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Winning Writers Newsletter - January 2020

View Free Contests We found over four dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between January 15 and February 29. In this issue, please enjoy "All you have shall some day be given", an excerpt from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

Open at Winning Writers, co-sponsored by Duotrope
Deadline April 1. Free to enter, $2,250 in prizes, including a top award of $1,000.

Deadline April 30. $8,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $3,000 each. That's 50% more than last year's top prize, with no change in the $20 entry fee.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 125,000 followers on Twitter. Advertise with us, starting at $40. Coming in February 15: We will announce the winners of our fifth annual North Street Book Prize competition.

Featured Sponsor: The Masters Review Winter Short Story Award

Winter Short Story Award

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Trish Hopkinson, Alan Perry (featured poem: "Closure"), Christine Hemp, Kathryn Winograd, Ellaraine Lockie, Robert Przybylski, Gary Beck (featured poem: "Nothing Changes"), Wim Coleman, Jennifer Rosner, Nancy Shiffrin, Andrew and Lee FearnsideYvonne (a/k/a Yvonne Chism-Peace), Jeannine Hall Gailey, and R.T. Castleberry.

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

Have news? Please email it to

The Palette Poetry Spotlight Award - Deadline Today!

Last Call! Rattle Chapbook Prize

Rattle Chapbook Prize

Deadline: January 15 (tonight!)

The annual Rattle Chapbook Prize gives poets something truly special. Every year, three winners will receive: $5,000 cash, 500 contributor copies, and distribution to Rattle's ~7,000 subscribers. In a world where a successful full-length poetry book might sell 1,000 copies, the winning book will reach an audience seven times as large on its release day alone—an audience that includes many other literary magazines, presses, and well-known poets. This will be a chapbook to launch a career.

And maybe the best part is this: The $25 entry fee is just a standard subscription to Rattle, which includes four issues of the magazine and the winning chapbook, even if it isn't yours. Rattle is one of the most-read literary journals in the world—find out why just by entering! For more information, visit our website.

We congratulate our three winners from our 2019 contest:

  • Al Ortolani, Hansel & Gretel Get the Word on the Street (sample poems)
  • Christina Olson, The Last Mastodon (sample poems)
  • Jimmy Pappas, Falling Off the Empire State Building (to be published in 2020)

Please enjoy this poem by Diana Goetsch from her 2017 winning manuscript, In America:


"Why don't you go to Japan and ask the cats?" I said
to the TSA agent when she asked if I was Amish,
because I believe in answering a non-sequitur

with a non-sequitur. I only said it
after I'd been cleared, after I'd been strip-searched
behind frosted glass, and then posted

the bitch's face on Facebook along with her name.
Maybe being trans is like being Amish,
or maybe I went pale when I missed my flight

as Security Agent Pamela E. Starks
conferred with Explosives Expert Gary Pickering
to discuss, based on the "soft anomaly"

picked up by the body scanner, which of them
needs to search me (at one point she
suggested they each take "half").

I suppose I could have come from Amish country,
a place so deep in the heart of America it can't be seen,
and delivered to the airport by horse and buggy—

an Amish horse, oblivious to traffic. Maybe
it's because of my long black dress, or makeup
that makes it look like I'm not wearing makeup—

a goal whose purpose used to elude me,
though I totally get it now, but please don't ask.
You could go and ask the cats in Japan,

though it's bound to earn you a contemptuous frown,
by which they mean to say, "Eat my ass
in Macy's window." How do cats in Japan

know about Macy's?
you must be asking.
Beats the hell outta me. They have
no tails—did you know?

Neither do the Amish. Just kidding.
I'm still waiting to hear about
the complaint I filed, the one that,

along with the viral video of them
repeatedly calling me "it", shut down
the TSA website for three days

while they rewrote the rules about me.
"You could be charged for this,"
friends warn me, but in America

it can't be libel if it's true. I learned that
from the cats in Japan, who you can ask—
though it's best not to disturb them.

