The best free literary contests with deadlines through January 31 |

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Welcome to Our December Newsletter

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We found over four dozen high-quality poetry and prose contests that are free to enter with deadlines between December 15-January 31.

In this issue: Please enjoy "The God Abandons Antony" by Constantine Cavafy, illustrated by Julian Peters.

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

$20 entry fee, $5,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $2,000 each.

We just reached 100,000 followers on Twitter! Join us there for timely news about contests and resources for writers. Want to view past newsletters? Visit our archives. Need assistance? Let us help.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Anna Chan, Gary Beck, Kym Cunningham (featured poem: "Hunger"), Dean Kostos (featured poem: "Unforgotten"), Charlotte Mandel, Lynn Schmeidler (featured poem: "Another Word for Sky Is Upside-Down-Understory"), Debbie Hall, Ruth Thompson (featured poem: "Lightness, High Desert"), Daniel Savery Raz, W.R. Rodriguez, Judy Juanita, Ken Allan Dronsfield (featured poem: "It Would Rain on that Saturday"), Annie Hill Otness, and Lesléa Newman.

Winning Writers Assistant Judge Ellen LaFleche was a finalist for the 2017 Sunshot Poetry Prize for her manuscript Walking into Lightning with a Metal Urn in My Hands. This award series from the literary journal New Millennium Writings gives prizes up to $1,500 and publication for unpublished collections of poetry and short prose.

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

Have news? Please email it to

BookBaby - The Book Construction Blueprint

92Y Writing: Your Voice Matters

Tupelo Press Dorset Prize

Dorset PrizeDeadline: December 31, 2017 (postmark or online submission date)
Final Judge: Dana Levin
Prize: $4,500

A $3,000 cash prize and a week-long residency at MASS MoCA worth $1,500 in addition to publication by Tupelo Press, 20 copies of the winning title, a book launch, and national distribution with energetic publicity and promotion. Manuscripts are judged anonymously and all finalists will be considered for publication.

The Dorset Prize is open to anyone writing in the English language, whether living in the United States or abroad. Translations are not eligible for this prize, nor are previously self-published books. Employees of Tupelo Press and authors with books previously published by Tupelo Press are not eligible. Poets submitting work for consideration may be published authors or writers without prior book publications.

Submit a previously unpublished, full-length poetry manuscript with a table of contents. There is no mandatory page count. We suggest in the area of 48 to 88 pages of poems, but all manuscripts will be read and considered with full respect. A reading fee of $30 payable by check to Tupelo Press or via Submittable must accompany each submission. We encourage online submission via our Submittable system. You may also submit via postal mail:

Tupelo Press
Dorset Prize
P.O. Box 1767
North Adams, MA 01247

For mailed manuscripts, request notification of receipt by including a SASP. For notification of the winner, enclose a SASE. Manuscripts will not be returned.

Read the complete guidelines before submitting your manuscript.

Read about past winners here.

Read about all Tupelo Press contests and open reading opportunities.

Please enjoy this selection by Thomas Centolella, author of Almost Human (Tupelo Press, 2017), winner of the 2015 Dorset Prize, selected by Edward Hirsch.

The Year
by Thomas Centolella

More than fifty Junes
and still I tend to forget:
beneath the blooms – thorns.


Rising for incense
a moment after sitting
is meditation.


Hate the goddamned wind.
My grocer shows off his kid.
Suddenly, no wind.


Cherry branch in hand,
you made the cold night less cold
and spring come early.

Deadline Extended! 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 extended to January 2, 2018

Contest Fee: $20.

Submission Guidelines: Entries must be short stories between 3,000 and 8,000 words. Please use 12pt 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 2018.

Rattle Chapbook Prize

Rattle Chapbook Prize

Deadline: January 15, 2018

The annual Rattle Chapbook Prize gives poets something truly special. Every year, at least one winner will receive: $2,000 cash, 500 contributor copies, and distribution to Rattle's 7,000+ subscribers. In a world where a successful full-length poetry book might sell 1,000 copies, the winning book will reach an audience seven 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.

The $20 entry fee is just a standard subscription to Rattle, which includes four issues of the magazine and the winning chapbook, even if it isn't yours. In 2017, we selected three chapbooks for full publication. For more information and to read portions of last year's winning entries, including the just-released runner-up, In America by Diana Goetsch, visit our website.

Please click to enjoy the title poem from In America.

2018 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

Entries must be received by January 31, 2018

Submissions are now being accepted for the eighth 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 2016 Fiction Winner T. Geronimo Johnson, author of Welcome to Braggsville, and our 2016 Nonfiction Winner Lori Jakiela, author of Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe. See our complete list of 2016 winners and finalists.

William Saroyan

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays on "Intoxication"

Deadline: February 26, 2018

Seeking altered states might be one of the oldest human hobbies—for better and for worse—and we're looking for stories that capture the widest possible range of experiences and voices. Whether you (or someone else) were tipsy or wasted, soooooooo drunk or just a little high—on life, or love, or power, or something else—we want to hear your story about being under the influence.

