The best free literary contests with deadlines through June 30.

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Welcome to Our May Newsletter

We found almost four dozen quality free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between May 15-June 30. View their profiles now!
In this issue: "The Given Note" by Seamus Heaney, illustrated by Julian Peters.

Deadline Next Month
Deadline: June 30. 2nd year. Co-sponsored by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of The Frugal Book Promoter, and BookBaby. $6,000 in prizes, including three top awards of $1,500 each. Fee: $50 per entry. Jendi Reiter and Ellen LaFleche will judge, assisted by Lauren Singer. See last year's winners and enter here.

Also open now, our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest will award $4,000 in prizes.

Want to view past newsletters? Go to Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 67,000 followers on Twitter at @WinningWriters.

Featured Sponsor: Free Resources for the Serious Creative Writer

Revise with Confidence with Joan Dempsey

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Terry Barr, James K. Zimmerman (featured poem: "Family Cookout"), Charlie Bondhus, John Reinhart, Judith Berman, J.C. Todd, Wendy Waters, Elizabeth Kirschner, Tom Taylor (aka The Poet Spiel), Rick Lupert, Tricia McCallum, and Ruth Hill.

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

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Elk River Writers Workshop - Apply Now

Elk River Writers Workshop

Two weeks left to apply! The 2016 Elk River Writers Workshop is accepting applications for its August 8-11 summer workshop at Chico Hot Springs in Montana's Paradise Valley, bringing together prominent writers with advanced writing students in a small group environment.

Students will work with the faculty member of their choice in a traditional workshop, a generative seminar, or a master class:

  • swimming upstream in the publishing world - a master class with Jamie Ford (New York Times bestselling fiction writer, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet)
  • autobiography in fiction - a craft class with Nina McConigley (2014 PEN Open Book Award fiction writer, Cowboys & East Indians)
  • eccentrics and left-outs - a nonfiction generative class with Craig Lesley (Pulitzer Prize nominee)
  • environmental exploration - a master class with Linda Hogan (the 2016 Henry David Thoreau Prize winner)

Classes are capped at ten students. Evening lectures include novelist and screenwriter Elwood Reid and poets Pamela Uschuk and William Pitt Root. The Keynote speaker is Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air and the New York Times bestseller Blood Will Out. Additional events include craft talks by each faculty member, opportunities for student readings, meetings with publishers/editors, and a trail ride or raft trip adventure. The workshop will culminate with a gala faculty reading.

Rolling admissions will close when full or on June 1, whichever comes first. To learn more and apply, visit or email

A writing competition with feedback? Listen up…

The Pen Factor is a revolutionary feedback and discovery engine, built by writers, for writers. If you are talented, we will spot you.

There are three things every aspiring writer desperately needs:

  1. Honest, supportive feedback from people who actually understand writing
  2. Publicity and promotion
  3. Access to the industry

At The Pen Factor, you get the lot.

The Pen Factor Every submission to The Pen Factor receives three detailed and structured reviews written by your writing peers. A sophisticated algorithm, affectionately nicknamed Ophelia, was purpose-built for The Pen Factor to analyse the feedback data from hundreds of submissions and identify undiscovered writing talent. The top 25% of writers in each genre are showcased on our Readers Page and overall winners receive a professional manuscript review valued at around $500. Keep the dream alive, keep writing! Find out more at and follow @thepenfactor on Twitter.

The Pen Factor

On Sale Now: Edisto Jinx by C. Hope Clark

Edisto Jinx

The latest mystery thriller in The Edisto Island Mysteries from C. Hope Clark

"Edisto Jinx is one of the most realistic, believable amateur sleuth novels I've ever read (although Callie, while not a cop at the story's opening, is no amateur). It brings new meaning—and verisimilitude—to the fanciful idea of amateur detectives knowing and finding out more than the police. I love how Clark paints a true picture of how this debacle would play out in real life."
Clay Stafford, author / filmmaker, founder of Killer Nashville and publisher of Killer Nashville Magazine

Buy Edisto Jinx at Amazon.

A Homicide in Hooker's Point by Gloria Taylor Weinberg

Winner of the 2015 North Street Book Prize (Literary Fiction) and a 2011 Royal Palm Literary Award from the Florida Writers Association

In 1950, eight-year-old Vicki Leigh Bayle learns that love and hate are sometimes drawn from the same well, and that some of the people she loves most keep stores of each in equal measure. In the segregated context of South Florida, she learns that prejudice is not always about color, and that truth, as people define it, is malleable. In one tragic weekend of violence, Vicki also learns that some secrets must be kept forever.

Based on a true story, A Homicide in Hooker's Point is the debut novel of retired journalist Gloria Taylor Weinberg. It is available from and, or signed by the author at

Read a sample chapter.

