The best free literary contests with deadlines through February 29.

Winning Writers - best resources for poets and writers

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Welcome to Our January Newsletter

Adam Cohen We found over 50 quality free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between January 15-February 29. View their profiles now! See below for contests we especially recommend for writers at the beginning, intermediate, and advanced stages of their careers, and our selection of calls for submissions. In this issue: "La Belle Dame Sans Merci", Part 2, illustrated by Julian Peters.

Open Now at Winning Writers
Deadline: April 1. 15th year. $2,250 in prizes, including a top award of $1,000. Final judge: Jendi Reiter. Previously published work accepted. See last year's winners and enter here.

Deadline: April 30. 24th year. $4,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $1,500 each. Fee: $18 per entry. Arthur Powers will judge. Previously published work accepted. See last year's winners and enter here.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Robin Coste Lewis, Kathleen Spivack, Lucia Galloway (featured poem, "A Violence I Can Sing"), Suellen Wedmore, Joan Kantor, Terri Kirby Erickson, David Kherdian (featured poem, "Where is the custom of raising a glass"), Des Mannay, Ruth Hill, Joanie Holzer Schirm, Desiree Woodland, Larry Lefkowitz, R.T. Castleberry, Angela Lombardo, Tricia McCallum, Tony Thorne, and Donna Thompson.

Ellaraine Lockie, judge of our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest (winners to be announced April 15), was profiled in the Winter 2015 issue of the British journal Sein und Werden. The feature includes two of her poems and an extensive interview about and photographs of her "pollages", a term she coined for the art pieces she creates using her poetry, handmade papers, and collage. Ellaraine's poem "Goose Bumps" was published on the website of Silver Birch Press in December as part of their holiday series.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Register Now for Creative Writing and Literature Classes at 92Y

FundsforWriters - Subscribe Free


FundsforWriters is a motivational and informational Friday newsletter devoured by over 30,000 readers. From markets to grants, crowdfunding to publishing, FFW leads writers to success. Chosen by Writer's Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for 15 years.

Register Now for March 19-20 Workshop: "Unraveling the Story/Writing Healing Memoir"

Find out more: email Click to see the poster at a larger size.

2016 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

Entries must be received by January 29, 2016

Submissions are now being accepted for the seventh William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. This award, given by Stanford University Libraries in partnership with the William Saroyan Foundation, recognizes newly published works of fiction and nonfiction with a $5,000 award for the winner in each category.

The prize is designed to encourage new or emerging writers and honor the Saroyan literary legacy of originality, vitality, and stylistic innovation. For entry forms and more information on the prize, visit the Saroyan Prize website:
Congratulations to our 2014 Fiction Winner Kiese Laymon, author of Long Division, and our 2014 Nonfiction Winner Margalit Fox, author of The Riddle of the Labyrinth. See our complete list of 2014 winners and finalists.

William Saroyan

Grayson Books Chapbook Contest

Deadline: January 31, 2016. Winner will receive $500, publication of a gorgeous chapbook by Grayson Books, and 50 copies. Submit 16-24 pages of poetry. Reading fee $20. Electronic submissions preferred. Submit through

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

Those wishing 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) and a check made out to Grayson Books. SASE for results only. Simultaneous submissions are permissible if we are notified immediately upon acceptance elsewhere. Individual poems may have been published previously.

This year's judge is Vivian Shipley. She published two books of poetry in 2015: Perennial (Negative Capability Press) and The Poet (Louisiana Literature Press). Ms. Shipley has received the Paterson Literary Review Award for Lifetime Service to Literature, the Library of Congress's Connecticut Lifetime Achievement Award for Service to the Literary Community, and the Connecticut Book Award for Poetry two times.

Please enjoy "Still Life With Paramour" by Lynn Schmeidler, winner of our 2013 chapbook competition.

Grayson Books

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays on "Learning from Nature"

Creative Nonfiction

Deadline: February 1, 2016. Creative Nonfiction magazine is seeking new essays for an upcoming issue dedicated to LEARNING FROM NATURE.

The natural world has long been a source of inspiration. We're interested in stories about how we learn from nature—whether it's airlines developing boarding methods based on movement in ant colonies or aviation engineers studying eagles' wings in order to build more aerodynamic planes; new-age fabric inspired by pine cones or energy-efficient skyscrapers modeled after termite mounds. We're looking for well-crafted narratives that will illuminate the relationship between humans and the environment, particularly as we face the challenges of climate change.

Submissions must be 4,000 words or fewer.

$5,000 for best essay; $1,000 for runner-up.

Guidelines at

The W.B. Yeats Poetry Prize 2016

The W.B. Yeats Poetry Prize 2016

Deadline extended to February 15, 2016

The W.B. Yeats Society of New York poetry competition is open to members and nonmembers of any age, from any locality. Alfred Corn will judge. Submit unpublished poems in English on any subject. Length limit: 60 lines. First prize $500, second prize $250. Winners and honorable mentions receive two-year memberships in the Society and are honored at an event in New York on April 4.