Apply Now for Fellowships to the Martha's Vineyard Summer Writers Conference

Summer Writers Conference

$25,000 in Fellowships for Writers, Teachers, and Parents
Upcoming Deadlines for Fellowship Applications:
January 20th and 31st for Educators and Parent Writers

This year the Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing is offering over $25,000 in Fellowships to Educators, Parent-Writers, Writers of Color, and Queer Writers. Winners attend our Summer Writers Conference on the island of Martha's Vineyard where they can participate in a week of seminars with daily workshops in poetry and fiction, as well as manuscript consultations, panel discussions, and readings.

Learn more and apply now for Full Tuition/Lodging Fellowships (value $1,700). We will also award Second Prize Fellowships ($500 toward tuition).

2020 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

William Saroyan Prize for Writing

Entries must be received by January 31

Submissions are now being accepted for the ninth 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 2018 Fiction Winner Hernan Diaz, author of In the Distance, and our 2018 Nonfiction Winner Robert Moor, author of On Trails: An Exploration. See our complete list of 2018 winners and finalists.

Next Generation Indie Book Awards

Indie Book Awards

Entries are now being accepted for the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the most exciting and rewarding book awards program open to independent publishers and authors worldwide who have a book written in English and released in 2018, 2019 or 2020 or with a 2018, 2019 or 2020 copyright date. All books must be received in our offices by February 14, 2020.

Ventura County Writers Club Poetry Contest

On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

On The Premises

The premise of OTP's short story contest #35 is "Multiples". One or more characters face a strange problem: There is supposed to be only one of something—but somehow, there is more than one! What's going on? That's what we want to find out, by reading your story.

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

DEADLINE: 11:59 PM Eastern Time, Friday, March 6

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.

42 Miles Press Poetry Award

David Dodd Lee

Deadline: March 15
Judge: David Dodd Lee, Series Editor

The 42 Miles Press Poetry Award was created in an effort to bring fresh and original voices to the poetry reading public. The prize is offered annually to any poet writing in English, including poets who have never published a full-length book as well as poets who have published several. New and Selected collections of poems are also welcome.

Manuscripts submitted for the 42 Miles Press Poetry Award should exhibit an awareness of the contemporary "voice" in American poetry, an awareness of our moment in time as poets. We are excited to receive poetry that is experimental as well as work of a more formalist bent, as long as it reflects a complexity and sophistication of thought and language.

Urgency, yes; melodrama, not so much.

The winning poet will receive $1,000, publication of his or her book, and 50 author copies. The winner will also be invited to give a reading at Indiana University South Bend as part of the release of the book. The final selection will be made by the Series Editor. Current or former students or employees of Indiana University South Bend, as well as friends of the Series Editor, are not eligible for the prize.

Winners will be announced via our website in the summer of 2020. We will also announce the winner in major magazines such as Poets & Writers. The winning book will be published in October 2021 and be available to purchase on SPD and Amazon. Previous 42 Miles Press publications include books by Allan Peterson, Betsy Andrews, Bill Rasmovicz, Carrie Oeding, Erica Bernheim, Kimberly Lambright, Nate Pritts, Mary Ann Samyn, Tracey Knapp, William Stobb, and Christine Garren.

See the complete guidelines and submit by mail or email.

We are delighted to announce that Bryce Berkowitz won the 2019 42 Miles Press Poetry Award for his manuscript, Bermuda Ferris Wheel. This poem from the book first appeared in Muzzle Magazine:

