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Winning Writers Newsletter - December 2023

View Free Contests

We found nearly five dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between December 15-January 31. In this issue, please enjoy "The Darkling Thrush" by Thomas Hardy, illustrated 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. Deadline: April 1.

$10,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $3,500 each. $22 entry fee. Deadline: May 1.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 135,000 followers on Twitter and 46,000 followers on Facebook. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

Featured Sponsor: Oprelle Publications
Deadline Today! "Coming Home" Poetry Contest

Oprelle Coming Home Poetry Contest

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Jessica PegisJeanne Blum Lesinski (featured poem: "Wild Must Be Wild"), LindaAnn LoSchiavoHelen Bar-Lev (featured poem: "Spirit Captive"), Cheryl J. FishShobana GomesBeth Ann FennellyNoah BerlatskyLaurel BlossomAlec SolomitaTamara Kaye Sellman, and Duane L. Herrmann.

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: Free Publicity Opportunity for Authors at All Stages

Free Publicity Offer from Atmosphere Press

Do you need more exposure for your writing, your book, or for yourself as a writer? Here's a great opportunity to snag some free publicity!

Atmosphere Press is offering 20 FREE interviews to writers, including those just starting or with unpublished manuscripts.

The interviews are conducted over email, and will be posted on their website, which receives more than ten thousand visitors per month. Deadline for consideration is December 20th!

Apply in 30 seconds right now to be considered!

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

WILDER Prize from Two Sylvias Press

Deadline: December 31

Attention Women Poets:

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. 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: Write & Publish More Poems in 2024!

Two Sylvias Weekly Muse

Ready to make 2024 your most creatively fulfilling year yet? Two Sylvias Press presents The Weekly Muse to ensure it happens!

The Weekly Muse is a resource that arrives in your inbox every Sunday, so you can start off each week inspired and ready to write!

     What does each issue of the Weekly Muse include?

     • Fresh poetry prompts to spark your imagination
     • Insightful craft tips to refine your skills
     • Curated list of opportunities to help get your poems and manuscripts published
     • Your questions on writing, submitting, and publishing—answered by our editors
     • Exclusive interviews with celebrated poets
     • Journaling questions to deepen your writing
     • Plus—you can join a vibrant private online community of poets and editors
     • And now enjoy access to Zoom poetry classes, workshops, and salons
        at NO extra charge! (Next up, Pulitzer Prize winner Diane Seuss)

Don't just dream about writing more—make it a reality. The Weekly Muse is tailored for poets at all stages, from beginners to published authors.

It's never been easier to stay inspired and connected in the poetry world. And all of this for less than $20 a month (pay yearly to save even more)!

The Weekly Muse is risk-free. Commitment worries? Sign up for a month and if it's not your thing—one click and you're out. Easy. No strings attached.

Let's make 2024 a year to remember. Become a paid subscriber and start your journey towards a year filled with poetry, growth, and connection.

Testimonials from Weekly Muse Subscribers

"The Weekly Muse has become an integral part of my writing routine. I can't emphasize enough the benefits of committing for the year. The consistent support, resources, and community have been invaluable. If you really care about your poetry, get the yearly subscription."
—Fatima Z., Poet and Weekly Muse Subscriber

"I've spent more on a bottle of wine that didn't last the night than I did on a month of The Weekly Muse. And guess which one enriched my life more? This isn't just another subscription—it's a true investment in my poetry life. Wish I'd discovered it sooner!"
—Tyler M., Regretful Sommelier and Thrilled Muse Subscriber

"Switching from a monthly to a yearly subscription was a no-brainer after attending the Zoom event with Maggie Smith. That single experience was worth the annual fee alone. Everything else I receive now just feels like an added bonus!"
—Riley M., Poet, Educator, and Muse Subscriber

Ad: Closing Next Month! DISQUIET Literary Prize

Deadline: January 5, 2024

It's last call 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: Call for Manuscripts! Colorado Prize for Poetry

The 2024 Colorado Prize for Poetry

  • Prize: $2,500 honorarium and publication
  • Reading fee: $28 (includes a one-year subscription to Colorado Review)
  • Submit: 48 to 100-page poetry manuscript

The Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University is seeking submissions to the Colorado Prize for Poetry until January 14th, allowing for a five-day grace period. Authors do not need to reside in Colorado or the United States. Our final judge will be Brenda Shaughnessy.

The Colorado Prize for Poetry is an international poetry book manuscript contest established in 1995. The winning book will be published by the Center for Literary Publishing and distributed by the University Press of Colorado in the fall of 2024. To find out what sort of work we publish, please take a look at some of our previous winners.

Manuscripts may consist of poems that have been published, but the manuscript as a whole must be unpublished. Please do not submit self-published books.

We have a limited number of fee waivers available for writers experiencing financial hardship. Email directly to request one of these waivers.

Find out more on our website and submit online via Submittable.

Ad: Ploughshares Call for Submissions—Final Month!

Ploughshares: One Month Left

There's only one month left to submit to Ploughshares!

Submissions are open until January 15, 2024, so send in your fiction, nonfiction, or poetry today!

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: Closing Next Month! 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 2021 winner Gil Arzola. It's the title poem to his chapbook, published by Rattle in 2021.

The Death of a Migrant Worker

My father died in the bathtub, his head
banging against the stainless-steel handles.
The blood from his head—useless now—poured out,
slow as thick soup.

               It was no concern of his.
               His life had ended before any of that.

