The best free literary contests with deadlines through July 31 |

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Winning Writers Newsletter - June 2021

View Free Contests

We found over three dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between June 15-July 31. In this issue, please enjoy "'Hope' is the thing with feathers" by Emily Dickinson, illustrated by Julian Peters.

Last Call!
Deadline: June 30. 7th year. Co-sponsored by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of The Frugal Book Promoter, and BookBaby. Prizes increased to $13,750, including a top award of $5,000. This year's categories: Mainstream/Literary Fiction, Genre Fiction, Creative Nonfiction & Memoir, Poetry, Children's Picture Book, Graphic Novel & Memoir, and Art Book (new!) Fee: $65 per entry. Jendi Reiter and Ellen LaFleche will judge, assisted by Annie Mydla and Sarah Halper. See the previous winners and enter here.

Also open now, our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest will award $8,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $3,000 each. Deadline: September 30.

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

Featured Sponsor: Experimental Poetry Prize

Experimental Poetry Prize

Deadline: July 31

  • Win $1,000 and publication in the Connecticut River Review
  • Up to four finalists will also be identified
  • $15 reading fee
  • Submit up to three poems via Submittable
  • Text, audio, or video files are accepted
  • No identifying information on entry

Submissions may include poems composed using 1) an entirely new form; 2) an existing form that is considered experimental; or 3) a radical subversion of a traditional form. Your innovation should be apparent to a serious but non-academically trained reader and should be in the service of ingenuity and piercing the armor of expectations.

Richard Deming This contest will be judged by Richard Deming, Director of Creative Writing at Yale. Mr. Deming is a poet, art critic, and theorist whose work explores the intersections of poetry, philosophy, and visual culture. His collection of poems, Let's Not Call It Consequence (Shearsman, 2008), received the 2009 Norma Farber Award from the Poetry Society of America. His most recent book of poems, Day for Night, appeared in 2016. He is also the author of Listening on All Sides: Toward an Emersonian Ethics of Reading (Stanford UP, 2008), and Art of the Ordinary: the Everyday Domain of Art, Film, Literature, and Philosophy (Cornell UP, 2018). He contributes to such magazines as Artforum, Sight & Sound, and The Boston Review. His poems have appeared in such places as Iowa Review, Field, American Letters & Commentary, and The Nation.

Also coming soon from the Connecticut Poetry Society, the Vivian Shipley Poetry Award, which accepts unpublished poems in any style. Submit during August 1-September 30. Learn more on the CPS website.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Julie Irigaray (featured poem: "Tales of the Woodcock"), Tammy Delatore, Kath Gifford, Gary Beck, Claire Denson, Konstantin Nicholas Rega, Ellaraine Lockie, Sally Bellerose, Tamara Kaye Sellman, Risa Denenberg, Rene Mullen, Shobana Gomes, Karin Aurino, and Joseph Stanton.

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

NEW THIS YEAR: Guest Poets Diane Seuss & Jennifer Givhan!

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 PR for Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity & Marketing by Jeannine Hall Gailey (this book has been named #3 of the "Best New PR Books" by Book Authority, as featured on CNN, Forbes, and Inc.) 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—at the end of the retreat, an award-winning poet will critique one of your poems and offer ideas on where to submit them! (Summer participants choose critiques from Diane Seuss, Traci Brimhall, January Gill O'Neil, Jennifer K. Sweeney, and Jennifer Givhan! Or if you choose the October retreat, receive critiques from the editors of Two Sylvias Press!)

Praise for Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Retreat
"I decided to take the Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Retreat as a way to reignite my passion for writing poetry and reconnect with my 'poet's mind' after not writing poetry for several years. The format was perfect for me—it enabled me to work alone and at my own pace while still feeling connected through daily prompts and encouragement. The result: I wrote more poems in that four-week period than I had written in as many years and new poems are still coming. The feedback I received was insightful and improved the poems while still showing respect for the essence of the work."
     —Cathy J. (read other testimonials here)

Click here to learn more and register.

IWWG Event: Writing Our Way Forward

What Makes Our North Street Book Prize a Great Contest for Your Self-Published Book?

