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Winning Writers Newsletter - July 2020

View Free Contests

We found over two dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between July 15-August 31. In this issue, please enjoy "Caged Bird" by Maya Angelou, illustrated by Julian Peters.

Open Now
18th year. We have increased the Tom Howard Prize to $3,000 for a poem in any style or genre, and the Margaret Reid Prize to $3,000 for a poem that rhymes or has a traditional style. Ten Honorable Mentions will receive $200 each (any style). The top 12 entries will be published online. The top two winners will also receive two-year gift certificates from our co-sponsor, Duotrope (a $100 value). Length limit: 250 lines per poem. Entry fee: $15 per poem. Final judge: S. Mei Sheng Frazier, assisted by Jim DuBois. Deadline: September 30. Submit online here.

Coming Next Month
We'll announce the winners of our 19th Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 134,000 followers on Twitter. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

Featured Sponsor: The Palette Poetry Prize

Dear Poets,

We are thrilled to offer The Palette Poetry Prize for 2020: $4000 and publication. We are seeking one excellent poem that speaks to what poetry is and can be for our world today. Send us your incandescent heart on the page. The deadline is August 16, 2020.

The winner will be selected by our guest judge, the 2019 Pulitzer Prize Winner Forrest Gander.

Palette's editors will choose the ten finalists, and any honorable mentions they think deserve extra attention. Second and third place will receive $300 and $200, respectively.

Click here to learn more.

Editor, Palette Poetry

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Phyllis Klein (featured poem: "In the Year of the Disease"), Joshua Corwin (featured poem: "The Update"), Steven MayfieldLesléa Newman, Neal Owens, Gigi Berardi, Yossi Faybish, Abigail Keam, Lisa Dordal, R.T. Castleberry, R. Bremner, David Kherdian, Yvonne (featured poem: "Ballad of the Arthur and Edith Lee House"), J Brooke, and Betty Chambers.

S. Mei Sheng Frazier, our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest judge, had her essay "Any Old Patient" published in Hyphen Magazine in June.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Special Feature: A Booklist for Black Lives Matter

Continued from last month, Winning Writers presents these topical books written or recommended by our subscribers. We are also offering a selection of subscriber poems inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement on our website.

Blood Red Blues

Teddy Hayes
Blood Red Blues (Justin, Charles & Co., 2004)
and other novels in the Devil Barnett series This mystery series follows a black detective and former CIA operative in New York City. Read an interview with the author in the Ritz Herald. Hayes says, "Devil Barnett is not a by-the-book kind of detective. And I think if we look at what is happening in America now with respect to African American, Latino, and other disenfranchised people being targeted by police violence, that these communities are in need of people like a Devil Barnett who are willing to go the extra mile to bring justice to people in positions of authority who are protected by the system and who prey on the weak and innocent." (Recommended by subscriber Joyce Latham.)

Major Jackson
The Absurd Man (W.W. Norton, 2020)
Fifth collection from a notable African-American poet is inspired by the philosophy of Albert Camus.

Reuben Jackson
Scattered Clouds: New & Selected Poems (Santa Fe Writer's Project, 2019)
This collection from a Black American poetry elder includes his nationally lauded poem, "For Trayvon Martin".

Morris Junior
Black Stoicism (BookBaby, 2020)
WW subscriber Junior has written an anti-racist resource guide with encouragement for members of the African diaspora, structured as a collection of poems and letters. Interwoven are elements of mental health, coping, self-care, and spirituality.

January Joyce
The 7th Miracle of O.C. Merriweather
WW subscriber Joyce is a crime novelist, a retired law enforcement officer, mother of a black son and grandmother of black children. She wrote this novel to stop to white-on-black police profiling. A Bakersfield, CA beat cop is forced to confront his prejudices after shooting a black suspect.

Edmantha Hall
The title character of WW subscriber Hall's historical novel is a young mixed-race slave girl on a Deep South plantation in 1853, the daughter of a slave woman and the plantation owner. When yellow fever strikes the plantation, she plans a daring escape to Canada.

