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Winning Writers Newsletter - October 2023

View Free Contests

We found over three dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between October 15-November 30. In this issue, please enjoy "The Last Ballad” by François Villon, illustrated by Julian Peters. Billie Kelpin and Jennifer Tubbs CONGRATULATIONS to the winners of our 31st annual Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest! Billie Kelpin submitted the winning story, "Sylvia". Jennifer Tubbs submitted the winning essay, "Reflections". The winners each received $3,000 and a gift certificate from Duotrope, and we commissioned original art for both entries. We also awarded ten Honorable Mentions to Jules Dubel, Jen Knox, Janine Kovac, D.T. Lumpkin, G.H. Plaag, Blake Rong, Leslie Schwartz, Munroe Shearer, Sandi Sonnenfeld, and Mark Cecil Stevens. This contest received 2,407 entries from around the world. Mina Manchester judged, with assistance from Sarah Halper. We would also like to recognize the exceptional contest administration and service provided by Annie Mydla, Jacek Mydla, and Paweł Zagawa.  Read the winning entries with the judge's remarks.

Our new Fiction & Essay contest is open now. Duotrope rejoins us as a co-sponsor and Mina Manchester returns as final judge. The entry fee remains $22 but we are increasing the top two prizes to $3,500 each, for a total prize pool of $10,000. The contest deadline is May 1, 2024.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 135,000 followers on Twitter and 44,000 followers on Facebook. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Kaecey McCormick, Richard Attree, Jess Chua (featured poem: "circle"), Allison Backous TroyMB CaschettaGary BeckLesléa NewmanSamantha TerrellCheryl J. Fish, R. BremnerMark ScheelMarilyn McVicker (featured poem: "October Full Moon"), and Richard Eric Johnson.

Our top 2023 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest winners Beth Ann Fennelly and Ellie Black were interviewed by SuperTalk Mississippi in their segment, "Oxford Mississippi - The Unofficial Center of the Humor Poetry Universe".

Winning Writers contest judge Mina Manchester's story "The God Committee" was published in The Evergreen Review and featured in the top spot on their home page in September.

Winning Writers editor Jendi Reiter's poetry collection Made Man (Little Red Tree, 2022) was reviewed on the Sundress Reads blog. Reviewer Izzy Astuto says, "Maybe hopeful is the singular best word to describe Reiter’s collection. While prone to believing the worst in mankind, stuck in torrid political spirals that nothing can get better, there is a heart in the middle of it all that hopes desperately it somehow can."

In other news, Jendi's poem "Ariel" was selected for inclusion in the Sundress Publications digital anthology Transmasculine Poetics, edited by Remi Recchia.

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: Moment Magazine-Karma Foundation Short Fiction Contest

Moment Magazine's Short Fiction Contest

Deadline: October 30

The Moment Magazine-Karma Foundation Short Fiction Contest encourages writers to submit stories related to Judaism or Jewish culture or history.

Established in 2000, this contest has brought in distinguished judges and special guests including Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Pinsky, Walter Mosley, Nicole Krauss, Erica Jong, Jonathan Safran Foer, Geraldine Brooks, Andre Aciman and Dara Horn. This year's judge is Rebecca Goldstein.

The contest is now accepting submissions for the 2023 contest. For each entry, submit an original, unpublished short story—maximum length 5,000 words— with Jewish themes. Entry fee: $25. Moment will award up to three prizes, including $1,000 for first place.

"Winning the contest, and being treated so kindly by everyone from Moment, was as magical an experience as I've had. And to appear on the same bill as Andre Aciman, Debra Granik, and Joan Leegant—what a thrill! That Moment and the Karma Foundation, in the face of ever-dwindling interest in fiction—nay, in reading—continue to sponsor the Short Fiction Contest is a testament to those institutions' enduring belief in the written word, and I'm over the moon to have been recognized by two organizations so vital to Jewish culture (and culture, period)." —Jed Cohen, 2018 contest winner

Ad: Next Generation Short Story Awards

Next Generation Short Story Awards

Early-bird deadline: October 31

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.

Enter by the early-bird deadline of October 31 and you can pick a second category for your story for free. 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! Enter your story today at

Ad: Take the Atmosphere Press Publishing Potential Quiz

Atmosphere Press

Have you ever wondered whether your manuscript is ready for the next step? And if it is, what that next step could be?

