The best free literary contests with deadlines to January 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 YouTube

Welcome to Our December Newsletter

Follow Us on Twitter

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

In this issue: Please enjoy an excerpt from "The Personal City", a short story/prose poem by Dino Buzzati, translated and illustrated by Julian Peters.

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

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

Want to view past newsletters? Go to Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 110,000 followers on Twitter at @WinningWriters.

Featured Sponsor: Enter Dozens of Contests for One Low Price

Don't miss these contests. All have cash prizes. At FanStory you can enter all these contests with upgraded membership. Every week enter a new contest with a cash prize. Find out more.

True Story Contest
Share a true story from your life. Write a story that shares a moment, an object, a feeling, etc. This does not have to be a profound memory, but should allow readers insight into your feelings, observations and/or thoughts. Use at least 100 words. No poetry. Cash Prize!
Deadline: Dec 15 (today!)

5-Line Poem Contest
Write a poem with five lines. It requires the following syllable count: 2-2-5-7-5. Cash prize to the winner.
Deadline: Dec 17 (two days!)

Lune Poetry Contest
Lunes have five syllables in the first line, three syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the final line. Rhymes are fine but not required. The subject matter is open. This contest has a cash prize. Deadline: Dec 22

Rhyming Poem Contest
Write a poem of any type. But there must be a rhyme scheme. How it rhymes is up to you. Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: Dec 30

100-Word Flash Fiction Contest
A drabble is a flash fiction story that uses around 100 words. Write a story on any topic using 100 words. The title does not count towards the word count. The submitted work must have between 98-102 words. Cash prize for the winning entry. Deadline: Jan 4

5-7-5 Poetry Contest
5-7-5 poems have the form of a haiku but may be on any subject. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven syllables, and the third has five syllables. Cash prize to the winner. Deadline: Jan 8

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

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Try Literistic

Congratulations to Alegria Imperial, Patricia Striar Rohner, Ruth Thompson, Michael Fedo, Andrea Ferrari Zottis, Kristin Kostick, R. Bremner, Ruth Hill, Gary Beck, Sarah Kornfeld, Warwick Newnham, Johnathan Abraham Antelept, and Brian T. Sluga.

Winning Writers Editor Jendi Reiter's poem “50 Years Later, a Poetry Critic Blogs About Fingering His Girlfriend” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Poetry Hotel. Their poem “Rags and Chains” appeared in Issue #1 of Name and None, a new journal for transgender and nonbinary writers.

Winning Writers contest judge Dennis Norris II's story “Among Shadows, Passing” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Awst Press. The story is included in their self-titled chapbook, which was named a Staff Pick at Powell's bookstore.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Tupelo Press Dorset Prize

Dorset PrizeDeadline: December 31, 2018 (postmark or online submission date)
Final Judge: Mary Jo Bang
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.

Mail your domestic submission to:
Tupelo Press Dorset Prize, P.O. Box 1767, North Adams, MA 01247

Mail your international submission to:
Tupelo Press Dorset Prize, 60 Roberts Drive, Suite 308, North Adams MA 01247 USA

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 poem by Jesse Lee Kercheval, author of America, That Island Off the Coast of France (Tupelo Press, 2019), winner of the 2017 Dorset Prize, selected by Ilya Kaminsky.

The City Where—I'm Told—My Mother Was Young
by Jesse Lee Kercheval

Long ago
the lens of a camera
this city

from Sacré-Coeur to the far suburbs,
pressed it between the heavy vellum of memory,
so to reach it is to cross a bridge
much longer, much steeper than the Pont Neuf.

In this paper Paris, my mother is a young girl
waiting for her lover by a stinking canal.
Or so I've been told by people who might
—or might not—lie to my face.

I pour over Atget's photographs,
each street, each boulevard, each arrondissement
falling under his care,
falling into his camera and out of this world.

But photographs are illusions, devoid
of both pot au feu and the garbage
the cook leaves—though Atget photographed
laundries as well as bordellos.

I imagine my mother leaving me a message
by way of Atget. I close my eyes
and think I hear laughter
and telephones ringing—but I'm wrong.

I walk over the bridge Atget made
with his stiff little pictures
and find myself in the Gare du Nord,
all steam, white and gray.

And my mother, ma mere
is standing on the platform waiting.
She has always been waiting.
Unless—instead—she never did arrive.

Long ago
this city

Triste, I imagine her saying, so goddamn sad.

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 4, 2019.

Contest Fee: $20.

