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Award-Winning Poems: Spring 2018

Jendi Reiter

Welcome to my spring selection of award-winning poems, highlights from our contest archives, and the best new resources we've found for writers. These quarterly specials are included with your free Winning Writers Newsletter subscription.
In this issue: "Sous mon lit de métal" by Cato Fortin, illustrated by Julian Peters.
—Jendi Reiter, Editor

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Deadlines Next Month at Winning Writers
Free to enter, $2,250 in prizes, including a top award of $1,000.

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

Featured Sponsor: Give your book the professional editing it deserves! Click on ad to enter now!

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Award-Winning Poems Selected by Jendi Reiter

by Donald Levering
Winner of the 2017 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize for Poetry
Postmark Deadline: March 15
This long-running, competitive $1,000 prize for unpublished poems is sponsored by a foundation preserving the legacy of American poet Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962). In Levering's tribute to the prison writings of Hungarian poet Miklós Radnóti, a Hungarian Jewish poet killed in the Holocaust, the details that are left out are as important as what is included.

by Natalie J. Graham
Winner of the 2016 Cave Canem Poetry Prize
Entries must be received by March 16
Cave Canem's prestigious awards for African-American poets include this first-book prize with $1,000 and publication by Graywolf Press. In this incisive poem from Graham's winning collection Begin with a Failed Body, she contrasts her son's wholesome compassion for dead creatures with a writer's professional consumption and dissemination of trauma stories that are not his to tell.

by Brad Aaron Modlin
Winner of the 2015 Cowles Poetry Book Prize
Entries must be received by April 1
Southeast Missouri State University Press offers this open poetry book prize of $2,000 and publication. Modlin's Everyone at This Party Has Two Names was the 2015 winner. In this remorseful litany, a deceased uncle's tall tales stand in for all the questions that children don't think to ask their elders until it's too late. Read more excerpts on his website.

by Nancy Hewitt
Winner of the 2016 Spoon River Poetry Review Editors' Prize
Postmark Deadline: April 15
This long-running contest with prizes up to $1,000 is judged by prominent poets and includes a reading in Bloomington, IL. Inspired by a Pierre Bonnard painting, Hewitt's poem invites us to interrogate vision itself—the multiple layers of technique, emotion, and narrative that make up our response to the physical act of seeing a color.

by Bradford Tice
Winner of the 2014 Trio Award for a First or Second Book
Entries must be received by April 30
Trio House Press gives two annual prizes of $1,000 and publication for poetry collections: the Trio Award for a First or Second Book, and the Louise Bogan Award for a book of poems contributing in an innovative and distinct way to American poetry. In this taut poem from Tice's prizewinning second collection, What the Night Numbered, the myth of Psyche pulling off Cupid's veil is recast as a queer uprising akin to Stonewall.

Read more award-winning poems.

CineStory's Feature Retreat - Win $10,000


CineStory's Feature Retreat is dedicated to the advancement of fresh voices in screenwriting by selecting 25 screenwriters for a 4-day retreat held in the Fall. One writer will receive $10,000 and a 12-month mentorship from Industry Mentors.

Attendees are selected through our submission process, which you can start here: SUBMIT.

Use discount code WW2018 for $5 off the submission fee!


The Mentors — Attending writers sit down with 3 industry professionals and receive feedback, along with general advice on how to navigate their career.

The Writers — Writers attend the CineStory Retreat from all over the world (Japan, Australia, the UK, among others) and leave with lifelong friendships.

Idyllwild — Just 2 hours from Los Angeles, Idyllwild is the perfect writer's getaway. It is surrounded by the beauty of the San Jacinto mountains and has a rustic charm that allows creatives to be creative!

Please click here for more information about this year's retreat, which will be held on October 20th - 23rd.

Don't forget to use your discount code (WW2018) for $5 off!


Deadline Extended to March 15! Win $250 and Publication

COG Page to Screen Awards

"I like to listen. I'm much more interested in listening than speaking, for sure."
—Final Judge Gish Jen, whom Junot Diaz calls "the Great American Novelist we're always hearing about..."

Deadline: March 31. Submit unpublished short stories and creative nonfiction pieces no longer than 7,000 words. Entry fee: $17.

