The best free literary contests with deadlines through August 31 |

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Welcome to Our July Newsletter

S. Mei Sheng Frazier and Jim DuBois

We found over two dozen quality free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between July 15-August 31.
In this issue: The celebrated final passage from "Little Gidding" by T.S. Eliot, illustrated by Julian Peters.
Coming in our August 15 newsletter: We'll announce the winners of our Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest.

View Free Contests

Open Now
15th year. We will award the Tom Howard Prize of $1,500 for a poem in any style or genre, and the Margaret Reid Prize of $1,500 for a poem that rhymes or has a traditional style. Ten Honorable Mentions will receive $100 each (any style). The top 12 entries will be published online. Length limit: 250 lines per poem. Entry fee: $12 per poem. Final judge: S. Mei Sheng Frazier, assisted by Jim DuBois. Deadline: September 30. Submit online here.

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Upcoming contest deadlines:

Four Line Poem Contest
Write a four line poem that has a specific syllable count. 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. Any subject. $100 cash prize. Deadline: July 20.

Antonym Poetry Contest
Write a four line poem. The first line is only one word. Second and third line can be formatted as you wish. The last line is the antonym of the word on the first line. The winner takes away $100. Deadline: July 25.

Three Line Poem Contest
We are looking for an unrhymed poem of 17 or 19 syllables. It has the following syllable counts: 5/7/5 or 5/7/7. Win $100. Deadline: July 30.

Dialogue Only Writing Contest
Write a story of any length using only dialogue. No narration, descriptions, or sentence tags. Winner receives $100. Deadline: August 3.

Free Verse Poetry Contest
Free verse has no fixed meter and no structure regarding rhyme and lines in each stanza. $100 cash for the winner. Deadline: August 7.

See all our upcoming contests and find out more.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Linda Heuring, Radha Marcum (featured poem: "His Ghost Returns to Frijoles Canyon"), Trish Hopkinson (featured poem: "Reconstructed Happiness"), Gary Beck (featured poem: "Sensory Experience"), Mike Tuohy, Diane Lockward, Naila MoreiraDuane L. Herrmann, J. Paul Cooper, Cristofer Lentsch, Jefferson Carter, Fateme BanishoeibSue Ann Culp, and Carolyn Howard-Johnson.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Online Poetry Writing Retreat from Two Sylvias Press

Online Poetry Writing Retreat

This Supportive and Inspiring 4-Week Online Poetry Retreat was created by poets for poets.

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 (your choice), a softcover journal created specifically for retreat participants, creativity suggestions, and 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, the editors at Two Sylvias Press also critique two of your poems and offer ideas on where to submit them!

Space is limited! July sold out. Register now for our August retreat. Due to popular demand, we have added an October retreat as well.

All levels of poet welcome (from beginning to published author)
Supportive, nurturing, and helpful feedback on two of your poems and suggestions on where to submit them.

To register for the August or October retreats, visit:

Tupelo Press July Open Submission Period

Submission period: July 1-31 (postmark or online-submission date)

Tupelo Press is holding open submissions for book-length poetry collections (48-90 pages) and chapbook-length poetry collections (28-47 pages), and manuscripts of any length of English poetry translations from any language.

Submissions are accepted from anyone writing in the English language (whether in the United States or abroad). A reading fee of $30 (U.S.) must accompany each submission. Include a cover page with the title of your manuscript, your name, address, phone number and email address. Submit online via Submittable or by mail to:

     Open Submissions
     Tupelo Press
     P.O. Box 1767
     North Adams, MA 01247

Read the complete guidelines before submitting your manuscript:

Please enjoy this selection by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, who first came to Tupelo Press through the July Open Reading Period with her winning collection, Personal Science (Tupelo Press, 2017). For more information about Personal Science, and our canon of 100+ books, please visit our website:

The gunslinger neuron
by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Everyone should get in touch with their inner fate

of snow afflicted by a bad case of the doldrums.

Reader, I would not live in a powderless tree: If I could

I would align myself with the powerscape.

At times I practice being sad in the mirror.

I practice a blister. My murder face.

Of what I remind myself I am not sure.

Some calypso in the distance.

Beakers of candid morning.

A snow cannot be a lie.

Grayson Books Poetry Prize

Barbara Crooker

Deadline: August 15

All poets writing in English are invited to submit manuscripts to the Grayson Books Poetry Prize. Use the submission manager to submit your 50-80 page manuscript electronically. Or send your work in the mail with two cover pages (one with complete contact info, one with no contact info), a reading fee of $25, and a SASE for results to:

Grayson Books
P.O. Box 270549
West Hartford, CT 06127

Grayson Books

The winner will be awarded a $1,000 prize, publication, and 10 copies. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable if we are notified immediately about an acceptance elsewhere. Acknowledgments may be included, but are not required.

Barbara Crooker (pictured above) is this year's judge. A widely-published poet who has won many prizes and awards, her Selected Poems came out in 2015.

