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Winning Writers Newsletter - November 2023

View Free Contests

We found nearly five dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between November 15-December 31. In this issue, please enjoy "Juke Box Love Song” by Langston Hughes as a short video featuring illustrations by Julian Peters.

Open at Winning Writers, co-sponsored by Duotrope
Free to enter, $3,750 in prizes, including a top award of $2,000.

$10,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $3,500 each. $22 entry fee.

Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers Like what we do?
Please nominate us for the next Writer's Digest list of the "101 Best Websites for Writers". We were proud to be named to this list in 2022 and 2023. Complete the short online nomination form by November 27.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 135,000 followers on Twitter and 45,000 followers on Facebook. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Dana Curtis (featured poem: "Lulu's Veil and Jocasta's Brooch"), CB Anderson, John Ollom, Robert Giron, Gary Beck, David Holper (featured poem: "Metanoia"), Joseph Stanton, Robbie Gamble, Annie Dawid, Gloria Mindock, Duane L. Herrmann, Eva Tortora, and Judy Juanita.

30 Poems in November Last Call! Jendi's Poem-a-Day Fundraiser for Immigrant Literacy
Please sponsor WW editor Jendi Reiter to write 30 Poems in November as a fundraiser for the Center for New Americans, a Western Massachusetts nonprofit that provides English-language instruction, job training, and citizenship preparation for immigrants. In addition to good karma, sponsors will receive a cute photo of Jendi's cat Theodore and (if in the USA) a handmade collage greeting card.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Do you use TikTok or Instagram? Send your news to the @winningwriters account so we can share it!

Ad: Registration Opens for Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop

Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop 2024

It's Erma Day (E-Day)!

Take a look at this sensational slate of keynoters and faculty for the April 4-6 Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop at the University of Dayton and register today (November 15) at the one-day-only early bird fee of $499*.

It's more than a writers' workshop. It's an experience.

"I've attended plenty of retreats, conferences and workshops, and I usually feel a high after each one, but the high I feel after the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop is next-level. I feel like my brain is in a vortex, but it is a magical, life-affirming one," said one attendee about the long weekend of laughter and learning.

Your registration fee includes meals (and snacks!) Plus the opportunity to laugh, learn and be inspired by a spectacular slate of keynote speakers and dozens of accomplished faculty who will help you hone your craft, market your work and explore publishing paths. Check out all the special features and sessions—and join us!

*(After November 15, the fee is $524.)

Ad: Write 31 Poems in December

Two Sylvias Press Advent Calendar

The Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Prompt Advent Calendar is filled with surprise prompts to help you write new poems throughout December!

Our online virtual Advent Calendar is easy to use—simply click on the calendar date and a prompt appears. Each prompt is no more than three sentences in length, guiding you with ideas and suggestions for a new poem.

Once you open a prompt, it remains accessible, so no problem if you skip a day or two—the prompts will be waiting for you. The calendar and all of the prompts will be available through the month of January.

Also with each daily Poetry Prompt Advent Calendar click, there are chances to win prizes and Two Sylvias Press publications!

You will receive an access code for the Advent Calendar's web page at the end of November. Your daily surprise prompts will be ready for you to click on December 1st.

And, you can give our Online Poetry Prompt Advent Calendar as a gift (see our website for more details).

To see a sample prompt and order your Advent Calendar, please visit Two Sylvias Press.

Ad: Last Call! LitMag's Anton Chekhov Award for Flash Fiction

LitMag's Anton Chekhov Award for Flash Fiction
Deadline: November 30

First Prize: $1,250, publication in LitMag, and agency review by Nat Sobel of Sobel Weber Associates, Erin Harris and Sonali Chanchani of Folio Literary Management, Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency, David Forrer of Inkwell Management, Monika Woods of Triangle House, Emily Forland of Brandt & Hochman, and Sarah Fuentes of UTA.

Finalists: Three finalists will receive $100 each. All finalists will be considered for possible agency review and publication.

Entries must be unpublished short stories between 500 and 1,500 words. Enter through Submittable only. Entry fee: $16.

Click for the complete guidelines and enter your flash fiction.

Ad: Mysteries of the Mist by C.A. Rand

Mysteries of the Mist

Coralee, who just turned sixteen, is spending her summer vacation at the Silver Wing Point lighthouse with her beloved grandfather. She loves the smell of the briny sea and the way it crashes against the sandy beach and this year she discovers something so fantastical, so secret that she knows this will be the best summer yet.