Winner receives:

  • $1,000 prize
  • Publication online and in the print issue of COG
  • A blurb about your short story by Gish Jen
  • Your story adapted as an animated short film, 2D animation, graphic novel, or series of interpretive illustrations by students in Cogswell College's celebrated Digital Art & Animation and Digital Audio Technology programs.

Learn more and enter here.

Gish Jen

Dancing Poetry Festival Contest

Deadline: April 15

Now in its 25th year, all Dancing Poetry Festival prize winners will receive a prize certificate suitable for framing, a ticket to the 2018 Dancing Poetry Festival in the Florence Gould Theater at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, and an invitation to read their prizewinning poem at the festival.

Three Grand Prizes will receive $100 each plus their poems will be danced and filmed. Many smaller prizes. Each Grand Prize winner will be invited onstage for photo ops with the dancers and a bow in the limelight.

Please look at photos of our Dancing Poetry Festivals to see the vast diversity of poetry and dance we present each year. For poetry, we look for something new and different including new twists to old themes, different looks at common situations, and innovative concepts for dynamic, thought-provoking entertainment. We look forward to reading your submissions. See the complete contest rules and please enjoy "The God Who Dances" by Constantina Clark, a 2017 Grand Prize winner.

The Frugal Book Promoter

Give your book the best possible start in life with The Frugal Book Promoter, available as an ebook for $5.99. It's full of nitty-gritty how-tos for getting nearly free publicity. Carolyn Howard-Johnson, former publicist, journalist, and instructor for UCLA's Writers' Program for nearly a decade, shares her professional experience and practical tips gleaned from the successes of her own book campaigns. She tells authors how to do what their publishers can't or won't and why authors can often do their own promotion better than a PR professional. The first edition was a multi-award winner. The second edition, updated and expanded by more than 100 pages, is a USA Book News winner. Carolyn Howard-Johnson

"The Frugal Book Promoter is excellent...It has given me ideas that would never have occurred to me before and has changed the way I think about book promotion."
—Mark Logie, poet and short-story writer, winner of the "most promising author" prize from CanYouWrite.com

Learn more about The Frugal Book Promoter on Carolyn Howard-Johnson's website, or buy it now at Amazon.

The Kurdish Bike — A novel by Alesa Lightbourne

"Set against the backdrop of a powerful political landscape, The Kurdish Bike offers a stunning social, political, and cultural commentary of what it is like to live in a third world country torn apart by war. A single mom, the newly recruited teacher on a bike, makes friends with native women and her contact and relationship with them lead her to get glimpses of the not-so-obvious conflicts that threaten life in the country. Bezma's family stands out as a symbol of the oppressed. The prose is polished and rings through the ears like music. The author has the rare gift of weaving national conflict into the lives of individuals. And then there is the biting sense of humor, the ability to portray hope through simple relationships, to find meaning in the will to survive each day at a time. The characters are well grounded, sculpted to reflect the social landscapes from which they sprang. In spite of the powerful conflict that permeates every layer of this book, the unspoken words and the silent cries, there is a current of positive energy communicated through laughter, love, and friendship. The novel is beautiful in a haunting sort of way. Fans of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini will adore Alesa Lightbourne's evocative writing, the reminiscences of war images, and the general malaise felt by millions of people, plus the pain of belonging to their own country." (Five stars, San Francisco Book Review)

"The story is admirable for its characters, for they are not only well-thought out, but also reflective of a country whose people are torn by a decade-long war. The characters are well-developed and are a mirror to the courage and strength shown by women in times of distress. Alesa Lightbourne has shown excellent penmanship writing this novel based on her personal experience and shows how involved she was in the lives of the people she taught and met in Iraq. If you are interested in knowing about the lives, cultures, and hardships faced by people in the Middle East, this book is a must-read." (Five stars, Manhattan Book Review)

"Lightbourne writes in a cinematic prose and easily folds in background about the Kurdish people's suffering under Saddam Hussein. This story of sisterhood, motherhood, and nationhood should have wide appeal." (BookLife)

Available at Amazon.com and through Ingram. Read the Winning Writers critique and a free excerpt.

