The best free literary contests with deadlines through August 31 |

Winning Writers - best resources for poets and writers

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Welcome to Our July Newsletter

John Reid

In Memoriam
With sadness we note the passing of John Reid at age 81. He founded the Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest and the Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest. He was always generous, often prompting us to award more prizes in a contest than originally promised. We are proud to carry on his tradition of helping writers at every level.

This month, we found over 30 excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between July 15-August 31.

View Free Contests

In this issue: An excerpt from "Birches" by Robert Frost, illustrated by Julian Peters.
Coming next month: We'll announce the winners of our Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest.

Want to view past newsletters? Go to Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 106,000 followers on Twitter at @WinningWriters.

Featured Sponsor: The 2018 Independent Authors Conference

The 2018 Independent Authors Conference

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

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Congratulations to  Mallory M. O'Connor, Diane G. Martin, Jeff Walt, Barbara de la Cuesta (featured poem: "The Shadow Gross National Product"), Joan Gelfand, Carolyn Howard-Johnson (featured poem: "It's In the Knowing"), Gary Beck, Emily Rose ColeJanet Garber, Lisa Ciarfella, R. Bremner, Laurel Blossom, and Ellaraine Lockie.

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

Have news? Please email it to

A supportive and inspiring 4-Week Online Poetry Retreat created by poets for poets

Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Retreat

WHAT YOU NEED: Access to email and a desire to write new poems.

WHAT WE PROVIDE: Poem prompts, sample poems, a Two Sylvias Press publication, a PDF of Fire On Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women's Poetry (a 377-page resource of some of the best poets writing today), as well as reflection questions/activities to guide and inspire. All prompts, writing exercises, and inspiration sent daily or weekly to your email (your choice!)

AND new this year—at the end of the retreat, an award-winning poet will critique one of your poems and offer ideas on where to submit them! (Choose from Diane Seuss, January Gill O'Neil, Susan Rich, Jennifer K. Sweeney, and Jennifer Jean!)

Praise for Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Retreat
"The Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Retreat was an absolute delight. Two Sylvias Press provided fresh, engaging prompts accompanied by captivating sample poems. In addition, they kept a steady stream of encouragement going for the duration of the retreat, which helped me move confidently into my manuscript feeling supported, connected, and valued. Their end-of-retreat critiques were insightful, specific, and thought-provoking. I highly recommend this workshop to anyone looking to approach writing with greater depth and joy."
     —Catherine K.

New from Joan Gelfand: The 4 C's Approach of Successful Authors – Craft, Commitment, Community, and Confidence

You Can Be a Winning Writer

Writing strategies book filled with authorship and publishing tips: With a splash of humor, a dose of empathy and a volume of support, mastering the 4 C's includes real life anecdotes from famous and not so famous ─ but successful authors. You Can Be A Winning Writer is the go-to book for writers just starting out, for writers stalled after their first or second book, and for students. The 4 C's wisdom and stories will inspire and encourage.

You Can Be A Winning Writer includes:

  • Post-publication strategies
  • The mistakes that even the most talented prize-winning authors have made
  • How, with the help of the 4 C's, those same authors could have enjoyed greater success
  • What it means to "fire on all burners" and work to develop each of the 4 C's simultaneously

Maybe you've read Stephen King's On Writing, Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, or William Zinsser's On Writing Well ─ Now you need to read You Can Be A Winning Writer. Learn more and buy it now from Amazon.

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays for "Let's Talk About Sex" Issue

Deadline: July 16

For the spring 2019 issue of Creative Nonfiction magazine, we're looking for true stories about doing it. Whether you're straight, gay, or other; alone, in a couple, or in a crowd; doing it for the first time or the last, or not doing it at all, we want to hear your story.

As always, we're interested in stories that are more than mere anecdotes, and we love work that incorporates an element of research and/or makes a connection to a larger story or theme. We welcome personal stories as well as profiles, and above all, we are looking for narratives—true stories, rich with scene, character, detail, and a distinctive voice—that offer a fresh interpretation or unique insight into the theme.

Please note: for this issue, we are interested primarily (and perhaps even exclusively) in stories of consensual and/or victimless sex. Also note, we are not seeking erotica. No photos, please.

