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Award-Winning Poems: Winter 2014-2015

Jendi Reiter

Welcome to my Winter 2014-2015 selection of award-winning poems, highlights from our contest archives, and the best new resources we've found for writers. These quarterly specials are included with your free Winning Writers Newsletter subscription.

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Opening on January 15:
The North Street Book Prize for Self-Published Books
It's easier than ever to self-publish your book, but how can you stand out? Which services are worthwhile? Who can you trust? We've developed the North Street Book Prize to help. Three winners will each receive $1,500, a credit towards the high-quality publishing services at BookBaby, free advertising in this newsletter, and expert marketing advice from Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of The Frugal Book Promoter. We'll award cash prizes of $6,000 in all, with gifts for everyone who enters. Learn more at

In this issue:
"Workshopping My Dog"


Want to view past newsletters? Go to Need assistance? Let us help. Follow us on Twitter at @WinningWriters.

Award-Winning Poems Selected by Jendi Reiter

THE ROAD TO BAGHDAD and other poems
by Seth Brady Tucker
Winner of the 2013 Gival Press Poetry Award
Postmark Deadline: December 15
This long-running award gives $1,000 and publication by a well-regarded small press with an interest in LGBTQ and social justice themes. Tucker's We Deserve the Gods We Ask For was the most recent winner. These poems depict the hallucinatory, brutal, sometimes beautiful scenes that a veteran of the Gulf War cannot erase from his mind.

by T. Zachary Cotler
Winner of the 2014 Colorado Prize for Poetry
Postmark Deadline: January 14
This prestigious open manuscript prize includes $2,000 and publication by the Center for Literary Publishing in conjunction with the University of Colorado Press. Cotler's Supplice was the most recent winner. This small but idea-rich poem asks whether the ability to see symbolic meanings deepens or obscures our view of the thing itself.

by Wendy Barker
Winner of the 2014 John Ciardi Prize for Poetry
Postmark Deadline: January 15
This notable contest for full-length poetry manuscripts awards $1,000 and publication by BkMk Press. Barker's One Blackbird at a Time: The Teaching Poems was the most recent winner. In this expansive, conversational, witty poem, she muses about the peculiar place that poetry occupies in a professionalized society.

by Chris Ellery
Winner of the 2014 Raynes Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: January 15
This contest from a progressive Jewish magazine awards $1,000 for an unpublished poem on the theme "World to Come", plus anthology publication for the winner and finalists. Ellery's vivid, poignant poem laments a boyhood friendship torn apart by the conflict between Jews and Arabs when the state of Israel was born.

by Jordan Zandi
Winner of the 2014 Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry
Postmark Deadline: February 14
This prestigious award from Sarabande Books gives $2,000 and publication for a poetry collection by a US resident. The title poem from Zandi's winning book is an ecstatic, experimental look at death and blossoming.

See our entire collection of award-winning poems, a bonus feature of our Best Free Literary Contests database.


The Frugal Editor

From the HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

There are gremlins out there determined to keep your work from being published, your book from being promoted. Resolved to embarrass you in front of publishing's gatekeepers—they lurk in your subconscious and the depths of your computer programs. Whether you are a new or experienced author, The Frugal Editor will help you present whistle-clean copy (from a one-page cover letter to your entire manuscript) to those who have the power to say "yea" or "nay".

"Absolutely essential for beginning writers and a necessary reminder for the more advanced. The mentor you've been looking for. This book won't collect dust!" —Christina Francine for Fjords Review

Buy The Frugal Editor now as an ebook or paperback at Amazon!

The Frugal Editor - Calls for Submissions

We are a free online resource to help you find paying markets for your poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Updated daily, we report on editors and publishers who are actively seeking submissions, pay standard or competitive rates, and do not charge reading fees. Founded in 2001, is edited by freelance writer Brian Scott (@busyguru). Learn more... – New Crime/Thriller Short Story Contest (no fee)

A chance to raise your profile has teamed up with publishers to sponsor a new writing contest in support of The Hope Academy for Girls.

