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Ploughshares (magazine) Spring 1998 cover.jpg
DisciplineLiterary magazine
Edited byLadette Randolph
Publication details
Publication history
1971 (1971)-present
Emerson College (United States)
Standard abbreviations

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 three 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 Plougshares Solos, all of which are edited by Plougshares' editor-in-chief, Ladette Randolph.


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, Sue Miller, Mona Simpson, Ethan Canin, Tim O'Brien, Sherman Alexie, Robert Pinsky, David Foster Wallace, and Jayne Anne Phillips. 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 and 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.

In 1990, 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.

In 2012, Ploughshares launches the Ploughshares Solos series of digital-first long stories and essays.

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[edit]

  • 2007 Commonwealth Award from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC)
  • Ploughshares is cited in the Global Politician as being "a leading literary portal." [4]

Cohen Awards[edit]

For a list of past winners, see Cohen Awards.

Between 1986 and 2010, Ploughshares honored the best short story and poem published in the journal with the Cohen Awards, which were sponsored by their longtime patrons Denise and Mel Cohen. Finalists were nominated by staff editors, and the winners were selected by the advisory editors. Each winner received a cash prize of $600. It has since been replaced by the Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction.

Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction[edit]

Inaugurated in 2011, the annual Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction honors the best short story published in Ploughshares each year. The Prize is sponsored by member of the Ploughshares advisory board and longtime patron Alice Hoffman. The winner is selected by staff editors and receives a cash prize of $1,000.

John C. Zacharis First Book Award[edit]

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

Named after Emerson College's former president, the John C. Zacharis First Book Award was instituted in 1991 to honor the best debut book by a Ploughshares writer. The award alternates annually between poetry and fiction and carries a cash prize of $1,500 to the winning author.

Emerging Writer's Contest[edit]

Ploughshares' Emerging Writer's Contest recognizes work by an emerging writer in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Winners are selected per genre each year and receive $2,000 and publication in the literary journal.

In pop culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Top 50 Literary Magazine". EWR. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Ploughshares". Emerson College. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
  3. ^ Tracy Slater (August 24, 2008). "Journalism". The Boston Globe.
  4. ^ Global Politician - Vanity Publishing will Rescue the Print Media Archived December 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ James Parker (November 8, 2009). "Stephen King's Glass Menagerie". The New York Times.

External links[edit]