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

If we're being honest, we're also especially hoping for some happy (or at least lighthearted, if not downright funny) stories—a mix of uppers and downers, as it were.

CNF editors will award $1,000 for best essay and $500 for runner-up. All essays submitted will be considered for publication.

See our complete guidelines.

Creative Nonfiction

On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

On The Premises


For this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which one or more pieces of clothing play an important role. NOTE: Jewelry does not count as clothing for this contest, so crowns are not allowed but hats are okay.

Deadline: 11:59 PM Eastern US time, FRIDAY, March 2, 2018.

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

GENRE NOTE: Any genre except children's fiction, exploitative sex, or over-the-top gross-out horror is fine. We will also never accept parodies of another author's specific fictional character(s) or world(s). No exceptions!

Click for details and instructions on submitting your story. To be informed when new contests are launched, subscribe to our free, short, monthly newsletter. On The Premises magazine is recognized in Duotrope, Writer's Market,, and other short story marketing resources.

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays on "Home"

Deadline: May 21, 2018

They say it's where you hang your hat; it's where the heart is; it's where they have to take you in. But what does home mean for communities and individuals facing rising temperatures and extreme weather; wealth disparity and resource scarcity; and the forces of globalization and nationalism? What does it mean to belong somewhere? For the winter 2019 issue of Creative Nonfiction magazine, we're looking for true stories about finding—or, perhaps, coming to terms with losing—your place in the world.

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

All essays submitted will be considered for publication; this is a paying market.

See our complete guidelines.

Creative Nonfiction

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

Deadline: July 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

See our complete guidelines.

Creative Nonfiction

FundsforWriters: Time to Get Serious About Your Writing Career

You won't be able to quit work and write, but you might find a grant to make your writing goals easier. Or a crowdfunding opportunity to fund your project. Find serious contests, too. Only those that pay in cold hard cash. No pay-per-click, $1 per blog or exposure markets either. Hope Clark writes for a living. If she wouldn't try these opportunities, she doesn't post them. Our newsletters are our world. Free or paid subscription.

Free FundsforWriters
Our most popular free newsletter. FundsforWriters provides markets that pay $200 or 10 cents/word and up. Expect 15 or more paying opportunities in the form of contests, grants, freelance markets, jobs, and publishers/agents. Delivered each weekend via The newsletter also provides an editorial from editor Hope Clark and a freelance piece from a guest author. FundsforWriters is also a paying market. If you would like to pitch a 600-word piece to Hope, see the guidelines. Subscribe. View archive.

Total FundsforWriters
70+ paying opportunities per issue, which means 2,000+ paying opportunities per year. TOTAL is delivered biweekly to your email box and contains grants, competitions, freelance markets, jobs, publishers, and agents. Markets and contests all pay $200 or 10 cents/word and up in payment. The same high quality as our regular FundsforWriters newsletter—and five times more of it! Delivered via Aweber. Only $18.75 per year. Subscribe. View sample.

December Special - A Free Gift for Yourself or a Friend!
Buy a new or renewal subscription to Total FundsforWriters in December, and receive a free book by Hope Clark. Visit Hope's website to browse the selection: The Shy Writer Reborn, The Best of FundsforWriters, Vol 1., the Carolina Slade Mysteries, and the Edisto Island Mysteries. After you subscribe to Total, email Hope with how you'd like her to autograph your book (if it's print) and where she should send it.


Bullies in Love by Jendi Reiter

Bullies in Love

Winning Writers editor Jendi Reiter's fourth poetry book and second full-length collection, Bullies in Love, is available from Little Red Tree Publishing, with illustrations by fine art photographer and Massachusetts Cultural Council award winner Toni Pepe. Poems in this collection have won prizes from Atlanta Review, Anderbo, Alligator Juniper, Descant, New Millennium Writings, Solstice Literary Magazine, Wag's Revue, and others.

Based in North Platte, NE, Little Red Tree publishes books of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and art that "delight, entertain, and educate", as well as the print and online literary magazine Peacock Journal.

"A collection to enjoy and savor...the writing dazzles, surprises, and beguiles the reader with its unexpected vistas. The photography questions what we see; the poems question the ever present role of sex, probes comfortable personal assumptions and our collective cultural fairy tales."
—5-star Amazon review by Carol Smallwood, author of Divining the Prime Meridian (Wordtech Editions, 2015)

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

touching story

not the turn to gold but touch he
wanted most, no object that
flesh of his
supper gelled to shining
ore lumps when he bit, that sepals
stiffened on the rose
like nipples bared to frost. not
the lark that lasted but the scar
its moneyed weight peeled
down the tree. not the trophy
hound, that sudden andiron
dropped from his lap,
but the fox, stinking, invisible,
                  myth to asses' ears,
no nodding velveted clefts
named his errata, not a page
or armed barber kissed the riverbed
to scandalize the reeds
into singing true. and when his daughter,
as he'd tell it, sprang
into his transmuting arms, and after,
there was no god to take the hardening gift away.
This poem was first published in Solstice Lit Mag.