A Homicide in Hooker's Point

The MacGuffin's 21st National Poet Hunt Contest

Postmark deadline: June 3. The MacGuffin is once again on the hunt for a winning poem for our 21st National Poet Hunt Contest! One first place winner will receive $500 and publication in a future issue. Every entrant will receive a complimentary issue that features the winning poem(s). This year, we've brought in Li-Young Lee to act as our guest judge. Please submit no more than 3 poems, an index card with your name, poem titles, and contact info, and a $15 check/cash entry fee (make checks payable to Schoolcraft College).

Mail your entry to:

The MacGuffin
Attn: Poet Hunt Contest
Schoolcraft College
18600 Haggerty Road
Livonia, MI 48152-2696

For full rules, see the Contest Rules page over at If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us at Good luck!

The MacGuffin

Awards for Poetry and Fiction at Snake Nation Press

Deadline: August 31. Submit electronically or by mail. We congratulate the winner of our most recent Serena McDonald Kennedy Fiction Award, Misty Urban of Findlay, IL, for her manuscript A Lesson in Manners, chosen by Jacob Appel. The winner of our Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry is John Paul O'Connor of Franklin, NY, for his manuscript Half the Truth, chosen by Tania Rochelle. Read the judges' comments.

Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry

  • $1,000 award and publication
  • Entry fee: $25
  • Submit a manuscript of up to 75-100 pages
  • Previously published works may be entered

Serena McDonald Kennedy Fiction Award

  • $1,000 award and publication
  • Entry fee: $25
  • Submit a novella of up to 50,000 words or a manuscript of short stories of up to 200 pages
  • Any well-written manuscript on any topic will be considered
  • Previously published works may be entered
Snake Nation Press

Pre-order now: Two Natures by Jendi Reiter

Jendi Reiter's debut novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press, forthcoming September 2016) offers a backstage look at the glamour and tragedy of 1990s New York City through the eyes of Julian Selkirk, an aspiring fashion photographer. Coming of age during the height of the AIDS epidemic, Julian worships beauty and romance, however fleeting, as substitutes for the religion that rejected him. His spiritual crisis is one that too many gay youth still face today.

This genre-bending novel couples the ambitious political analysis of literary fiction with the pleasures of an unconventional love story. Vivid social realism, enriched by unforgettable characters, eroticism, and wit, make Two Natures a satisfying read of the highest sort. See an excerpt from the novel, and pre-order now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For Julian Selkirk, the dry-witted hero of this complex, wide-reaching, and unfailingly touching Bildungsroman, photography is a way of shaping the world while trying to shield himself from it. But "the boy with the camera on the sidelines of the homecoming dance" soon discovers that life and love are too sprawling, unpredictable and flawed to be contained in a viewfinder. To see what is real—we learn along with him—we must hold two natures, beauty and truth, within our vision.

— Tracy Koretsky, author of the novel Ropeless, winner of 15 awards, and Even Before My Own Name, a memoir in poems

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
Save the Earth Poetry Prize. High school sophomores, juniors, and seniors around the globe can win $200 for poems that "evoke humankind's awareness of the natural world". Due May 31.

Intermediate Writers
Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Win $15,000 for an unpublished book-length collection of short fiction and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Due June 30.

Advanced Writers
Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. US citizens and legal residents can win $100,000 for a published book of poetry. Aims to honor "an emerging poet, one who is past the very beginning but has not yet reached the acknowledged pinnacle of his or her career." Due July 1.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

PSA: Pay It Backward to Honor Your Graduate

Pay It BackwardThe “Graduation Gift that Gives Back” campaign by the National Book Fund is a great way to "pay it backward" by giving others the gift of an education to help them achieve their dreams. A gift of $125 will provide 15 adults with the textbooks and workbooks they need to transform their lives.

"It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed."
– Napoleon Hill

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Julian Peters: "The Given Note" by Seamus Heaney

The Given Note by Seamus Heaney, illustrated by Julian Peters
The Given Note by Seamus Heaney, illustrated by Julian Peters
The Given Note by Seamus Heaney, illustrated by Julian Peters
The Given Note by Seamus Heaney, illustrated by Julian Peters
The Given Note by Seamus Heaney, illustrated by Julian Peters

Reprinted by kind permission of Julian Peters. Visit Julian Peters Comics to learn more. Hear Seamus Heaney read this poem. See commentary.

The Last Word

Safer Spaces
A challenge of social justice work is that people can have shared values but incompatible boundary conditions for the space in which they collaborate. For instance, the need of oppressed people to release anger can clash with the equally valid need of their traumatized comrades to be free from face-to-face aggression. [read more]

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

Jendi Reiter
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