Creative Nonfiction editors will award $1,000 for Best Essay and $500 for runner-up. All essays will be considered for publication.

See our complete guidelines.

Creative Nonfiction

$10,000 Rattle Poetry Prize

Deadline extended to July 16

The annual Rattle Poetry Prize is once again offering $10,000 for a single poem to be published in the winter issue of the magazine. Ten finalists will also receive $200 each and publication, and be eligible for the $2,000 Readers' Choice Award, to be selected by subscriber and entrant vote.

With the winners judged in a blind review by the editors to ensure a fair and consistent selection, an entry fee that is simply a one-year subscription to the magazine—and a runner-up Readers' Choice Award to be chosen by the writers themselves—the Rattle Poetry Prize aims to be one of the most writer-friendly and popular poetry contests around.

We accept entries online and by mail. See Rattle's website for the complete guidelines and to read all of the past winners.

Enjoy "Heard" by Rayon Lennon, winner of the 2017 Rattle Poetry Prize:


I am still
Alive so
I move out
Of my doc's
Cave-like office
And let the sun
Sip tears
From my
Pooling eyes.
I learned
I am
But all this
Pain is nothing
If death will
Erase it.
I am still
Alive so I
Buy Jamaican
Food at
A Jamaican
And savor
The muddy
Sauce …
[poem continues]

Tupelo Press July Open Submission Period

Tupelo Press July Open Submission Period

Submission period: July 1-July 31 (postmark or online-submission date)

Throughout the month of July, Tupelo Press is holding open submissions for book-length poetry collections (48-90 pages) and chapbook-length poetry collections (28-47 pages).

Submissions are accepted from anyone writing in the English language (whether in the United States or abroad). A reading fee of $30 (U.S.) must accompany each submission. Include a cover page with the title of your manuscript, your name, address, phone number and email address.

Our online submission manager, Submittable, will be accepting poetry manuscripts between July 1 and July 31, 2018. We also accept manuscripts via postal mail. Your manuscript must be postmarked between July 1 and July 31, 2018 and sent to:

Tupelo Press July Open Reading
PO Box 1767
North Adams, MA 01247

If you are submitting a paper manuscript, include two cover pages: one with the title of the manuscript only, the other with title of manuscript, name, address, telephone number, and email address. Cover letters or biography notes are optional. Include a self-addressed stamped postcard to confirm receipt of your manuscript, and a self-addressed stamped envelope if you'd like notification of July Open Reading Period results. An email announcement will also be sent to all entrants.

Read the complete guidelines before submitting your manuscript.

Please enjoy this selection by Lise Goett, who first came to Tupelo Press through the July Open Reading Period with her winning collection, Leprosarium (Tupelo Press 2018). For more information about Leprosarium, and our canon of 100+ books, please visit our website.

by Lise Goett

If you come to this cold bowl with ladle in the moonlight
and wish to strip the old self away, on a raw, clear night,

some time go out alone, toward the end of the year,
on a solitary road, limned by igneous fires, lit micas

of snow, until you reach a pasture of cattle lowing
beneath a rocky brink on a plain of continuous light;

and listen to the primordial moan
of creatures, sturdy heads hunkered,

that seek comfort in the cold and, not finding it, wander.
Then if you are ready to be broken by a heaven that glisters

like lodestone, make a poultice of this cold starlight
that siphons the heat out of being

and rarifies it, renders it crystalline.
Let heaven anneal your heart and leave it stronger.

Tempered by suffering, if touched,
all that once inflamed you will shatter.

The Barthelme Prize for Short Prose

New deadline: August 15

The Barthelme Prize for Short Prose is open to pieces of prose poetry, flash fiction, and micro-essays of 500 words or fewer. Established in 2008, the contest awards its winner $1,000 and publication in the journal. Two honorable mentions will receive $250, and all entries will be considered for publication. Laura van den Berg is this year's final judge.

All entrants to the Barthelme Prize receive a one-year subscription to Gulf Coast, beginning with the year in which the corresponding prize winner is published. Click here for full guidelines and to submit online.

The Barthelme Prize for Short Prose

The 2018 Grayson Books Poetry Prize for a poetry manuscript is accepting submissions

Grayson Books

Deadline: August 15

This is open to all poets writing in English. Electronic submissions only. Use Submittable to submit your 50-80 page manuscript electronically.

