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Welcome to Our April Newsletter

Karen Harryman and A.T. Hincapie

We found over 30 excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between April 15-May 31. In this issue: "There Have Come Soft Rains", a poem by John Philip Johnson, illustrated by Julian Peters.
View Free Contests

KAREN HARRYMAN and A.T. HINCAPIE won the top awards of $1,500 each in our 15th annual Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest. 3,223 entries were received from around the world. We awarded 13 Honorable Mentions: Sylvia Adams, Katie Bickham, Richard Brook, Rata Gordon, Atoosa Grey, Mary K. O'Melveny, Michelle Tibbetts, Trent Busch, Teri Foltz, Curtis LeBlanc, Jeanne-Marie Osterman, Kathleen Spivack, and Eliot Khalil Wilson. Read today's press release, and read the winning entries selected by Soma Mei Sheng Frazier and assistant judge Jim DuBois. Our 16th contest opens today. Ms. Frazier and Mr. DuBois return to judge. Enter here.

Last Call!
Deadline: April 30. 26th year. $5,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $2,000 each. Fee: $20 per entry. Final judge: Dennis Norris II. Previously published work accepted. See last year's winners and enter here.

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Congratulations to Norbert Hirschhorn, Joan Houlihan, Mark D. Hart (featured poem: "Our Lady of Acid Rain"), M. Lee Alexander, Mi West, Ruth Hill, Jeanne-Marie Osterman, Annie Dawid, Shobana Gomes, David W. Berner, Mark Fleisher, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, R.T. Castleberry, David Kherdian, Gail Thomas, and Lesléa Newman.

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Upcoming contest deadlines:

Rhyming Poetry Contest
Write a poem that has a rhyme scheme. How it rhymes is up to you. Cash prize. Deadline: April 18 (in three days!)

5-7-5 Poetry Contest
This poem follows the structure of a haiku but may be on any topic. The winner receives a cash prize. Deadline: April 19 (in four days!)

ABC Poetry Contest
Write a poem with one or more stanzas of five lines each. In each stanza, the first letter of each of the first four lines follows the order of the alphabet, while the last line can start with any letter. Win cash. Deadline: April 20 (in five days!)

150-Words Flash Fiction Contest
Write a story with exactly 150 words (not including the title). Winner receives cash. Deadline: April 21

Cinquain Poetry Contest
Cinquains have five lines with these syllable counts: 2, 4, 6, 8, 2. Cash for the winner. Deadline: April 25

See all our upcoming contests and find out more.

Berkshire Prize for a First or Second Book of Poetry Sponsored by Tupelo Press

Berkshire Prize

Postmark Deadline: April 30
Final Judge: Carl Phillips
Prize: $3,000

The Berkshire Prize for a First or Second Book of Poetry includes a cash award of $3,000 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. Results will be announced in late summer.

The Berkshire 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 authors having published only one previous collection 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, regardless of length, and no manuscript will be rejected simply because it's shorter or longer. Individual poems in a contest manuscript may have been previously published in magazines, journals, or anthologies, or chapbooks, but the work as a whole must be unpublished. If applicable, include with your manuscript an acknowledgments page for prior publications.

Simultaneous submissions to other publishers or contests are permitted, as long as you notify Tupelo Press promptly if a manuscript is accepted elsewhere.

We encourage online submission via Submittable. You may also submit via postal mail: Tupelo Press Berkshire Prize, Tupelo Press, P.O. Box 1767, North Adams, MA 01247.

A reading fee of $30 payable by check to Tupelo Press or via Submittable must accompany each submission. Multiple submissions are accepted, each accompanied by a $30 reading fee.

Read the complete guidelines before submitting your manuscript.

Read about past winners and more information about all Tupelo contests.

Please enjoy this selection from Marvels of the Invisible, by 2014 Berkshire Prize winner Jenny Molberg.