Neal Owens
Mirrors of Life
WW subscriber Owens won a silver medal in the Literary Titan Book Awards for this debut novel, in which an African-American woman guides her children to avoid the pitfalls of their hardship environment and leap over the systematic roadblocks that confine many to juvenile delinquency. Her spiritually inclined and ambitious son, Derrick, attempts to build a civic-minded conglomerate that undercuts the retail and gas prices set by a group of avaricious businessmen.

James Robinson
Accelerant...Sixth Extinction
African-American author Robinson, a WW subscriber, begins his "Accelerant" series of environmental thrillers with this novel about a radical group trying to return Earth to a pristine state by speeding up mass extinctions.

Making Your Manuscript: An Online Conference for Advanced Poets with Tupelo Press

Tupelo Press Conferences

NEW SUMMER DATES: August 14-17 & September 11-14

Tupelo's online conference model offers an intimate group of poets the chance to meet with faculty in small groups and build a writing community with one another. Your faculty are three of the most experienced editors, mentors, poets, publishers, and spirit guides in the country:

  • Jeffrey Levine, Publisher & Artistic Director of Tupelo Press
  • Kristina Marie Darling, Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Press & Tupelo Quarterly
  • Veronica Golos, Editor of 3:A Taos Press.

Together, we will generate real-time, immediately applicable feedback on your manuscript, including comments on individual poems and substantive guidance toward final revision, poem ordering, and manuscript titling. You will be guided through both the art and craft of making your manuscript not just cohere, but sing.

"The elegance of the design of the conference layers conversation and in-depth analysis of individual poems. The structure of meetings enables a dozen serious and distinguished writers and teachers of writing from across the US to meet over four days with two editors/publishers whose fingers are on the pulse of literature in our day. From their vantage as working poets themselves, Jeffrey's and Kristina's commitment to supporting creative writing has led them to give of their own energies and time and resources to hundreds of writers in daily devotion and practice. And now, their full attention is close-reading our work."
—Barbara M., June 2020 "Making Your Manuscript" Participant

Space is limited and filling fast! To register for the conference, and for more information, visit Manuscript Conferences.

LAST CALL! $15,000 Rattle Poetry Prize

Rattle Poetry Prize 2020

Deadline: July 15 (11:59pm Pacific Time for online entries)

The annual Rattle Poetry Prize is celebrating its 15th year by increasing the 1st prize to $15,000 for a single poem. Ten finalists will also receive $500 each and publication, and be eligible for the $5,000 Readers' Choice Award, to be selected by subscriber and entrant vote. All of these poems will be published in the winter issue of the magazine.

With the winners judged in a blind review by the editors to ensure a fair and consistent selection, an entry fee that is simply a one-year subscription to the magazine—and a runner-up Readers' Choice Award to be chosen by the writers themselves—the Rattle Poetry Prize aims to be one of the most writer-friendly and popular poetry contests around.

We accept entries online and by mail. See Rattle's website for the complete guidelines and to read all of the past winners.

Please enjoy this RPP finalist poem by Wendy Videlock, published in Rattle #42, Winter 2013:


You've been the wolf, you've been the bear,
you were the grass when I was air,
the hush of the lake, eyes and lips,
a shyness at my fingertips,

a motion that knew when to slow,
the forest where I always go;

and now you are the windowsill
I rest my elbows on until
the night grows dark and I can't see
these silhouettes of you and me.

LAST CALL! Nickie's Prize for Humor Writing

Nickie's Prize for Humor Writing

Deadline: August 1

The University of Dayton's Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop is seeking essays from a diversity of authors of all experience levels for Nickie's Prize for Humor Writing. Essayists, authors, bloggers—anyone with a hilarious, touching story—is invited to submit a humorous essay about their sister.

