The best free literary contests with deadlines to December 31 |

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Winning Writers Newsletter - November 2019

View Free Contests We found over four dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between November 15-December 31. In this issue, please enjoy "Empty and dark shall I raise my lantern", an excerpt from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

Open at Winning Writers, co-sponsored by Duotrope
Free to enter, $2,250 in prizes, including a top award of $1,000.

$8,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $3,000 each. $20 entry fee.

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View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 125,000 followers on Twitter at @WinningWriters. Interested in advertising? Rates are going up next year. Lock in our current rates by December 31.

Featured Sponsor: Enter Dozens of Contests for One Low Price

Don't miss these contests. All have cash prizes. At FanStory, you can enter dozens of contests, get feedback for everything you write, and have fun with your writing. Membership is only $9.95 per month with discounts available! View the discounts.

Acrostic Poetry Contest
Write a poem where the first letter of each line spells out a word (downwards). Cash prize to the winner.
Deadline: November 16 (tomorrow!)

Sonnet Poetry Contest
Write a sonnet in iambic pentameter. See the example for guidance. This contest has a cash prize. Deadline: November 20 (five days!)

True Story Flash
Write a true story "flash fiction" style on any topic. Your entry must have 98-102 words. The title does not count towards the word count. Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: November 22

Write a Script
Write a script of any size for any medium on any topic. See the example for formatting guidance. Cash prize for the winning entry. Deadline: November 25

2-4-2 Poetry Contest
Submit a three line poem where the first line has 2 syllables, the second line has 4 syllables, and the last line has 2 syllables again. Any subject. Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: November 30

These are just a few of our contests. View the listing.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Erika Dreifus (featured poem: "Mannheim"), Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé, Alan King, James Garrison, Deborah LeFalle, Ellaraine Lockie, Des Mannay, Colleen Eccles Penor, Edna Ma, Robert Walton, Jesse James Doty (featured poem: "Hidden Memories"), Karin Aurino, Jennie MacDonald, E. Baker, James K. Zimmerman, and Abigail Keam.

Winning Writers Editor Jendi Reiter's poem "The Senate Judiciary Committee Calls a Sparrow" will be published in Fireweed: Stories From the Revolution, an anthology of creative writing about our current political moment, forthcoming from Lonely Cryptid Media. The editors said, "We felt the intertwining of the narratives of Dr. [Christine Blasey] Ford's testimony and a stuck sparrow worked very well, and we think this will make an excellent addition to our anthology."

Near Western Massachusetts? Winning Writers contest judge Ellen LaFlèche's book launch for her debut full-length poetry collection, Walking into Lightning (Saddle Road Press), will be held on Saturday, November 16, from 1:30-3:30pm in the community room of Forbes Library, 20 West Street, Northampton, MA. See event details here.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize

Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize

Deadline: December 1

DECEMBER MAGAZINE seeks submissions for our 2020 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize.

JudgeAimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of four poetry collections, a collection of illustrated nature essays, and an epistolary nature chapbook (with Ross Gay). She has received a fellowship from the NEA and a Pushcart Prize and has been included in the Best American Poetry series.

Prizes — $1,500 & publication (winner); $500 & publication (honorable mention); all finalists will be published in the 2020 Spring/Summer awards issue.

Submit up to 3 poems per entry. $20 entry fee includes copy of the awards issue. For complete guidelines, please visit our website.

Last Call! Creative Nonfiction Seeks Flash Essays

Deadline: December 2

Creative Nonfiction is currently seeking short nonfiction for our new(ish) Sunday Short Read email, which reaches thousands of readers weekly.

We're open to submissions on any subject, in any style. Surprise us! The only rules are that all work submitted must be short (1,000 words, max), nonfiction and original to the author, and not previously published.

We'll pay $50 on publication, and all work will be considered for inclusion in Creative Nonfiction magazine as well.

Essays must be previously unpublished and no longer than 1,000 words. Multiple submissions are welcome, as are entries from outside the United States.

Subscribers to Creative Nonfiction magazine may submit for free. For others, the fee is just $3. Complete guidelines here.

LitMag's Virginia Woolf Award for Short Fiction

First Prize: $3,500, publication in LitMag, and agency review
Second Prize: $1,000 and agency review
Finalists: Five finalists will receive $100 each

Agency review by Sobel Weber Associates (clients include: Viet Thanh Nguyen, Richard Russo, Laura Lee Smith)

All finalists will be considered for possible agency review.

All entries will be considered for publication.

Deadline: December 15

Contest Fee: $20.

Submission Guidelines: Entries must be short stories between 3,000 and 8,000 words. Please use 12-point type, preferably Times New Roman, and submit your short story as either a Word doc or a PDF. Only previously unpublished short stories are eligible. Writers may submit multiple stories, each of which requires a separate submission. Submissions through Submittable only.

Notification: The contest will be judged by the editors of the magazine. The winning short stories and finalists will be announced publicly on our Web site and social media as well as by email to all contestants in March of 2020. See the results of previous contests.

