The best free literary contests with deadlines to February 28 |

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Winning Writers Newsletter - January 2021

View Free Contests We found four dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between January 15-February 28. In this issue, please enjoy "Conscientious Objector" by Edna St. Vincent Millay, illustrated by Julian Peters.

Open at Winning Writers, co-sponsored by Duotrope
Free to enter, $3,500 in prizes, including a top award of $2,000.

$8,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $3,000 each. $20 entry fee.

Coming next month: We announce the winners of our sixth annual North Street Book Prize for self-published books. View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 135,000 followers on Twitter. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

Featured Sponsor: Grist Announces a New Climate-Fiction Contest, Imagine 2200

Grist Imagine 2200 Art by Carolina Rodriguez Fuenmayor

Deadline: April 12 | No entry fee

Fix, Grist's solutions lab, is launching a new climate-fiction contest, Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors. Imagine calls for unpublished short stories (3,000-5,000 words) that envision the next 180 years of climate progress. Judges include renowned authors adrienne maree brown, Kiese Laymon, and Morgan Jerkins. Imagine draws inspiration from Afrofuturism, as well as Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, disabled, feminist, and queer futures, and the genres of hopepunk and solarpunk. We want to see—and share—stories that center climate solutions from the most impacted communities, and bring into focus what a truly regenerative future could look like.

The top three contest winners will be awarded $3,000, $2,000, and $1,000 respectively, and nine finalists will receive a $300 honorarium. Winners and finalists will be published in an immersive digital collection. Conjure your wildest dreams for society—all the sweet, sweet justice, resilience, and abundance we could realize—and put those dreams on paper.

There's no fee to enter, so if you’re ready to get writing, you can find our submissions portal here. And if you'd like to get in touch, please reach us at

Illustration by Carolina Rodríguez Fuenmayor

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to William Huhn, Dana Brantley-Sieders, Pamela Sumners (featured poem: "Last Rites"), Rainie ZenithLesléa Newman (featured poem: "Do You Think Your Father"), Ellaraine Lockie, Thelma T. Reyna, Alan PerryCyrée Jarelle Johnson, Helen Bar-Lev, R.T. Castleberry, Joshua Corwin, Yvonne, Dave Bob Anderson, and Freida Wesson Bosh.

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

Have news? Please email it to

LOVE THIS: The Non-Personal Love Poetry Contest

Oprelle LOVE THIS Poetry Contest

Deadline: February 11

Oprelle is thinking about love this month, and the many things that we might love. For instance, football, smiles, the sound of thunder, sea mist, a life of our own…Hence, this time your love poems are to be about anything you love that is not another human being. (Animals, emotions, items, events, etc. are OK.) Your poem should have 14 lines or fewer. We will consider both published and unpublished poems. Entry fee: $10 per poem.


  • 1st – $200, certificate, publication with prime anthology placement (back cover and center page of LOVE THIS anthology), and free paperback copy of LOVE THIS
  • 2nd – $100, certificate, publication with prime anthology placement, and free paperback copy
  • 3rd – $50, certificate, publication with prime anthology placement, and free paperback copy
  • Additional Finalists (80-120) will receive publication and a free digital copy

Learn more and submit online.

Enter the Indie Book Awards - Over 70 Categories to Choose From

Indie Book Awards

Deadline: February 12

Entries are now being accepted for the 2021 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 2019, 2020 or 2021 or with a 2019, 2020 or 2021 copyright date. The Next Generation Indie Book Awards is presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group.

With over 70 categories to choose from, enter 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!

On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee, larger prizes)

On The Premises

Online Submission Deadline: March 5

Last time we checked, 77% of web-based fiction magazines pay their fiction writers nothing.

So did 60% of print-only fiction magazines!

If you'd like to try getting paid for your fiction, why not consider us? Since 2006, On The Premises magazine has aimed to promote newer and/or relatively unknown writers who can write creative, compelling stories told in effective, uncluttered, and evocative prose. We've never charged a reading fee or publication fee, and we pay between $75 and $250 for short stories that fit each issue's broad story premise. We publish stories in nearly every genre (literary/realist, mystery, light/dark fantasy, light/hard sci-fi, slipstream) aimed at readers older than 12 (no children's fiction).

The premise of our 37th contest is "Repairs". For this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which one or more characters try to repair something. The "something" can be tangible (e.g., a smartphone, a bad haircut, a broken leg) or intangible (e.g., a relationship). The judges don't care whether the characters succeed in their repair efforts, so long as they try.

Any genre except children's fiction, exploitative sex, or over-the-top gross-out horror is fine. We will not accept parodies of another author's specific fictional characters or world(s). We will accept serious literary drama, crazy farces, and any variation of science fiction and fantasy you can imagine. Read our past issues and see!

You can find details and instructions for submitting your story here. To be informed when new contests are launched, subscribe to our free, short, monthly newsletter.

"On The Premises" magazine is recognized in Duotrope, Writer's Market,, the Short Story and Novel Writers guidebooks, and other short story marketing resources.

The Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize

The Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize
Deadline: March 5

The Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize is a writing competition sponsored by the stage and radio series Selected Shorts. The 2021 contest will be judged by author Joshua Ferris. The winning work will be performed and recorded by an actor this spring and published on Electric Literature. The winning writer will receive $1,000 and a free 10-week course with Gotham Writers.

The contest is now open and you may enter HERE.

Please enjoy "Prayer for the Ides of February" by Caitlin Campbell, our 2020 contest winner.

The Fourth Genre Steinberg Memorial Essay Prize

Fourth Genre

Deadline: March 15

The Fourth Genre Steinberg Memorial Essay Prize welcomes unpublished submissions via Duosuma. The winning author receives $1,000 and publication in the issue of Fourth Genre that's featured at AWP. $20 fee per entry. Length limit: 6,000 words. Nonfiction only, please. See the detailed submission guidelines on our website.

Our 2020 contest judge is Xu Xi. Get to know her here.

We congratulate Sean Enfield, author of "The Revolution will be Revised" on winning our 2020 contest. His essay was selected by Laura Julier, former editor of Fourth Genre.

About Enfield's essay, Laura Julier wrote: "The author raises questions about how to engage, how to be present, how to be, in a cultural context that is so mediated by (among other things) media and screens. Above all, the essay raises questions about how to create and develop an identity outside of the multiple narratives that tug at us, another voice in a conversation inhabited by the likes of Didion and Baldwin. It is an accomplishment worth circulating widely."

Fiction and Poetry Contests from Snake Nation Press

Serena McDonald Kennedy Award
Deadline extended to March 31
This award was created by Barbara Passmore, friend of Snake Nation Press, to honor her grandmother. Barbara passed away this year at the age of 92 and we continue her wishes. Submit a novella (up to 50,000 words) or a collection of short stories (up to 200 pages). Previously published works may be entered. Entry fee: $25. Winner receives $1,000 and publication. We congratulate our 2018 winner Carol Roan for A Change in the Air.


Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry Award
Deadline extended to March 31
Submit a poetry manuscript of 50-75 pages. Entry fee: $25. Winner receives $1,000 and publication. We congratulate our 2018 winner Sara Claytor for Keeping Company With Ghosts.




To enter electronically, please email your entry to, then choose a link below to make your payment:

You may also mail your entry and fee (payable to Snake Nation Press) to:
Snake Nation Press
P.O. Box 98
Ray City, GA 31645

If you submitted an entry to either contest in 2019, it will be included in the contests above.

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest (no fee)

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

The Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest

Deadline extended to April 5

The Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest is open to anyone who expresses their innermost thoughts and feelings as beautiful literary art that's worth telling everyone! We welcome all who dream…Write a poem or short story to compete for cash prizes totaling $1,275. All works must be original.

Prose prizes: $500, $250, $100
Write a short story, 5 pages maximum, on any subject or theme; fiction, nonfiction, or creative nonfiction (including essays, journal entries, and screenwriting). Entry fee: $10 per story.

Poetry prizes: $250, $125, $50
Write a poem of 30 lines or fewer on any subject. All styles and forms accepted. Entry fee: $5 per poem.

All entries must be typed or neatly hand printed. Multiple entries welcome. You may simultaneously submit work to this contest and to other contests. All winners will be published online on our Dare to Dream pages on May 31. Read past winning entries.

Enter via email or mail. See details!

Our Mission
The Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest seeks to inspire, motivate and encourage anyone having the desire or love of poetry and writing to continue doing so without fear of failure or success! Remember, in whatever you do, "it's okay to dream," for dreams do come true…

Dancing Poetry Contest

Dancing Poetry Contest 2020 Grand Prize Winner Garrett Murphy

Deadline: April 15

Now in its 28th year, all Dancing Poetry Festival prize winners will receive a prize certificate suitable for framing, a ticket to the 2021 Dancing Poetry Festival at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, and an invitation to read their prizewinning poem at the festival. (The festival may be held online if circumstances require.)

Three Grand Prizes will receive $100 each plus their poems will be danced and filmed. Many smaller prizes. Each Grand Prize winner will be invited onstage for photo ops with the dancers and a bow in the limelight.

See video and pictures from our Dancing Poetry Festivals that show the vast diversity of poetry and dance we present each year. For poetry, we look for something new and different including new twists to old themes, different looks at common situations, and innovative concepts for dynamic, thought-provoking entertainment. Please do not feel constrained to submit a poem about dancing. The entry fee is just $5 for one poem and $10 for three. We look forward to reading your submissions. See the complete contest rules and enjoy "Walking Tightrope" by Garrett Murphy, winner of a Grand Prize in 2020.

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.

Novelist John Shore (Everywhere She's Not, American Fiction Award winner) says in his 5-star Amazon review, "You will never read a better, more fully realized collection of short stories. This is a masterful work."

Reviewer Meghan O'Neill at Mom Egg Review says, "This short story collection is the product of a wonderful mixing of novelist and poet. For each of Jendi Reiter’s stories, the tension is expertly built but never released. By exposing the fraught nature of different relationships, the reader must sit in their own discomfort, wondering about the things never said."