We are excited to announce today's launch of our new international writing competition. It is free to enter. We are looking for 10 outstanding crime and thriller stories to publish in an anthology. The shortlisted stories will get a crowdfunding campaign that may see them published and sold around the world. Profits from the book sales will be donated to The Hope Academy for Girls— a self-sustaining, multi-purpose school for at-risk girls in Sierra Leone.

Deadline: January 31, 2015. Length limit: 7,500 words. Participants will be asked to register and publish their manuscripts on

We look forward to reading your stories! Complete guidelines:


Custom Front Cover Art for Your Poetry Books

Custom cover creations by Ellaraine Lockie

Why not have your book's exterior match the creativity and content of its interior? Ellaraine Lockie's custom created book cover pollages* will do this. She reads your manuscript and designs an art pollage that reflects the themes and images within the manuscript. If requested, she will also copy-edit the manuscript as part of the package. In addition, you will own the original pollage.

Lockie's pollages have appeared in many journals and books, have been in juried and solo art shows and exist in several private art collections throughout the US. She is the author of Gourmet Paper Maker—published in six countries—and teaches papermaking and poetry workshops. She is a freelance writing editor, as well as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, LILIPOH, and judge of the Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest sponsored by Winning Writers.


  • Chapbook collection of poems (50 pages or less in at least a 12-point font), $200
  • Full collection of poems (100 pages or less in at least a 12-point font), $275

Contact: Ellaraine Lockie,

*Pollage is a term coined by Lockie to describe her art pieces, which combine her crafts of poetry, handmade papers, and collage. In each case, the collage components reflect the manuscript's images and themes. Those components consist of handmade papers, magazine clippings, pressed flowers and foliage, twigs, barks, shells, feathers, rocks, natural fibers of all kinds, embossings, postage stamps, rubber stamp prints, buttons, charms, maps, and other collectibles from all over the world.

Pollages by Ellaraine Lockie

FundsforWriters - Subscribe Free


FundsforWriters touches 45,000 readers with its calls for submissions from contests, grants, markets, publishers and agents. Writer's Digest Magazine chose the website for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 14 years. Award-winning editor and author C. Hope Clark brings opportunity to you, so you have more time to write.

"You inspire me to have more courage, to reach higher, and you offer me threads of hope that I, too, can continue to grow and contribute something of worth to the world. Do you have ANY idea how much you mean to all of us who sit at our computers on Friday afternoon, waiting for your email to come in? Thank you for your dedication to sharing the roller-coaster ride of writing. You are a gifted teacher and mentor."

Lauren Singer: Professional Editing and Proofreading

Finishing up your manuscript? Putting those last touches on your thesis or dissertation? Submitting application essays to your dream school? These writing projects can take a lot out of a person. Sometimes the work is so dense and the topics so subjective that it's difficult to see a clear end in sight.

Don't pull out more hair—give yourself a break! I'll help ease your typing tension so you can show that writer's block who's boss. Email Lauren Singer at or call 347-675-4877 for professional editing, proofreading, and general assistance with your current project. I have many years of experience, a bundle of great references, and am currently a staff judge at Winning Writers. Let's tackle those big ideas together!

See Lauren's six quick writing tips.

Lauren Singer

BkMk Press: Now Accepting Entries to Short Story Collection Prize and Poetry Collection Prize

Deadline: January 15, 2015. BkMk Press invites you to submit a book-length collection of short stories (125 to 300 pages) to The G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction or a book-length collection of poems (50 to 110 pages) to The John Ciardi Prize for Poetry. The prizes are given annually for the best book-length collection of poetry and of short fiction in English by a living author. Winners in each genre receive a prize of $1,000 and publication of their book by BkMk Press. A non-refundable reading fee of $25 in US funds must accompany each manuscript.

For the complete guidelines and information about our past winners, please visit Postal address: John Ciardi Prize for Poetry or Sharat Chandra Prize for Fiction, BkMk Press, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 5100 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110-2499.