Storm Coming
by Jenny Molberg

Before rain, my father stands on the porch,
drawing in the metallic air. In his face,

I look for my own. I've seen the way he is
with his father. He counts down the lightning.

The sky swells like an oath.
Dad, he'll say, how about next time

we'll go and get some of those peaches you like,
out by the highway?
He'll laugh a laugh

that knows its own ending. And the drops fall,
just like he promised. The storm is birth and death

in only minutes. So we laugh, knowing
we don't have the time to love it.

$6,000 in Prizes: Nimrod International Journal's Literary Awards for Fiction and Poetry

Deadline: April 30

It's time to enter the 40th annual Nimrod Literary Awards: The Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and The Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction. The Awards offer first prizes of $2,000 and publication, and second prizes of $1,000 and publication. Winners will also be brought to Tulsa in October for the Awards Ceremony and Conference for Readers and Writers.

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


  • Poetry: 3-10 pages of poetry
  • Fiction: 7,500 words maximum (one short story or a self-contained excerpt from a novel)
  • Fee Per Entry: $20 payable to Nimrod, includes a one-year subscription (two issues)

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. All finalists and semi-finalists will be considered for publication.

For complete rules, visit Nimrod's website.

Last Call! Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

Dennis Norris II

Final judge of this year's contest: Dennis Norris II

Gulf Coast Prizes in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry

Deadline: May 1

Gulf Coast will award $1,500 and publication in Gulf Coast to the winner in each genre. Two honorable mentions in each genre will be awarded $250. All entries will be considered for publication and the entry fee includes a one-year subscription to Gulf Coast. This year's judges are Joshua Ferris (Fiction), Chen Chen (Poetry), and Lacy M. Johnson (Nonfiction).

See the complete guidelines, learn about our judges, and enter online or by mail.

Please enjoy our 2016 winning poem by Brandon Rushton, "Calisthenics", published in Gulf Coast and currently appearing in Verse Daily:


All things are an effort to prolong the inevitable.
For example, my deep concern when the kids call
top bunk it means they've acquired innuendo.
They'll get there, if they haven't already
and already it is hard for me to accept that.
The dog brings in the daily paper and I tell
myself the troubling news is temporary.
Each month we make believe the mortgage
is a ransom installment meant for remedying
our differences with the mob. It's better this way,
for our sex life, if we're more morbid than boring.
I wave at the neighbor who dual wields
his weed killer and he does not wave back.
I'd like to call a mayday every Monday morning
but this seems insensitive considering the plane
that's just crashed on a pond of swans.
The community committee has just elected
our inaugural savior of the suburb. Kids chuck
their trading cards down a manhole
as a form of protest. Nothing stays the same.
Spirits are low. The search effort is to be
suspended at sunset. The main difference
between a plane and a person hurled into the water
is the black box that helps us understand it better.
There are no survivors. There are still
so many swans.


New Letters invites you to submit fiction or poetry to the New Letters Literary Awards or an essay to the Conger Beasley Jr. Award for Nonfiction. Winners receive $2,500 for best essay, $1,500 for best poetry, and $1,500 for best fiction, and publication in New Letters. Deadline for entry is May 18th.

All entries are considered for publication and must be unpublished. Winners will be announced mid-September 2018. Essay and fiction entries may not exceed 8,000 words; poetry entries may contain one to six poems. Entry includes a one-year subscription to New Letters.

Previous judges have included Philip Levine, Joyce Carol Oates, Rishi Reddi, Mary Jo Salter, Carole Maso, Cornelius Eady, Margot Livsey, Benjamin Percy, Robin Hemley, and Kim Addonizio.

For complete guidelines, visit our website or send an S.A.S.E. to Ashley Wann, Contest Coordinator, New Letters, 5101 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110.

Please enjoy the winning poem from our 2016 contest. It appeared in New Letters, Vol. 83, Nos. 2 & 3.