Hepburn Manor, Los Angeles
by Bryce Berkowitz

​​Pink bleeds into evening. The final flecks of November, a soft blue. Goodbye
jacaranda leaves rustling, sprinklers in the buffalo grass,
a busted sidewalk beneath a bay fig's shade.
I wanted you, but still I hid. On the rooftop,
beneath the sky-glow, shadowed palms swayed.
While you grew sad beneath me; the weight, a tender sore.
Brake lights pumped through Silver Lake, then disappeared into pepper trees.
In the foothills, tiny wildfires burned; over the Pacific,
planes rose and fell; the city, a jeweled motherboard.
Loneliness, its private wave. A flock of wild parrots
chattered in the neighbor's Indian Laurel, descendants from a Bel-Air brush fire,
from Pasadena's theme park. Where solitude built its current—
trips to the chandelier tree, cribbage in the hotel, the trouble with joy.
Along the dry river bed, a methadone clinic—Skid Row now Hope Central;
I fired a revolver into a warehouse wall
on your birthday, sober. I remember angels' trumpets blooming
against that Melrose bungalow, soccer jugglers in Bellevue park,
Montana can graffiti in the freeway heavens.
I looked at rings. I returned from Austin. I entertained my mother.
It's hard to remember every dragon snap, every peony,
every trip to the trash. For you, every hand drawn card and candle.
My box of personal items in the corner of a shut closet,
but outside the greasy window screen, we stood in awe of the rain.
Then, a cold snap spread, the way summer ends early.

Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Contest Now Open

Deadline: March 15

The Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Contest welcomes unpublished submissions via Submittable. The winning author receives $1,000 and publication in the issue of Fourth Genre that's featured at AWP. $20 fee per entry. Length limit: 6,000 words. Nonfiction only, please. See the detailed submission guidelines on our website.

Our 2020 contest judge is former editor Laura Julier. Read an interview with Dr. Julier on Duotrope.

We congratulate Marco Verdoni, author of "When to Tell Someone You Went to Prison", on winning our 2019 contest. His essay was selected by Brenda Miller, former editor of the Bellingham Review and co-author of the well-known Tell It Slant: Creating, Refining, and Publishing Creative Nonfiction.

Brenda said about Marco's essay, "we become privy to a life formed behind bars that bears little resemblance to our preconceptions. The author elegantly describes his experience from the perspective of release, his feeling that 'I'm somehow always behind and that I'll never catch up.' His story is important and illuminating."

Dancing Poetry Contest

Dancing Poetry Festival

Deadline: April 15

Now in its 27th year, all Dancing Poetry Festival prize winners will receive a prize certificate suitable for framing, a ticket to the 2020 Dancing Poetry Festival at the John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Theater at the Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum, 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 "How to Love your Neighbor" by Constantina Clark, winner of a Grand Prize in 2019.

Elk River Writers Workshop - Early Application Recommended

Elk River Writers Workshop

The Elk River Writers Workshop embodies the idea that deep, communal experiences with the wild open the door to creativity. We bring together some of the most celebrated nature writers in the United States with students who are serious about fostering a connection with the environment in their writing. It all happens at Chico Hot Springs, a historic retreat just north of Yellowstone National Park.

Our workshop takes place in one of the most wild and beautiful settings in the country, a place which has inspired the work of conservationists, writers and artists for over a century. During our five-day workshop, we offer critiques of students' writing, excursions in and around Paradise Valley, and a chance to join a community of writers, artists and conservationists who are attempting to tackle climate change in their lives and art.

Workshop classes take place in the mornings at Chico Hot Springs and are limited to 10 students each. In the afternoons, students may select from a menu of excursions with experts in local ecology, wildlife and archaeology. Learn more and apply online.

Bullies in Love by Jendi Reiter

Bullies in Love

Jendi Reiter's second full-length collection, with fine art photography by Toni Pepe, is available from Little Red Tree Publishing. The Minderbinder Review of Books writes: "If the human experience counts for everything, which it should, Bullies in Love is proof that poems, when crafted with honesty, wit and compassion, are capable of moving us at lightning speeds."

Please enjoy this sample poem and purchase Bullies in Love on Amazon.

