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Winning Writers Newsletter - September 2021

View Free Contests

We found over two dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between September 15-October 31. In this issue, we present a special selection of poems from our past War Poetry Contest that commemorate 9/11. Please also enjoy an excerpt from "Waiting" by Raymond Carver, illustrated by Julian Peters.

Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

Last Call!
Deadline September 30. We will award the Tom Howard Prize of $3,000 for a poem in any style or genre, and the Margaret Reid Prize of $3,000 for a poem that rhymes or has a traditional style. Ten Honorable Mentions will receive $200 each (any style). The top 12 entries will be published online. The top two winners will also receive two-year gift certificates from our co-sponsor, Duotrope (a $100 value). Length limit: 250 lines per poem. Entry fee: $15 per submission of 1-2 poems. Final judge: S. Mei Sheng Frazier, assisted by Vernon Keeve III. Our contests are recommended by Reedsy. Submit online or enter by mail.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 135,000 followers on Twitter and find us on Facebook. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Alan W. King, Jennifer L. Gauthier (featured poem: "Naked (for the women of Salem)", Elizabeth Kirschner, Joan Gelfand, Gloria Mindock, Victoria Leigh Bennett (featured poem: "A Life"), Mary K. O'Melveny (featured poem: "The Fifth Dimension"), Gary Beck, Annie Dawid, Jonna Laster, Neil Perry Gordon, Sue Gerrard (featured poem: "Halloween"), Ndaba Sibanda, Kelli Russell Agodon, and Duane L. Herrmann.

Winning Writers Editor Jendi Reiter's poem "All Cakes Are Bastards" will be included in the 2021 Northampton Arts Council Biennial exhibit at Forbes Library in Northampton, MA, which will run through the month of October. The launch reading will take place on Saturday, October 9, at 3:00 pm. Check the library website for details. The poem first appeared in Solstice Lit Mag.

Learn about our subscribers' achievements and see links to samples of their work.

Have news? Please email it to

Ad: A Revision Master Class Taught by National Book Award Finalist Elana K. Arnold

Revision Season

"Elana K. Arnold is one of the finest writers I've had the pleasure of working with—and it's no coincidence that she's also one of the finest revisers. The skill, perspective, and fearlessness that she brings to the task of digging into her own work and emerging with something stronger, more exciting, and more unexpected would be an asset to any writer, seasoned or developing."
—Jordan Brown, Executive Editor, HarperCollins Children's Books

Revision Season is a virtual master class in novel revision led by award-winning author Elana K. Arnold. Each week includes a video lecture followed by a series of assignments designed to help you put the lessons into practice. A weekly live call (recorded if you need to listen later) gives writers the opportunity to ask specific questions. And a private, moderated forum provides a space for Revision Season writers to connect with and learn from each other. By the end of Revision Season, writers will have the tools they need to deepen, enrich, and grow their current manuscript into its next incarnation.

Enrollment is open NOW. Week Zero begins October 10th. Learn more.

Ad: A Hotel Room of One's Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program | LAST CALL!

A Hotel Room of One's Own

Deadline: September 28

Fee: $25

What humor writer wouldn't want to attend the wildly popular Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop and spend two all-expenses-paid weeks at a hotel? Free room service. A housekeeping staff. An omelette bar. A TV remote of your own. The sun rising over the Great Miami River (aka, the Dayton Riviera).

And, most importantly, a "Do Not Disturb" sign.

Applications for A Hotel Room of One's Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program will be accepted through September 28.

Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, and Mike Reiss, writer for The Simpsons for three decades, will choose the two grand prize winners. Preference will be given to emerging humor writers. The package is worth approximately $5,000, but the experience is priceless. Cash prizes for finalists and honorable mentions.

Read the announcement and FAQs. Then apply here for what Forbes says "may be the best writer's residency in the country."

Ad: Call for Indie Book Entries - Early Bird Special – 80+ Categories

EARLY BIRD SPECIAL - Enter online by September 30 and receive a $60 discount on the entry of a second category.