The blood, he didn't need anymore, was the only thing moving; the rest of him—
               arms that had worked a thousand fields,
               held his babies and hauled buckets of coal for the stove.
               His hands calloused, that had tried to mend unfixable things,
               and one leg crooked from a break
               that never healed right ...
                               all of it motionless now.
               Dead before he hit anything.

My father died in mid-air like a bird
shot out of the sky, like a hawk circling then
disappearing beyond a horizon, falling—
somewhere out of my reach.

Ad: Closing Next Month! 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: On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

On The Premises Short Story Contest

Deadline: Friday, March 1, 2024, 11:59pm Eastern US Time

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 the contest is "VEHICLE".

For this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story of 1,000 to 5,000 words in which some kind of vehicle plays an important role. Merely using the vehicle as a simple plot device or to help characters get somewhere is not enough. For instance, "While flying home I made a bunch of new friends on the flight" isn't good enough, because the same story—making new friends—could easily be told without the plane.

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), and we do not accept fan fiction for the same reason. 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.

Ad: Jendi Reiter's Story Collection—An Unbeatable $1.99 Gift

An Incomplete List of My Wishes

Winner of the Sunshot Book Prize from New Millennium Writings, An Incomplete List of My Wishes is Jendi Reiter's debut story collection. These stories, first published in journals such as New Letters and the Iowa Review, explore 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.

"This is a book you'll not be able to put down," says 5-star Amazon reviewer Carol Smallwood. Reviewer R.T. Castleberry says, "Whether juggling the multiple points of view in 'The House of Correction', the introspective airplane flight to a funeral—and an execution—in the title story, or the wonderfully surreal fairy tale of 'Memories of the Snow Queen', Reiter shows tremendous skill and imagination."

Just $1.99 on Amazon Kindle.

Read "Memories of the Snow Queen" at Grimoire.

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
Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest. The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity will award US college students (juniors and seniors) $10,000 and other large prizes for essays about ethical issues and the place of ethics in human life. Entries should be 3,000-4,000 words. Must be received by December 29.

Intermediate Writers
Lucille Medwick Memorial Award. The Poetry Society of America will award $500 for a prose poem. Entry is free for members, $10 for nonmembers. We recommend joining the Society ($35/year for students, $55 for others). Must be received by December 31.

Advanced Writers
International Booker Prize. The Booker Prize Foundation will award 25,000 pounds each for author and translator of an English translation of a novel or collection of short stories published in the UK or Ireland by an established UK/Ireland imprint (self-published work is not eligible). Author and translator need not be UK/Ireland citizens or residents. E-books and self-translated works are welcome. Books slated for publication between December 1, 2023 and April 30, 2024 must be received by January 12, 2024.

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.

Fifth Wheel Press: "Secrets in the Garden" Anthology
(poetry and short prose about nature by LGBTQ writers - December 31)

Room Magazine: "Bodies" Issue
(poetry, fiction, essays by writers of marginalized genders - January 5)

Rattle: "Ghazal" Issue
(poems in the ghazal form - January 15)

Broken Sleep Books: Kaiju Anthology
(poetry, fiction, essays inspired by Godzilla and related monsters - January 31)

Bennington Review
(poetry, fiction, essays - March 8)

Award-Winning Poems

This month, editor Jendi Reiter highlights poems from around the web that have won recent prizes.

by Katie Berta
Winner of the 2024 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize
Entries must be received by December 31
This prestigious award from Ohio University Press gives $1,000 and publication for a full-length poetry collection. Berta's retribution forthcoming was the most recent winner. This theological prose-poem, by turns oracular and colloquial, faults the binary of dominance and submission for its lack of imagination, while acknowledging how easy it is to fall into these habitual stances.

by Trey Moody
Winner of the 2023 Robert H. Winner Memorial Award
Entries must be received by December 31
This long-running award from the Poetry Society of America gives $1,000 and web publication for a poem by an author over 40 who has published no more than one book. Moody's stream-of-consciousness poem alludes to other famous poems' images with a knowing wink, highlighting the difficulty of experiencing the present moment without an overlay of interpretation.

by Gale Marie Thompson
Winner of the 2023 Colorado Prize for Poetry
Postmark Deadline: January 14
This competitive prize for a poetry manuscript awards $2,500 and publication by the Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University. Thompson's Mountain Amnesia was the most recent winner. This fragmented poem repeatedly returns to, then looks away from, media images of violence that are so common as to have their own clichés associated with them.

by Giovannai Rosa
Winner of the 2022 Ploughshares Emerging Writer's Contest
Entries must be received by May 22 (don't enter before March 1)
Ploughshares, the prestigious literary journal of Emerson College, gives prizes of $2,000 and literary agent review for poetry, fiction, and essays by authors who have not published or self-published a book. Rosa's winning poem, selected by Chen Chen, depicts sugar cravings as both the source of colonialist trauma and the way that their Puerto Rican family soothes that trauma.

Read more award-winning work going back to 2005.

"The Darkling Thrush" by Thomas Hardy, 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 "The Darkling Thrush" from the book.
The Darkling Thrush
The Darkling Thrush
The Darkling Thrush
The Darkling Thrush
The Darkling Thrush
The Darkling Thrush

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

Israel-Palestine: Further Thoughts, Links, and a Prayer
It's agonizing to imagine the sexual violence and other atrocities Hamas committed against the October 7 hostages. It equally pains me to read the Twitter reports about innocent Palestinian writers, journalists, and doctors who have recently died in Israel's punitive bombing of Gaza. The current iteration of Zionism doesn't make me feel safer as a person of Jewish background. The most hard-line government in my adult lifetime doesn't seem to be keeping Israelis safe either.

[read more]

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