This short (and fun!) ten-question assessment about your manuscript and timeline will help clarify your choices about cover design, editorial assistance, and marketing. Completing this quiz will reward you with actionable advice, all of it based specifically on your quiz answers. Then you can go forward with confidence!

Take the Publishing Potential Quiz today!

Ad: Subscribe to Ploughshares and Submit for Free

Ploughshares Fall 2023 Issue

Ploughshares' Fall 2023 Issue is out now! Edited by Ladette Randolph, the Fall 2023 Issue features prose by Anthony David, Parul Kapur, John Keeble, Diane Hinton Perry, Austin Woerner, Nafis Shafizadeh, Wiam El-Tamami, Jamie Lyn Smith, and Jim Shepard.

Subscribe to Ploughshares and get the Fall 2023 Issue, and submit to our regular reading period for free! The submission window closes on January 15.

Ad: Contests Sponsored by Cutthroat, a Journal of the Arts

Cutthroat 27

2023 Contests

dg nanouk okpik, Final Judge

CMarie Fuhrman, Final Judge

Manuel Munoz, Final Judge

$1,200 First Prize, $300 Second Prize, Honorable Mention

GUIDELINES: Go to and submit poems and stories through our online submission manager on the Submissions page. Submit up to 3 poems (one poem per page, up to 100 lines per poem) 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 MANUSCRIPT. There is a $25 nonrefundable entry fee per submission.

Deadline: November 15, 2023. UNPUBLISHED WORK ONLY! No work that has already won a prize is eligible. No former CUTTHROAT prize-winning author may enter the contest they have previously won. Enter as often as you wish. Simultaneous submissions okay, but we must be informed immediately of acceptances elsewhere. Finalists considered for publication. Winners are published in CUTTHROAT and announced on our website, in POETS & WRITERS, and No relatives of staff members of CUTTHROAT nor close friends, relatives, or students of our judges are eligible to enter our contests. See for more information. WE RECOMMEND YOU READ A COPY OF CUTTHROAT BEFORE ENTERING OUR CONTESTS.


"Navajo-English Dictionary" by Kinsale Drake
Joy Harjo Poetry Prize

"Four Lists" by Masha Shukovich
Rick DeMarinis Short Story Prize

"Memoir Map: An Autobiographical Cartography of Central Texas" by Jennifer Sapio
Barry Lopez Nonfiction Prize

Ad: LEE CHILD to judge Best Opening for a Crime/Thriller Novel for Black Spring Press

Deadline: December 7

The Black Spring Crime Series is delighted to announce that the inaugural judge for its new crime-mystery prize will be Lee Child—world-famous, best-selling author of the Jack Reacher series, whose books have sold over 100 million copies.

The competition—The Big Bang! Black Spring's Best Opening for a Crime/Thriller Novel Prize—is open to anyone worldwide 18 or over who wants to write in the English language and has an interest in crime, thriller, or mystery novels.

We are looking for the best 50-200 words of an 'opening' for a crime-mystery-thriller. The work must be unpublished (including online), original to the author, and ideally written for this prize. It need not be connected to a completed book. Indeed, we very much hope the prize encourages people to start a novel with this first page—and maybe go on to complete it.

Writers can enter as many times as they want. The winner will receive £200, an hour-long online mentoring session with leading crime writer Luca Veste, and be offered a publishing contract should they decide to complete the novel. Entry fee: £10.

Submit here via Submittable.

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: A New Opportunity for Fiction Writers from Rockvale Writers' Colony

The First TEN Pages Fellowship

Deadline: December 31. Rockvale Writers' Colony in College Grove, TN offers a fellowship to writers of fiction. Rockvale exists to support, promote, and educate writers of all backgrounds who write in any genre. We provide a safe, comfortable, and inspiring environment where resident writers can work on a writing project.

The Writing

  • Writers may submit the first ten pages of an unpublished novella or novel. The work will be evaluated for movement and action, tone, theme, introduction of characters, description of the setting, the voice of the narrator, the introduction of conflict, the inciting incident, and originality. We want to be enticed to continue reading.
  • The work will be read "blind". Do not put your name on your writing sample or in the title of the file.

The Application

  • The application fee is $25.
  • The application requires a paragraph detailing how the fellowship would aid the writer.
  • The uploaded 10 pages should be presented in one document, either pdf, doc, or docx. It should also be in 12-point font and double-spaced.
  • The recipient of the fellowship will be announced by the end of January 2024.

