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Winning Writers Newsletter - February 2024

View Free Contests

We found over four dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between February 15-March 31. In this issue, please enjoy "The Great Imperial Cuckoo Clock", a vidiette by Jim Avis based on "Fifty-Two Views of an Imaginary City" by Julian Peters.

The Evil Inclination by Daniel Victor

We are thrilled to announce the results from our ninth annual North Street Book Prize for self-published and hybrid-published books. We read 1,862 entries in eight categories!

Daniel Victor of New York, New York won this year's Grand Prize across all genres for his literary novel, The Evil Inclination, a tragic comedy about an Orthodox Jewish man and an Italian Catholic woman who fall in love as students at Brooklyn College. Fearing that both families would be horrified, the lovers carry on an affair whose secrecy intensifies their lust but strains their relationship. In an ironic twist, she feels drawn to explore Jewish observance while he is losing faith in it. Mr. Victor received $10,000, a marketing analysis and one-hour phone consultation with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, a $300 credit at BookBaby, three months of Plus service (a $207 value) and a $500 account credit from Book Award Pro, and 3 free ads in the Winning Writers newsletter (a $525 value).

We further congratulate our category winners Michael Bracey and Ruth Goring (art book), Steve Wolfson (children's picture book), Karen Glinski (middle grade), Dmitri Jackson (graphic novel & memoir), Irene Cooper (genre fiction), Lucy May Lennox (mainstream/literary fiction), Mark S. Robinson (creative nonfiction & memoir), and Geof Hewitt (poetry). Mr. Jackson won our graphic novel category in 2019 for a different book. He is the first participant in this contest to win First Prizes in two different years.

Russel Ray, Phyllis Schwartz, Sally Hinkley, Ned Gannon, Lee Call, J.H. Mann, Anne Calcagno, Lin Haire-Sargeant, Sarah Birnbach, and Rick Lupert earned Honorable Mentions. We awarded extra Honorable Mentions in the categories of mainstream/literary fiction and genre fiction.

Final judges Jendi Reiter and Ellen LaFleche were assisted by Annie Mydla, Sarah Halper, and Briana Grogan. We would also like to recognize the meticulous work of Annie's staff in Poland to prepare entries for judging and resolve problems. Read excerpts from all the winning entries and the judges' remarks. Read the press release.

$21,000 was awarded in all, making this one of the world's most generous contests for self-published and hybrid-published books. Our new competition opens today, with a deadline of July 1. This year, we will provide feedback from the judges for every contestant who submits online via Submittable. We also welcome new co-sponsor Laura Duffy Design. The entry fee is $79. ENTER HERE.

Also 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 50,000 followers on Facebook. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

Featured Sponsor
Fish Publishing Flash Fiction Prize—Last Call!

Deadline: February 28
Writers from all nations eligible
Top ten stories will be published in the FISH ANTHOLOGY 2024

Michelle Elvy

  • 1st prize: €1,000 ($1,000)
  • 2nd prize: Online Writing Course + €300 ($300)
  • 3rd prize: €300 ($300)

Judge: Michelle Elvy
Submit unpublished stories up to 300 words (excluding title)
Results: April 10
Anthology Published: July
Entry Fees: €14 ($14) for first entry, €9 ($9) each additional

See the complete rules and submit.

Please enjoy Susan Wigmore's winning entry from last year...

First Steps in Probability

We're kicking fag packets down the alley behind Tanners Lane and I let you win because I want to tell you I love you, there in the scrubby weeds and litter and dog-piss stink of it, and I do. Love you, Chrissy O'Connor. I love you.

You lean in as if to hug me but instead do that daft tripping thing your dad does and run off laughing. I brush grit from my knees. Your hair is so dark it shines blue like a magpie's wing. Prove it, you say, when I catch up, your hand already on the Merry Widow's gate. You push it open. Strung across the yard is a washing line with its straggle of clothes.

A pair of knickers, you say. I dare you.

We know she's home. We can hear her singing.

There's ivy on the fence, huge shovel leaves, veins yellow and fine, there's a tartan peg-bag and tights the colour of toffee, and look, there's my hand snatching the Widow's knickers. See the pegs fly! See my pumping heart flow in my veins, Chrissy O'Connor!

You're by the bin at the town end of the alley where your dad meets his girlfriends. The knickers are saggy and grey. I'll push them through old Harry's letterbox, I say. That'll set tongues wagging.

Silly cow, you say, and run across the road.