The Early Bird Special Entry Fee is only $75 and includes the entry of one title in two categories. On October 1, the price to enter two categories increases by $60.

Entries are now being accepted for the 2022 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the most exciting and rewarding book awards program open to independent publishers and authors worldwide who have a book written in English and released in 2020, 2021 or 2022 or with a 2020, 2021 or 2022 copyright date. The Next Generation Indie Book Awards is presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group.

With 80+ categories to choose from, enter by February 11, 2022 to take advantage of this exciting opportunity to have your book considered for cash prizes, awards, exposure, possible representation by a leading literary agent, and recognition as one of the top independently published books of the year!

Ad: LAST CALL! Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

Last Call for the Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

Sponsored by Winning Writers

TOM HOWARD PRIZE: $3,000 for a poem in any style or genre

MARGARET REID PRIZE: $3,000 for a poem that rhymes
or has a traditional style

The top two winners will also receive two-year gift certificates from our co-sponsor, Duotrope (a $100 value)

Honorable Mentions: 10 awards of $200 each (any style)

Submit published or unpublished work. Top 12 entries published online.

Judged by S. Mei Sheng Frazier, assisted by Vernon Keeve III.

Recommended by Reedsy as one of The Best Writing Contests of 2021.

Submit 1-2 poems for one $15 entry fee.

Enter via Submittable by September 30

Ad: The Missouri Review's 31st Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize

The Missouri Review's 31th Annual Editors'Prize

Deadline: October 1

$5,000 Fiction | $5,000 Nonfiction | $5,000 Poetry

Winners receive a cash prize, publication, promotion, and an invitation to a reception and reading in their honor. Submit one piece of fiction or nonfiction up to 8,500 words or up to 10 pages of poems. Enter online or by mail. All entries considered for publication. Regular entry fee: $25. All-Access entry fee: $30. Winners will be announced in early 2022.

Each entrant receives a one-year subscription to the Missouri Review in digital format (normal price $24) and a digital copy of the fifth title in our imprint, TMR Books, Private Lives, a new anthology of stories that first appeared in TMR (normal price $7.95). 

Read a prizewinning story by Melissa Yancy, an essay by Peter Selgin, and a selection from poetry winners Katie Bickham, Kai Carlson-Wee, and Alexandra Teague. Hear from past entrants what it's like to win here, here, and here.

Questions? Email

Ad: Eyelands Book Awards

Eyelands Book Awards

Deadline: October 20 literary magazine in collaboration with Strange Days Books presents the international Eyelands Book Awards for published and unpublished books.

Grand prize (published books): Five-day holiday in Athens plus a special handmade ceramic designed especially for Eyelands Book Awards and publication (excerpts) online on our website. The ceremony will take place in Athens in May 2022. Alternative prize (in case of travel restrictions): online ceremony & translation of the prize-winning book into Greek.

Grand prize (unpublished books): Translation into Greek and publication from Strange Days Books

Ten more prizes, one for each category of every section, also win a special handmade ceramic designed especially for Eyelands Book Awards and a book from Strange Days Books!

Certification document for every prize.

Eligible submissions include poetry, novellas, short story collections, novels, children's books, historical fiction/memoir, and graphic novels.

Multiple submissions allowed. Entry fee: $30 (27 euros)

Finalists for every category will be announced on November 20, with the final results announced on December 30, 2021.

Judges: P.H.C. Marchesi (children's books/graphic novels), Gail Sidonie Šobat (poetry), Andriana Minou (U-18 prize–short stories), Gregory Papadoyiannis (novels–historical fiction/memoir)

Learn more.

• Joy Harjo Poetry Prize
• Barry Lopez Nonfiction Prize
• Rick DeMarinis Short Story Prize


Reading Period: August 31-November 1

$1,500 First Prize, $300 Second Prize, Honorable Mention


GUIDELINES: Please go to our website and submit poems and stories through our online submission manager on the Submissions Page. Submit up to 3 poems (100 line limit/one poem per page) or one short story or one creative nonfiction piece (5,000 word limit/double spaced) in 12-point font. NO AUTHOR NAME ALLOWED ON ANY MS. There is a $23 nonrefundable entry fee per submission.