Ventura County Writers Club Short Story Contest

The Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest

Deadline: December 28

The Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest is open to anyone who expresses their innermost thoughts and feelings as beautiful literary art that's worth telling everyone! We welcome all who dream…Write a poem or short story to compete for cash prizes totaling $1,275. All works must be original.

Prose prizes: $500, $250, $100
Write a short story, 5 pages maximum, on any subject or theme; fiction, nonfiction, or creative nonfiction (including essays, journal entries, and screenwriting). Entry fee: $10 per story.

Poetry prizes: $250, $125, $50
Write a poem with 30 lines or fewer on any subject. All styles and forms accepted. Entry fee: $5 per poem.

All entries must be typed or neatly hand printed. Multiple entries welcome. You may simultaneously submit work to this contest and to other contests. All winners will be published online on February 29, 2020. Read past winning entries.

Enter via email or mail. See details!

Our Mission
The Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest seeks to inspire, motivate and encourage anyone having the desire or love of poetry and writing, to continue doing so without fear of failure or success! Remember, in whatever you do, "it's okay to dream," for dreams do come true…

Lilith Magazine Annual Fiction Contest (no fee)

Lilith Magazine Annual Fiction Contest

Deadline: December 31

Calling all gifted fiction writers! Lilith Magazine—Independent, Jewish & frankly feminist—seeks quality short fiction, 3,000 words or under, for our Annual Fiction Contest. First prize $250 + publication. We like work with both feminist and Jewish content. Please send submissions to with "Fiction Contest Submission" and your name in the subject line. Be sure to include full contact info on the manuscript and mention that you saw our ad in the Winning Writers Newsletter.

Poetry and Short Story Prizes from BkMk Press

Submission deadline: January 15, 2020. $1,000 and book publication for each winner.

The annual John Ciardi Prize for Poetry and the G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction are awarded to collections of poetry and short fiction in English by a living author. Guidelines available here.

Prize-winning books have received reviews or features in: Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, ForeWord Reviews, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Kansas City Star, Slate, etc., and won or placed in the Poets' Prize, Eric Hoffer, IPPY, ForeWord, Chautauqua, Balcones Fiction, Devil's Kitchen, etc.

Founded in 1971 and part of the University of Missouri-Kansas City since 1983, BkMk Press publishes collections of poetry, short fiction, and creative essays. Publishing roughly six titles a year, the press has over 140 titles in print.

BkMk Press, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 5101 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110.

2020 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

William Saroyan Prize for Writing

Entries must be received by January 31, 2020

Submissions are now being accepted for the ninth William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. This award, given by Stanford University Libraries in partnership with the William Saroyan Foundation, recognizes newly published works of fiction and nonfiction with a $5,000 award for the winner in each category.

The prize is designed to encourage new or emerging writers and honor the Saroyan literary legacy of originality, vitality, and stylistic innovation. For entry forms and more information on the prize, visit the Saroyan Prize website.

Congratulations to our 2018 Fiction Winner Hernan Diaz, author of In the Distance, and our 2018 Nonfiction Winner Robert Moor, author of On Trails: An Exploration. See our complete list of 2018 winners and finalists.

Bullies in Love by Jendi Reiter

Bullies in Love

Jendi Reiter's second full-length collection, with fine art photography by Toni Pepe, is available from Little Red Tree Publishing. The Minderbinder Review of Books writes: "If the human experience counts for everything, which it should, Bullies in Love is proof that poems, when crafted with honesty, wit and compassion, are capable of moving us at lightning speeds."

This month, Jendi is writing a poem a day to raise money for the Center for New Americans, an immigrant education and advocacy nonprofit in Western Massachusetts. Sponsor Jendi here.

Please enjoy this sample poem and purchase Bullies in Love on Amazon.

Period Piece

I'm on the poetry rag
my womb can't hold a job
it spits out bar napkins of inspiration
streaks of drunken grand plans
like Bukowski's wine-stained typescripts
I've got my Sunday visitor
and it's not a Catholic magazine
though nuns must synchronize like periodicals
black and white and red all over
I'm scratching my mosquito bite
as Lizzie Borden called the spot
on her trial skirt
because ladybusiness is murder
I'm painting the town
I've got company
Aunt Flo's camped on my horsehair sofa
playing Old Maid with a deck of diamonds
and knitting tube socks for soldiers
the redcoats are coming
but don't be afraid
of me riding the white horse
out where the cattle stampede
it's just that time of the month when I like
my steak with a little ketchup

[with thanks to this unique slang dictionary]

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
Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers. High school sophomores and juniors throughout the world can win tuition to The Kenyon Review's two-week summer seminar for writers aged 16-18; winner and runners-up also published in the highly prestigious journal. Submit one poem via their online form. Due November 30.