In the spirit of Erma Bombeck, the tone can be humorous, absurd, offbeat, quirky or fun in a smart way. All previously unpublished material no longer than 1,000 words will be considered, including pieces that expand on the theme, such as a cousin or close friend who's like a sister.

Up to 20 winners will receive a $300 cash prize each. The best essays will be published online, with the possibility of being included in a future anthology.

Application fee: $25.

Read the announcement, guidelines, FAQs — and apply here.

Grayson Books Poetry Prize

Grayson Books

Deadline: August 15

The 2020 Grayson Books Poetry Prize is now open. All poets writing in English are invited to submit. Electronic submissions only, please. Use our submission manager to enter your 50-90 page manuscript. The winner will be awarded a $1,000 prize, publication, and 10 copies. Reading fee: $25.

Please do not put contact information on the manuscript. Acknowledgments may be included with your submission, but are not required. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable if we are notified immediately about an acceptance elsewhere. Multiple submissions are fine; each must be accompanied by a fee.

Brian Clements is this year's contest judge. He is the author of 15 print and digital poetry collections. His work also includes editing anthologies such as An Introduction to the Prose Poem and Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence.

Please enjoy this poem by Doug Ramspeck, our 2019 winner. It's from his collection, Distant Fires, published by Grayson Books this year.

Into the Curvature of Earth

We imagined, sometimes, that my brother
was swimming out to where there was nothing

but the tactile wheel of waves, the brine
and the wet. And in this vision he was slipping

forever into one more envelope of wave,
ranging farther and farther from his family

and friends. This was after he was out of prison
that first time, after he wouldn't respond

to any phone call or letter, and living,
we were told, in Twin Falls, Idaho,

with a pregnant addict. Often I sat
in my father's kitchen, and we discussed

my brother as though he had ventured out
into some choppy sea at night, the epithelial

moonlight so faint atop the waves it must
have seemed a dream. So when we learned

he'd been arrested once again, we imagined
the servitude of years as one more dark expanse

of liquid into which he was reaching with his arms.
And we pictured him ranging so far from shore

it was unlikely he was ever coming back,
but was leaning his weight into the rotation

of the planet, the centrifugal force of it
drawing him toward the world's lip.

Poets & Patrons Contest with 14 Themed Categories

Deadline: September 1

Two Chicagoland poetry contests now open to all! Poets & Patrons, a historic Chicago poetry organization, is again sponsoring its traditional contest with 14 themed categories, plus a free sonnet contest with 2 categories (traditional and modern). Cash prizes include a top prize of $300 for the theme of "Single Parents". Other categories include free verse, formal verse, humorous, social conscience, miniature poem, nature, healthcare workers, telephones, historical events, aches, pets, and ekphrastic poetry.

Both the sonnet contest and the regular contest are open to anyone living anywhere, except for the category of "Chicago Area Nature Trails", which is open only to members of Poets & Patrons or those living within 100 miles of Chicago. We encourage email submissions this year. Visit our website for details and guidelines.

Poets & Patrons

On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

On The Premises

The premise of OTP's short story contest #36 is "Ooooh, That Smell". Write a story in which either a specific scent, or the sense of smell in general, is important to the story.

Word limits: at least 1,000 words long, and no more than 5,000 words long.

DEADLINE: 11:59 PM Eastern Time, Friday, September 4, 2020.

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.

The 30th Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize

The Missouri Review's 30th Annual Editors'Prize

Deadline: October 1

$5,000 Fiction | $5,000 Nonfiction | $5,000 Poetry

Winners receive a cash prize, publication, promotion, and a virtual event to be determined. Submit one piece of fiction or nonfiction up to 8,500 words or up to 10 pages of poems. Enter online or by mail. All entries considered for publication. Regular entry fee: $25. All-Access entry fee: $30. Winners will be announced in early 2021.

Each entrant receives a one-year subscription to the Missouri Review in digital format (normal price $24) and the digital short story anthology Strange Encounters, forthcoming from Missouri Review Books (normal price $7.95). All-Access entrants receive full access to our ten-year digital archive.