Congratulations to William Wells, the winner of the 2016 Grayson Books Poetry Contest. Our judge, Benjamin Grossberg, chose his collection Odd Lots, Scraps, and Second-Hand, Like New from a pool of many outstanding manuscripts. Please enjoy this poem from the book:

Smashing Glass in Hobo-Town

In weeds between the river and the tracks
a row of shanties straggled parallel,
contrived from boxes and dismembered crates.
Companies of passed-out bums lay sprawled,
clutching their guts like the dead at Gettysburg.

Craig's brother, all of twelve, gave the command
and led a charge of ten-year olds. We snatched
the empty flasks that glinted full of dawn
and flung them like grenades, exploding dreams,
the salvaged last reprieves from boxcar straw.

Reluctant warrior, I hung back to watch
those crumpled forms reanimate, roused
from stupor to resume their truncheoned lives,
one more indignity that riled them
into action. We ran; they stumbled after.

One came close to catching me, his blasted
stare supplying nightmare's standard issue.
Thus I surrendered sleep for spoiling his,
my shoulder throbbing where he almost grabbed,
my face red-badged with panic's powder burns.

Some wounds don't heal, and civil wars go on.
When Craig shipped home from Nam, addicted,
his brother was the cop who made the bust.
The fall of empires and the faults of men
are chronicled by gleaming shards of glass.

The Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry and the Serena McDonald Kennedy Fiction Award

Sponsored by Snake Nation Press. Deadline: August 31. Submit electronically or by mail.

Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry

  • $1,000 award and publication
  • Entry fee: $25
  • Submit a manuscript of up to 75-100 pages
  • Previously published works may be entered

Serena McDonald Kennedy Fiction Award

  • $1,000 award and publication
  • Entry fee: $25
  • Submit a novella of up to 50,000 words or a manuscript of short stories of up to 200 pages
  • Any well-written manuscript on any topic will be considered
  • Previously published works may be entered

We are proud to announce that Rupert Fike of Georgia has won the 2016 Violet Reed Haas Prize for his poetry collection, Hello the House, and Tom Benz of Chicago has won the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award for his collection of short stories, Home & Castle. See selections from their work.

On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

On The Premises

The premise for short story contest #30 is "Community". They say it takes a village to raise a child, but that's just one example of a kind of community and just one way a community can affect your life. There are plenty of others—good, bad, and otherwise. So for this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which community (or some kind of community) plays an important role.

Deadline: Friday, September 1, 2017, 11:59 PM Eastern Time.

Winners receive between US$60 and US$220, and publication. There is no fee to enter our contest.

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 Experimental Essays

Deadline: September 11

Creative Nonfiction is currently seeking experimental nonfiction for the "Exploring the Boundaries" section ("experimental," "boundaries" ... yes, we know these can be loaded terms). We're looking for writing that is ambitious, pushes against the conventional boundaries of the genre, plays with style and form, and makes its own rules. As always, we have only one absolute rule: nonfiction must be based in fact.

Please note that this is NOT a call for an entire "Exploring the Boundaries" issue of the magazine; accepted pieces will be published one per issue, and the earliest possible publication will be in Issue #67 (Spring 2018).

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

Essays must be previously unpublished and no longer than 4,500 words. All essays must tell true stories and be factually accurate. Everything we publish goes through a rigorous fact-checking process, and editors may ask for sources and citations.

Guidelines at

Creative Nonfiction

The 2017 New Writer Awards at Sequestrum

Deadline: October 15

The 2017 New Writer Awards at Sequestrum award over $500 in prizes and publication to writers of short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry who have yet to publish a book-length manuscript. Two first-prize winners (one fiction/nonfiction, one poetry) will receive $200 each. A minimum of one runner-up per genre will receive publication and a cash prize.

Finalists last year included many new, emerging, and even first-time writers. All finalists are listed on the website. Enter online. No length (short story/essay) or theme restrictions. Complete guidelines here:

Need a summer read? Save 90% on new subscriptions and make free submissions with the coupon code SummerLit here:

Sequestrum has an international readership of 2,500+ per month and publishes poetry and prose on a rolling basis. All publications are paired with a stunning visual component. Past contributors include Guggenheim and NEA Fellows, Pulitzer Prize finalists, as well as many new and emerging voices.

Announcing the Writing Pittsburgh Book Prize

Deadline: October 23

The Writing Pittsburgh Book Prize will recognize one book focusing on a subject of regional and national significance, by a writer with a meaningful Pittsburgh connection. The author of the winning manuscript will receive a $10,000 honorarium; publication of their book by the Creative Nonfiction Foundation's independent book imprint, In Fact Books (IFB); national distribution; and a marketing and publicity campaign.

Manuscripts will be judged on originality; the subject's broad appeal and resonance with a national readership; interpretation of the "Writing Pittsburgh" theme; and literary quality and strength of prose. The selected book might be an in-depth reporting project focusing on one organization, individual, or event; alternatively, it might be a more personal writing project—for example, a memoir. All submissions will be judged by CNF's editorial staff.

The winning author will work with CNF/IFB's editorial staff to refine and polish the manuscript.