North Street Book Prize

Deadline: June 30

There are lots of contests for self-published books. You can find them listed at the Alliance of Independent Authors and BookBub among other places. Here is what makes our North Street Book Prize one of the best:

BookBaby Publishing

  • Large cash prizes: $5,000 for the grand prize, $1,000 for each category winner.
  • Bonus awards: Winners receive additional services from BookBaby, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, and Winning Writers to help market their books.
  • Free gift: All contestants receive a free digital copy of Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers by Carolyn Howard-Johnson.
  • Reasonable entry fee: $65 per book. Many other contests charge $85, $95, and up.
  • No need to enter multiple categories: Choose one category for your book. If our judges feel it will do better in another category, they will reassign it.
  • Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for WritersFlexible criteria: Submit books published in any year, on any self-publishing platform.
  • Pro-author attitude: Submit a non-qualifying book by mistake? A duplicate entry? We'll refund your fee. We issued nearly 100 refunds in 2020.
  • Transparent: We have four judges. Read about them on our guidelines page.
  • Lasting, in-depth publicity: With some contests, it's hard to find out much about past winners beyond the author's name and the book title. At North Street, we publicize our winners through our website (300,000+ visitors in 2020), in our newsletter (50,000+ subscribers), and in our social media channels (including 135,000+ Twitter followers). Our contest archives feature critiques of the winning entries, excerpts from the books, and bios of the winners going back to the first contest in 2015.
  • Partner Member, Alliance of Independent AuthorsNo nickel-and-diming: Some contests charge winners for things like award seals. We provide those for free.
  • Recommended by industry leaders: The North Street Book Prize is recommended by Reedsy and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

Enter online via Submittable or by mail. Click to learn more and submit.

Nimrod International Journal’s Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers: $500 Prizes

Francine Ringold Awards

Deadline: July 15

Submissions are now open for the Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers, which honor the work of writers at the beginning of their careers. The Francine Ringold Awards are open only to writers whose work has not appeared or is not scheduled to appear in more than two publications in the genre in which they are submitting. $500 prizes will be awarded in both the fiction and poetry categories, and the winning work will appear in the spring issue of Nimrod. Work by all finalists will also be published, and finalists will be paid at a rate of $10/page, up to $200.

Established in 1956, Nimrod is dedicated to the discovery of new voices in literature, and the Francine Ringold Awards are a special way to recognize talented new poets and fiction writers.

• Poetry: Up to 5 pages of poetry (one long poem or several short poems)
• Fiction: 5,000 words maximum (one short story or a self-contained excerpt from a novel)
• Submission Fee: $12 per entry (plus $1.70 admin fee when submitting online); includes a copy of the spring issue
• 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. Entries may be mailed to Nimrod or submitted online. Open internationally.

For complete rules, visit Nimrod's website.

Rattle Poetry Prize

Rattle Poetry Prize

Deadline: July 15 (11:59pm Pacific Time for online entries)

The annual Rattle Poetry Prize celebrates its 16th year with a 1st prize of $15,000 for a single poem. Ten finalists will also receive $500 each and publication, and be eligible for the $5,000 Readers' Choice Award, to be selected by subscriber and entrant vote. All of these poems will be published in the winter issue of the magazine.

With the winners judged in a masked 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.

Please enjoy the 2021 Readers' Choice Award winner by Kitty Carpenter, published in Rattle #70, Winter 2020:


The barn roof sags like an ancient mare's back.
The field, overgrown, parts of it a marsh
where the pond spills over. No hay or sacks
of grain are stacked for the cold. In the harsh
winters of my youth, Mama, with an axe,
trudged tirelessly each day through deep snow,
balanced on the steep bank, swung down to crack
the ice so horses could drink. With each blow
I feared she would fall, but she never slipped.
Now Mama's bent and withered, vacant gray
eyes fixed on something I can't see. I dip
my head when she calls me Mom. What's to say?
The time we have's still too short to master
love, and then, the hollow that comes after.

Press 53 Award for Poetry

Press 53 Award for Poetry

Deadline: July 31

The Press 53 Award for Poetry is awarded annually to an outstanding, unpublished collection of poems. This competition is open to any writer, regardless of his or her publication history, who is 18 years of age or older, provided the manuscript is written in English and the author lives in the United States or one of its territories.

Submit a manuscript that is approximately 60 to 120 pages in length. Entry fee: $30. 

Award includes: Publication by Press 53 of the winning poetry collection as a Tom Lombardo Poetry Selection; $1,000 cash advance; 50 copies (total prize valued at $2,000). The winner will be announced on or before November 1.

Press 53 Poetry Series Editor Tom Lombardo will be the only judge for this contest; the contest will be judged solely on the strength of the poems as a collection.

