The best free literary contests with deadlines to July 31 |

Winning Writers - best resources for poets and writers

Having trouble viewing this email? View the web version.

Follow us on TwitterLike us on FacebookFind us on RedditFind us on YouTube

Winning Writers Newsletter - June 2020

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 "Buffalo Dusk" by Carl Sandburg, illustrated by Julian Peters.

Last Call!
Deadline: June 30. 6th year. Co-sponsored by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of The Frugal Book Promoter, and BookBaby. Prizes increased to $12,500, including a top award of $5,000. This year's categories: Mainstream/Literary Fiction, Genre Fiction, Creative Nonfiction & Memoir, Poetry, Children's Picture Book, and Graphic Novel & Memoir. Fee: $65 per entry. Jendi Reiter and Ellen LaFleche will judge, assisted by Annie Keithline and Jim DuBois. See last year's 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.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 131,000 followers on Twitter. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

Featured Sponsor: Campfire Pro

Campfire Pro

Campfire Pro is a prewriting software that helps writers organize their stories and keep track of the details in a downloadable desktop app. Its character development tools include character sheets, character arc support, and relationship management. For worldbuilding, Campfire Pro offers location outlining and a powerful map system. Finally, the timeline allows writers to track all their story events, along with which characters and locations are a part of each event. Campfire Pro is what novelists need to go from the seed of an idea to a detailed plan that's ready to be executed. Begin your free trial today.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Mi West, Carol Dines, Kathryn Winograd, Joseph Stanton (featured poem: "René Magritte's 'The Unexpected Answer'"), Thomas Davis, Barbara de la Cuesta, Mike Tuohy, Neil Perry Gordon, Betty M Reeves, Annie Dawid, Janet Garber, Karin Aurino, and Chelsea Dingman.

Winning Writers Editor Jendi Reiter's poem "Past Life as a Bear" will be published in Pensive: A Global Journal of Spirituality and the Arts this fall. Their poem "Self-Portrait as Pastry Box" was published in Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Vol. 5 (2020).

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

Have news? Please email it to

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. Discounts available! View the discounts.

Share Your Story
A memoir gives us the ability to write about our life with the option to create and fabricate and to make sense of a life, or part of that life. For this writing contest, write about a piece of your life! Win cash!
Deadline tomorrow! June 16th

Four Line Poem
The first line has 1 syllable, the second line has 5 syllables, the third line has 5 syllables, and the last line has 9 syllables. The subject can be anything. Cash prize to the winner.
Deadline in 5 Days! June 20th

Father's Day Poetry Contest
Write a poem about Dad or about being a Dad for this special day.
Deadline in 6 Days! June 21st

Free Verse Poetry Contest
Write a poem with no fixed meter or structure regarding rhyme and lines in each stanza. The winner takes away a cash prize.
Deadline June 30th

20 Line Poem
Write a poem with exactly 20 lines. Any format. Cash Prize!
Deadline July 1st

Two Line Poem
Write an essence poem. This is a poem of two lines with six syllables per line, each containing an internal rhyme and an ending rhyme. See the exampleCash prize to the winner.
Deadline July 3rd

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

Special Feature: A Booklist for Black Lives Matter

In solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and all peaceful protesters against police brutality, Winning Writers presents these topical books written or recommended by our subscribers. We are also offering a selection of subscriber poems inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement on our website.

The Tradition

Jericho Brown
The Tradition (Copper Canyon, 2019)
This notable black queer poet's third collection won the Pulitzer Prize, among other awards. Visit his website to learn more.

Duriel E. Harris
No Dictionary of a Living Tongue (Nightboat, 2017)
Harris is a poet, performer, and sound artist who is a co-founder of the avant-garde poetry/performance trio the Black Took Collective, and of Call & Response, a dynamic of Black women and performance. Read about her at the Poetry Foundation website. (Recommended by our South African subscriber Phillippa Yaa de Villiers.)

Tyehimba Jess
Olio (Wave Books, 2016)
Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, this poetry collection weaves sonnet, song, and narrative to examine the lives of mostly unrecorded African-American performers directly before and after the Civil War up to World War I. (Recommended by subscriber Ernie Brill.)

Morgan Parker
There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé (Tin House, 2017)
The New Yorker called this collection "a dynamic meditation on the experience of, and societal narratives surrounding, contemporary black womanhood." Read sample poems on her website.

Lobibah Oji Baraka (a/k/a Gilbert H. Richards)
Herd of Tusks (Outskirts Press, 2016)
Debut collection from an African-American teacher of English Literature and member of the Black Writers Guild of Maryland. (Recommended by subscriber Jeanna Tillery.)