Submit each poem (judged separately) typed on an 8.5 x 11-inch sheet without author's name. Attach a 3x5 card with name, address, phone, and email. Entry fee is $10 for first poem, $8 each additional. Mail to 2016 Poetry Competition, W.B. Yeats Society of N.Y., National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South, New York, NY 10003. Include SASE to receive the report. List of winners is posted on around March 31.

Authors retain copyright, but grant us the right to publish winning entries. These are the complete rules. No entry form necessary. We reserve the right to hold late submissions to the following year. For information on our other programs, or on membership, visit or write to us.

Please enjoy the winning entries from our 2015 competition with the judge's comments.

42 Miles Press Poetry Award

Deadline: March 1. Indiana University South Bend's 42 Miles Press Poetry Award will be given to an emerging or established poet for a book-length manuscript of at least 48 pages. Winner receives $1,000, 50 copies, and will be invited to give a reading in South Bend. David Dodd Lee, Series Editor, will judge. Entry fee: $25 made payable to Indiana University.

For complete guidelines, go to

Please enjoy these two excerpts from our recent releases, The Bottom by Betsy Andrews and Precarious by Allan Peterson.

David Dodd Lee


Submission period: September 1, 2015-March 1, 2016. Award-winning literary annual upstreet seeks quality submissions of short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry for its twelfth issue. Past issues include interviews with Jim Shepard, Lydia Davis, Wally Lamb, Michael Martone, Robin Hemley, Sue William Silverman, Dani Shapiro, Douglas Glover, Emily Fragos, Robert Olen Butler, and Joan Wickersham.

This issue will feature an interview with poet Tony Hoagland, winner of the Poetry Foundation's Mark Twain Award and many other honors and prizes. Distributors: Ingram, Media Solutions, Disticor (Canada). Chains: Barnes & Noble, Hastings, Books-A-Million.

For new guidelines, including payment, and to submit, see

From upstreet number eleven:

Done With Counting Phases
by Maya Janson

Because of fog, the moon shows up in a tutu.
Because I'm late I've missed the ferry.
Done with too much time in a shell-paved lot
to enumerate losses. Unsightly proliferation
of dock-side bars and happy hours,
cocktails of ice and crystallized plum.
Signage and spoilage, the oily water
of the bay in which we speculate whales,
imagine fin and blow-hole and barnacle.
Done with half-blown theories and rants flung
at the neap tide. In accordance with what and not.
Not a day goes by without my missing you,
your practical shoes, your overflowing clutch.
As always, the moon is righteous while we sleep.
Done for, making calculations in my head.
Apogee, perigee. Umbra, penumbra. Loopy
with things overheard at the refund desk.
The tide is high, the tide's dead low.
Done with prophylaxis the couple approach the altar.
The seamstress done with mending lays down
her silver thimble. Leaving their big, unruly nests
the herons take to the sky like shirts flapping
on a clothesline when the old rope comes undone.


On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

Deadline: March 4, 2016. The premise of our 27th short story contest is "Changes". Write a story in which one or more character(s) have to deal with some kind of significant change. It can be any kind of change you like, and on any scale, from a change affecting only one person (or one place, or one thing) to something affecting everyone/everything everywhere, or anything between those extremes.

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.

On The Premises

Prairie Schooner Book Prize Series

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
NFSPS Edna Meudt/Florence Kahn Memorial Awards. US college students may compete for two $500 prizes for manuscripts of 10 previously unpublished poems. Winning chapbooks will be published. Due January 31.

Intermediate Writers
Danuta Gleed Literary Award. A Canadian author will win C$10,000 for the best first collection of short fiction published in Canada during 2015. Due January 30.

Advanced Writers
John Gardner Fiction Book Award. Binghamton University will award $1,000 for the best book of fiction published by a US resident in 2015. Due March 1.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

Amuse-Bouche (January 31)
On Spec: The Canadian Magazine of the Fantastic (February 15)
subTerrain "Secrets" Issue (February 15)
World Enough Writers "Bang!" Anthology (February 15)
Triangulation: Beneath the Surface (February 29)
Story Magazine "Identity" Issue (May 1)

PSA: Helping Families to Read

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Julian Peters: "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" by John Keats (part two)

La Belle Dame Sans Merci
La Belle Dame Sans Merci
La Belle Dame Sans Merci

See the first installment in our December 15 newsletter. See the final installment in our February 15 newsletter. See the text of the poem and commentary at the Poetry Foundation. See more comics by Julian Peters.

The Last Word

Blow It Out Your Sinatra: Poems from Paul Fericano's "The Hollywood Catechism"
Like the characters in our childhood Bible stories, celebrities occupy a realm between reality and fantasy. Even when we lose faith in them, they retain some of their glamour, their power to make us nostalgic for the simple joys of worship. [continue at Reiter's Block]

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

Jendi Reiter