The best free literary contests with deadlines through January 31 |

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Welcome to Our December Newsletter

Adam Cohen

We found over three dozen quality free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between December 15-January 31. In this issue: "The Liveaboards", a comic by Ali Shapiro.
View Free Contests

Open at Winning Writers
Deadline: April 1. 16th year. $2,250 in prizes, including a top award of $1,000. No entry fee. Final judge: Jendi Reiter. Previously published work accepted. See last year's winners and enter here.

Deadline: April 30. 25th year. $4,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $1,500 each. Fee: $18 per entry. Final judge: Judy Juanita. Previously published work accepted. See last year's winners and enter here.

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Upcoming contest deadlines:

Love Poem Poetry Contest
All forms of poetry accepted. Your love poem can be fictional or non-fictional, humorous or serious. Winner receives $100 cash. Deadline: December 20.

Christmas Story
All writing welcomed including fiction and non-fiction, up to 7,000 words. No poetry. Deadline: December 25.

Christmas Poetry
Your poem can be about the lights, shopping, a child opening a gift—whatever you feel best represents this day. The winner takes away $100. Deadline: December 25.

Non-Fiction Writing Contest
Submit personal essays, memoirs, and works of literary non-fiction on any topic, 500-7,000 words. Deadline: December 28.

ABC Poetry Contest
The first four lines follow the order of the alphabet. The last line begins with any letter. Winner receives $100. Deadline: January 3.

See all our upcoming contests and
find out more.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Annie Dawid (featured poem: "Family: 5 Variations"), Alan King, Connie Lounsbury, George DeVault, Mingzhao Xu, Anna Scotti, Fred Waiss, Mary Nelson, Tricia McCallum, and Ellaraine Lockie.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Award News for Two Natures by Jendi Reiter

Two Natures wins first prize for Best Gay Contemporary Fiction and first runner-up for Best Debut Gay Book in the 2016 Rainbow Awards! From the judges' report: "This is one of the best books I read for this year's Rainbow awards. Beautifully written, it touched a chord in me that I can't quite explain but I will be looking for more from this author."

Two Natures was also featured as one of QSpirit's Top LGBTQ Christian Books of 2016. QSpirit editor Kittredge Cherry wrote: "This stylish debut novel from a gifted poet is a rare combination of erotic romance and intelligent reflection on Christian faith."

Buy Two Natures at Amazon, and read a new excerpt.

Tupelo Press Dorset Prize

Tupelo Press Dorset Prize

Postmark Deadline: December 31, 2016
Final Judge: Ilya Kaminsky
Prize: $4,500

Fifteen years ago, Ilya Kaminsky's utterly brilliant Dancing in Odessa won our first Dorset Prize (selected by Eleanor Wilner). In celebration of this milestone year for the Dorset Prize, Ilya has agreed to be our judge, and moreover, he has asked to read 60 manuscripts.

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.

We encourage online submission via our Submittable system. You may also submit via postal mail.

Read the complete guidelines before submitting your manuscript:

Read about past winners and more information about all Tupelo contests at:

Read "Remembrance", a poem by Lauren Camp, author of One Hundred Hungers (Tupelo Press, 2016) and winner of the 2014 Dorset Prize.

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays on "Adaptation"

Deadline: January 9, 2017. For the summer 2017 issue, Creative Nonfiction magazine is seeking submissions for a special issue devoted to the theme of "adaptation"—original essays illuminating the ways in which the need to keep up with a rapidly-changing world drives the work of scientists, designers, thinkers, innovators, farmers, soldiers, medical professionals, teachers, and others and affects the lives of prisoners, patients, refugees, students, travelers, and other citizens. As the world changes, so, too, do humans—whether in our approach to building things, developing new technologies (and adapting to the ways those technologies change our society), learning how to eat different kinds of foods, or learning how to dress differently. And of course adaptation is hardly limited to humanity; numerous other species—everything from viruses to plants and animals—have had to adapt to rapid changes in both global and local habitats.

The special issue of Creative Nonfiction will feature new nonfiction narratives by and/or about professionals whose work helps humans adapt to a changing world. The issue may also feature original work focusing on other, less concrete types of adaptation—for example, how changing demographics affect the development of new technologies; the personal and/or social impacts of shifting attitudes towards gender and sexuality; and the implications and possibilities of new types of media.

We welcome personal stories as well as profiles, and we're open to a very wide range of experiences and circumstances. Above all, we are looking for narratives—true stories, rich with scene, character, detail, and a distinctive voice—that offer unique insight into the theme.

Submissions must be 4,000 words or fewer.

$3,500 for best essay.

Guidelines at

Creative Nonfiction

Rattle Chapbook Prize

Rattle Chapbook Prize

Deadline: January 15, 2017. 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 $20 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 and to read portions of last year's winning entry, 3arabi Song by Zeina Hashem Beck, visit

Please enjoy "Ghazal: Back Home" by Ms. Beck.

