The best free literary contests with deadlines to January 31 |

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Winning Writers Newsletter - November 2020

View Free Contests We found over four dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between December 15-January 31. In this issue, please enjoy "Musée des Beaux Arts" by W.H. Auden, illustrated by Julian Peters.

Open at Winning Writers, co-sponsored by Duotrope
Free to enter, $3,500 in prizes, including a top award of $2,000.

$8,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $3,000 each. $20 entry fee.

Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers Like what we do?
Please nominate us for the Writer's Digest list of the "101 Best Websites for Writers". There's a new procedure this year. Use this short online form. Nominations are due by December 18.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 135,000 followers on Twitter. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

Featured Sponsor: 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.

Acrostic Poetry Contest
Write an acrostic poem, where the first letter of each line spells out a word. See an example in the announcement. Win cash!
Deadline tomorrow! December 16th

Sonnet Poetry Contest
Explore the rhythm and rhyme of the Shakespearean sonnet. See an example in the announcement. Cash prize to the winner.
Deadline in 6 Days! December 21st

Christmas Poetry
Share a poem about Christmas. It can be the lights, shopping, a child opening a gift—whatever you feel best represents this day. Any format you choose. The winner takes away a cash prize.
Deadline December 25th

Christmas Story
Share a story that takes place during Christmastime. Submit fiction or nonfiction (but not poetry) up to 5,000 words. The winner takes away a cash prize.
Deadline December 25th

Lune Poetry Contest
Lunes have 5 syllables in the first line, 3 syllables in the second line, and 5 syllables in the final line. Rhymes are fine but not required. The subject matter is open. Cash Prize!
Deadline December 31st

This Sentence Starts The Story
Write a story that starts with this sentence: It's happening tonight. Cash prize to the winner.
Deadline January 4th

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

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to X.H. Collins, Ana Reisens, Jerome Gagnon, Susan Stinson, Tony Zurlo, John A. Long, C. David Hay, Kaye Abikhaled, Kelli Russell Agodon (featured poem: "What I Call Erosion"), Darrell Lindsey, Joan Gelfand (featured poem: "The Blues"), John Smistad, Amy King, Yvonne, Duane L. Herrmann, J.C. Todd, Neil Perry Gordon, Jesse James Doty, and The Poet Spiel.

Winning Writers Editor Jendi Reiter's poem "Puzzling Prayer to St. Anthony" was published on the 30 Poems in November blog of the Center for New Americans, an immigrant literacy and job-training nonprofit in Northampton, MA. Donate to Jendi's poem-a-day fundraiser for CNAM here. In other news, Jendi's poem "Made Man" was nominated for a 2021 Pushcart Prize by ArLiJo, the literary journal of Gival Press. This poem appeared in ArLiJo Issue #140. Jendi was also interviewed on the blog of Lonely Cryptid Media as a contributor to their Fireweed: Stories from the Revolution anthology.

Winning Writers mourns the passing of longtime subscriber Leith Filley Colen (1941-2020), editor of the book review newsletter The Book Bag and a popular member of our Northampton, Massachusetts community. Read her obituary on Kirby on the Loose, a local blog.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Start out 2021 writing NEW poems with our "Repurposed" Online Poetry Retreats in January & February!

Two Sylvias Online Poetry Retreats

Are you new to Online Poetry Retreats or a fan of Two Sylvias Press poetry retreats but you missed doing the retreats offered in 2017 and/or 2018? We are offering them again at a discount for the months of January and February 2021. Begin your new year with some inspiration and creativity!

Our 2017 Retreat will be offered from January 4 to January 31, 2021 and our 2018 Retreat will be offered from February 8 to March 7, 2021. (Sign up for one, or both!)

Each retreat includes:

  • A Weekly Digest of the week's exercises sent to you every Monday morning. This Digest includes daily poetry prompts and exercises to inspire your poetry writing. The exercises also include sample poems and reflection questions to guide you.
  • A critique of one poem at the conclusion of the retreat by Two Sylvias Press.
  • A free Two Sylvias publication (you will receive a list of choices).
  • A list of journals to submit your poems to (updated for this retreat).

You can participate in these Online Poetry Retreats at home or on the go!

All you need for this online retreat is access to your email and some writing/journaling time. Do as many or as few of the prompts and activities as you would like. It's a poetry writing retreat you can do from your own home on your OWN schedule! We provide the prompts, writing exercises, & inspiration—directly to your email box!

These online retreats are private and do not include interaction with the other participants (unless you would like to join an optional and private Facebook group to share poems and your retreat experience—we will send out info on the group in the introductory retreat letter).

Learn more about how you can give yourself a poetry retreat at home and make time for your writing.