The winner will be awarded a $1,000 prize, publication, and 10 copies. The reading fee is $25.

Please do not put contact information on the manuscript.
Simultaneous submissions are acceptable if we are notified immediately about an acceptance elsewhere. Acknowledgments may be included with your submission, but are not required.

Patrick Donnelly is this year's judge. He is the author of four books of poetry and the director of the Poetry Seminar at The Frost Place in Franconia, NH.

Please enjoy this poem by Sharron Singleton from her 2017 winning manuscript, Our Hands a Hollow Bowl.

Dostoyevsky and the Buddha

          The World Will Be Saved by Beauty

          I was born into the world…for the salvation of the world

Perhaps we'll be saved
by the beauty
in what is lacking
as emptiness
makes of our hands
a hollow bowl

or by the beauty
of the unsaid—
the note blown across
the mouth
of the empty bottle

by what is reduced
and waiting—
broth boiled down
to its hoard of gold

by all that is about
to be—

and suspended from the tap,
the drop
that swells with light
before it falls.

On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

On The Premises

The premise of OTP's short story contest #32 is "Near Death Experience". For this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which one or more characters almost die, but do not. (Other characters in the story can die, but not the one(s) the story focuses on.)

DEADLINE: 11:59 PM Eastern Time, Friday, August 31, 2018

One entry per author. There is no fee for entering this contest. Winners receive between US$60 and US$220, and publication.

GENRE RULES: No children's fiction, no exploitative sex, no over-the-top grossout horror, and no stories that are obvious parodies of well-known fictional worlds/characters created by other authors.

Click for details and instructions on submitting your story.

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,, and other short story marketing resources.

The 2018 Gulf Coast Prize in Translation

New deadline: September 15

Gulf Coast is now accepting entries for the Gulf Coast Prize in Translation. In 2018, the contest is open to poetry in translation. The winner receives $1,000 and publication in the journal. Two honorable mentions will each receive $250. All entries will be considered for publication in print or online. Ilya Kaminsky is this year's judge.

Submit up to 10 pages of poetry translated into English and a copy of the original text. Excerpts from longer works are welcome.

Entry to the contest also includes a one-year subscription to Gulf Coast, beginning with the issue in which the corresponding prize winners are published. Click here for full guidelines and to submit online.

The Gulf Coast Prize in Translation

Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

In addition to cash prizes and online publication, this year's top Tom Howard and Margaret Reid prizewinners will also receive one-year gift certificates from our new co-sponsor, Duotrope (a $50 value).

Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays for "Games" Issue

Deadline: November 19

Creative Nonfiction, in partnership with the Center for Games & Impact at Arizona State University, is looking for new work about the role of games and play in our everyday lives. For this special issue, we're seeking true stories that explore the ways our society integrates games, and especially games whose impact transcends entertainment and changes us in ways outside of the gaming context.

We're looking for stories that illuminate the great variety of ways in which games have affected the lives of diverse individuals and communities—offering opportunities to fail forward within a safe context, play with possible selves and futures, collaborate with people from different backgrounds, develop professional or other skills, become protagonists in simulated worlds, or collaborate with others on solutions to real-world problems.

Above all, we are looking for vivid narratives—illuminative stories, rich with scene, character, detail, and a distinctive voice—that offer unique insights into the subject. We want evocative narratives that allow readers to step into ideas, and stories should be grounded in factual occurrences and true events. All essays submitted will be considered for publication; this is a paying market.

See our complete guidelines.

