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Winning Writers Newsletter - April 2020

View Free Contests

We found over three dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between April 15-May 31. In this issue, please enjoy "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley, illustrated by Julian Peters.

Melissa Studdard and Chelsea Dingman

MELISSA STUDDARD and CHELSEA DINGMAN won the top awards of $2,000 each in our 17th annual Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest. Contest co-sponsor Duotrope awarded Studdard and Dingman two-year gift certificates (value $100) to access Duotrope's extensive literary information services. 5,516 entries were received from around the world. We awarded 10 Honorable Mentions to Allison Adair, Jamie Morewood Anderson, F.J. Bergmann, Madeline Cole, Lupita Eyde-Tucker, Monique Ferrell, Margaux Griffith, Kathryn Merwin, M.V. Montgomery, and Tamara Sellman. Read today's press release, and read the winning entries selected by Soma Mei Sheng Frazier and assistant judge Jim DuBois. Our 18th contest opens today. Ms. Frazier and Mr. DuBois return to judge, and we have increased the top prizes to $3,000 each. Enter here.

Last Call!
Deadline: April 30. 28th year. $8,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $3,000 each. Fee: $20 per entry. Final judge: Dennis Norris II. Previously published work accepted. See last year's winners and enter here.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 129,000 followers on Twitter. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

Featured Sponsor: Enter Dozens of Contests for One Low Price

Don't miss these contests. All have cash prizes. At FanStory, you can enter dozens of contests, get feedback for everything you write, and have fun with your writing. Membership is only $9.95 per month. Discounts available! View the discounts.

Loop Poetry Contest
Loop Poetry requires that the last word of each line becomes the first word of the next line. So the last word of line 1 becomes the first word of line 2, last word of line 2 becomes the first word of line 3—and so on. There is a rhyme scheme of abcb. Win cash!
Deadline tomorrow! April 16th

Haiku Poetry Contest
A Haiku must "paint" a mental image in the reader's mind. This is the challenge of Haiku—to convey the poem's meaning and imagery with 17 syllables over just three lines of poetry. Cash prize to the winner.
Deadline in 3 Days! April 18th

Dribble Flash Fiction
Write a story (on any topic) using 50 words. Exclude the title from the word count. The winner takes away a cash prize.
Deadline in 7 Days! April 22nd

Take a Photo Poetry
Snap a picture of something interesting and write a poem about it when you get home. Post the photo along with the poem. The winner takes away a cash prize.
Deadline April 24th

20 Syllable Poem
Write a poem that has exactly 20 syllables. Any format. Cash Prize!
Deadline April 26th

3-6-9 Poem
Write a poem with three stanzas with three lines each that follow the 3-6-9 syllable count. Cash prize to the winner.
Deadline April 29th

These are just a few of our contests. View the listing.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Anna Scotti, J Brooke, Regina Elliott, Gary Beck, Tony Zurlo, C. David Hay, Kaye Abikhaled, Annie Dawid, Dean Kostos, Michael McKeown Bondhus, Freddy Niagara Fonseca, Beverley Chalmers, LindaAnn LoSchiavo, Iris Leona Marie Cross, and Suzanne S. Austin-Hill.

Winning Writers contest judge Ellen LaFleche was profiled in March on the website FromTheAuthors. Her interview with Christina Hamlett discusses her latest poetry collection, Walking Into Lightning (Saddle Road Press, 2019), and how her working-class background and scientific training influence her writing.

Winning Writers Editor Jendi Reiter's poem "Broken Family Couch" was published in Mom Egg Review in their themed poetry folio "Visions of Home".

Congratulations to Julian Peters. His new book, Poems to See By (Plough Publishing House, 2020), collects 24 of his graphic-novel renditions of classic poems by Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Siegfried Sassoon, and others. Several of these pieces have been reprinted in this newsletter (with a new one below). Read an interview with him in the April 3 issue of Shelf Awareness, a newsletter for indie bookstores and publishers.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Download Lay of the Land, Our North Street Grand Prize Winner, for Free

Lay of the Land

From the Winning Writers critique by Ellen LaFleche:

Lay of the Land, J.R. Weber's dramatic play in verse, is one of the most creative entries we've received in the history of our contest. Meticulously researched, with an extensive bibliography, this Grand Prize winning book portrays the 1862 attack by Mdewakanton Sioux warriors against a government agency in Minnesota. As described on the book jacket, "The war was short-lived, as settlers joined to repel the attack and troops were sent to apprehend and punish the most active warriors, but its legacy endures...It is a story of diplomacy, betrayal, corruption, and great suffering, of heroic and terrible acts."

Read the full critique.

Download Lay of the Land as a free PDF for a limited time.