But a fun vacation soon turns into a stormy disaster when her grandfather goes out to sea and doesn't return. Coralee must rely on the newfound secrets of the sea to save him. Will she do it in time to save his life?

"Perfect for 7+" — Kidliomag review

On sale now at Amazon.

Ad: Marvin Bell Memorial Poetry Prize

Marvin Bell Memorial Poetry Prize

Ad: Opening Today! The 2023 "Coming Home" Poetry Contest at Oprelle

Oprelle Coming Home Poetry Contest

Deadline: December 15

A home doesn't have to be a building with four walls. It can be a state of being. We want to know what exactly "home" means to you!

1st — $200, Certificate and Publication
2nd — $100, Certificate and Publication
3rd — $50, Certificate and Publication

Submit Here

Please enjoy the winning poem from our 2022 contest:

Visit Home
by Roger Craik

My mother lets her bran flakes stand untouched,
it seems to me, for hours and hours. She smokes,
fills in the crossword as she's done for years.
She cuts it from The Times the day before.

The air grows thick with silence. Once again
despite my resolution that this time
I'll be myself for her, ebullient,
I sense what personality I have

drain into sullenness, taut in the spread
of empty years in every day of which
I'll know I knew what I should say this moment, now...
Instead, I watch a pigeon on a neighbor's roof

until it flaps away and I am left
to muse how habit over fifteen years
has withered us of words. And so I write
these lines you'll read when it's too late to say

my mother lets her bran flakes stand untouched
for hours, and smokes her Silk Cut cigarettes
and does the cryptic crossword from The Times
she's cut out neatly from the day before.

Ad: One More Day by Diane Chiddister

Grand Prize, 2022 North Street Book Prize Competition sponsored by Winning Writers, and Finalist in the First Novel category, Next Generation Indie Book Awards

From the North Street critique by Jendi Reiter:

Diane Chiddister's exquisite literary novel One More Day delves into the inner lives of four denizens of an old-age home. Full of tenderness that stays on the right side of sentimentality, One More Day braids its characters' paths into a journey that leaves all their lives richer. The action is intimate and small-scale, but as Robert Frost said, "the game is played for mortal stakes." Nothing less is at issue here than how we might die well.

Read an excerpt (PDF), see the trailer, and buy now at Amazon.

"Achingly beautiful, heartbreaking and ultimately a tender celebration of life."
—Natalie Symons, novelist

Ad: Lilith Annual Fiction Awards (no fee)

Frankly Feminist

Deadline: December 31

Gifted fiction writers! Lilith magazine—independent, Jewish & frankly feminist—seeks quality short stories with heart, soul and chutzpah, 3,000 words or under, for our Annual Fiction Contest. First prize: $300 and publication. No entry fee! We especially like fresh fiction with feminist and Jewish nuance, and are eager to read submissions from writers of color and emerging writers of any age. Submit to with the subject line "Fiction Contest" and your last name. Include full contact information on manuscript.

And check out FRANKLY FEMINIST: Short Stories by Jewish Women from Lilith Magazine, on sale now wherever you buy books or directly from Brandeis University Press.

Ad: LitMag's Virginia Woolf Award for Fiction

First Prize: $2,500, publication in LitMag, and agency review by Nat Sobel of Sobel Weber Associates, Lisa Bankoff of Bankoff Collaborative, Erin Harris and Sonali Chanchani of Folio Literary Management, Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency, David Forrer of Inkwell Management, Monika Woods of Triangle House, Emily Forland of Brandt & Hochman, and Sarah Fuentes of UTA.

Finalists: Three finalists will receive $100 each. All finalists will be considered for possible agency review and publication.

Deadline: December 31

Contest Fee: $20. Entries must be unpublished short stories between 3,000 and 8,000 words. Submit through Submittable only. See the results of previous contests.

Ad: Two Sylvias Press WILDER POETRY BOOK PRIZE for Women Over 50

WILDER Prize from Two Sylvias Press

Deadline: December 31, 2023

Attention Women Poets Over 50:

Two Sylvias Press is looking to publish Full-Length Poetry Manuscripts by Women Over 50
(Open to both established and emerging poets)

Prize: $1,000 and print book publication by Two Sylvias Press, and 20 copies of the winning book

The Wilder Series Poetry Book Prize is open to women over 50 years of age (born on or before December 31, 1973). Women submitting manuscripts may be poets with one or more previously published chapbooks/books or poets without any prior chapbook/book publications. (We use an inclusive definition of "woman" and "female" and of course welcome trans women, genderqueer women, and non-binary people who are female-identified or AFAB.) All manuscripts will be considered for publication. Click here to see the complete contest guidelines.