Check out these excerpts from last year's winners, Seth Fried in Fiction, Heather Treseler in Poetry, and Jennifer Anderson in Nonfiction.

Questions? Email

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
Pen 2 Paper Creative Writing Competition. The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities will award a $500 grand prize, plus $100 in each genre, for creative writing that incorporates disability as a theme, or includes a major character with a disability. Genres are poetry, fiction, essays, and graphic narratives/comics. Writers of all nationalities may enter, whether or not they identify as disabled. Previously published work accepted. Due August 1.

Intermediate Writers
Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation will award $15,000 for a book of fiction (novel or short story collection) by an emerging African-American author published in the US during the current calendar year. Winner will receive a travel-expenses-paid trip to Baton Rouge, LA for an award ceremony in January, and must participate in educational activities and small creative writing workshops with local students during the week of ceremony. No self-published books. Due August 31.

Advanced Writers
Debra E. Bernhardt Labor Journalism Prize. The New York Labor History Association and LaborArts will award $1,000 for a published article that furthers the understanding of the history of working people in the US or Canada. Entries should have been published in print or online between August 26 of the preceding year and August 30 of the deadline year. Articles focused on historical events, and articles about current issues (work, housing, organizing, health, education) that include historical context, are both welcome. Due August 30.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

PSA: Summer Reading, Just for Fun on Pinterest

Write Her Future

If you love literacy and reading, visit ProLiteracy on Pinterest. You'll find a trove of pictures, images, and infographics to share.

Favorite New Resources

Here are some of our favorite resources at Winning Writers added in the first half of the year. For a full list, see our Resource pages.

Anti-Racist Resource Guide

Anti-Racist Resource Guide
Extensive list of books, documentaries, articles, activist groups, and black-owned bookstores

AuthorsPublish List of No-Fee Poetry Manuscript Publishers
80+ publishers that do not charge reading fees

Email marketing service for sending out author newsletters

Digital Transgender Archive
Scans of important archival materials by and about gender-nonconforming people in the US and beyond

Editors of Color
Database matches clients with publishing professionals from diverse backgrounds

Interlink Books
Independent literary press publishes socially relevant world literature, with a special interest in the Middle East

Keeping Poetry Close: Copper Canyon Poets Read to You
Poetry videos by Copper Canyon Press authors

Madhouse Media Publishing
Australian self-publishing services company

Nappy Stock Photography
High-quality free stock photos featuring black and brown people

Postcards to the Future: A Protest in Place
Online selections from Kore Press anthology of black women writers

Sankofa Read Aloud
African-American children's stories are read aloud on this YouTube channel

Sistah Scifi
Site promotes speculative fiction by black women

Social Media Hashtags for Book Authors
Web Design Relief suggests 55 keywords for successful book marketing

Storyline Online
Picture books read aloud by well-known actors

Submittable's Universal Submission Tracker
Record-keeping device from the leading online submissions platform

Tweetspeak Poetry
Well-designed online poetry community features prompts, book clubs, audio poems and more

US Font Map: The United Fonts of America
Entertaining map of fonts named after US locations

Wrath-Bearing Tree
Online literary journal about war and social justice

Writer Beware: The Impersonation Game
Scam-busting site tells you how to spot con artists masquerading as well-known agencies or publishers

Writer's Knowledge Base
Search engine indexes over 40,000 articles on writing

"Caged Bird" by Maya Angelou, 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 "Caged Bird" from the book.

Caged Bird

Caged Bird

Caged Bird

Caged Bird

Caged Bird

Caged Bird

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

July Links Roundup: The Eccentric Pleasures of the Bed
I always find it refreshing when a writer acknowledges the complex feelings we may have about our genders before, during, and after (is there ever really an "after"?) transition. At present, I have big boobs, chest hair, a five o'clock shadow, and Lea DeLaria's hairdo, and I find myself fretting, "How many more shots in the butt can I take before I turn into Hale Appleman?"
[read more]

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