The Year God Discovered Pointillism
by Deborah Bogen

Winter wouldn't quit. There was a generalized, harmonized
breathing, but no speech, no words, as if talk had never
been real. We grew attentive to small changes, spatial
ones and even vacillating pressures. Some days we tasted
stillness, but it was nothing mystical. It was only weather.

This is not meant to confuse you. Think of snow-softened
edges, contrasts smudged—hushed, the way mother
hushed your questions without even speaking. It was the
snow in her that stopped your breath and filled the room
with glitter.

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays on "Home"

Deadline: May 21

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

Tiferet 2018 Writing Contest

Tiferet 2018 Writing Contest

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

Deadline: July 16

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

White Man's Disease by Paul Thornton

Winner, 2017 North Street Book Prize, Creative Nonfiction & Memoir

Paul Thornton rose from the streets of Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighborhood to become a Fortune 500 executive. But a catastrophic event threatened his marriage, his career, and his self-respect. Thornton's remarkable resurrection is a gripping, inspirational story of hope, resilience, and the essential American Dream of realizing one's full potential. Poignant, sad, tragic, funny, and compelling, White Man's Disease is a redemption story for the ages.

Available at Amazon, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and the author's website. Read the Winning Writers critique and a free excerpt.

The Kurdish Bike—A Novel by Alesa Lightbourne

"Set against the backdrop of a powerful political landscape, The Kurdish Bike offers a stunning social, political, and cultural commentary of what it is like to live in a third world country torn apart by war. A single mom, the newly recruited teacher on a bike, makes friends with native women and her contact and relationship with them lead her to get glimpses of the not-so-obvious conflicts that threaten life in the country. Bezma's family stands out as a symbol of the oppressed. The prose is polished and rings through the ears like music. The author has the rare gift of weaving national conflict into the lives of individuals. And then there is the biting sense of humor, the ability to portray hope through simple relationships, to find meaning in the will to survive each day at a time. The characters are well grounded, sculpted to reflect the social landscapes from which they sprang. In spite of the powerful conflict that permeates every layer of this book, the unspoken words and the silent cries, there is a current of positive energy communicated through laughter, love, and friendship. The novel is beautiful in a haunting sort of way. Fans of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini will adore Alesa Lightbourne's evocative writing, the reminiscences of war images, and the general malaise felt by millions of people, plus the pain of belonging to their own country." (Five stars, San Francisco Book Review)

"The story is admirable for its characters, for they are not only well-thought out, but also reflective of a country whose people are torn by a decade-long war. The characters are well-developed and are a mirror to the courage and strength shown by women in times of distress. Alesa Lightbourne has shown excellent penmanship writing this novel based on her personal experience and shows how involved she was in the lives of the people she taught and met in Iraq. If you are interested in knowing about the lives, cultures, and hardships faced by people in the Middle East, this book is a must-read." (Five stars, Manhattan Book Review)

"Lightbourne writes in a cinematic prose and easily folds in background about the Kurdish people's suffering under Saddam Hussein. This story of sisterhood, motherhood, and nationhood should have wide appeal." (BookLife)

Available at and through Ingram. Read the Winning Writers critique and a free excerpt.

Lauren Singer Ledoux: Professional Editing and Proofreading

Lauren Singer Finishing up your manuscript? Putting those last touches on your thesis or dissertation? Submitting application essays to your dream school? Can't figure out where to put the dialogue in your magnum opus? These writing projects can take a lot out of a person. Sometimes the work is so dense and the topics so subjective that it's difficult to see a clear end in sight. Sometimes the solution is as simple as lending another pair of eyes to those stuck points.

Don't pull out more hair—give yourself a break! I'll help ease your typing tension so you can show that writer's block who's boss. Email Lauren Singer Ledoux at or call 347-675-4877 for professional copyediting, proofreading, and general assistance with your current project. I have many years of experience, a bundle of great references, and am currently a staff judge at Winning Writers. Let's tackle those big ideas together!