92Y's Unterberg Poetry Center Writing Program

Grayson Books 2017 Chapbook Contest

Prize: $500, publication of a gorgeous chapbook and 50 copies
Deadline: January 31, 2017
Reading fee: $20
Submit: 16-24 pages of poetry

Electronic submissions preferred. Submit through

Please do not put any contact information on the manuscript; that goes on the separate submission form.

Those preferring to mail their submissions can send them to:
Grayson Books
P.O. Box 270549
West Hartford, CT 06127

Include two cover sheets (one with contact information and one anonymous), SASE for results only, and a check made out to Grayson Books.

Simultaneous submissions are permissible if we are notified immediately upon acceptance elsewhere.

This year's judge, Leslie Ullman, is the author of four poetry collections and numerous reviews and craft essays. Her most recent book is Progress on the Subject of Immensity (University of New Mexico Press).

Please enjoy this short poem from last year's winning chapbook, Owling by Jeredith Merrin.

The Eastern Screech Owl
              (Megascops asio)

Whinnies and low, hooing trills,
brief barks or catlike mews.

These birds don't really screech or scream,
unless it's silently—

like a wife who doesn't know
whether to stay, or go.


Grayson Books

On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

On The Premises

The premise for short story contest #29 is "Space". The word "space" has multiple literal meanings and can work as a noun or a verb, and it has multiple metaphorical meanings as well. There's outer space, inner space, emotional space ("I need my space!"), etc. Your challenge: Write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which the idea of "space" plays an important role. You may interpret "space" any way you want, as long as your readers can figure out how you're using it. For instance, it's not enough to set a story in an empty warehouse just because empty warehouses have a lot of space—the space has to be an important part of the story.

Deadline: THURSDAY, March 2, 2017, 11:59 PM Eastern Time. This one ends on a THURSDAY, not a Friday!

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.

Prosperity by Jenna Leigh Evans, a North Street Book Prize winner

Prosperity by Jenna Leigh Evans

"Prosperity combines speculative fiction, political protest, and dark humor, in the tradition of George Saunders and Kurt Vonnegut…one of the most original and ambitious books we read this year."
~ Jendi Reiter, judge, North Street Book Prize sponsored by Winning Writers

America has finally figured out how to make deadbeats pay up: the PROSPER program, a very modern, very luxurious debtor's prison housed in a shopping mall. When curmudgeonly hobo Percy Rue first gets there, she's as lonely as she is broke—and the only person who'll talk to her is Lita Takewell, a drug-dealing New Age priestess she'd rather avoid. But when Percy uncovers sinister machinations behind the program's helpful façade, Lita is the only one she can trust—and maybe the key to her survival.

Please enjoy the book trailer.

Buy Prosperity on Amazon.

C. Hope Clark: The Shy Writer Reborn

The Shy Writer Reborn

As an introvert and a writer, you feel stretched to choose between the lesser of two evils—marketing to people who'll most likely criticize you, or putting your writing on the back burner. Introverts have strengths that make them marketable, creative, and successful. Forget those people who tell you to change, to put on a different personality, to dance like a monkey before crowds. Here is the support to be a writer and remain who you care to be—genuine.

"As a self-diagnosed introvert, I know the fears of many writers who are literally afraid to follow their passion and be successful. C. Hope Clark shares how to overcome that fear while navigating interviews, pitches, queries and more. If you're a shy writer, this is the book that will help you find and cultivate an audience for your writing."
~Robert Lee Brewer, Senior Content Editor, Writer's Market

"Hope Clark has done an incredible service for authors by writing The Shy Writer Reborn. She guides you through the steps to overcome fears and finally get a book out of your head and on to paper. This book will help a lot of would-be authors realize their dreams. Highly recommended!"
~Stephanie Chandler, author of The Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan: Online and Offline Promotion Strategies for Serious Authors

Buy The Shy Writer Reborn now at Amazon.

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
SPS Studios Poetry Card Contest. Twice-yearly contest gives prizes up to $300 and web publication for poems suitable for a greeting card. Due December 31.

Intermediate Writers
Neil Postman Award for Metaphor. Awards $1,000 for the best use of metaphor in a poem published in Rattle, a prestigious journal. Send up to 4 unpublished poems, any length. Rolling deadline.

Advanced Writers
Griffin Poetry Prize. Two top prizes of CDN$65,000 for poetry books published in the current calendar year. One prize will go to a living Canadian poet or translator, the other to a living poet or translator from any country (including Canada). Due December 31.

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

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"The Liveaboards" by Ali Shapiro

Reprinted by kind permission of Ali Shapiro. See more comics.

The Last Word

Book Notes: Gay Theology Without Apology
Gary David Comstock argues that any theology based on appeals to authority—even the authority of Jesus—still has more of Caesar in it than Christ. As Audre Lorde said, the master's tools cannot dismantle the master's house. The Jesus way is more radical. He called his disciples friends, not servants who obey without knowing why (John 15:15).[read more]

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

Jendi Reiter
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