White Man's Disease by Paul Thornton

Winner, 2017 North Street Book Prize, Creative Nonfiction & Memoir

Paul Thornton rose from the streets of Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighborhood to become a Fortune 500 executive. But a catastrophic event threatened his marriage, his career, and his self-respect. Thornton's remarkable resurrection is a gripping, inspirational story of hope, resilience, and the essential American Dream of realizing one's full potential. Poignant, sad, tragic, funny, and compelling, White Man's Disease is a redemption story for the ages.

Available at Amazon, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and the author's website. Read an excerpt and the Winning Writers critique.

Beatrice by Ellen LaFleche

Beatrice Ellen LaFleche, a judge of the North Street Book Prize, explores the emotional life of a semi-cloistered nun in this chapbook from Tiger's Eye Press. Sister Beatrice serves on a jury, bakes bread in the convent kitchen, scatters her mother's ashes in the ocean, and reflects on her friendship with another nun. Order directly from Ms. LaFleche for $10 at ElLaFleche@aol.com.

"The tides of the sacred feminine seek an outlet in the cloistered body of Sister Beatrice, a working-class mystic. The convent offers both refuge and confinement—the paradox of a women-ruled society where women must de-sexualize themselves. The ascetic environment cannot quench the vitality of Beatrice's imagination, which finds golden-faced gods in copper pans and lust's soft satisfaction in a raw quahog."
—Jendi Reiter, editor, Winning Writers, and author of Bullies in Love

Please enjoy "Bliss" and "Forbidden Fruit", sample poems from the chapbook.

40 Short Poems by Jim DuBois

40 Short Poems by Jim DuBois

From long-time poet Jim DuBois comes a volume called "relentlessly dramatic" by one reader and "perfectly put together" by another.

"A short poem doesn't leave room for error. You must condense everything down to one point, and economically yet dramatically aim for it. You either make it, or you miss it." —Jim DuBois

 all it takes
 the cool air
   the bridge

Buy 40 Short Poems now from Lulu.

Get a signed, limited edition of Swallow by Jendi Reiter

Swallow by Jendi Reiter

"The first thing that strikes the reader about Jendi Reiter's Swallow is, naturally, the unusual cover illustration, which appears at once to be a multi-eyed cherub (the proper Old Testament kind), a brace of clothespins, a flock of nightmare birds, sewing needles, bent nails, and a heart-shaped crown of thorns. While one may have a difficult time explaining all of this, one need only know that this image by Richard C. Jackson is the best visual realization of the horror, madness, blood, and beauty that infuse Reiter's work: Like something out of a fever dream, it just makes perfect sense."
–JoSelle Vanderhooft, The Pedestal Magazine

This chapbook is a limited edition. Request your signed copy from jendi@winningwriters.com. Available now for $8 plus postage.

Please enjoy this sample poem:

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (Abridged)

I know who is responsible for all my problems.
I would rather bake a pie than repair a latch.
I don't always tell the truth.

I think that I would like to be a florist.
I am not afraid of snakes.
My father was not a good man.

More than once a week I feel hot all over.
I do not believe that my sins are unforgivable.
I like surprise parties.

Ghosts and angels influence the events of our lives.
I try to be polite when interrupted at work.
I would rather buy shoes than take apart an engine.

Most people will cheat if given the chance.
I do not seek out fistfights.
Sometimes I feel happy for no good reason.

My sex life is satisfactory.
I am afraid of water.
I would not like to relive my childhood.

I know the source of the voices I hear.
It is not true that I do not like everyone.
I would rather dance than play baseball.

No one is following me.
I admire good manners more than intelligence.
I was not beaten repeatedly as a child.

I have never been so drunk that I fell down.
I trust myself around knives.
I am not afraid of lightning.

I think more often now about death and the afterlife.
My style of dress is flamboyant.
I cannot say that I have never had a vision.

Favorite New Resources

Here are some of our favorite newly added resources at Winning Writers. For a full list, see our Resource pages.