Learn more and submit online or by mail.

We congratulate our most recent winner, Chanel Brenner. Lombardo said of Brenner's manuscript, "Smile or Else is a masterpiece in the elegiac genre, a collection that examines a mother's mourning over the death of her son, and chronicles her recovery through the life of her surviving younger son. There is deep grieving, but also a contrasting sense of hope. The poet weaves through her collection excellent poems of mourning, separation, and recovery."

On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

On The Premises

Deadline: Friday, September 3, 11:59pm EDT

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 our 38th contest is "Monster". For this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which someone or something is considered to be a monster...and maybe that's accurate! Maybe you're writing a straightforward horror story. Or maybe the "monster" label is terrible and undeserved. Or is the truth somewhere in between? That's entirely up to you.

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). 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.

Look, Black Boy by Caleb "The Negro Artist" Rainey

Look, Black Boy

Winner, Poetry, 2020 North Street Book Prize

Caleb "The Negro Artist" Rainey's concise and high-impact poetry collection Look, Black Boy has the rhythmic verve and immediacy of spoken-word poetry, yet loses nothing in its transition to print. Rather, Rainey takes advantage of the visual medium to experiment with line spacing, punctuation, and layout in ways that add dramatic tension to his accounts of Black struggle and joy.

In blunt, powerful words that reminded me of Danez Smith's second collection, Rainey dedicates his book to "everyone who showed me that I was meant to be more than dead." He comes out swinging with the opening poem, a self-examination of times he acquiesced in white people's perceptions of him as an N-word in order to survive. (Rainey writes out the word in question, but as a white reviewer, I will refrain.) An image toward the end of the poem encapsulates the normalization of his erasure:

Because zero equals Black.
In fact,
the cops taught me that
when the bullet hit
a brotha's back in front
of the blue house I used
to memorize my first address.

—Jendi Reiter, North Street judge (see the complete remarks)

Read an excerpt from Look, Black Boy (PDF)

Buy this book on Amazon

Get Your Self-Publishing Questions Answered at Write On.

Write On.

The Poetry Collections of Clifford Brooks

The Poetry Collections of Clifford Brooks

For information on pricing, please email Mr. Brooks at and specify "CCB3 Poetry Bundle" in the subject line. Learn more about Mr. Brooks and read excerpts from his work on his website.

Mr. Brooks is available to critique poems. Submit up to five poems here and you'll receive your critique within two weeks.

Authors: In over your head when it comes to designing your own books and merch?

Easy Graphics

As an independent author or self-publisher, you want to control the entire process from start to finish, including creating your own book covers, interiors, and merchandise products. You don't know where to begin—the struggle is real!

Do you feel like you're in over your head when it comes to designing your own books and merch? Do you want to learn how to independently design your products, but have no idea where to start?

Get useful step-by-step tips for creating book covers, interiors, merchandise products, and more! Easy Graphics is the one-stop channel on YouTube for solving your graphics conundrum as a self-published author.

Learn how to use the tools of the trade to create your own graphics for your self-published business. Your followers will wonder what graphic designer you hired to make such a difference in your content.

View our snappy YouTube tutorials—they're free!

There's a New Writing Podcast in Town!

Tania's Writing Realm

Tania Stephanson Tania Stephanson is a self-published Indie Author who loves networking with other writers. On her podcast, Tania's Writing Realm, she shares writing contest details, discusses writing and self-publishing topics, and offers fun writing prompts! Find her podcast on most major platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcast, Podbean, Google Podcasts and more. You can also find her on YouTube under the same title. Writing may be a solitary existence, but that doesn't mean you have to feel alone. Check out the Tania's Writing Realm podcast today!

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
Blue Mountain Arts Poetry Card Contest. Awards prizes up to $350 and web publication for poems suitable for a greeting card. No length limit specified, but shorter poems (one page) are probably best. Due June 30.

Intermediate Writers
GLCA New Writers Awards. The Great Lakes Colleges Association awards a reading tour of 13 Midwestern colleges, with a $500 honorarium per visit, for a US or Canadian author of a book of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction that is the author's first published book in that genre. One winner in each category. Publisher should submit 4 copies of book along with publicity materials. Publisher may enter only one work in each genre. Self-published titles accepted. Books must have been published in the US or Canada and bear a publication imprint of 2020 or 2021. Selection process favors recipients of major first-book awards. Due June 25.

