Here’s How I Got Published in The New York Times’ Metropolitan Diary

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The New York TimesHi, Great news!

So, I just got my first byline for The New York Times by being published on their longest running column (since 1976) the Metropolitan Diary.

This is the link to my piece, which is about Thomas the Tank Engine and what happened when I had to babysit an electric blue life-sized replica of the train one balmy summer evening in 1992.


Life sized Thomas for real! Photo courtesy of

How I Did It

Now, I’m going to break down how I got published, so you can submit and get published, too.

Step 1: Look at Other Writers

I listened to this podcast on Behind the Prose from Keysha Whitaker, where Elana Rabinowitz talked about getting into the Times’ Metropolitan Diary section  with her piece “Courtesy in a Hardhat“.  This is her piece. Then I read Keysha’s piece called “Defending Lil Kim”  as well.

Step 2: Think

Reading  Keysha’s piece made me think that a piece about a celebrity would be of interest.

Step 3: Craft

I thought about what my experiences were and what I could write about that would get the New York Times’ attention. I’m a writing coach and always tell my students that in a piece it helps to be timely, newsworthy, mention a celebrity, or be provocative. I scoured  my memories and decided I would  write about my dealings with a celebrity, aka Thomas the Tank Engine.  When I sent the email to the submissions address (the only one they accept from, so don’t bother trying anything else) I also referenced Thomas in the subject line to get the editor’s attention. One other thing I did: I mentioned it was a balmy summer day in my essay because it was true and also  in the hopes that the timespan for publishing it, if it were accepted, would be by Labor Day.

Step 4: Research

I researched everything about #MetDiary and Metropolitan Diary and learned it is the longest running column in the New York Times (since 1976) and they receive thousands of submissions a month. There is even a guy who has a party once a year for all people who have been published there (Elana and Keysha, I’ll let you know about that one).

Step 5: Write

I wrote my piece to 300 words. I knew from listening to the podcast that is what worked and what was in the instructions. It didn’t work any shorter than that. I read it out loud several times for dramatic impact. I also shortened the sentences so that it felt like there was a lot of movement. My usual style is to write a bit longer, so that was a fun exercise.

Step 6: Submit

I sent out my submission the Thursday before July 4th, and I heard back on July 4th at 5:00 pm that the editor was interested and wanted to verify some questions (and yes, this is the hardest working editor I have ever known).

Step 7: Success

By 9:00 pm that night, my piece was accepted and put into the pipeline which was backlogged (remember, I knew it would have to run by the summer, so I figured it would be up by Labor Day).

Then I checked my email and google alerts compulsively for the next month or so.

My piece ran online on Saturday, August 20th and was in print on Monday, August 22nd. Here is my piece again. I’m so proud of it.

And,  If you want to see Thomas for yourself, check out this giveaway for a day with Thomas with the Stroudsberg Railroad  (which ends tonight) from my friend Rachel Buttner of Daily Vacationer.


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Also, on the publishing front

I wrote about a Mom/Daughter Who Fight Thin Lips and Thick Thighs Together  and Mastering the New Mom Makeover for

I wrote about How This Interactive Game is the Reason My Daughter Finally Loves Science for Vice’s Motherboard

I wrote about Food Insecurity or For Her/Aleteia

I wrote Mothering My Way Through Her Milestones  for Brain, Child

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I have some spots left for writing coaching in October. Please contact me if you want to work with me. My clients are being published everywhere: Quartz, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Dame, The New York Times, Brain, Child and more.


20 thoughts on “Here’s How I Got Published in The New York Times’ Metropolitan Diary”

  1. I’m so pleased for you being published on so many great sites and really respect the fact that you are willing to share your “secrets” and your sources of help so others can get there too. That’s what blogging is really all about isn’t it?

  2. Wow! That was an amazingly quick turnaround! Sounds like your method was a true winner. Thank you for sharing how to do it! And CONGRATS!! Super cool, Estelle!

    1. It was so fast. I’ve heard from others it took months, if they heard from the editor at all. I think it was a combination of things as I mentioned above. Thank you, Lisa!

  3. First, Congratulations! It’s a great article and I’m partial to Thomas, my special needs grandson is obsessed.
    Thank you so much for paying it forward and sharing your experience.

  4. Oh Estelle, first let me say you are the embodiment of the best of women and people, in general. This post just goes to show that there is enough for all of us to shine our lights. Thanks for the great guidelines. I’ve put on my thinking cap!

  5. What a story! And thanks for sharing how you got in – I always enjoy the Metropolitan Diary section of the Times and knowing the kind of work and care that goes into the selection and editing will make me appreciate it even more. I agree with the Times commenter who said “More from this author!”

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