Last Call! Win $3,000 for a Story or Essay

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

  • Sponsored by Winning Writers and Duotrope
  • Final judge: Dennis Norris II
  • Both published and unpublished work accepted
  • $8,000 in total prizes
  • Top 12 entries published online
  • Fee per entry: $20
  • Submit online by April 30

Curt Johnson Prose Awards

2020 Curt Johnson Prose Awards

Deadline: May 1

DECEMBER MAGAZINE seeks submissions for our 2020 Curt Johnson Prose Awards in fiction and creative nonfiction. Prizes each genre — $1,500 & publication (winner); $500 & publication (honorable mention). All finalists will be listed in the 2020 Fall/Winter awards issue. $20 entry fee includes a copy of the awards issue. Submit one story or essay up to 8,000 words. For complete guidelines and judge information visit our website.

december, founded in 1958 and revived in 2013, has a distinguished legacy of publishing the early work of little-known writers and artists, many of whom became major literary figures, including Donald Barthelme, Marvin Bell, Stephen Berg, Rita Mae Brown, Raymond Carver, Stephen Dunn, Donald Hall, Michael Harper, Donald Justice, Ted Kooser, Philip Levine, Joyce Carol Oates, Marge Piercy, William Stafford, C.K. Williams, Charles Wright, and James Wright.

Carve Magazine Raymond Carver Short Story Contest

Deadline: May 15

Now in its 20th year, the Carve Magazine Raymond Carver Short Story Contest is one of the most renowned fiction contests in the world. The contest opens each year April 1-May 15 and offers $3,000 across five prizes.

Prizewinners will appear in the fall issue of Carve in October alongside in-depth interviews of the authors. Additionally, Carve will forward the winning stories to three literary agencies. Pam Houston, author of Deep Creek: Finding Hope In The High Country, is the 2020 guest judge.

Visit our website to read the full guidelines and submit.

Frontier Poetry Chapbook Award

Frontier Poetry Chapbook Award

Montreal International Poetry Prize

Montreal International Poetry Prize

Creative Nonfiction Seeks New Essays

Creative Nonfiction wants essay submissions

Deadline: May 18

Creative Nonfiction is currently seeking new essays for upcoming issues of the quarterly magazine.

We're open to submissions on any subject, in any style. Surprise us!  

We pay a flat $125 + $10/printed page on publication. $3 fee to submit online, or free for current subscribers.

Essays must be previously unpublished and no longer than 4,000 words. Multiple submissions are welcome, as are entries from outside the United States.

Complete guidelines here.

The Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry

The Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry 2020

Deadline: June 1

Lynx House Press seeks submissions of full-length poetry manuscripts for the 23rd annual Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry. The winner receives $2,000 and publication. Each entrant receives a copy of a book from our back catalog.

The Prize is awarded for an unpublished, full-length volume of poems by a US author, which includes foreign nationals living and writing in the US and US citizens living abroad.

Previous winners include Carolyne Wright, Jim Daniels, Roy Bentley, Arianne Zwartjes, Lynne Burris Butler, Suzanne Lummis, Prartho Sereno, Marc Harshman, and Joe Wilkins. The 2019 winner was Kirsten Kaschock for her collection Explain this Corpse. Lynx House Press has been publishing fine poetry and prose since 1975.

Poems included in submissions may not have appeared in full-length, single-author collections. Acknowledgments pages and author names may be included. Entries must be at least 48 pages in length. The reading fee for submitting is $28.

Submit via Submittable.

Win $5,000 for Your Self-Published Book

North Street Book Prize

Deadline: June 30

Enter your self-published book into the sixth North Street competition, sponsored by Winning Writers and co-sponsored by BookBaby and Carolyn Howard-Johnson (author of The Frugal Book Promoter).

Choose from six categories:

  • Mainstream/Literary Fiction
  • Genre Fiction
  • Creative Nonfiction & Memoir
  • Poetry
  • Children's Picture Book
  • Graphic Novel & Memoir

The top winner in each category will win $1,000, one grand prize winner will win $5,000, and all will receive additional benefits to help market their books. Any year of publication is eligible. Entry fee: $65 per book. Submit online or by mail. Learn more.

$15,000 Rattle Poetry Prize

Rattle Poetry Prize 2020

Deadline: July 15

One of the unique features of the annual Rattle Poetry Prize is our Readers' Choice Award, where subscribers and entrants vote for the runner-up. This second place award is expanding to $5,000 for 2020. 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 now $25,000 in total prizes, 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 one of last year's Reader's Choice Award winners, "Red in Tooth and Claw" by James Davis May. Listen to the author read it here.

by James Davis May

Even on the night my friend died
                                                after a long illness—
I won't use the word
                                         but the cancer was gone,
and then it came back, like some slasher film killer—

even on that night, the feral cat, the one
that's white and fluffy and sometimes affectionate,
still crossed our driveway, quietly,
from our neighbor's pines to our rhododendrons,

even on that night, she would look for some rodent
or bird to terrorize and mangle
                                             and maybe fully kill.