Rattle Chapbook Prize

Rattle Chapbook Prize

Deadline: January 15, 2021

The annual Rattle Chapbook Prize gives poets something truly special. Every year, three winners will receive: $5,000 cash, 500 contributor copies, and distribution to Rattle's ~8,000 subscribers. In a world where a successful full-length poetry book might sell 1,000 copies, the winning book will reach an audience eight 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 the winning chapbook, even if it isn't yours. 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 2020 contest:

Please enjoy "I Never Pushed My Daughter" by Tom C. Hunley, published in Adjusting to the Lights:

I Never Pushed My Daughter

in a stroller through the park.
I never got lost in a trance
as the trees seemed to listen as she

tried out sounds in hopes
of inventing words

for the warm feeling
of a full belly, a pink blanket

and for the first time
a song rocking her

to sleep. Instead I read
an online profile that said

she loved pets and purple
and singing and acting and
had hurts that I would have

to enter, scars like ravenous
mouths I couldn't escape

if I got close to her like
entering a haunted house
with ghosts in it who

don't mind being dead but
want me to feel what they felt.

I never held her on my shoulders
up to the monkey bars
giggling, faux afraid of falling.

No, I got her after fire
got her, burned everything
she knew. I could see it

in her eyes. I felt like paper,
like if I touched her it would
torch me, but I told her

this would go away and come back
like traces of lightning bugs
growing fainter and more distant.

I watched Instant Family with her
over and over but only after

she had lived through scenes
she wasn't old enough
to see in movies.

I never tossed her
into the air, laughing,
sure I'd catch her

and if we played tag
a rolling boulder was it
and it wanted to flatten us

and if we played
we each hid in the darkness

inside of ourselves, neither
of us sure we'd ever
find our way out.

Grayson Books Chapbook Competition

Deadline: January 31, 2021

  • Prize: $500, publication of chapbook and 50 gorgeous copies
  • Reading fee: $20
  • Submit: 16-32 pages of poetry
  • Electronic submissions only. Submit here

Simultaneous submissions are permissible if we are notified immediately upon acceptance elsewhere. Multiple submissions are also permitted; a fee must accompany each entry. Including acknowledgments of previously published poems is acceptable but not required. When a manuscript is chosen for publication, we will request acknowledgments.

This year's judge, Cortney Davis, is the author of four full-length poetry collections and the winner of several poetry book prizes. She is also the author of three memoirs and editor of three anthologies of poetry and prose by nurses. Honors include an NEA Poetry Fellowship, three CT Commission on the Arts poetry grants, two CT Center for the Book awards (in poetry and nonfiction), and a Tillie Olsen Creative Writing Award.

We congratulate our 2020 Grayson Books Chapbook Contest Winner, Marilyn McCabe, for her collection Being Many Seeds. In addition, our judge, Christine Beck, selected two runners-up: Malcolm Miller for his collection No! and Gail Griffin for Virginals: A Book of Elizabethan Interiors.

Learn more about our press on our website.

Being Many Seeds

Now Open! On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee, larger prizes)

On The Premises

Online Submission Deadline: March 5, 2021

Last time we checked, 77% of web-based fiction magazines pay their fiction writers nothing.

So did 60% of print-only fiction magazines!

If you'd like to try getting paid for your fiction, why not consider us? Since 2006, On The Premises magazine has aimed to promote newer and/or relatively unknown writers who can write creative, compelling stories told in effective, uncluttered, and evocative prose. We've never charged a reading fee or publication fee, and we pay between $75 and $250 for short stories that fit each issue's broad story premise. We publish stories in nearly every genre (literary/realist, mystery, light/dark fantasy, light/hard sci-fi, slipstream) aimed at readers older than 12 (no children's fiction).

The premise of our 37th contest is "Repairs". For this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which one or more characters try to repair something. The "something" can be tangible (e.g., a smartphone, a bad haircut, a broken leg) or intangible (e.g., a relationship). The judges don't care whether the characters succeed in their repair efforts, so long as they try.

Any genre except children's fiction, exploitative sex, or over-the-top gross-out horror is fine. We will not accept parodies of another author's specific fictional characters or world(s). We will accept serious literary drama, crazy farces, and any variation of science fiction and fantasy you can imagine. Read our past issues and see!

You can find details and instructions for submitting your story here. 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,, the Short Story and Novel Writers guidebooks, and other short story marketing resources.

Fiction and Poetry Contests from Snake Nation Press

Serena McDonald Kennedy Award
Deadline extended to March 31, 2021
This award was created by Barbara Passmore, friend of Snake Nation Press, to honor her grandmother. Barbara passed away this year at the age of 92 and we continue her wishes. Submit a novella (up to 50,000 words) or a collection of short stories (up to 200 pages). Previously published works may be entered. Entry fee: $25. Winner receives $1,000 and publication. We congratulate our 2018 winner Carol Roan for A Change in the Air.


Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry Award
Deadline extended to March 31, 2021
Submit a poetry manuscript of 50-75 pages. Entry fee: $25. Winner receives $1,000 and publication. We congratulate our 2018 winner Sara Claytor for Keeping Company With Ghosts.