Learn more about the prize and Two Sylvias Press. Previous winners & manuscripts chosen for the Wilder Poetry Book Prize include Tiffany Midge, Gail Griffin, Michelle Bitting, Gail Martin, Kelly Cressio-Moeller, Erica Bodwell, Adrian Blevins, Dana Roeser, Molly Tenenbaum, and Carmen Gillespie.

Simultaneous submissions allowed.

NOTE: Our mission at Two Sylvias Press is to support poets. Your manuscript will NOT be disqualified if it was submitted incorrectly. We will not penalize you for trying and making a mistake. If we have a question or concern about your manuscript format, we will contact you and allow you to resubmit. Please know that we are on your side. Thank you for trusting us with your work.

Ad: DISQUIET Literary Prize

Deadline: January 5, 2024

Submissions are now open for the DISQUIET Literary Prize! This contest is for writing in fiction, nonfiction, or poetry by a writer who has not yet published more than one book with a major press. The first prize winners in each genre will be published:

   - the fiction winner in
   - the nonfiction winner in
   - the poetry winner in The Common

One grand prize winner will receive a full scholarship including tuition, lodging, and a $1,000 travel stipend to Lisbon in 2024 (June 23-July 5). Genre winners will receive full tuition waivers. Cash prize available in lieu of travel. Reading fee: $15.

Read the full contest guidelines and enter at Submittable.

Ad: Ploughshares Call for Submissions

Ploughshares Open for Submissions

Ploughshares' regular reading period is open until January 15, 2024! Send us your fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for the chance to be published by Ploughshares literary journal. See our guidelines and how to submit.

Subscribers of Ploughshares submit for free!

Ploughshares was started in the Plough and Stars, an Irish pub in Cambridge, MA, named for Sean O'Casey's influential play "The Plough and the Stars" about the liberation of Ireland. In the early 1970s, the pub hosted a handful of regulars who started their own small revolution. Their central concern was that the work of a new generation of writers—representative of a seismic shift in the culture at that time—was going unnoticed by traditional publishing. To address the problem they decided to publish a journal that would extend their discussions about contemporary literature beyond the walls of their favorite haunt.

The history of Ploughshares is not only one of critical inquiry, but also one of active reform. The current staff of Ploughshares holds dear the history of our founding, and we pledge to uphold our founding mission of publishing exceptional work by emerging and established writers that pushes the boundaries of what is possible in art. We will continue to publish writers who might otherwise be marginalized or outright excluded. We promise to continue our work of recognizing and supporting the unique ways writers respond to and reflect significant changes in culture. More than ever, we need our writers to help us understand the world.

Ad: Rattle Chapbook Prize

Deadline: January 15, 2024

The annual Rattle Chapbook Prize gives poets something truly special. Every year, three winners will each receive: $5,000 cash, 500 contributor copies, and distribution to Rattle's ~8,000 subscribers. In a world where a successful full-length poetry book might sell 1,000 copies, the winning book will reach an audience eight times as large on its release day alone—an audience that includes many other literary magazines, presses, and well-known poets. This will be a chapbook to launch a career.

And maybe the best part is this: The $25 entry fee is just a standard subscription to Rattle, which includes four issues of the magazine and three winning chapbooks, even if one of them isn't yours. Rattle is one of the most-read literary journals in the world—find out why just by entering! For more information, visit our website.

We congratulate our three winners from our 2023 contest:

  • Arthur Russell, At the Car Wash (Fall 2023)
  • Miracle Thornton, Plucked (Winter 2023)
  • George Bilgere, Cheap Motels of My Youth (Spring 2023)

Please enjoy this poem by 2022 winner John W. Evans. It appears in The Fight Journal, published by Rattle in 2023.

Musicians at the Wedding

All week at the wedding
the musicians keep practicing

over the garage, during the rehearsal,
in the basement at night,

on the back porch while it rains.
Even the grass after the rain

worries someone in the kitchen.
The tables and caterers, the flowers

and the muddy road to the barn
are covered in lights. This is a good time,

someone says, to take five, guys,
or fifty. The musicians are soggy, too.

They start again: five or six bars
of the bridal march, the chorus, the last encore.

On the porch a bartender is humming
the first dance as he bins the ice and juices,

orange and lemon. His cherries
are staked on tiny plastic swords

the wedding guests will make a great show
of plucking hilt-first.

