The best free contests through July 31 |

Winning Writers - best resources for poets and writers

Having trouble viewing this email? View the web version.

Follow us on TwitterLike us on FacebookFind us on RedditFind us on instagramFind us on TikTokFind us on YouTube

Winning Writers Newsletter - July 2023

View Free Contests

We found over two dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between July 15-August 31. In this issue, please enjoy "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae, illustrated by Julian Peters, animated and read by James Avis.

Open Now
21st year. We will award $3,000 for a poem in any style or genre and $3,000 for a poem that rhymes or has a traditional style. Ten Honorable Mentions will receive $300 each (any style). The top 12 entries will be published online. The top two winners will also receive two-year gift certificates from our co-sponsor, Duotrope (a $100 value). Length limit: 250 lines per poem. Entry fee: $22 for a submission of 1-3 poems. Multiple submissions welcome. Final judge: Michal 'MJ' Jones, assisted by Briana Grogan and Dare Williams. Deadline: September 30. Submit online here.

Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers

A "101 Best Websites for Writers" Site
We're pleased to announce that Writer's Digest has placed us on their list of the "101 Best Websites" for the seventh time. 

Coming Next Month
We'll announce the winners of our 22nd Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. See what happens when we turn AI image generators loose on them!

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 135,000 followers on Twitter and 41,000 followers on Facebook. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

Featured Sponsor: Oprelle
Matter Poetry Anthology Contest

Oprelle Matter 2023

Submission period: July 15 through August 29

Winner receives $300. Top three poets receive certificates and special recognition at Up to 80 submissions published in the Matter anthology. Submit published or unpublished poems. Entry fee: $10. Visit Oprelle for more details.

Oprelle Matter 2023

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Richard Haney-Jardine, Wendy Adair, Nathan Alling Long, Deborah LeFalle (featured poem: "ancestral vibes"), Joseph Stanton, Noah Berlatsky, Omaha Perez, Paul C. Thornton, Megan Falley, and James K. Zimmerman.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Do you use TikTok or Instagram? Send your news to the @winningwriters account so we can share it!

Ad: Rattle Poetry Prize—Deadline Tonight!

Rattle Poetry Prize

Deadline: July 15, 11:59pm US Pacific Time

The annual Rattle Poetry Prize celebrates its 18th year with a 1st prize of $15,000 for a single poem. Ten finalists will also receive $500 each and publication, and be eligible for the $5,000 Readers' Choice Award, to be selected by subscriber and entrant vote. All of these poems will be published in the winter issue of the magazine.

With the winners judged in a masked 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 a runner-up Readers' Choice Award to be chosen by the writers themselves—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 "Diary Poems" by Richard Jordan, a finalist in our 2022 competition:

Diary Poems

What led her to write poetry she didn't
show to others? She entrusted verses
to diaries with gold-edged pages, hidden
in a cedar chest. Preserved in cursive
are rondeaux and cinquains. She relished snow,
seashells, roses. There's a bookmarked sonnet
about a grandchild she would never know,
a future that took shape the way she wanted.

My grandma had no training, didn't go
beyond eighth grade. Amid the Great Depression
she worked the mills, saved feed sacks to make clothes.
But here's a line she wrote absent the lessons:
Dusk rolls a coral carpet down the stream.
I've seen that for myself. For real. In dreams.



Ad: A Supportive and Inspiring 4-Week Online Poetry Retreat Created by Poets for Poets

Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Retreat

  • July Session: July 3-30 with Guest Critique Poets - SOLD OUT!
  • August Session: August 7-September 4 with Guest Critique Poets
  • October Session: October 2-29 with the Editors of Two Sylvias Press

Our Online Poetry Retreat offers you the opportunity to write new poems and have one of them critiqued by a guest poet: Diane Seuss (July & August), Traci Brimhall (July & August), January Gill O'Neil (July & August), Jennifer Jean (August Only), and Jennifer K. Sweeney (July & August). You can learn about each guest critique poet by clicking here. The editors of Two Sylvias Press (Kelli Russell Agodon & Annette Spaulding-Convy) will critique poems for the October Session. We send you poetry prompts, example poems, creativity suggestions, and reflection questions to inspire your writing—ALL VIA EMAIL.

You can participate in this Online Poetry Retreat at home or on the go! ​This online retreat is private and does not include interaction with the other participants (unless you would like to join an optional and private Facebook group to share poems and your retreat experience).

WHAT YOU NEED: Access to email and a desire to write new poems.

WHAT WE PROVIDE: Poem prompts, sample poems, a Two Sylvias Press print publication (your choice), creativity suggestions, and reflection questions/activities to guide and inspire.

AND—at the end of the retreat, you will receive a professional critique of one of your poems with ideas on where to submit it!

Praise for Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Retreat
"Thank you so much for your thoughtful and encouraging comments on my poems! I so appreciate your time and insight. I wasn't sure what to expect when I registered for the retreat, not having participated in anything like this before. I was hoping it would nudge me out of a writing lull and push me in new directions, and it absolutely delivered. The prompts introduced me to new and excellent poems, pushed me out of my comfort zone (sometimes way out!) and opened many new pathways for me to explore. I ended the retreat with several promising poems and several prompts I am still working on. The little messages of encouragement always seemed to arrive at just the right time, and the deadline to submit two poems for feedback gave me extra motivation. I would love to participate in future retreats!"
     —Lindsay Rutherford (read other testimonials here)

Click here to learn more and register.