American Prison Writing Archive
Online archive of creative essays by people in the US prison system

Authors Alliance Fair Use Guidebook
Free online legal handbook for nonfiction writers

Print and online journal bridges pop culture and literary writing

Guide to Finding Your Published Poems from the Library of Congress
Help from Library of Congress for tracking down your work in amateur anthologies

Heartspark Press
Publishing collective for trans women and nonbinary authors

LibraryThing: Name That Book
Discussion forum crowdsources the name of that book you read and can't remember

Libby App
App to borrow e-books and audio books from libraries

Queer in Color
Promotional site for fiction featuring LGBTQ characters of color

Redheaded Stepchild
This literary journal only accepts poetry that was rejected elsewhere

Should You Pay Writing Contest Entry Fees?
FundsForWriters editor C. Hope Clark explains contest economics

American Prison Writing Archive

Favorite New Books

Inside/Out by Joseph Osmundson

by Joseph Osmundson
This daring flash memoir, which can also be classified as a prose-poem collection, looks from multiple angles at the arc of an emotionally abusive relationship between the white author and his African-American ex-lover. Like a mosaic of broken mirror fragments, each sliver of memory reflects larger themes of exclusion, power exchange, personal and collective trauma, and the nature of intimacy, raising as many questions as it answers.

3arabi Song
by Zeina Hashem Beck
Winner of the 2016 Rattle Chapbook Prize, this Lebanese poet in exile keeps her heritage alive through lyrical tributes to famous singers of the Arab world. These multi-lingual poems weave together phrases in English, French, Italian, Arabic, and the new hybrid language Arabizi, a creation of the younger generation to represent Arabic sounds in English-character text messages. These poems are hopeful elegies, political dance tunes, nostalgic manifestos.

Trip Wires
by Sandra Hunter
With startling breadth of vision, this short story collection reveals the raw and tender material of our common humanity across borders—from a Sudanese refugee in Glasgow, to the survivor of a Colombian paramilitary kidnapping, to young soldiers in the Middle East whose emotional armor is breached by defiantly joyful children. The standout tale "Brother's Keeper" channels Flannery O'Connor to expose the underside of white Christian benevolence toward Africans. For immigrants and wanderers everywhere, gratitude takes a backseat to homesickness, and rescue is not the same as safety. Hunter restores these displaced persons to the center of their own life story.

Don't Call Us Dead
by Danez Smith
"Every day is a funeral & a miracle" in this award-winning poet and performance artist's second collection, a defiant record of life as a black gay man under the twin shadows of police violence and HIV. The pervasive image of blood links these poems and the boys, alive and dead, for whom Smith speaks: blood as kinship, as bearer of the memory of dangerous intimacy, as evidence of murders that white America wants to wipe away. Smith's honors include a Lambda Literary Award and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship.

Selections from Our Contest Archives

"A Crown of Sonnets on the Euphronios Krater"
by Gretchen Fletcher
Honorable Mention
2007 Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse

"Explaining the D to You"
by M.E. Silverman
2007 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest

"Boston Public"
by Erin Neil
Highly Commended
2009 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

"8 Missed Birthdays"
by Arielle Kaden
Most Highly Commended
2010 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

"Daft Idylls"
by Sooja Jones
Third Prize
2008 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

"To Wednesday"
by James Dorr
2008 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

See the complete archive of winning entries from our contests.

Gretchen Fletcher

PSA: ProLiteracy Makes Readers for Life

ProLiteracy, the largest literacy and basic education membership organization in the nation, believes that a safer, stronger, and more sustainable society starts with an educated population. For more than 60 years, ProLiteracy has been working across the globe to create a world where every person can read and write. Learn more.

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"Sous mon lit de métal" by Cato Fortin, illustrated by Julian Peters

Julian Peters writes, "Here is my adaptation of an extract from a poem by the Montreal poet Cato Fortin. The adaptation was created as an initiative of the Université de Montréal undergraduate literary journal Le Pied for a series of 'Poster Poems' featuring collaborations between young poets and visual artists. You can view all of the posters here." Visit the website of Julian Peters Comics. See a translation of the poem below.

'Sous mon lit de métal' by Cato Fortin, illustrated by Julian Peters

Translation by Julian Peters:

Under My Metal Bed
by Cato Fortin

Beneath my metal bed
My brother is sleeping
The sliver of light
Through the slightly open door
Reveals his hand
He copies his breathing on my own
I am not his twin sister

Writer's Digest: 101 Best Websites for Writers