Charles Coe
Memento Mori (Leapfrog Press, 2019)
Coe is a widely published African-American poet and journalist as well as a jazz vocalist. His latest poetry book is a meditation on mortality, change and loss, by turns somber, thoughtful, and humorous. (Recommended by subscriber Tim Mayo.)

David Evans
Black and White: How to Have Our American Conversation About Race
WW subscriber Evans, a white author who is a mediator and conflict resolution specialist, offers racial reconciliation insights from his profession.

Ruth Andrews Garnes
The Cry of our Children
This poetry collection highlights the African-American struggle and other social issues. WW subscriber Garnes is a former registered nurse, a mother to seven African-American children, and a published poet and songwriter.

We'll feature more books in our next newsletter.

A Supportive and Inspiring 4-Week Online Poetry Retreat Created by Poets for Poets

Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Writing Retreat

A Writing Retreat to Help You Write New Poems This Summer!

WHAT YOU NEED: Access to email and a desire to write new poems.


  • Daily poem prompts and writing exercises written specifically for the retreat.
  • A print copy of a Two Sylvias Press poetry publication (we will send you a list of choices).
  • Example poems, creativity suggestions, and reflection questions to spark ideas—emailed to you throughout the week (Monday-Friday). Saturday and Sunday are for focused writing and revision.

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 Maggie Smith, Traci Brimhall, January Gill O'Neil, Jennifer K. Sweeney, and Jennifer Jean! 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 (space is limited).

Deadline Extended! The Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry

The Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry 2020

Deadline extended through June 30

Lynx House Press seeks submissions of full-length poetry manuscripts for the 23rd annual Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry. The winner receives $2,000 and publication. Each entrant receives a copy of a book from our back catalog.

The Prize is awarded for an unpublished, full-length volume of poems by a US author, which includes foreign nationals living and writing in the US and US citizens living abroad.

Previous winners include Carolyne Wright, Jim Daniels, Roy Bentley, Arianne Zwartjes, Lynne Burris Butler, Suzanne Lummis, Prartho Sereno, Marc Harshman, and Joe Wilkins. The 2019 winner was Kirsten Kaschock for her collection Explain this Corpse. Lynx House Press has been publishing fine poetry and prose since 1975.

Poems included in submissions may not have appeared in full-length, single-author collections. Acknowledgments pages and author names may be included. Entries must be at least 48 pages in length. The reading fee for submitting is $28.

Submit via Submittable.

Last Call! Our North Street Book Prize

North Street Book Prize

Winning Writers will award a grand prize of $5,000 in the sixth annual North Street competition for self-published books. Choose from six categories:

  • Mainstream/Literary Fiction
  • Genre Fiction
  • Creative Nonfiction & Memoir
  • Poetry
  • Children's Picture Book
  • Graphic Novel & Memoir

$12,500 will be awarded in all, and the top seven winners will receive additional benefits to help market their books. Entry fee: $65 per book. Deadline: June 30. Submit online via Submittable or by mail.

Click to learn more about our guidelines, past winners, and judges' remarks.


Last Call! Charlotte Mew Chapbook Contest

Headmistress Press

Vi Khi Nao

Deadline: July 4

Headmistress Press, a lesbian-identified publisher of books by lesbian/bi/trans poets, is proud to announce our sixth annual Charlotte Mew Chapbook Contest. Our judge for this year is Vi Khi Nao. Our first-prize winner will receive $300 plus 20 copies of the winning book. All entries will be considered for publication. We will be accepting submissions through Submittable, and will announce a winner in the fall. Our reading fee is always on a sliding scale, with fee waived upon request. Click here for guidelines and submission.

When we say "lesbian-identified", we include both women who identify as lesbians and people who identify with lesbians. We recognize that lesbian communities have been and continue to be informed by bi women, trans women, Two Spirit, genderqueer, gender-nonconforming, and non-binary people, and that many of these labels are not mutually exclusive categories. In that spirit, we welcome submissions from all poets who feel an intimate connection with the term "lesbian".

Nimrod International Journal’s Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers

Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers

Deadline: July 15

Submissions are 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 2 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 2021 issue of Nimrod. Work by all finalists will also be published, and finalists will be paid at a rate of $10/page up to a maximum of $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)
  • Fee Per Entry: $12 payable to Nimrod, 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.

$15,000 Rattle Poetry Prize

Rattle Poetry Prize 2020

Deadline: July 15

The annual Rattle Poetry Prize is celebrating its 15th year by increasing the 1st prize to $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 blind 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 this RPP finalist poem by Red Hawk, published in Rattle #50, Winter 2015:


The greatest courage is not needed for war,
but for ordinary people growing old.
Like soldiers, the aged are never very far
from death: many are called,
all are chosen. A soldier faces danger
then retreats, but for the old, going back
is not possible; they may hunger
for youth but pray for the luck
of a quick death. When one by one
the body's systems fail, they must be brave
and face annihilation of the flesh and bone,
the Soul clinging like a shipwrecked sailor, to love;
finally, love is all we are given
to navigate between exhaustion and heaven.

