War II names to be added to the cenotaph. These had been missing because in New Zealand, the World War II style had been a deliberate break from the World War I style of plaques and cenotaphs. Instead World War II soldiers were honoured with living memorials such as parks, gardens and buildings, including our own public library. However, public pressure had been put on Hutt City Council for World War II soldiers have their names put on the cenotaph right beside their World War I counterparts. This certainly showed how times had changed in regard to commemorating the fallen on Anzac Day. My task was to research new names from World War II, Korea, Malaya/Malaysia and Vietnam for Anzac Day 2005. And on that day, I was among the crowd, looking on as fruits of my research were unveiled on the cenotaph.

This piece of the cenotaph’s history became part of the expanded research I was doing on my original essay. I had broadened it to include a history of the World War I cenotaph down in Petone, and Rolls of Honour for each cenotaph. And on the following Anzac Day in 2005, what had begun as a 2000-word university essay became the third publication from Lower Hutt Historical Society: A Tale of Two Cenotaphs. Among those to receive a copy was my former university tutor. I wanted to show her what I had done with my essay. She was so impressed that she kept showing it to her subsequent students, as an inspiration of what they could achieve with their own reports on war memorials. For me, this was the best part about turning my original essay into a booklet and getting it into print.

And you too, can turn your essays into portfolio pieces and publications that will get you noticed. Freelance writing websites, your own website or blog, local newspapers, or any connections you can make to the publishing world, are just some of the ways you can turn your university essays into serious publications that can build your professional portfolios and profiles. My only advice is to be as original and distinctive as possible. Following that, you never know where your old essay will take you!