Intermediate Writers
Bala Kids/Khyentse Foundation Children's Book Prize. Bala Kids, an imprint of the Buddhist magazine and publishing house Shambhala, will award $5,000 and publication for an unpublished picture book for ages 0-8 that expresses Buddhist values, themes, and traditions. Manuscripts should be approximately 20-40 pages, maximum 2,000 words. The prize is offered for the manuscript itself, which must not be submitted with illustrations; choosing the final illustrations for the book will be the responsibility of the publisher. Due December 1.

Advanced Writers
Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award. $1,000 achievement award for poets who consistently strive for "cutting edge" and "avant-garde" innovation, which means experimental, innovative, "pushing the envelope" literature. Within the past 5 years, entrants must have published a poetry collection of 48+ pages, or 20+ different poems or pages of poetry in five or more literary journals, anthologies, or publications that regularly include poetry as a portion of their format. Due December 1.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

PSA: Support ProLiteracy and Spread Good Cheer with Holiday Cards

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Good Cause Greetings raises money for good causes throughout the world through the sale of unique holiday greeting cards. This season, buy your holiday cards at Good Cause Greetings and support ProLiteracy.

Favorite Books

This month, editor Jendi Reiter presents selected books that deserve your attention. There are many more in our Books resource section. Winning Writers earns a small commission from books sold by Amazon.


Cyrée Jarelle Johnson
The title of this ambitious debut collection by a black genderqueer poet-activist refers to the bikini costume they wore as a strip-club dancer, but also calls to mind the legendary weapon that young David employed against the giant Goliath. Like the Biblical youth, the narrator of these poems fights back, with brilliant style and ferocity, against seemingly insurmountable forces like racism, transphobic violence, familial abuse, and the floods that Hurricane Sandy unleashed on New York City. The propulsive force and fragmented and recombined syntax of these poems command so much attention that only at the end will you reflect, "Damn, was that a crown of sonnets?" and read it all over again.

Maia Kobabe
Playful, emotionally vulnerable, and even cozy, this graphic narrative is a coming-of-age memoir centered on Kobabe's discovery of eir nonbinary and asexual identity. Gentle, accessible artwork with a sophisticated color palette gives the story an intimate feel, as if a friend or family member was sharing confidences with you. As well as being entertaining, this book is a good educational resource for teens and adult allies as well as queer folks looking to understand themselves.

Jarrett Krosoczka
This graphic narrative memoir intertwines the author's tumultuous relationship with his heroin-addicted mother and his discovery of his vocation as a professional cartoonist. The result is a lovingly detailed scrapbook of working-class family life in Worcester, MA, with sepia-tinted artwork supplemented by original documents and childhood drawings. Krosoczka was raised by his maternal grandparents, who come across as well-rounded and beloved characters, often gruff and no stranger to alcohol indulgence, but with steady devotion and an unglamorous and patient work ethic that he learns to emulate. Krosoczka's popular graphic novels for kids include the Lunch Lady and Star Wars: Jedi Academy series.

Jane Smiley
Winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, this American tragedy recasts the story of King Lear on an Iowa farm in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. When a tyrannical but enfeebled patriarch divides his farm unequally among his three daughters, their prosperous, provincial world is torn apart by long-simmering rivalries and recovered memories of incest. Not only does Smiley nail the dynamics of a family in denial, she believably ties the personal drama to the American diseases of patriarchal entitlement and the rape of the land.

"Empty and dark shall I raise my lantern", an excerpt from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

The Prophet

And as he walked he saw from afar men and women leaving their fields and their vineyards and hastening towards the city gates.

And he heard their voices calling his name, and shouting from the field to field telling one another of the coming of the ship.

And he said to himself:

Shall the day of parting be the day of gathering?

And shall it be said that my eve was in truth my dawn?

And what shall I give unto him who has left his plough in midfurrow, or to him who has stopped the wheel of his winepress?

Shall my heart become a tree heavy-laden with fruit that I may gather and give unto them?

And shall my desires flow like a fountain that I may fill their cups?

Am I a harp that the hand of the mighty may touch me, or a flute that his breath may pass through me?

A seeker of silences am I, and what treasure have I found in silences that I may dispense with confidence?

If this is my day of harvest, in what fields have I sowed the seed, and in what unremembered seasons?

If this indeed be the hour in which I lift up my lantern, it is not my flame that shall burn therein.

Empty and dark shall I raise my lantern,

And the guardian of the night shall fill it with oil and he shall light it also.

These things he said in words. But much in his heart remained unsaid. For he himself could not speak his deeper secret.

Read The Prophet on Wikisource

The Last Word

Jendi ReiterUnderstanding the Lectionary Through Witchcraft
In all of Jesus' examples, the action is reactive: what to do after someone abuses you, hits you, or robs from you. One could say he was instructing us to have the equanimity and self-transcendence of the Warrior, who may need to use force in service to a goal larger than himself (e.g. clearing the money-changers from the temple), but never lets himself be overcome by wounded pride, defensive fear, or the "red mist" of rage that clouds one's vision. Maintaining self-discipline is more important than settling scores in that moment, even if the aggressor will get off too easy.

[read more]

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

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