Swan and Cygnet

I'm a dry tit, a blackened heartsteak.
Since memory
began a pink baby tumor has been cradled
on my ribs, curtaining
my girlhood's one-act ballet.
Where is it now, inseparable sucking warmth,
sleepless fury, what selfish operation
uprighted me? Pounds of wet fat gone,
the thin belle shivers
in the too-wide spotlight, the crowds of love
never enough to heat the distance.
Don't blame her for dancing
with such momentum she topples off the stage
like a drill bit spun askew in a splintered board.
I'm that dragged ankle, that pin in the bone remaining
after the symphony has laid down its burden
and the cheap statues
trundled into the closet,
the Act One virgin with no hands to save money
because the plaster baby is supposed to fit there.
Like all frivolous things, it's a cruel vocation
always to be missing you, mother-
less child, as the feet miss bleeding,
as the red shoes miss being danced to tatters
in the ruthless illusion of flight.

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
Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award. West Chester University will award prizes up to $1,500 for unpublished poetry "composed in the traditional modes of meter, rhyme, and received forms" by US undergraduate students. Due January 24.

Intermediate Writers
Caine Prize for African Writing. 10,000 pounds will be awarded for a published short story, 3,000-10,000 words, by an African writer, defined as someone who was born in Africa, or who is a national of an African country, or who has a parent who is African by birth or nationality. Up to 5 shortlisted authors will receive 500 pounds plus a travel stipend. Story must have been first published within the five years preceding the deadline date. Publisher makes submission. Due January 31.

Advanced Writers
John Gardner Fiction Book Award. Binghamton University will award $1,000 for the best English-language book of fiction (novel or short story collection) published by a US resident in the previous calendar year. Due February 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: Cultivating Creativity in Literacy Education Settings

Adult Literacy Education

How can literacy educators help their learners cultivate creativity in educational settings? What practices, habits, and strategies might help learners become more creative? This free paper from the journal Adult Literacy Education has suggestions that can benefit all writers.

Favorite New Resources

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

Belmont Story Review

Belmont Story Review
University lit mag in Nashville pays contributors

Character Naming Tips and Resources at the Kindlepreneur
Digital marketing blogger gives advice and resources for naming characters in different genres

Global City Press
NYC-based press aims to be a "literary metropolis of the imagination"

Good Show Sir
Blog showcases the worst in sci-fi and fantasy book cover design

Hometown Reads
City-specific directory connects writers with readers and bookstores in their area

The Over-manipulation Problem
Novelist and editor May Peterson cautions against excessive revisions

peculiar: a queer literary journal
Utah-based magazine of writing and art by LGBTQ creators

Fine art photographer Carol Bloom's works are suitable for literary book covers

The Reader Teacher
Teacher reviews and recommends children's books

Online journal showcasing the diversity of contemporary American and international literature

Where to Find Free Short Stories Online
BookRiot's list of free-to-read literary journals and archives

Write Now! Coach
Book coach Rochelle Melander offers workshops, consultations, and critique groups

"All you have shall some day be given", an excerpt from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

The Prophet

Then said a rich man, Speak to us of Giving.

And he answered:

You give but little when you give of your possessions.

It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.

For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?

And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the over prudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?

And what is fear of need but need itself?

Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, thirst that is unquenchable?

There are those who give little of the much which they have—and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.

And there are those who have little and give it all.

These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.

There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.

And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.

And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;

They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.

Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.

It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;

And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.

And is there aught you would withhold?

All you have shall some day be given;

Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors'.

Read The Prophet on Wikisource

The Last Word

Jendi ReiterChapbook Reviews in Brief: Holmes, Lisowski, and More
It takes chutzpah to dedicate a poetry chapbook about Lizzie Borden to your father. Zefyr Lisowski went all-in with Blood Box (Black Lawrence Press, 2019), her unsettling re-creation of the much-debated murders of Lizzie’s father and stepmother. The family home becomes a cursed jewel that the poet holds up to the light, examining each facet through different characters’ perspectives, but finding only distortions and sharp edges. It’s a claustrophobic setting worthy of Shirley Jackson, where the menacing tension mounts but is never resolved by exposure of its true source.

[read more]

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

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