And I, drinking and grieving on our deck,
was appalled by the world and its gross refusal
to stop being the world,
                                   and then embarrassed
not just by my own naivety (though there's plenty of that)
but by my innate human sickness that believes
we matter,
                that someone is listening,
that civility isn't just something we imagined
and don't really follow anyway.
                                              That night
I wanted everything to be better than it is,

so I went to the fridge, got out the milk,
poured it into a little bowl, which I left on the porch

and found empty the next morning.

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
Preservation Foundation Essay Contest for Unpublished Writers. The Preservation Foundation will award prizes up to $200 and web publication for essays, 1,000-10,000 words, by unpublished writers. The sponsor is a Tennessee-based nonprofit with the goal of preserving the extraordinary stories of ordinary people. April 30 deadline is for entries in the General Nonfiction category.

Intermediate Writers
bpNichol Poetry Chapbook Award. Meet the Presses will award C$4,000 to the Canadian author and C$500 to the publisher of the best English-language poetry chapbook, 10-48 pages long, published in Canada in the preceding year. Due May 31.

Advanced Writers
Whiting Foundation Creative Nonfiction Grant. Awards up to eight grants of $40,000 each for US writers completing creative nonfiction books (e.g., biography, memoir, history, cultural or political reportage, the sciences, philosophy, criticism, food or travel writing, graphic nonfiction, personal essays, etc.) that are currently under contract with US publishers. Applications are due April 20.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

PSA: Free Voting Guide from New Readers Press

2020 Voting Guide

Voting can be an intimidating process, especially for adults with low literacy. To provide some guidance through election season, News for You® created the Election 2020 Voting Guide to better explain who can vote, how Americans choose their leaders, how to register to vote, and how to cast your ballot. New Readers Press is the publishing division of ProLiteracy.

The News for You® Voting Guide covers topics like:

  • Who votes
  • Reasons to vote
  • What we vote on
  • Choosing a president
  • Political parties
  • Getting informed
  • What to watch for before, during, and after a debate
  • Political campaign ads
  • Registering to vote
  • Casting your vote
  • Using voting equipment
  • Voting vocabulary

This voting guide is a valuable resource for those looking to learn about the voting process at an easy-to-read level. News for You® is offering this resource free to empower voters to use their voice. Download the News for You® Election 2020 Voting Guide for free.

Selected Greats from our Fiction & Essay Contest Winners

This month, editor Jendi Reiter highlights selected entries from past Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contests. This year's deadline is April 30. Learn more about the contest.

Roberta George

"A Small Fortune"
by Roberta George
Honorable Mention
2015 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

"Phantom Language"
by Elizabeth Hoover
Honorable Mention
2016 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

"Length of Days"
by Joan Corwin
First Prize
2017 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

"My Mother's Life"
by Queenie Au
Honorable Mention
2017 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

See more winning entries in our Contest Archives

"Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley, illustrated by Julian Peters

We waited with great anticipation, and now at last Poems to See By has been released. Buy it today at Amazon. It features 24 classic poems with visual interpretations by comic artist Julian Peters. Mr. Peters has graciously allowed us to reprint "Ozymandias" from the book.

Mr. Peters tells Siân Gaetano at Shelf Awareness, "The book is aimed at young adults, but my hope is that it can be enjoyed by older readers as well. A woman at a pre-launch event told me that she had pretty much written off poetry since her school days but, as she began reading one of the comics interpretations to be included in Poems to See By, she found herself moved to tears. I couldn't ask for a more rewarding response than that."

The Forerunner

The Forerunner

The Forerunner

The Forerunner

The Last Word

Jendi ReiterStay Home, Read Things
Here are some good book recommendations for you to pass the time...

Ariana Reines, A Sand Book (Tin House Books, 2019): My favorite contemporary poet just won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Award for this visionary collection, which pursues sublime self-transcendence through radical honesty about the messiness of the flesh and the addictive ephemera of "the age of spectacle". Reines can write a deadpan account of the nightly ritual of squeezing pimples and changing tampons, and in the next breath, proclaim “I had an idea of symmetry/Bordering on theology/That dictated I consume/Darkness in proportion/To 'the world's'" (a mission statement reminding me of Johnny Cash's vocation to "carry off a little darkness on my back"). This is a book to support you through the apocalypse.

[read more]

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

One of the 101 Best Websites for Writers (Writer's Digest)