UNPUBLISHED WORK ONLY! No work that has already won a prize is eligible. No former CUTTHROAT prize-winning author may enter the contest he or she has previously won. Enter as often as you wish. Multiple submissions okay, but we must be informed immediately of acceptances elsewhere. Finalists considered for publication. Winners published in CUTTHROAT and announced on our website, in POETS & WRITERS, and WINNING WRITERS. No relatives of or staff members of CUTTHROAT nor close friends, relatives, or students of judges are eligible to enter our contests. See our website for more information. WE RECOMMEND YOU READ A COPY OF CUTTHROAT BEFORE ENTERING OUR CONTESTS.


"The Way Things Are Going in Liberty, Utah" by Sunni Wilkinson of Ogden, Utah
Joy Harjo Poetry Prize

"Speak to Me of Love" by Linda Lucero of San Francisco, California
Rick DeMarinis Short Story Prize

"Legally Speaking, Rats Aren't Even Animals" by Timothy DeLizza of Baltimore, Maryland
Barry Lopez Nonfiction Prize

Ad: 2022 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

William Saroyan Prize for Writing

Entries must be received by January 31, 2022

Submissions are now being accepted for the 10th William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Two prizes of $5,000 each are given for works of fiction and nonfiction. The awards, co-sponsored by Stanford Libraries and the William Saroyan Foundation, are intended to encourage new or emerging writers and honor the Saroyan legacy of originality, vitality, and stylistic innovation.

Submit five copies of your work published between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021, with a $50 entry fee by January 31, 2022. Writers who have published four or more books are ineligible. Visit the Saroyan Prize website for complete eligibility and submission details.

Congratulations to our 2020 Fiction Winner Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenya for Friday Black, and our 2020 Nonfiction Winner Jennifer Croft for Homesick. View our complete list of 2020 winners and finalists.

Ad: WRITERTHREADS: Providing writing tips since 2019


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Follow us on Twitter at @writerthreads for daily writing tips, prompts, and memes that are easily accessible for all aspiring writers—over 600 tweets to date! You'll also find us on Discord, Wattpad, Tumblr, and Instagram.

Ad: An Incomplete List of My Wishes: Stories by Jendi Reiter

An Incomplete List of My Wishes

Winner of the 2017 Sunshot Book Prize for Fiction, Winning Writers Editor Jendi Reiter's debut story collection explores the fraught relationships among queer and straight family members, the search for a post-traumatic spirituality, and the fine line between soulmates and intimate enemies.

Victoria Leigh Bennett, author of Poems from the Northeast (Olympia Publishers), says of this story collection: "The sympathetic characters in this book are those who have said 'Yes' to themselves, sometimes at great or even life-changing, life-risking costs. The book overall promotes courage as a feature of human life, as an answer even when the question is dire and unfair."

Learn more and read "Memories of the Snow Queen", a story from the book.

Buy the book at Sunshot Press.

Spotlight Contests (no fee)

Some contests are best suited to writers at the early stages of their careers. Others are better for writers with numerous prizes and publications to their credit. Here is this month's selection of Spotlight Contests for your consideration:

Emerging Writers
Preservation Foundation Essay Contest for Unpublished Writers. For this deadline, submit essays in the Travel Nonfiction category (1,000-10,000 words) to win up to $200 and online publication. Sponsored by The Preservation Foundation, a Tennessee-based nonprofit with the goal of preserving the extraordinary stories of ordinary people. Due October 31.

Intermediate Writers
Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry. The African Poetry Book Fund at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will award $1,000 for the best full-length collection of poetry published in the previous calendar year by an African national, African resident, or poet of African birth or African parentage. Translations are eligible; self-published books are not. Publishers are invited to submit an entry form and 4 copies of each nominated title. Due October 31.

Advanced Writers
PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Books of fiction (novels, novellas, and short story collections) by US permanent residents published in the current year can win $15,000. Four runners-up will receive $5,000 each. Recent winners have been well-established writers such as Philip Roth, Sherman Alexie, and John Updike. Due October 31.