They stand en garde,
a warning term in fencing,

the first sport played in the Olympics.
In the original en garde position fencers

held their back hand in the air
to lift lanterns during duels.

Back and forth to the bar the guests
litter the grass with broken promises.

This is what happens when you fall
in love: you dance all night, you collapse

for one reason or another
into the wet grass.

Ad: 2024 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

William Saroyan Prize for Writing

Entries must be received by January 31, 2024

Submissions are now being accepted for the 11th William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Two prizes of $5,000 each are given for works of fiction and nonfiction. All entries must be predominately in English, and available for individual purchase by the general public. Self-published books are eligible. Poetry will not be considered in this cycle.

The awards, co-sponsored by Stanford Libraries and the William Saroyan Foundation, commemorate the life, legacy and intentions of William Saroyan—author, artist, dramatist, composer—and are intended to encourage new or emerging writers, rather than to recognize established literary figures.

The award honors the Saroyan literary legacy. What is the Saroyan legacy or style?
Saroyan's literary style is characterized by originality, stylistic innovation and what is often described as an "exuberant humanism". It is this exuberance and desire to move art in new directions, rather than relevance to the particulars of Saroyan's common settings or themes, that Saroyan Prize judges will be seeking.

Submit five copies of your work published between January 1, 2022, and December 31, 2023, with a $50 entry fee by January 31, 2024. An electronic file of your book will be accepted only if the book is not available in hard copy form. Writers who have published four or more books are ineligible. Visit the Saroyan Prize website for complete eligibility and submission details.

Claire Oshetsky and Wayétu Moore, winners of the 2022 Saroyan PrizeCongratulations to Claire Oshetsky and Wayétu Moore, winners of the 2022 Saroyan Prize. Oshetsky and Moore were selected as winners for their ability to write imaginatively about harsh realities and challenge myths about motherhood and immigration, respectively. Learn more about their achievement.

Ad: Next Generation Indie Book Awards

Deadline: February 14, 2024

Entries are now being accepted for the 2024 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 2022, 2023, or 2024 or with a 2022, 2023, or 2024 copyright date. The Next Generation Indie Book Awards are presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group.

There are 80+ categories to choose from, so 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: Next Generation Short Story Awards

Next Generation Short Story Awards

Deadline: February 28, 2024

Entries are now being accepted for the 2024 Next Generation Short Story Awards, a new and exciting awards program celebrating authors worldwide who have written a short story in English. The Next Generation Short Story Awards is a not-for-profit awards program brought to you by the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the largest international book awards program in the world for independent and self-published authors.

There are 25+ categories to choose from, so take advantage of this exciting opportunity to have your story considered for cash prizes, awards, exposure, and recognition as one of the top stories of the year! Winners will have their story published in the annual Anthology. Enter today at

Ad: Write & Publish More Poems in 2024!

Two Sylvias Weekly Muse

For 2024, Write More Poems, Submit More Work, and Get Organized in Your Poetry Life!

The Weekly Muse is a tool created by poets for poets that arrives in your inbox every Sunday morning to help you write new poems, find new opportunities to submit your work, and organize your week! Filled with exclusive interviews with favorite poets and your questions answered by editors, the Weekly Muse was just named a Substack Bestseller! And the Weekly Muse also has a private Facebook page where you can share poems, give or get feedback on your work from other poets and Two Sylvias Press editors, and find the nurturing community you've been missing.

"I only subscribed for the weekly poetry prompts and exercises, but the Weekly Muse has fast become one of the most valuable tools for me as a poet. I've learned so much and I've had poems accepted for publication from Weekly Muse recommendations! The editors of Two Sylvias Press really care about poets and the amount of time and energy put into the Weekly Muse is apparent. Also, I appreciate how they sometimes jump into the private Facebook page to respond to poems and answer poets' questions. I have become a huge fan of Two Sylvias and the Weekly Muse!"
~ John D., Weekly Muse Subscriber

With the new year ahead, this is the perfect time to try the Weekly Muse. For the price of a 3-4 hour poetry class, you can receive prompts, opportunities, inspiration, and ongoing support ALL year long! Click here for a subscription to the Weekly Muse with a 7-day free trial. Cancel at any time.

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
Smith College High School Poetry Prize. The Boutelle-Day Poetry Center at Smith College will award $500 for the best poem by a high school sophomore or junior girl in New England or New York. One poem per entrant, 25 lines maximum. Winner and up to three finalists will read their poems with the contest judge, a well-known poet, at Smith's campus in Northampton, Massachusetts. Must be received by December 1.