Submission Guidelines: Entries must be short stories between 3,000 and 8,000 words. Please use 12-point 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 2019.

Rattle Chapbook Prize

Rattle Chapbook Prize

Deadline: January 15, 2019

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.

And maybe the best part is this: The $25 entry fee is just a standard subscription to Rattle, which includes four issues of the magazine and all of the winning chapbooks. Rattle is one of the most-read literary journals in the world—find out why just by entering! For more information, visit our website.

We congratulate our three winners from our 2018 contest:

  • Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, Tales From the House of Vasquez
  • Nickole Brown, To Those Who Were Our First Gods
  • Elizabeth S. Wolf, Did You Know? (to be published in 2019)

For a sample from the series, please enjoy the title poem from To Those Who Were Our First Gods. Here is the first section:

To Those Who Were Our First Gods: An Offering
by Nickole Brown


Samson, I admit it: I flirted with you
in Sunday School, crayoned tan your He-Man pecs,
picked the box's best to dye bright
your Pantene-perfect waves. But even then, I didn't touch

those kamikaze columns, left blank those two
marble pillars snapped with your sledgehammer fists
to crush a whole damn crowd. Yes, even then

I was a real red-letter girl
timid in the back pew, hiding behind the blue cloak
of the only one I ever felt safe enough to pray to—

HailMary, keep me from Judges
and every other book in the OT
gut-piled and slick as a slaughterhouse floor;

dear MaryMotherOf, save me from
those men like him who slit
the throats of lambs then struck
a pyre to burn the poor beasts, calling what they've done

[read the full poem]

COG Poetry Awards

Hieu Minh Nguyen Deadline: January 31, 2019

Poets, take note: the 2018-19 COG Poetry Awards final judge is poet, performer and NEA fellow Hieu Minh Nguyen. Nguyen's award-winning work has appeared on the PBS Newshour and in POETRY Magazine, Gulf Coast, Buzzfeed, and many other venues. This year, Bustle listed Nguyen as one of "15 Poets You Need to Be Reading in 2018".

Gunning for Bustle's 2019 list? Want to see your poetry transformed for the screen by skilled animators and audio engineers?

Submit a set of 1-6 poems. Entry fee: $17. The winner will receive:

  • Publication online and in the print issue of COG, as well as a $1,000 prize
  • A blurb about your work by luminary poet/performer Hieu Minh Nguyen
  • Your poetry adapted as an animated short film, 2D animation, graphic book/ebook, or series of interpretive illustrations by students in the celebrated Digital Art & Animation program and Audio & Music Technology program at Cogswell College.

Enter at COG's Submittable site.


Check out COG's adaptation of Megan Merchant's "Lullaby", selected by 2017 US Poet Laureate and 2017 COG Poetry Awards final judge Juan Felipe Herrera.

Creative Nonfiction seeks new work for an upcoming issue dedicated to MEMOIR

Deadline: February 25, 2019

We're looking stories that are honest, accurate, informative, intimate, and—most importantly—true. Whether your story is revelatory or painful, hilarious or tragic, if it's about you and your life, we want to read it.

Submissions must be vivid and dramatic; they should combine a strong and compelling narrative with an informative or reflective element, and reach beyond a strictly personal experience for some universal or deeper meaning. We're looking for well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice; all essays must tell true stories and be factually accurate.

Creative Nonfiction editors will award $2,500 for Best Essay and two $500 prizes for runner-up. All essays will be considered for publication in a special "Memoir" issue of the magazine to be published in 2020.

Essays must be previously unpublished and no longer than 4,000 words.

See our complete guidelines.

Creative Nonfiction

On the Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

On the Premises Short Story Contest

The premise of OTP's short story contest #33 is "Hidden". For this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which someone or something of importance to the story is hidden in some way from at least one important character. It is entirely up to you whether the person/place/thing that is hidden is ever found/revealed/unhidden.

DEADLINE: 11:59 PM Eastern Time, Thursday, February 28, 2019

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.

An Incomplete List of My Wishes Nominated for The Story Prize

An Incomplete List of My Wishes

Sunshot Press nominated An Incomplete List of My Wishes for The Story Prize, a prestigious annual award for the best short story collections published in the US each year.

Here is an excerpt from Jendi's guest post on The Story Prize blog:

Writing is hard because our deepest intuition is a force as disruptive—and vital—as the lightning that cracks the Tower wide open. Some cherished beliefs or relationships may not survive the personal growth and truth-telling that the creative process brings forth. Fear of such changes is often the real reason for writer's block, for me and other writers I've known.