Creative Nonfiction

Daughter of Destiny by Nicole Evelina

Daughter of Destiny

Winner of the 2017 North Street Book Prize

"A new twist on an old tale that gives agency, sympathy, and personality to a woman typically cast as a one-dimensional adulteress. Classic characters find their way into Guinevere's orbit in unexpected ways, keeping the novel both familiar and fresh." —Library Journal

"Evelina's re-imaginings of this familiar material is unfailingly energetic and innovative, and her version of Guinevere herself is captivating virtually from the first page—no small feat in an overall plot with such well-defined parameters. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to its sequel." —Historical Novel Society

"This first offering by Evelina is rich and stunning, easily comparable to novels by other bestselling historical fiction authors. She has done her research and created a world that is compelling, historically accurate, and a realistic portrayal of the times balanced with the mystic and the magical." —Chanticleer Book Reviews

"Written in lyrical prose and deposits you right in the middle of medieval times. The writing is fast paced, historically correct for the era, and a page turner. I sympathized with the character whom fictional history buffs branded a lustful harlot...Great twist at the end. Evelina's 15 years of research are a powerful addition to a fantastic read. Can't wait for Book Two. Prepare to embrace Guinevere. I feel privileged to have read this outstanding novel by a great writer." —Sandra Masters, Readers' Favorite (5-star review)

"Wonderfully gripping. A stunning first novel." —The Wishing Shelf Book Awards

Read an excerpt and buy now at Amazon.

Two Natures by Jendi Reiter: "So Much Beauty Here"

Two Natures by Jendi Reiter

Set in New York City in the early 1990s, Jendi Reiter's debut novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press) is the coming-of-age story of Julian Selkirk, a fashion photographer who struggles to reconcile his Southern Baptist upbringing with his love for other men.

  • 2016 Rainbow Awards: First Prize, Best Gay Contemporary Fiction; First Runner-Up, Debut Gay Book
  • Named one of QSpirit's Top LGBTQ Christian Books of 2016
  • 2016 Lascaux Prize in Fiction Finalist
  • 2017 National Indie Excellence Award Finalist
  • 2017 Book Excellence Awards Finalist
  • 2018 EPIC eBook Awards Finalist

"Painfully honest but worth it. There's so much beauty here—in the author's use of language certainly. And in the pursuit of non-dualism, in various levels of the story, creating complex characters that are so very human and contradictory, hypocritical. Extending the reference to Christ's two natures and how very not human it is to be split..."
Amazon 5-star review by Leah E.

Buy Two Natures on Amazon

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
Diverse Writers/Diverse Worlds Grants. Two grants of $500 apiece for book-length speculative fiction rich in diversity. Diverse Writers is for "underrepresented and underprivileged groups...whose marginalized identities may present additional obstacles in the writing/publishing process"; Diverse Worlds is for "work that best presents a diverse world, regardless of the writer's background". Submit an excerpt of 5,000 words or fewer from an in-progress manuscript. Due July 31.

Intermediate Writers
PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship. Fellowship of $5,000 for an author of children's or young adult fiction. An eligible candidate is a writer of children's or YA fiction in financial need; candidates have published at least one novel for children or young adults which has been warmly received by literary critics, but has not generated sufficient income to support the author. The writer's book(s) must have been published by a US publisher. Due August 15.

Advanced Writers
Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing. Awards C$25,000 for literary nonfiction books about Canadian politics by Canadian citizens or permanent residents and first published in Canada during the calendar year. Books published between June 20 and September 18 must be received by September 19.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

PSA: If you want to help children


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"Birches" by Robert Frost, illustrated by Julian Peters

Here is Julian Peters' comics adaptation of a section of "Birches" by Robert Frost (written in 1913-14). This comic was commissioned by and originally appeared in Plough Quarterly. Read the complete poem.

Birches, illustrated by Julian Peters

Birches, illustrated by Julian Peters

Birches, illustrated by Julian Peters

Birches, illustrated by Julian Peters

Birches, illustrated by Julian Peters

Birches, illustrated by Julian Peters

Reprinted by kind permission of Julian Peters. Learn more at his website.

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

July Bonus Links: Open Borders Edition
[S]trategies we can try at the local level...[include] pressuring our law enforcement agencies to stop sharing data with ICE and to end agreements whereby ICE rents space to detain immigrants in our jails...If you're in Massachusetts, call your state representatives and Governor Charlie Baker to pass the Safe Communities Act, which cleared the Senate in May. Also see this article from Colorlines about "How You Can Support Detained Immigrant Families". From protesting to donating to making phone calls, there's something for nearly everyone to do. I'm hosting a birthday fundraiser through Facebook for the National Immigration Law Center.

[read more]

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

One of the 101 Best Websites for Writers (Writer's Digest)