We do star-jumps at each other, cars jammed between us, and you hug me when I reach you, my mouth deep in your magpie hair. The thought of kissing you makes me gasp. Your bag slips from your shoulder and you push us both away. In your hand, the Widow's knickers filched from my pocket. I watch as you chuck them in a skip. Your slow smile. The thrill of it all –

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to D.F. WhibleyJulie Novak-McSweeney (featured poem: "Passeridae"), B. Lynn GoodwinMaurya KerrGifford MacShanePatricia Olson (featured poem: "Girl with a Pearl Earring"), Celia Chandler, J BrookeRuth Sabath RosenthalBracha Nechama Bomze, Koss, and Naila Moreira.

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: 🏖️ Is this the world's BEST writing residency?

The Playa Flamingo Writing Residency in Costa Rica

Hello, Writer!

Have you been looking for the right inspiration to supercharge your writing project? Look no further than The Playa Flamingo Writing Residency, which just may be the world's best getaway for writers to hone their craft in a beautiful environment!

Atmosphere Press is sponsoring 2 FREE 5-day residencies to writers. Are you...

  • A writer currently working on a project?
  • An author who is putting finishing touches on a manuscript?
  • A human being who likes beaches, parrot sounds, and adventure?

Then this is a good opportunity for you. 100% free to apply, and with lodging covered, you and Atmosphere will work to find a 5-day stretch this summer in which you can stay at a beautiful condo only 114 steps from a beach. Deadline for consideration is February 29th!

Because this offer is limited—2 only, and this ad alone is going out to thousands of writers—apply in <2 minutes right now to be considered!

Apply now for your writing vacation

Ad: Black on Madison Avenue—Winner of the 2023 North Street Book Prize for Memoir

Black on Madison Avenue

Ad: Only's What's Imagined, poems by Geof Hewitt

Only What's Imagined

Winner of the 2023 North Street Book Prize in Poetry (read the judges' remarks)

"…natural observation and metaphysical awareness in vivacious, trenchant, witty poems. No whispering or mumblingHewitt is far too confident of his own imagination to suppress it, and justly so." —from the introduction by Hayden Carruth

Cobwebs! Don't make me think of them.
Let me picture a spider's more symmetrical effort,
not the chaotic gathering of dust
in strands that hang from ceilings.
Let me think of spider webs,
the organization of desire,
a spider's fractal-like construction to ward off starvation,
a sticky, silver trampoline with "plenty of space to fly through,
just avoid the center!" claims the stupid moth
that fouls the whole web and isn't
anything the spider wants,
just a dusty pair of wings, fluttered to a mealy core,
the cobweb of the animal world.
Not to speak of the damaged web to rebuild…

—from "Delicate" (p. 68)

Only What's Imagined is Hewitt's third collection, Uniquely Guaranteed! No like? Say why, return book, receive full refund. To order, please mail $15 (postage included) cash or check to Geof Hewitt, P.O. Box 51, Calais, VT 05648.

"Hewitt is the poetry slam master of Vermont, and this book is a gem."
—Sam Kolber, 5-star review on Amazon

Ad: Last Call! Rigel 2024: $500 for Short Story, Novel, Novella, Artwork, Graphic Novel, or Poem

Sunspot Lit

Deadline: February 29

Authors & Artists Eligible

Rigel is the brightest star in the Orion constellation. Sunspot Lit is looking for the single short story, novel, novella, artwork, graphic novel, or poem that outshines all the rest. Literary or genre works accepted; the only requirement is quality.

Rigel offers $500 plus publication to the winner, and offers publication to select finalists. No restrictions on theme or category. The length for prose is restricted to a maximum of 1,500 words for short stories, 14 lines for poetry, and 6 pages for graphic novels/comics/scripts/screenplays. Note that excerpts from longer works are accepted if they stand alone. An excerpt selected as the winner or as a finalist will be offered publication only for the submitted sample.

Titles do not count toward the limit for any prose piece. Epigraphs are included in the word count for works of prose. Artwork should consist of a single piece.

  • Entry fee: $12.50
  • Prize: $500 cash and publication for the winner; publication offered to runners-up and finalists.

Sunspot asks for first rights only; all rights revert to the contributor after publication. Works, along with the creators' bylines, are published in the next quarterly digital edition an average of two months after contest completion, as well as in the annual print edition.

Works should be unpublished except on a personal blog or website. Artists offered publication may display their pieces in galleries, festivals or shows throughout the publication contract period.