Advanced Writers
Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Claremont Graduate University awards $100,000 for a published book of poetry by a US citizen or legal resident. This award is presented for a full-length work by a poet who is past the very beginning but has not yet reached the acknowledged pinnacle of their career. Books must have been published between July 1 of last year and June 30 of the deadline year. Winner must agree to spend a week in residence at CGU for lectures, workshops, and poetry readings in Claremont, CA and the greater Los Angeles area. Due July 1.

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, Trish Hopkinson's blog, Erica Verrillo's blog, Authors Publish, Lambda Literary, Lit Mag News RoundupPoets & Writers, The Writer, Duotrope, Submittable, and literary journals' own newsletters and announcements.

Black Lawrence Press: June Open Reading Period
(manuscripts of poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction, biography and cultural studies, or German-English translation - June 30)

Fat Coyote Literary Arts
(poetry, prose, art, and comics by neurodivergent creators - June 30)

Four Way Books: June Open Reading Period
(book-length poetry collections, story collections, novellas - June 30)

Willowherb Review
(literary essays about nature, place, and environment, by writers of color - June 30)

Mom Egg Review: "Mother Figures" Issue
(poetry and short prose on iconic real or fictional mothers - July 15)

Voices of Lincoln Poetry Contest
(poems on the theme "If Life Were A Game Show, What Would Poets Say?"; adult and youth categories - July 20)

Uncharted Magazine
(speculative, mystery, and horror short fiction - July 31)

Subnivean: Summer Open Reading Period
(poetry and short stories - August 1)

Flowers & Vortexes
(poetry - August 30)

The Best New True Crime Stories: Unsolved Crimes and Mysteries
(narrative journalism about cold cases - September 1)

Aesthetic Press
(commercial fiction novels and novellas by writers of color - January 1, 2022)

PSA: Why a Text Adjustment Might Increase Fluency

Why a Text Adjustment Might Increase Fluency

Condensed from a post at ProLiteracy:

Regardless of how a font looks, it's important to consider whether it is actually easy to read for someone at a low level. Also, take a look at the overall layout of a page. Is it cluttered? Is there enough white space to make it easy to focus on the text?

Marjorie Jordan, the co-founder of Readability Matters—a nonprofit organization that strives to use technology to create a world where everyone can read with ease—said that, in general, many people don't put much thought into how text features can impact readability.

The best reading format is not one-size-fits-all. She says research has shown that preferences vary by individual.

"Some readers respond well to fonts with extra character spacing, others to fonts with wider character width...Early results indicate large numbers of readers perform well with the free Google fonts Noto Sans and Garamond. Another set of readers do very well with Montserrat," she said.

Readers can play with a complete set of text features in Readability Matters' Readability Sandbox.

Highlights from Our North Street Book Prize Archives

This month, editor Jendi Reiter presents some of the best self-published books that have come through our North Street Book Prize competition. There are many more in our Contest Archives.Mind Your Head

Jordan Cosmo
Honorable Mention, Creative Nonfiction, 2016
This witty coming-of-age memoir re-creates the absurdity and trauma of growing up as a butch lesbian in a family of evangelical Christian missionaries.

Tricia Cerrone
Honorable Mention, Genre Fiction, 2015
An exciting YA techno-thriller with a diverse cast of characters, this novel is the first in a series about a genetically enhanced teenager fleeing government scientists who want to use her superpowers as a weapon.

Angela Carole Brown
First Prize, Literary Fiction, 2018
This poignant novel follows a group of hard-working jazz musicians in Los Angeles as they struggle to keep their creative passions alive in obscurity.

Omaha Perez
Honorable Mention, Graphic Novel & Memoir, 2020
In this edgy black-and-white graphic novel, the residents of a seedy mental hospital in San Francisco are pawns in a battle between deities of compassion and destruction.

Melissa Yap-Stewart
Honorable Mention, Children's Picture Book, 2019
Enhanced with colorfully painted woodland scenes, this gentle picture book is an allegory of maintaining friendship through changes and distance.

"'Hope' is the thing with feathers" by Emily Dickinson, 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 "Hope" from the book.

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

Reconsidering Zionism
I simply wasn't aware what a "Jewish state" meant in practice. I was taught it meant: the one place that Jews could be secure, where we'd never be a persecuted minority. But a state designated as "for" one ethnic or religious group is likely to become a state that disadvantages every other group. The more I learned about the treatment of Palestinians as second-class citizens, the worse it seemed.

Read more

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