The Prize

  • The recipient of this fellowship will receive a one-week writer's residency at Rockvale Writers' Colony. The residency must be completed by December 31, 2024.
  • A small stipend of $100 will be given to the fellowship recipient upon arrival at the colony to compensate for travel and food. Expenses beyond $100 are the responsibility of the writer.

Click for your fellowship application. Questions? Please email Sandy at

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: Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award (no fee)

2024 Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award

Manuscript Critiques for $180—Satisfaction Guaranteed

Winning Writers Critique Service

Compare to services charging $600 and up. We'll provide a critique that's 1,500-3,000 words long. It will include the following sections as relevant:

  • Critique summary
  • Technical execution (layout, spelling and grammar, technical consistency, technical quality of any illustrations, font, accessibility)
  • Structure and content (character, plot, theme, setting, internal consistency, structure, pacing)
  • Use of language (register, tone, tonal consistency, literary devices, artistic style, imagery, sense of mastery, relation to themes)
  • Recommendations and conclusion
  • Exercises to unlock creativity

You may also submit up to 3 specific questions to be answered within your critique. We guarantee your satisfaction. Learn more and order your critique for $180.

We also offer critiques of poems, stories, and essays and children's picture books for just $90.

Critique testimonial by Damon Polanteer

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
Changes Book Prize. Changes Press will award $10,000 and publication for a poetry manuscript, 48-80 pages, by a US resident with no more than one previously published poetry collection. Winner also receives a book launch in New York City. Must be received by November 1.

Intermediate Writers
John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize. Trinity College Dublin's Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing will award 10,000 euros for an English-language debut poetry collection, 48 pages minimum, first published between October 1 of the previous year and the deadline date. Publisher should email a PDF of the book and a brief author bio (200 words maximum); the sponsor will then provide the publisher with a mailing address where four hard copies of the published book must be sent. Must be received by October 18.

Advanced Writers
Gotham Book Prize. Political strategists and New Yorkers Howard Wolfson and Bradley Tusk will award a $50,000 prize for a full-length book of fiction or nonfiction published during the calendar year that either is about New York City or takes place in NYC. Nominate a book by completing the online form. Must be received by November 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.

404 Ink: Nonfiction Book Pitches
(proposals for 20K-word narrative nonfiction on a unique idea - October 31)

Open Minds Quarterly: "Identity" Issue
(journal of work by neurodivergent and mentally ill writers seeks poetry, prose, artwork - October 31)

The Paris Review
(original poetry and translations - October 31)

(LGBTQ journal seeks poetry, prose, artwork, hybrid texts - November 1)

Ninth Letter: "Praise" Issue
(poetry, fiction, essays on selected theme - November 1)

The Talon Review
(poetry, prose, audio/video, art, hybrid work - November 5)

Crab Creek Review
(poetry, fiction, essays - November 15)

(creative writing by queer, neurodivergent, and Mad authors - November 15)

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

Favorite New Resources

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

1,001 Novels: A Library of America

1,001 Novels: A Library of America
Novelist Susan Straight's StoryMaps archive of great American novels organized by geographic theme

Artificial Intelligence Manifesto at the Authors Guild
Author advocacy site proposes policies to prevent AI exploitation

Booklash: Literary Freedom, Online Outrage, and Language of Harm
PEN America report on social media outrage and literary freedom

Editing by George
Freelance editing for novels, memoirs, art books, and technical writing

How to Find the Right Agent for Your Book
AuthorsPublish article on researching agents and avoiding scams

London Proofreaders
Online proofreading service for academic, business, or creative writing

Only Poems
Online journal seeks to showcase suites of poems from authors around the world

Story Monsters Ink
Monthly magazine about children's books

“The Last Ballad” by François Villon, illustrated by Julian Peters

Please enjoy Julian Peters' adaptation of "La dernière ballade", a poem by François Villon (1461). This comic originally appeared in French in the Spring 2010 issue of Code-Barres magazine.

The English version appears in The Graphic Canon, an anthology of visual adaptations of classic works of literature edited by Russ Kick and published by Seven Stories Press.

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

Spooktober Reading Roundup
With respect to horror fiction based on real-life historical injustices, I find these books uniquely satisfying because they have a purpose beyond momentary thrills... Often, the terror and suspense in these books arise from oppressive forces that persist in the present day. The ghosts and monsters, on the other hand, may be a powerless group's unlikely allies.

[Read more]

30 Poems in November

Join 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.

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