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
$1,000 for 1,000 Words Middle and High School Creative Writing Contest. The Leyla Beban Young Authors Foundation will award two top prizes of $1,000 for previously unpublished flash fiction, exactly 1,000 words long, by students in grades 6-12 (one prize for grades 6-8 and the other for grades 9-12). Winners may be published online and in the sponsor's annual Bluefire journal. Submit one entry online. Due February 1.

Intermediate Writers
Zocalo Public Square Poetry Prize. Zocalo Public Square will award $1,000 for a poem by a US author that best evokes a connection to place. "Place" may be interpreted as a place of historical, cultural, political, or personal importance; it may be a literal, imaginary, or metaphorical landscape. Send 1-3 unpublished poems, no length limit, by email. Zocalo connects people to ideas and to each other in an open, accessible, non-partisan, and broad-minded spirit. Due January 29.

Advanced Writers
Paterson Poetry Prize. The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College will award $1,000 for the strongest collection of poems published during the previous calendar year. Book must have 48+ pages. To receive the prize, the winning poet must participate in a reading and teach a workshop at the Poetry Center in Paterson, NJ. Publisher or author should submit 2 copies plus entry form. Recent winners have been well-established poets. Due February 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, FundsforWritersTrish Hopkinson's blog, Erica Verrillo's blog, Authors PublishLambda Literary, Lit Mag News RoundupPoets & Writers, The Writer, Duotrope, Submittable, and literary journals' own newsletters and announcements.

New York Quarterly: "Without a Doubt" Anthology
(poetry about faith, including secular/agnostic—February 2)

Fatal Flaw: "(Un)confined" Issue
(creative writing about constraints and rebellion—February 5)

Lowestoft Chronicle
(humorous and travel-related poetry and prose—February 15)

Inkshares All-Genre Contest
(fiction and nonfiction manuscripts to be voted on by site members—February 28)

Misfit Magazine
(contemporary narrative poetry and free verse—February 28)

(poetry, fiction, essays on theme of "heritage"—March 15)

Rattle: "Indian Poets" Issue
(English-language poetry by authors who identify as Indian and were born or lived in the region—April 15)

Sequestrum "Slipstream" Issue
(sci-fi, fantasy, magical realist, and genre-bending poetry and prose—April 15)

Tales for Love: Nature Writing Anthology
(poetry and short fiction about finding hope in nature—April 15)

Solstice Lit Mag: Graphic Lit
(multiple-panel comics and graphic narratives—rolling deadline)

PSA: Inmates who participate in correctional education programs had a 43% lower odds of recidivating than those who did not

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education

ProLiteracy calls our attention to this free report from the RAND Corporation. "After conducting a comprehensive literature search, the authors undertook a meta-analysis to examine the association between correctional education and reductions in recidivism, improvements in employment after release from prison, and learning in math and in reading. Their findings support the premise that receiving correctional education while incarcerated reduces an individual's risk of recidivating. They also found that those receiving correctional education had improved odds of obtaining employment after release."

View the report.

Favorite New Resources

Here are some of our favorite newly added resources at Winning Writers. For a full list, see our Resource pages.

Artvee: The Babes in the Wood Artvee
Public domain art images from museums around the world

Christopher Fielden's Links to Writing Critique Services
Links to sites offering free and paid critiques

Contemporary Irish Literature Resource Network
Network brings together Irish writers and academics to increase critical study of new Irish literature

Fictional Café
Online journal is a "virtual coffee shop" for creative writers and artists

Journal of the Month
Subscription service lets you sample a different publication each month

Misfit Magazine
Raw, energetic online poetry journal

Poetry Films from the On Being Project
YouTube animations of classic and contemporary poems

Quarantine Public Library
Free mini-books to print at home

Queer Comics Database
Searchable guide to contemporary graphic narratives with LGBTQ content or creators

The Curator Magazine
Journal of poetry and personal essays exploring the cultural resonance of objects

The Maven Game
Editor David Moldawer's weekly essays on the craft and business of writing

Tip of My Tongue
This database of dictionaries lets you use sound and meaning clues to find that word you can't quite remember

Writer's Digest Tips on Writing a Standout Self-Published Book
Winning advice from Writer's Digest self-published book contest judge AJ Wells

Writing Matters: 60 Places to Publish Formal Poetry
Curated list of journals that appreciate traditional verse

"Conscientious Objector" by Edna St. Vincent Millay, illustrated by Julian Peters

Poems to See By features 24 classic poems with visual interpretations by comic artist Julian Peters. Mr. Peters has graciously allowed us to reprint "Conscientious Objector" from the book. This work originally appeared in Plough.
Conscientious Objector

Conscientious Objector

Conscientious Objector

Conscientious Objector

Conscientious Objector

Conscientious Objector

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

100 Georgia Postcards Make a Poem
My two writing projects this fall were 30 Poems in November and those get-out-the-vote missives for Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. This mashup was the result.

[read more]

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