Guidelines at

Creative Nonfiction

New! The Best of FundsforWriters, Vol. 1

FundsforWriters is internationally known for its level-headed yet tough-love advice to writers, both emerging and seasoned. Recognized by Writer's Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for over 15 years, the site serves up plates full of motivation also delivered in the weekly newsletter to 35,000 readers. The Best of FundsforWriters, Vol. 1 offers 32 essays and how-to strategies that struck positive chords with readers around the globe.

"FundsforWriters helps writers achieve more success with their writing by finding and sharing the information that writers need to fund their writing."
—Robert Lee Brewer, Editor, Writer's Market

"FFW is quite simply the best online resource for writers. I get dozens of writers' newsletters in my inbox every week, but FFW is the only one I read right away, from top to bottom, and save for future reference. Hope Clark rocks."
—Glenn Walker, Editor-in-chief of the pop culture website,

"No matter what kind of writer you want to be, FundsforWriters gives you the resources, guidance and inspiration we all need to hone our craft. All writers need hope, and C. Hope Clark's FundsforWriters brings you the tools, resources and real world knowledge that will make you a better writer."
—Mark Lund, award-winning magazine publisher, screenwriter and filmmaker

Well known throughout the writing industry, C. Hope Clark founded FundsforWriters two decades ago when she could not find what she wanted for her own writing career. Today, she is editor of FundsforWriters, an award-winning author of two mystery series, and an active freelance entrepreneur. She and her motivational voice and writer support message appear often at conferences, nonprofit galas, book clubs, libraries, and writers' groups across the country.

Buy The Best of FundsforWriters now at Amazon

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays on "Risk"

Deadline: November 6

Every decision we make, whether as individuals or as a society, involves some risk—whether physical or emotional, economic or legal, social or spiritual. Our comfort level with uncertainty defines not only our choices in any given situation, but how we live.

For a special issue of Creative Nonfiction magazine, we're seeking true stories illustrating the ways we balance the threat of loss against the promise of gain.

Possible subjects could be big or small, personal or public. We're interested in intersections between deeply personal decisions and those that affect larger communities.

  • How is risk intertwined with life decisions like entering relationships, starting or ending a pregnancy, or revealing a sexual or gender preference?
  • How do the risks associated with social interactions, whether online or in person, affect people's behavior or speech?
  • How does risk relate to deeply held religious and/or political beliefs, especially within a pluralistic society?
  • Why do some people actively seek risk, and how does this affect their quality of life?
  • How are emerging technologies such as gene editing and artificial intelligence changing the nature of the risks we face?
  • How do we think about and approach potentially catastrophic risks such as a large asteroid colliding with the earth, nuclear war, or the possibility of artificial intelligence superseding human intelligence?

Above all, we are looking for vivid narratives—true stories, rich with scene, character, detail, and a distinctive voice—with unique insights into these questions.

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

Guidelines at

Creative Nonfiction

Bullies in Love by Jendi Reiter

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.

"This book is an immensely enjoyable, sometimes beautiful, and often moving romp—tamed and targeted rage—through the hazardous territory of inter-personal and political relationships. Reiter's way with contemporary American English is acutely sensitive, and I cannot think of a better way to address the apparent oxymoron of the collection's title. It is a full, rich book—you will get your money's worth. It is also often laugh out loud funny—an impressive rarity in poetry that is also serious."
—E. Taylor, 5-star Amazon review

Please enjoy this sample poem, "Poem With Nothing Before 1972", and buy Bullies in Love.

Bullies in Love

Spotlight Contests

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 grants (Diverse Writers and Diverse Worlds) of $500 apiece 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". Due July 31.

Intermediate Writers
PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship. A fellowship of $5,000 to an author of children's or young adult fiction. An eligible candidate is a writer of children's or YA fiction in financial need. Due September 15.

Advanced Writers
Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. The Writers' Trust of Canada awards C$25,000 for novels or short story collections published in Canada between October 1 of the previous year and September 30 of the deadline year by Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Due July 19.

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

Search for Contests

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A Passage from "Little Gidding" by T.S. Eliot, illustrated by Julian Peters

Mr. Peters writes, "A few months ago, the American magazine Plough Quarterly commissioned me to create a comics adaptation of the celebrated final section of T. S. Eliot's poem "Little Gidding", the last of his Four Quartets." 

This illustration appeared at Plough Quarterly and is reprinted here by kind permission of Mr. Peters. Visit his website.


The Last Word

Scandalous Trademarks and My Little Piece of Supreme Court History
The Lanham Act is the federal law governing trademark registrations and lawsuits. A little-known provision of that law, Section 2(a), forbids registration of marks that are "immoral…or scandalous" or bring persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols "into contempt or disrepute"...

...As a poet, I've always been sensitive to the slippery, multivalent nature of words, and protective of their freedom to exceed and evade their official definitions. Fundamentalism, whether religious or political, is characterized by the claim that certain words and symbols have a single universal meaning. But words are not fixed objects to be fought over, so much as they are the territory where our battles for power and truth play out.

[read more]

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

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