Nickie's Prize for Humor Writing

Nickie's Prize for Humor Writing

Deadline: August 1

The University of Dayton's Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop is seeking essays from a diversity of authors of all experience levels for Nickie's Prize for Humor Writing. Essayists, authors, bloggers—anyone with a hilarious, touching story—is invited to submit a humorous essay about their sister.

In the spirit of Erma Bombeck, the tone can be humorous, absurd, offbeat, quirky or fun in a smart way. All previously unpublished material no longer than 1,000 words will be considered, including pieces that expand on the theme, such as a cousin or close friend who's like a sister.

Up to 20 winners will receive a $300 cash prize each. The best essays will be published online, with the possibility of being included in a future anthology.

Application fee: $25.

Read the announcement, guidelines, FAQs — and apply here.

On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

On The Premises

The premise of OTP's short story contest #36 is "Ooooh, That Smell". Write a story in which either a specific scent, or the sense of smell in general, is important to the story.

Word limits: at least 1,000 words long, and no more than 5,000 words long.

DEADLINE: 11:59 PM Eastern Time, Friday, September 4, 2020.

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

GENRE RULES: No children's fiction, no exploitative sex, no over-the-top grossout horror, and no stories that are obvious parodies of well-known fictional worlds/characters created by other authors.

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.

Download the 2019 North Street Grand Prize Book for Free

Lay of the Land

From the Winning Writers critique by Ellen LaFleche:

Lay of the Land, J.R. Weber's dramatic play in verse, is one of the most creative entries we've received in the history of our contest. Meticulously researched, with an extensive bibliography, this Grand Prize winning book portrays the 1862 attack by Mdewakanton Sioux warriors against a government agency in Minnesota. As described on the book jacket, "The war was short-lived, as settlers joined to repel the attack and troops were sent to apprehend and punish the most active warriors, but its legacy endures...It is a story of diplomacy, betrayal, corruption, and great suffering, of heroic and terrible acts."

Read the full critique.

Download Lay of the Land as a free PDF for a limited time.

40 Short Poems by Jim DuBois

40 Short Poems by Jim DuBois

From long-time poet Jim DuBois comes a volume called "relentlessly dramatic" by one reader and "perfectly put together" by another.

"A short poem doesn't leave room for error. You must condense everything down to one point, and economically yet dramatically aim for it. You either make it, or you miss it." —Jim DuBois

 all it takes
 the cool air
   the bridge

Buy 40 Short Poems now from Lulu.

Walking into Lightning, poems by Ellen LaFlèche

Walking into Lightning

Winning Writers contest judge Ellen LaFlèche's debut poetry collection, Walking into Lightning, explores the dying of the poet's husband of ALS in 2014, and the first years of widowhood. With profound sensuality and intense imagery, these poems speak of the physicality of love and loss, and the whole territory of grieving: its violence and its ordinariness, the interplay of memory, desire, and sorrow.

"Walking into Lightning is a tender, fierce, raging, stunning book that left me breathless. How generous of Ellen LaFlèche to share this intimate love story with the world! Her metaphors go straight to the heart: seagulls hover 'like crosses over the waning tides'; dawn is 'a languid unfurl, / a woman releasing her hair pin by pin from her nape'; and an IV bag is 'a goblin's bobbling head'. The tension between the sensual and the sorrowful makes this book stand out from other poetry collections about loss and death. Walking into Lightning is an extraordinary collection that teaches us how to live each moment to the fullest."
—Lesléa Newman, author of I Carry My Mother and Lovely

Please enjoy this poem from Walking into Lightning:

Because the dead cannot tell us what it's like to die

That time our yard was a blurred gyroscope of snow
and our driveway a gloss lake of ice. 
Your breath: a momentary ghost on our bedroom window.
Snow shivered the pine needles
and a maple branch snapped off at the elbow.
A blue jay slung a blur of sky across the storm
and somehow, somehow
the sun slipped through that momentary blueness.
Your breath on the glass glowed hot with light.
Dying might be like that.

That time we watched the ocean roll, ancient with salt,
with boneless creatures bobbing through the breakers.
The sun lulled our muscles like a hot stone massage.
The waves unfurled their bolts of lace
and you peered into a quahog's pink-lined jewel box.
Sunset turned the water to Sauvignon wine
and sailboats to palettes of van Gogh mauve.
But you said there was nothing so beautiful
as my long white hair lifting into a squall.
Dying might be like that.