To enter electronically, please email your entry to, then choose a link below to make your payment:

You may also mail your entry and fee (payable to Snake Nation Press) to:
Snake Nation Press
P.O. Box 98
Ray City, GA 31645

If you submitted an entry to either contest in 2019, it will be included in the contests above.

Buy an Illustrated Broadside of Jendi Reiter's "psalm 55.21"

psalm 55.21 broadside

Jendi Reiter's poem "psalm 55.21", winner of the Western Massachusetts category in the 2019 Glass Broadside Contest, is now on sale at Slate Roof Press as a limited-edition letterpress broadside with an original woodcut illustration by J. Hyde Meissner. National category winner Armen Davoudian's "Ararat" is also available. The broadsides are $15 plus a modest charge for shipping.

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
Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. The University of Rochester's Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies will award $7,500 for a book of fiction by a US woman, published in 2020. Entries may be a novel, a collection of short stories, or experimental writing. Must be submitted by publisher. Due January 15.

Intermediate Writers
Neil Postman Award for Metaphor. Rattle will award $2,000 for the best use of metaphor in a poem published in the 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. No separate application process. Rolling deadline.

Advanced Writers
Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. The Cleveland Foundation will make three awards of $10,000 each: one for a book of fiction, one for a poetry collection, and one 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

Good Mom on Paper
Essays about motherhood and creative work - December 15

Essential Americans Anthology
Essays about oppression and resistance - December 24

The Corona Chronicles
Cutthroat journal special feature of stories and essays about COVID-19 - December 31

The Best New True Crime Stories: Partners in Crime
Narrative journalism about lawbreaking couples - February 15

Inkshares All-Genre Contest
Fiction and nonfiction manuscripts to share on a literary forum - February 28

Tales for Love: Nature Writing Anthology
Poetry and stories about finding hope in nature - April 15

The Best New True Crime Stories: Crimes of Passion
Narrative journalism about crimes motivated by obsession and betrayal - October 1

PSA: Adult Literacy is a Gift for Children

Literate parents help children succeed

Award-Winning Poetry

This month, editor Jendi Reiter highlights poems from around the web that have won recent prizes.

by Lisa Hiton
Winner of the 2019 Tupelo Press Dorset Prize
Postmark Deadline: December 31
This prestigious award gives $3,000, plus a week-long residency at Mass MoCA valued at $1,500, for a poetry manuscript by an author who is new to Tupelo Press. Hiton's debut collection, Afterfeast, was the most recent winner. This poem narrates a visit to a Greek island where sensory excess and poverty exist side by side.

by Gary V. Powell
Winner of the 2019 Saguaro Poetry Prize (formerly Contemporary Poetry Chapbook Prize)
Entries must be received by December 31
Kallisto Gaia Press offers this $1,200 prize for a poetry chapbook manuscript of 28-48 pages. Powell's Super Blood Wolf Moon was the most recent winner. Hear him read this unsparing poem about gun violence on the Charlotte Readers Podcast.

by Eric Tran
Winner of the 2019 Rising Writer Prize in Poetry
Entries must be received by January 15
This award from Autumn House Press gives $1,000 and publication for a debut collection by an author aged 36 or younger. Tran's winning collection was The Gutter Spread Guide to Prayer. In this rich and compact poem, an array of scents, tastes, and colors comprise the mother's euphemistic language for warning her son about the risks of haste.

EROS, AS FISH and other poems
by Julia Koets
Winner of the 2019 Michael Waters Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: February 1
This open manuscript prize from Southern Indiana Review gives $3,000 and publication. Koets' winning collection Pine depicts a secret relationship between two queer women in the South. In these poems, bodies of water are emblematic of the fluidity of desire and its hidden depths.

by Tracy Fuad
Winner of the 2020 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry
Entries must be received by February 28
This high-profile contest in the AWP Award Series gives $5,500 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Fuad's about:blank was the most recent winner. The deadpan voice in this poem contains both humor and anger as the narrator lists incidents that reduced her human potential to a stereotype.

View more poems

"Musée des Beaux Arts" by W.H. Auden, 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 "Musée des Beaux Arts" from the book. Poems to See By makes a wonderful gift for the holidays. The hardcover edition is less than $20 at Amazon.

Musée des Beaux Arts

Musée des Beaux Arts

Musée des Beaux Arts

Musée des Beaux Arts

Musée des Beaux Arts

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

December Links Roundup: What's Not Wrong
Instead of trying to be famous and talented so that I can feel happy, what if I just dialed direct, and wrote what made me happy, whether or not anyone wants it? I used to think this kind of inner peace was merely touted as a consolation prize for folks who didn't succeed in worldly terms. Don't get me wrong, I still want a Lambda Literary Award. But right now I'm down to essentials. I'm alive today and I want to enjoy it.

[read more]

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