When I started to submit my work, I was largely focused on literary magazines. I was not familiar with Modern Love, but fortunately for me someone in my writing group was. Some writers say you shouldn’t submit a story to a big name venue until you’ve amassed some publishing credits, but I think that’s crazy. What makes more sense to me is to look for where your work will best fit, regardless of the publication’s size or prestige.
My Modern Love story prominently features a Yankee’s cap, which (I’m sure) improved its chances for publication in the New York Times. The story explores the challenges an estranged father faces, building a relationship with his son. I submitted the story in January, which offered plenty of lead time for a Father’s Day publication, although I (oddly) hadn’t even considered this at the time.
Modern Love doesn’t appear in my Writer’s Market, which may explain why I was not familiar with it. Sometimes you learn the best place to publish your work by networking with other writers. The only submission guidelines I’ve found for Modern Love were from a Q&A, hosted by Dan Jones (Modern Love editor) on the New York Times blog site.
Here is Mr Jones on submitting:
Modern Love is open to anyone and we welcome unsolicited submissions. You can send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. They should be no more than 1800-2000 words in length (final run length is closer to 1700 words) and the essay should be both pasted into the email and attached as a word document.
UPDATE: The New York Times has publisehd an official submission page for Modern Love essays: How to Submit Modern Love Essays. Good luck!