Enter as many times as you like, but only one piece per submission. Simultaneous submissions are accepted, but please withdraw your piece if it is published elsewhere before the winner is selected.

Enter through Sunspot's Submittable form or through Duosuma.

Ad: Last Call! Gutsy Great Novelist Chapter One Prize

Chapter One Prize

Deadline: March 1

The Gutsy Great Novelist Chapter One Prize is open internationally to writers over 18 who are working on an as-yet-unpublished novel (fiction only). The prize has been established to support and celebrate novelists and aims to find the best opening chapter of a novel-in-progress written in the English language.

On Friday, March 29, 2024, the three prize winners ($1,000, $500, $250) and honorable mentions will be announced on our website and via social media, and all entrants will be contacted via email about the results. The chapters by the winners and honorable mentions will be published online.

Learn more and submit online via Submittable.

Ad: Enjoy the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop from the Comfort of Home

Erma Home Schooling

The annual Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop is the only workshop in the country devoted to humor and human interest writing. But what if you can't journey in person to Dayton during April 4-6? Erma Home Schooling is for you!

Enjoy our popular keynote talks, including the opening night kick-off with Anna Quindlen, and learn from renowned faculty who will offer four exclusive workshops to uplift your writing life.

We’ll focus on craft, publishing and marketing—all the skills (and motivation) you need to take your writing to the next level and find an audience for your work. In our virtual classroom, you’ll hone your creativity, build valuable skills—and discover a wonderfully supportive online writing community.

Check out the remarkable program and register by March 8 to lock in the early-bird rate of $199. The fee is $225 after March 8.

Come in your PJs or yoga pants. Bring your sense of humor. (And if you have to pop out to take your kid to a Little League game or catch that last exciting quarter of the basketball championships, you can watch any of the recordings later.) All registrants will have unlimited access to the recordings for at least a year.

The Erma Home Schooling package includes:

  • Access to five keynotes live-streamed from the in-person Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop being held in Dayton, Ohio, April 4-6, 2024.
  • Access to four online workshops exclusive to this virtual package and not offered to in-person workshop attendees.

Learn more and register here.

Ad: Tennessee Williams Museum Short Story & Poetry Contests—Closing Next Month!

Tennessee Williams Museum in Key West sponsors a short story and poetry contest

Deadline: March 10

In commemorating Tennessee Williams’s 113th Birthday, the Tennessee Williams Museum in Key West is convening short story and poetry contests.

Williams traveled across the United States and Europe, but was most successful in his career and happy personally while living and writing in Key West. During his time on the island, he wrote many of his notable works including A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

There is no specific theme for the 2024 writing contests, however, submissions must in some way reference Tennessee Williams. Poets and authors may choose to reference Williams, his family, one of his characters, or one of the actors/actresses who played a role in his plays or films. The cost is $10 per submission and is limited to one poem and/or one short story per person. The first-place winner in each contest will be awarded $300 while the second-place winners will receive $150.

The winners will be announced on March 26, 2024 at a special Birthday Party at the Tennessee Williams Museum and published online on the Tennessee Williams Key West Festival website.

Learn more and submit.

Ad: The 4th Annual Perkoff Prize sponsored by The Missouri Review

The Perkoff Prize

Deadline: March 15

The Perkoff Prize is a tri-genre contest that awards $1,000 and publication each to writers of the best story, set of poems, and essay that engage in evocative ways with health and medicine as judged by the editors.


  • All submissions must engage with health and medicine in some way.
  • All submissions must be previously unpublished.
  • Poetry: up to 10 pages of poetry.
  • Fiction and Nonfiction: up to 8,500 words, double-spaced.
  • Winners will be published in print issue of TMR.
  • Check out the prizewinners and finalists from last year's contest here. Winners will be announced in late 2024.
  • All entries will be considered for publication (whether in print, or as part of our Poem of the Week or Blast features).
  • Multiple submissions and simultaneous submissions are welcome, but you must pay a separate fee for each entry and withdraw the piece immediately if accepted elsewhere.
  • Standard Entry fee: $15. Each entrant receives a one-year subscription to The Missouri Review in digital format (normal price $24).
  • "All Access" Entry fee: $30. In addition to the one-year digital subscription to The Missouri Review, the "All Access" entry fee grants access to the last 10 years of digital issues and the audio recordings of each digital issue.