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
John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest. US high school students under the age of 20 can win a top prize of $5,000 cash, plus $5,000 to grow in a John Hancock Freedom 529 College Savings Plan, for an essay about how an elected official who served during or after 1917, the year John F. Kennedy was born, risked his or her career to take a stand based on moral principles. Due January 4, 2018.

Intermediate Writers
Neil Postman Award for Metaphor. $1,000 for the best use of metaphor in a poem published in Rattle, a prestigious journal. Submissions are accepted year-round. Send up to 4 unpublished poems, any length. Wait for a decision on your first entry before submitting more. All poems published in Rattle in a given year are automatically considered for this award. Rolling deadline.

Advanced Writers
Four Quartets Prize. $21,000 for a unified and complete sequence of poems, 14 pages minimum, published in the US in a print or online journal, chapbook, or book within the past two years. Self-published, multi-author, or translated works are ineligible. See full application instructions on sponsor's website. Co-sponsored by the Poetry Society of America and the T.S. Eliot Foundation to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first publication of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets in a single volume in America. Due December 22.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

PSA: Empowerment of Women Through Literacy

Empowerment of Women Through Literacy

Magdalene Gathoni Motsi is a role model to women across Kenya. With her determination to succeed despite limited resources and family obligations, she worked towards her goals to attain literacy.

Magdalene is the founder and executive director of ProLiteracy's long-time partner Kenya Adult Learners Association (KALA), the only adult literacy organization in Kenya that devotes itself entirely to advocating for adult learners, especially women. KALA was named the 2017 Ann C. Michel Award recipient.

As she accepted the award for KALA at the 2017 ProLiteracy Conference on Adult Literacy, Magdalene gave an inspirational and vibrant speech highlighting various elements of her personal journey to attain literacy, and her work to empower women across Kenya.

"...KALA builds the capacity of adult learners, especially women. In many communities where KALA has programs, there are various cultural attitudes that bar women from achieving their potential, because most of these communities place less value on female education. I have watched literacy change this belief in many communities.

"KALA, as an experienced organization with a long standing in mobilization, uses its expertise in making the community aware of the problem at hand, while at the same time seeking ways of overcoming these challenges by using modern methods or improvising the traditional methods using literacy.

"ProLiteracy and KALA have been partners in literacy for many years. Through this partnership, more than 65,000 adult learners have benefited from our efforts in enrolling students in adult education classes, economic empowerment programs, and peer learning and exchange programs. KALA appreciates Proliteracy's support in all respects, which has enabled many adult learners, especially women, to fully realize all the aspects of social economic change."

Learn more about ProLiteracy and its partners.

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"The God Abandons Antony" by Constantine Cavafy, illustrated by Julian Peters

The God Abandons Antony

Julian Peters writes, "After suffering defeat at the hands of Octavian at the Battle of Actium (31 BCE), Antony and Cleopatra retreated to their power base of Alexandria, Egypt, where the two lovers had first met almost twenty-five years earlier. The Ancient Greek biographer Plutarch tells the story of how, one night, while besieged in Alexandria by Octavian's forces, Antony was woken by the sounds of instruments and voices as if from a boisterous procession making its way through the city in the direction of the city gates. The former general of Julius Caesar took this as a sign that the god Bacchus, whom he regarded as his personal protector, was now deserting him. The next day, Octavian's soldiers entered the city and Antony committed suicide, along with Cleopatra.

"The Greek poet Constantine Peter Cavafy (1863-1933), who was born in Alexandria and spent most of his life in that city, was inspired by Plutarch's tale to write 'The God Abandons Antony', a poem celebrating human dignity in the face of loss and defeat."

The God Abandons Antony
by Constantine Cavafy (1911),
translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don't mourn your luck that's failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive—don't mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all, don't fool yourself, don't say
it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
don't degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who proved worthy of this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion, but not
with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen—your final delectation—to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

Many years later, Cavafy's poem would inspire the lyrics of Leonard Cohen's song "Alexandra Leaving", in which the city of Alexandria becomes Alexandra, a former lover whom the God of Love has now swept off elsewhere on the wings of "the simplicities of pleasure".

Kindly reprinted by permission of Julian Peters. See more at Mr. Peters' website.

The Last Word

Femme Faces of Spirituality
For me, the Virgin Mary, like the Cross, is a potent double-edged symbol. It's all a matter of emphasis. One can critique the sex-shaming involved in equating virginity with moral purity, and the restriction of women to the domestic sphere. However, this is not a flaw in Mary, as much as a side effect of patriarchal tokenism, which puts too much pressure on a limited number of female role models to be all things to all people. Looking at Mary in a positive light, she can represent women's creative power, independent from men and heterosexual reproduction. Like Jesus, this teenage unwed mother voluntarily took on social stigma to follow her own perception of God's call. [read more]

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

Jendi Reiter
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