"When I needed help with my chapbook manuscript, Lauren was candid, professional, and insightful. She was a pleasure to work with and I will definitely be hiring her for editing in the future."
-Catherine Weiss

"If you need fresh eyes and solid creative insight, Lauren is absolutely the person to call."​
-Stephanie Huey

​"Lauren regularly edited for me. Her comments and corrects were thoughtful, thorough, and holistic. She also frequently went above and beyond and offered style suggestions and additional ways to structure my approach.​"​
-Roxanne Astra Slate

​"​Lauren takes the time while editing, to both consider the one-day reader and the voice of the author.​"​
-Tara Jean Bernier

See Lauren's six quick writing tips.

Two Natures by Jendi Reiter: "Heartbreaking and Hopeful"

Two Natures by Jendi Reiter

Set in New York City in the early 1990s, Jendi Reiter's debut novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press) is the coming-of-age story of Julian Selkirk, a fashion photographer who struggles to reconcile his Southern Baptist upbringing with his love for other men.

  • 2016 Rainbow Awards: First Prize, Best Gay Contemporary Fiction; First Runner-Up, Debut Gay Book
  • Named one of QSpirit's Top LGBTQ Christian Books of 2016
  • 2016 Lascaux Prize in Fiction Finalist
  • 2017 National Indie Excellence Award Finalist
  • 2017 Book Excellence Awards Finalist
  • 2018 EPIC eBook Awards Finalist (winners TBA)

"This story ripped my guts out, made me laugh, made me cry, made me angry (that part is a testament to great writing and compelling characters—I wanted to hug Julian on one page and slap him into next Tuesday on the next), and left me with the strangest sense of hope at the end.

"Given how far we've come on LGBTQ rights (though we still have a long way to go), it can be easy to forget the recent past and the struggles that gay men and women faced. This book is a poignant reminder, cleverly weaving those lessons and history into a compelling story and doing so without being preachy—no small feat!"

Amazon 5-star review by Dana Brantley-Sieders, author of the Southern Elemental Guardians romances

Buy Two Natures on 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
Lune Spark Young Writers' Short Story Contest. Unpublished short fiction by writers aged 10-16 can win $500 and e-book anthology publication. Submit one story, 1,500 words maximum, by email. Due April 28.

Intermediate Writers
Southern Fried Karma Novel Contest. $1,500 advance and publication by Southern Fried Karma Press awarded for an unpublished novel that "illuminates the multiplicity of the Southern experience". No length limit specified. Enter online. SFK Press is an independent publisher based in metro Atlanta (GA), with a mission to cultivate new voices that broaden the definition of Southern writing. Due May 31.

Advanced Writers
Whiting Foundation Creative Nonfiction Grant. Up to eight grants of $40,000 each for US writers completing creative nonfiction books (e.g., biography, memoir, history, cultural or political reportage, the sciences, philosophy, criticism, food or travel writing, personal essays, etc.) that are currently under contract with US publishers. Writers who signed a contract before May 2, 2016 are eligible for the 2018-deadline contest. Due May 2.

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

Search for Contests

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"There Have Come Soft Rains" by John Philip Johnson, illustrated by Julian Peters

Reprinted by kind permission of Julian Peters and John Philip Johnson. Learn more at and Poetry Foundation.
There Have Come Soft Rains
There Have Come Soft Rains
There Have Come Soft Rains
There Have Come Soft Rains

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

"Everything Must Burn": Thoughts From My Lenten Journal
To live creatively is to trust myself to follow my instincts into unknown territory. To pursue what excites me (or take a rest when I need it) without having to know how it turns out or explain why this is what I'm doing.

I fear that "creativity" gets confused with "productivity" such that my self-image as a creator must be constantly proven with output. Or that creativity becomes a burden, like the "devotion" my mother supposedly gave me—a privilege that can never be repaid, a duty to prove that I'm grateful all the time and not squandering my potential.

[read more]

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

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