Intermediate Writers
Betty Trask Prize. The Society of Authors will award 10,000 pounds for a first novel (published or unpublished) of "a romantic or traditional nature", i.e. not experimental. Author must be a British national or a resident of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or the Commonwealth for at least 3 years. Author also must be under 35 as of December 31 of the deadline year. If published, the work must have been published in the deadline year. Must be received by November 30.

Advanced Writers
Tony Quagliano Poetry Award. The Hawaii Council for the Humanities offers a $1,000 achievement award for poets who consistently strive for "cutting edge" and "avant-garde" innovation, which means experimental, innovative, "pushing the envelope" literature. Submit a 20-page manuscript sample, which may include published and unpublished poems, along with a bibliography of at least 25 poems that have been published, including the title and date of each source publication, and a statement explaining how the poet has built and strengthened a literary community. Must be received by December 1.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

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

Dismantle Magazine
(poetry, prose, and artwork on how fashion and pop culture can fight oppression - November 30)

Jelly Bucket: Neurodivergent Writers Issue
(poetry, prose, drama, and art - November 30)

Tint Journal
(creative writing and art by non-native English speakers - November 30)

Big Wing Review: "Nature" Issue
(poetry, prose, spoken word, and art on our relationship with nature - December 1)


Recommended Books

This month, editor Jendi Reiter presents selected books that deserve your attention. There are many more in our Books resource section. Winning Writers earns a small commission from books sold by Amazon.

Noah Berlatsky
This satirical chapbook of found-poetry and hybrid texts includes a pantoum based on Joe Rogan's right-wing talk radio rants, absurd diagrams and multiple-choice questions mashing up the Graduate Record Exam with The Artist's Way, and a Swinburne double sestina featuring Jordan Peterson's pronouncements about masculinity and lobsters. It's like scrolling social media while dropping acid.

Richard Dooling
This anti-colonialist satire from the early 1990s holds up extraordinarily well. One could describe it as a talkback to Heart of Darkness combined with Tom Wolfe's style of exaggerated depictions of American folly and greed. When a Peace Corps volunteer goes missing in the jungle of an unnamed West African country, his naïve Midwestern best friend embarks on a quest to rescue him, blundering dangerously and ridiculously into a web of intrigue involving witchcraft, foreign-backed coups, and misdirected international aid. Meanwhile, the missing man's father, a ruthless bankruptcy lawyer, starts to fear that he's been hexed...and that maybe he deserves it.

Tananarive Due
This gripping ghost story was inspired by a real-life ancestor of the author's, who died in a reformatory in the Jim Crow South. "Haints" are the least of Robbie Stephens' problems when he's sent to a sadistic juvenile prison for a trumped-up offense against a white boy in the rural Florida of 1950. The town's white power brokers want to use him as a pawn to bring his father out of hiding; Klansmen and police alike are gunning for Robert Senior because of his work organizing millworkers and registering Black voters. Meanwhile, Robbie's teenage sister and her 80-year-old godmother are discovering that even NAACP lawyers aren't a match for the racist judicial system. Freeing Robbie will require supernatural intervention.

Jonathan Mooney
In this affecting and funny road-trip memoir, the author decided to fight his internalized ableism as a former special-education student by traveling through America in an old schoolbus to meet other neurodivergent and learning-disabled people. His personal experiences are interwoven with historical background on the social construction of conditions such as autism, Down syndrome, and dyslexia, with suggestions for how we might frame cognitive differences in a less judgmental way.

"Juke Box Love Song" by Langston Hughes, a short video featuring illustrations by Julian Peters

Please enjoy this short video of "Juke Box Love Song" by Langston Hughes, featuring illustrations by Julian Peters. As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, these illustrations are found in Poems to See By along with 23 other classic works.

Order Poems to See By directly from the publisher and use the code win30 to get a 30% discount. It's a great holiday gift! The hardcover edition ships to US addresses.

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

The Trauma of Israel-Palestine
Following the horrifying attacks and hostage-taking by Hamas on October 7, everything that liberal and moderate Jews have criticized about Netanyahu's repressive right-wing government has gone out the window. Now it's taboo to talk about why some Palestinians were desperate enough to commit war crimes. Or, on the lefty side of the debate, it becomes even more difficult to hold space for the simultaneous observations that Jews are beneficiaries of apartheid in Israel and an oppressed minority elsewhere in the world. Anti-semitic violence in America is real—though it is largely perpetrated by right-wing Christian white supremacists, not Arabs or Muslims.

[read more]

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