That time in the shower
when you slid an oval of jasmine soap down my right arm,
then my left.
I slid the mauve oval down your left leg,
then your right. Our breaths added the smell of fermented grapes
to the gathering mist. After the lathering,
steam lifted off your shoulders like a departing spirit.
My eyes wept away the soap's jasmine burn
and for a moment
I saw you pass through the frosted glass door.
Dying might be like that.

Buy Walking into Lightning at Amazon.

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
Diverse Writers/Diverse Worlds Grants. Two diversity-centered grants (Diverse Writers and Diverse Worlds) of $500 apiece will be awarded for book-length speculative fiction rich in diversity. Diverse Writers is for "underrepresented and underprivileged groups...whose marginalized identities may present additional obstacles in the writing/publishing process"; Diverse Worlds is for "work that best presents a diverse world, regardless of the writer's background". Submit an excerpt of 5,000 words or fewer from an in-progress manuscript. Due June 30.

Intermediate Writers
Drue Heinz Literature Prize. The University of Pittsburgh Press will award $15,000 and publication for an unpublished book-length collection of short fiction (150-300 double-spaced pages). Open to writers who have published a novel, a book-length collection of fiction, or at least three short stories or novellas in commercial magazines or journals; online and self-publication does not count. Due June 30.

Advanced Writers
Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. US citizens and legal residents can win $100,000 for a published book of poetry. This award recognizes a full-length work by a poet who is past the very beginning but has not yet reached the acknowledged pinnacle of their career. "While some poetry prizes discover and honor new voices and others crown an indisputably major body of work, this award aims to sustain a poet who is laboring in the difficult middle between these extremes." 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 Claremont Graduate University 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

PSA: Voxy® Grants Are Available Through the Write Her Future Institute

Write Her Future

In partnership with Lancôme USA, ProLiteracy is providing free access to Voxy, a personalized, mobile English language learning platform. Through the Write Her Future Institute, adult education programs can apply for free one-year Voxy licenses for women learners.

ProLiteracy is committed to assisting its network of adult literacy programs in any way possible. The Voxy mobile learning platform provides support for grammar, listening, reading, vocabulary, and writing. Additional features include navigational text in 14 languages, word banks, grammar guide, flashcards, and pronunciation practice.

Adult education can help break the cycle of intergenerational illiteracy and poverty by giving women the skills they need to be successful. Learn more about Write Her Future and Voxy.

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.Vacationland

by Nat Goodale
Honorable Mention, Literary Fiction
2015 North Street Book Prize

This literary thriller centers on the adventures of a Maine lobsterman who falls in love with the daughter of a rich tourist while carrying on a no-holds-barred fight against the gentrification of his town.

Red Blood, Yellow Skin
by Linda L.T. Baer
First Prize, Memoir
2016 North Street Book Prize

This gripping memoir of survival as a child and young woman in war-torn Vietnam is both a unique coming-of-age story and an important contribution to the history of the Vietnam War.

Tzippy the Thief
by Patricia Rohner
Honorable Mention, Fiction
2017 North Street Book Prize

Entertaining and poignant, this novel follows a wealthy 80-year-old Jewish matriarch's belated journey of self-examination and repentance.

Lorelei's Lyric
by D.B. Sieders
Honorable Mention, Fiction
2017 North Street Book Prize

The first novel in Sieders' "Southern Elemental Guardians" series is a bubbly fantasy-romance about frisky Rhinemaiden mermaids on vacation in Nashville, TN.

Blackwax Boulevard
by Dmitri Jackson
First Prize, Graphic Narrative
2019 North Street Book Prize

This lively anthology collects the first five years of Jackson's webcomic about a struggling inner-city record store and the passionate misfits who call it home.

"Buffalo Dusk" by Carl Sandburg, 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 "Buffalo Dusk" from the book.

Buffalo Dusk

Buffalo Dusk

Buffalo Dusk

Buffalo Dusk

The Last Word

Jendi ReiterAnswering Detractors of "Black Lives Matter"
White Americans generally get to be judged as individuals, whereas black lawbreakers' behavior is attributed to the group as a whole. This too is racism. Moreover, protests have been infiltrated by right-wing agitators who want to stir up violence so black activists will be blamed. In the cellphone camera era, we’re suddenly seeing how often the police lie about the causes of altercations with suspects, inventing attacks to justify police brutality as a defensive measure. According to the Marshall Project, the problem is so widespread that some big-city prosecutors have "do not call lists" of cops who are untrustworthy witnesses. Be a critical thinker and double-check your news sources.

[read more]

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

One of the 101 Best Websites for Writers (Writer's Digest)