BkMk Press

Women's National Book Association: 3rd Annual Writing Contest

Deadline: January 15, 2015. The Women's National Book Association is now accepting submissions for our 3rd Annual National Writing Contest. All adults over 18 may enter. We are seeking excellent work on any theme to showcase to our national membership. We'll announce the winners in March 2015.

First prize in each category will earn a $250 cash prize. Winners plus Honorable Mentions will be posted on our website and published in a special contest edition of The Bookwoman, our national newsletter. All winners will also be published in an anthology in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the WNBA in 2017.


  • Poetry (judged by Ellen Bass): Submit 3-5 pages.
  • Fiction (judged by Michelle Hoover): 3,000-word maximum. Submit a story or a novel excerpt that can stand alone.
  • Memoir/Creative Non-Fiction (judged by Deirdre Bair): 2,500-word maximum.

Fees: $15 for WNBA members, $20 for non-members. Published work accepted, but please do not submit work that has received a national award. Please reference publication date and venue. Notify us if your entry is accepted elsewhere after you submit it to us.

See our complete guidelines and submit at:

Questions? Please email

Please enjoy "Late October Light", the winning poem Rebecca Hart Olander submitted to our 2014 contest.

Women's National Book Association

Grayson Books 2015 Chapbook Contest

Grayson Books

Prize: $500, publication of a gorgeous chapbook and 50 copies
Deadline: January 31, 2015 postmark
Reading fee: $18
Submit: 16-24 pages of poetry

Electronic submissions preferred. Submit through

Please do not put any contact information on the manuscript; that goes on the separate submission form.

Those preferring to mail their submissions can send them to:

Grayson Books
P.O. Box 270549
West Hartford, CT 06127

Include two cover sheets (one with contact information and one anonymous). SASE for results only and a check made out to Grayson Books. Simultaneous submissions are permissible if we are notified immediately upon acceptance elsewhere.

This year's judge is John L. Stanizzi, the author of Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, and After the Bell. He is the coordinator for Hill-Stead Museum's Fresh Voices Poetry Competition for high school poets.

Please enjoy these sample poems from Composing the Rain by Marion Starling Boyer, our most recent winner.

Robert Frost Foundation Poetry Award

Robert Frost Foundation

Deadline: February 1, 2015. The Robert Frost Foundation welcomes poems in the spirit of Robert Frost for its Annual Award. The winner will receive $1,000 and the opportunity to read at a Frost Foundation event. Up to ten runners-up will be shortlisted at the discretion of the judge.

Online submissions are now welcome via Submittable. Otherwise, please submit two copies of each poem, one copy with contact information (name, address, phone number, email address) and one copy free of all identifying information. Reading fees are $12 per poem. Make your check payable to The Robert Frost Foundation. Mail your entry to: Lawrence Library, Attn: Robert Frost Award, 51 Lawrence Street, Lawrence, MA 01841. Email submissions are accepted at if you send your entry fee by regular mail.

You may submit up to three poems of no more than three pages each. Both published and unpublished works are accepted. See the complete contest guidelines and enjoy Knar Gavin's Honorable Mention entry from our 2014 contest, "Acquainted with the Night".

Favorite New Resources

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

Climbing PoeTree
Performance poetry for community organizing and social change

Cosmonauts Avenue
Online literary journal of the Summer Literary Seminars program

The Inquisitive Eater: New School Food
Journal explores intersection between food and social issues

Open Road Integrated Media
E-book publisher and multimedia platform for authors

Pink Girl Ink
British webzine for women writers

Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative
Online poetry workshops taught by prominent writers

Climbing PoeTree

Favorite New Books

See our Books page for all of our recommended poetry, fiction, and nonfiction books.

Robert Walton, Dawn Drums
Set in 1864, this historical novel tells the story of the bloodiest year of the American Civil War, brought to life with a chorus of voices both real and fictional. The cast of narrators includes President Lincoln, American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., and the women and escaped slaves who fought for the Union and cared for the wounded in field hospitals. This book would be a good addition to a history curriculum for young adults.