See more Spotlight Contests for emerging, intermediate, and advanced writers within The Best Free Literary Contests database.

Search for Contests

Special Section: Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks

Winning Writers honors the memory of those who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We also mourn the casualties of America's subsequent wars in Middle East, and the victims of our expanded national security apparatus at Guantanamo and elsewhere in the world.

In the wake of this national tragedy, Winning Writers, founded the week before, launched the War Poetry Contest to encourage more nuanced and humane reflections about armed conflict. Arts and culture play a crucial role—for good or ill—in a society's choice between scapegoating or reconciliation.

The War Poetry Contest ran from 2002-2011. We've selected a few poems relevant to the 9/11 anniversary. Browse our archives to access all the winning entries.

by Raphael Dagold, 2002 Finalist

by Stacey Fruits, 2003 Honorable Mention

by Atar Hadari, 2003 Honorable Mention

by Charlotte Mandel, 2003 Finalist

by Robert Hill Long, 2004 First Prize

by Remica L. Bingham, 2005 Honorable Mention

"9-11 NAMPIT"
by Lynn Shoemaker, 2006 Finalist

by J. Scott Brownlee, 2011 Finalist

Calls for Submissions

Winning Writers finds open submission calls and free contests in a variety of sources, including Erika Dreifus' Practicing Writer newsletter, FundsforWriters, Trish Hopkinson's blog, Erica Verrillo's blog, Authors Publish, Lambda Literary, Lit Mag News RoundupPoets & Writers, The Writer, Duotrope, Submittable, and literary journals' own newsletters and announcements.

Cool. Awkward. Black.
(speculative short fiction by Black authors for young adults - September 15)

Reckoning Journal
(poetry, speculative fiction, personal essays on environmental justice - September 22)

The Last Line
(stories ending with "Welcome to the family" - October 1)

Rattle: "Librarians" Issue
(poetry by past and current librarians - October 15)

Nimrod International Journal: "What Now?" Issue
(creative writing on "the future we make" - November 1)

Aesthetic Press
(commercial, upmarket novels and novellas by BIPOC authors - January 1)

The Best New True Crime Stories: Crimes of the Famous and Infamous
(narrative journalism about celebrities involved in crime - January 1)

PSA: Immigrants and Proficiency in English

English Language Learners

The US has—by far—the world's largest immigrant population, holding about one-in-five of the world's immigrants.

Among immigrants ages 5 and older in 2018, only half (53%) are proficient English speakers.

This severely limits their access to jobs, college, and citizenship, and increases their vulnerability to living in poverty. Pew Research estimates that between 2015 and 2065, immigrants and their descendants are projected to increase the US population by 103 million people.

ProLiteracy is a leader in advancing literacy in the US and worldwide. Learn more.

Highlights from our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest Archives

This month, editor Jendi Reiter presents some of our favorite poems from our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest. There are many more in our Contest Archives.

Jacqueline Cooke

by Jacqueline Cooke

Third Prize
2005 Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse

by Jeanie Mercer

Most Highly Commended
2009 Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse

by Jeff Walt

Honorable Mention
2013 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

by Rata Gordon

Honorable Mention
2017 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

by Wes Civilz

Honorable Mention
2018 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest (Traditional Verse category)

An excerpt from "Waiting" by Raymond Carver, illustrated by Julian Peters

We are proud to present Julian Peters' illustrated excerpt from "Waiting" by Raymond Carver. You can find more such adaptations in Poems to See By by Mr. Peters.Waiting


The Last Word

Jendi ReiterSeptember Links Roundup: Learning from Demons
The stereotype of the unemotional autistic person is harmful and inaccurate. Some of us simply don't express emotion in expected ways, while others are more intensely emotional and have to withdraw periodically for that very reason. For the latter group, the arts can be a great refuge.

Read more

Jendi Reiter is the editor of Winning Writers.
Follow Jendi on Twitter at @JendiReiter.