Difficulties balancing "writing" and "life" aren't always financial or time-management problems, or even codependence. There's a deeper layer that writing-advice books don't usually acknowledge. We may be correctly perceiving the risk that our work will take us places that our family, friends, community, or religion doesn't want us to go.

[read the whole post]

Buy An Incomplete List of My Wishes now for $1.99 on Kindle.

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
Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize. Awards $350 and chapbook publication by Northwestern University Press for a poetry manuscript, 25-35 pages, by a poet of color who has not previously published a book-length volume of poetry. Winner also receives 15 copies of their book and a featured reading at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. Due December 31.

Intermediate Writers
Lyric Poetry Award. Awards $500 for a lyric poem on any subject. Free to enter, but contestants must be members of Poetry Society of America. We highly recommend joining ($55 per year, $35 for students). Due December 22.

Advanced Writers
Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. At least two awards of $10,000 each: one for a book of fiction or poetry, the other for a book of nonfiction. This award honors books that have made important contributions to the understanding of racism or the appreciation of cultural diversity. Books must have been published in the current calendar year. Due December 31.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

PSA: This Holiday, Share the Gift of Literacy


While 2018 is almost over, there is still time to make a tax-deductible donation to ProLiteracy that will go toward:

  • Increasing access to educational resources for adults who want to improve their literacy skills
  • Improving the effectiveness of adult literacy programs
  • Increasing adult education funding

Through your support, adult literacy rates will increase, which will positively impact broader social issues, including economic development, poverty, civic participation, and childhood education. Learn more.

Give the Gift of Literacy

Advertise in This Newsletter

We send this newsletter to over 50,000 subscribers. Ads are just $150 each. On a tight budget? Pressed for time? Advertise to our 110,000 Twitter followers for just $40 per tweet or less.

Buy Advertising

Solo mailings and website advertising are available. Inquire with Adam Cohen at

Excerpt from "The Personal City" by Dino Buzzati, translated and illustrated by Julian Peters

Julian Peters writes, "Here is an excerpt from my translation of a short story—or is it a kind of prose poem?— by the Italian author Dino Buzzati (1906-1972). It is a piece I find very poignant, and not just because I also used to have a black standard poodle."

"Oh, please wait, friends," I say, not wanting to be left alone. For it isn't easy, believe me, to spend a whole night (and the nights are long) in a big city, without any company whatsoever, even if it is our own city, built out of our own body and soul, soul and body. "Oh, please wait, don't be in such a hurry, the streets are safer here at night, and the air is fresh and filled with fragrances, you haven't seen anything yet, my friends, just have a little patience. If you want to fully appreciate this place, if you want to see it in all its glory, you have to wait till dusk. At dusk, ladies and gentlemen, the sun's last stubborn rays will linger upon the passing clouds, and their glow will spread out over the rooftops, the terraces, the domes, the dormer windows, the spires of the ancient basilicas (Where the emperors were crowned), the windows of the gigantic factories, over the ruins, over the tops of the oak trees, under whose shady branches the beautiful Clorinda once slept. At this time, curls of smoke and faint voices rise up from the depths of the intersections, and the thudding rumble of machinery (While the still moonlight makes the prison courtyard seem like something out of a fairy-tale), the thudding rumble turns into an immense and harmonious choir, and mingles with our hopes and dreams. Oh, please wait!"

But it's not true. In all honesty, it's not a good idea to linger about these frightful tenements alone after nightfall. When it gets dark, in spite of the bright light of the streetlamps, from out the doors now step those people whom one would be better off not running into: People from long ago, dear friends with whom one used to spend all one's time from sunrise to sunset, knowing each other's every last thought, or else young girls, less than twenty years old, the ones that show up at the evening rendezvous, looking positively radiant. But what's the matter with them? Why don't they wave to me, why don't they fling their arms around my neck? And why, instead, do they walk by me with a barely perceptible smile upon their face? Are they offended? About what? Have they forgotten everything?

[read the full story]

Reprinted by kind permission of Julian Peters. Learn more at Mr. Peters' website.

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

Erasure and Swag: My Life in Pins
A thread that runs throughout my life is the need to struggle against misinterpretation. But it is interwoven with the contradictory thread of ceaselessly seeking an identity that resists definition. Show me what's the opposite of who I am, and I will try to include it. And then I'll complain that I'm still being mistaken for another, easier-to-understand category—as though it wasn't my own choice to become something that has no name.

[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)