Daniel Khalastchi, Manoleria
Winner of the Tupelo Press/Crazyhorse First Book Prize, this collection is a memorable addition to the literature of horror poetry, as well as the poetry of political witness. The narrator of these poems obediently submits to an endless sequence of bizarre procedures that are part surgical invasion, part public spectacle of punishment. Like someone brainwashed or anesthetized, he is quite clear about what is physically happening but has numbed out the normal reactions of fear, anger, or confusion. There is no narrative movement toward freedom or enlightenment, but a strange kind of beauty arises from the speaker's attention to detail.

R.T. Castleberry, Arriving at the Riverside
This outstanding poetry chapbook from Finishing Line Press sings the ballads of a wandering man, that uniquely American character who is by turns a prophet, a drifter, a lover, and a wounded warrior. Yet, although he may journey from Memphis to Santa Fe to Canberra with little more than a classic book and a brandy bottle, the speaker of these poems also carries the burden of wartime memories, the unwelcome knowledge of how we destroy ourselves. In a time when free verse has become weakened by talky informality, Castleberry restores the muscular rhythms of poetry informed by what T.S. Eliot called "the ghost of meter". The poems' strong forward motion is balanced by a meditative attention to the landscape's sights and sounds.

S. Chris Shirley, Playing By the Book
This funny, heartfelt, and enlightening YA novel follows a Southern preacher's kid on his journey to accept his sexuality without losing his faith. When 17-year-old Jake ventures outside his Alabama small town for a summer journalism program at Columbia University in New York City, he learns that the world is more complex than he imagined, and maybe God is too. Refreshingly, he doesn't reject his family and traditions, but instead takes on the adult responsibility of teaching and transforming them.

Laura Sims, My God Is This a Man
The author's third collection from Fence Books is a haunting collage of fragments from writing by and about serial killers, juxtaposed with lyric passages and stark abstract visual elements such as square frames and all-black pages. There are no gruesome details here. Sims is interested in the philosophy of self-expression through crime, an exploration that is no less chilling for being primarily cerebral. The mind-field we enter in this book is fragmented, grandiose, and claustrophobic.

Lynn Domina, Corporal Works
This now widely published author's debut collection from Four Way Books enters into the mysteries of love, work, and death, through small but pivotal moments between parents and children, husbands and wives. Although it moves like a family history with flashbacks, the scenes have a timeless quality because the relationship of the characters from one poem to the next is left undefined. The woman speaking in first-person could be the author, the daughter of the farming couple with the strained marriage who appear in some of the other poems, or an invented character.

Dawn Drums

Selections from Our Contest Archives

"Visiting My Father's Office" by Susan Keith
Second Prize
2007 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Short Story Contest

"Collection" by Marianne Sciucco
Honorable Mention
2007 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Short Story Contest

"Intimidation" by Debbie Camelin
First Prize
2006 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest

"Different Businesses, Same Location" by Tony Peyser
Most Highly Commended
2008 Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse

"And Now, The News" by Ed Coonce
Third Prize
2007 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

"The Pajama'd Elephant" by Arthur Virnig
Honorable Mention
2007 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

Susan Keith

PSA: Literacy and Living


Literacy is about more than just reading and writing—sometimes, it's also about car ownership!

Just ask Francelli Manji of Helena, Montana. Because of her work with the Lewis & Clark Literacy Council, she was able to purchase her first car and obtain US citizenship.

The Lewis & Clark Literacy Council used our National Book Fund materials in training their tutors in order to make triumphs like Francelli's possible. Along with Francelli, three other students achieved US citizenship, three students obtained better paying jobs, and five students were able to navigate the American school system better and therefore further participate in their children's educations.

Through programs such as those available at the Lewis & Clark Literacy Council, with support from ProLiteracy and the NBF, it is possible to make Francelli's success story a reality for all students.

Support ProLiteracy on #GivingTuesday, December 2, 2014.

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Comics by Ali Shapiro

Ali Shapiro: Workshopping My Dog

Ali Shapiro: I don't get that Mark Strand joke