Submit Online
Submit By Mail 
(short downloadable form in .docx format)

Ad: The Poetry Box Chapbook Prize 2024

The Poetry Box Chapbook Prize

Deadline: March 15

The Poetry Box is holding their 7th annual chapbook contest. This year's guest judge, award-winning poet Donna Hilbert, will choose the grand prize winner. The contest welcomes both established and emerging poets alike and is open to all poets residing in the United States.

THREE Poets will win publication of their chapbook with worldwide distribution and the following:

  • Grand Prize Award: $500 plus 10 copies of their published chapbook
    (chosen by Donna Hilbert, 2024 contest judge)
  • Editor's Choice Award: $100 plus 10 copies of their published chapbook
    (chosen by poet Shawn Aveningo Sanders, founding editor of The Poetry Box)
  • Designer's Choice Award: $100 plus 10 copies of their published chapbook
    (chosen by Robert Sanders, founding designer of The Poetry Box)

For details and to submit, please visit The Poetry Box.

Our Mission
To bring the joy of poetry to everyone—not only to other writers and poets—but to broaden the audience overall, by:

  • publishing relevant, relatable, imaginative work by poets from all walks of life
  • providing a platform for poets to share their words with a live audience during our book launch celebrations and our monthly Zoom series: The Poetry Box LIVE

Our Vision
By curating work that stirs the senses, we bring beautifully designed books into the world that will not only rejuvenate the spirit but also inspire engagement with our fellow humans across the globe through the act of storytelling.

Ad: $6,000 in Prizes: Nimrod International Journal's Literary Awards for Fiction and Poetry

Nimrod Literary Awards

Deadline: April 1

The 46th annual Nimrod Literary Awards, the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction, are open. The Literary Awards offer first prizes of $2,000 and publication and second prizes of $1,000 and publication. Winners will also take part in a virtual Awards Ceremony and Reading in fall 2024. All finalists and selected semi-finalists will be published and paid at a rate of $10 per page up to $200.

The final judges for 2024 are Kelly Link in fiction and Paisley Rekdal in poetry.


  • Poetry: 3-10 pages
  • Fiction: 7,500 words maximum
  • Fee Per Entry: $20 payable to Nimrod (additional $3 fee for work submitted online), includes a one-year subscription

No previously published works or works accepted for publication elsewhere. Author’s name must not appear on the manuscript. Include a cover sheet containing major title(s), author’s name, full address, phone, and email. Open to international submissions. Entries may be mailed to Nimrod or submitted online via Submittable.

For complete rules, visit Nimrod’s website.

Ad: Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

Ad: 31st Annual Poetry Contest for the Dancing Poetry Festival

Dancing Poetry Festival 2023

Postmark deadline: April 15

In honor of Richard Angilly, 1941-2022, co-founder of Dancing Poetry Festival and the Poetic Dance Theater Company, Artists Embassy International celebrates the ambassadorship of excellent artists and their work that furthers intercultural understanding and peace through the universal language of the arts.

Now in its 31st year, all Dancing Poetry Festival prize winners will receive cash prizes, a certificate suitable for framing, and an invitation to read their poem at the Dancing Poetry Festival online.

Three Grand Prizes will receive $100 each plus their poems will be costumed, danced, and filmed. Many smaller prizes.

See videos from past 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. Limit of 38 lines per poem. We look forward to reading your submissions.

See the complete contest rules and enjoy "How to Love the Moon" by Laura Plummer, winner of a Grand Prize in 2023.

Ad: Montreal International Poetry Prize

Montreal International Poetry Prize

Early-bird deadline: May 1

The Montreal International Poetry Prize is committed to encouraging the creation of original works of poetry, to building international readership, and to exploring the world’s Englishes. A.E. Stallings is this year's final judge.

One poet will win $20,000 CAD for a single unpublished poem of 40 or fewer lines. A jury of internationally reputed poets and critics selects a shortlist of approximately 60 poems, from which A.E. Stallings will choose one winner. The shortlist is published in The Montreal Poetry Prize Anthology.

The prize is run by the Department of English at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. It is a not-for-profit initiative to recognize the single poem as a work of art.

Fee: $20 CAD for a first poem during the early entry period; $17 CAD for every additional poem.

Learn more and submit at the Montreal International Poetry Prize website.

Ad: Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

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
Deep Wild Graduate Student Prose Contest. Deep Wild Journal will award $200 and print publication for "backcountry infused and inspired" prose by graduate students. Send one essay or short story that is 3,000 words maximum. Must be received by March 1.

Intermediate Writers
Caine Prize for African Writing. The Caine Prize will award 10,000 pounds for published, English-language short stories, 3,000-10,000 words, by African writers, defined as someone who was born in Africa, or who is a national of an African country, or who has a parent who is African by birth or nationality. Up to 4 shortlisted authors receive 500 pounds plus a travel stipend. Story must have been first published within the five years preceding the deadline date. Publisher must make the submission. Must be received by March 31.

Advanced Writers
Lewis Galantiere Award. The American Translators Association will award $1,000 for a distinguished book-length literary translation from any language, except German, into English. Entries must have been published in the US in the past two years (in 2022 or 2023 for the 2024 contest), and authors should be US citizens or permanent residents. Publishers should submit the book plus supporting materials and excerpts from the original language online. Contest runs in even-numbered years only, alternating with the Ungar German Translation Award. Must be received by March 31.

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.

(poetry, flash prose, hybrid texts - rolling deadline)

Beneath the Soil: A Queer Survivors' Zine
(creative writing, art, and video by LGBTQ sexual abuse and incest survivors - February 18)

Embark Literary Journal
(openings to unpublished novels - March 1)

Bennington Review
(poetry, fiction, essays, translations, film writing - March 8)

20.35 Africa Anthology Vol. VII
(English-language poems by African writers aged 20-35, meaning someone born in Africa, someone with at least one African parent, or someone who currently lives in Africa and has done so for at least 10 years - March 22)

The Ana
(journal founded by QTPOC seeks poetry, prose, art, translations - March 30)

Highlights from Our Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest Archives

Here are some of our favorite poems from past Wergle Flomp contests. They may not have all won a top prize, but we still remember them fondly. To see more winning poems, visit our Contest Archives.

by Michael Meyerhofer
Honorable Mention, 2018 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

by Mick O Seasnain
Honorable Mention, 2018 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

by Linda Muhlhausen
Honorable Mention, 2019 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

by David Lee Sirois
Third Prize, 2020 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

by Ethan Lesley
Honorable Mention, 2020 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

Sensuka: "The Great Imperial Cuckoo Clock", a vidiette by Julian Peters and Jim Avis

Artist Julian Peters has been developing a comic novel about Sensuka, a mythical realm, in "Fifty-Two Views of an Imaginary City". From his introduction to View Number 1:

Views of an Imaginary City 1: Entering Sensuka Bay - Julian Peters

In this opening print of the series, the viewer is transported onto the deck of one of the steam-powered ferries linking Sensuka to Kadonde, on the other side of the Golden Strait. The steamer is rounding the cape of Sakalumi Island at the entrance of Sensuka Bay. The lower portion of the island's celebrated seashell-shaped lighthouse is just visible on the left side of the image.

This is the moment, for all sea vessels approaching Sensuka from the west, in which the city's spectacular natural harbour first comes into view. Spread out before us at the far end of the bay is the densely built-up peninsula of Orepi, which juts out into the harbour by the mouth of the Juminta River. Orepi's famous spiral tower rises from the warehouses and the forest of masts lining the area's bustling harbourfront. Lomuku Castle—the city's most iconic building, along with the Orepi Tower and the Sakalumi Lighthouse—dominates the city centre from its perch atop Labetachi Hill. Directly ahead of the ferryboat, another steamer ferry is moving in the opposite direction, away from the port. The placement of the column of smoke rising from its chimneystack makes the Lomuku appear to be floating in the air. This is a no doubt intended as a nod to the castle's name, which means "cloud".

The view in this print is among the most dreamlike and deliberately enticing of the whole series. Particularly if one happens to live very far away from Sensuka, so that it would be difficult to imagine ever visiting the city in one's lifetime, such an image may evoke escapist fantasies. The idea of pulling into that sun-bedazzled harbour, with the wind on one's face and the crying of seagulls in one's ear, and with the penguins leaping alongside the boat, and all the wonders of the imperial capital awaiting one at the other end, might well seem like the very definition of that inaccessible exotic Elsewhere for which so many hearts are consciously or unconsciously yearning.

Please enjoy this Jim Avis vidiette of "Views of an Imaginary City 28: The Great Imperial Cuckoo Clock".

The Great Imperial Cuckoo Clock

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

February Links Roundup: Do You Know You're a Rat?
Canadian artist Augustin Lignier...built a [selfie] photo booth for his rats Arthur and Augustin to make a point about the addictiveness of social media. The critters were rewarded with food for pressing the camera lever, but soon took pleasure in the action for its own sake.

[read more]

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