Ad: A Free Webinar on Book Publicity

Atmosphere Press July Webinar

Mark your calendars for Thursday, July 20th! You're invited to a special free 30-minute webinar with Cameron Finch, who has worked with the editorial and marketing teams of various presses and literary journals, including McSweeney's, Dzanc Books, Rizzoli New York, Archipelago Books, Isele Magazine, Hunger Mountain, Mount Island, and Midwestern Gothic. A well-published writer, Cameron is currently the Book Publicity Director at Atmosphere Press.

This is your opportunity to learn about the ins and outs of meaningful book publicity in today's publishing climate, and you'll walk away with plenty of tips and actions to start discovering and connecting with your own readers. You'll be able to ask Cam questions about how you can launch your book into the world, whether you have a publisher or are self-published. And even if you can't attend the live event, register and we'll send you a recording afterward!

Ad: Inception: $500 for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Graphic Novel, or Art

Sunspot Lit

Deadline: July 31

Authors and Artists Eligible

Beginnings have the power to spark passion or curiosity. They might immediately connect a specific place and time with an emotional tone. The best openings offer a feeling, atmosphere, action, or image that is gripping, and hints at more to come.

Meaning, thoughtfulness, emotions, or tone draw audiences into the moment. A poem handles this differently than a flash piece, which handles an opening differently than a novel. The first photo, painting or frame presented in a gallery, series, or graphic novel strives for the same intent. Openings contain a spark that promises to burn.

For Sunspot Lit's current Inception contest, send your best opening. There are no restrictions on theme, category, or the length of the piece or collection from which the excerpt comes. Word limit is 250 for prose, 25 words for poetry.

Graphic novel and comic book entries should be the first page (unlimited number of panels on that page) with a maximum of 250 words (cut the number of panels in order to meet the word count, if needed).

Art entries should be the first in a series, the first in a gallery lineup, the first in a themed collection, etc. Entries are limited to one image of a painting, sculpture, mixed media form, collage, or other artwork.

Feedback is available for fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels for an additional fee. This is entirely optional and will not impact the judging process. The written comments will consider the work's strengths, point out critical weaknesses, and make recommendations for any changes that would make the work stronger. The commentary will be provided 4-6 weeks after the contest closes. Please note that feedback is only available through the Submittable form. Feedback is not available for poetry or art, and will not be provided even if the feedback fee is paid.

Entry fee: $10
Prize: $500 cash plus publication for the winner.
Publication will be offered to runners-up and finalists.
All fees are final and nonrefundable. Revised entries can be made by withdrawing the original entry and resubmitting, paying a new fee for the new submission.

Sunspot asks for first rights only; all rights revert to the contributor after publication. Works, along with the creators' bylines, are published in the next quarterly digital edition as well as the annual fall print edition.

Works should be unpublished except on a personal blog or website. Artists offered publication may display their pieces in galleries, festivals or shows throughout the publication contract period.

Enter as many times as you like through Submittable or Duotrope, but only one piece per submission. Submission files that contain multiple pieces will be disqualified without review. Simultaneous submissions are accepted, but please withdraw your piece if it is published elsewhere before the winner is selected.

Ad: Grayson Books Poetry Prize

Body of Evidence

Deadline: August 15

The 2023 Grayson Books Poetry Prize is now open to submissions. All poets writing in English are welcome to enter.

Electronic submissions only. Use the submission manager to submit your 50-90 page manuscript electronically.

The winner will be awarded a $1,000 prize, publication, and 10 copies. Reading fee: $26.

We congratulate Kathleen Ellis, author of Body of Evidence, which won the 2022 Grayson Books Poetry Prize.

Brad Davis is this year's judge. His most recent collection of poems, Trespassing on the Mount of Olives, is a follow-up to his Opening King David. He won the AWP Intro Journals Award and his chapbook Short List of Wonders won the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize.

Please do not put your name or contact information on the manuscript. Acknowledgments may be included with your submission, but are not required. Multiple submissions are fine; each must be accompanied by a fee.

Simultaneous submissions are acceptable if we are notified immediately about an acceptance elsewhere.

We do not accept work that was created—entirely or partially—with AI software.

Learn more on the Grayson Books website.

Please enjoy this sample poem from Body of Evidence:

ABCs of Erasure

I am learning to vacate the body. The absence of body is a memory of body, a kind of lingering with the eraser dangling from one hand. I fear I've forgotten the body, left it behind somewhere. As a child, I stayed behind at the bayside watching the hermit crabs. To protect their exoskeletons, they trade in their tight-fitting shells for scavenged ones.

Or they risk being defenseless.

Ad: The Desert Rat Poetry Prize

The Desert Rat Poetry Prize

Submit a Single Poem for a Nine-Day Residency in the Sunshine by the Pool

Deadline: August 31

Submit one poem with a $20 entry fee during July and August. The judging process is anonymous. Our final judge for 2023 is Jeannine Hall-Gailey, author of Flare, Corona (BOA, 2023). Questions? Please email We'll announce the winner on Facebook on October 1.

Ad: On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

On The Premises Short Story Contest

Deadline: Friday, September 1, 2023, 11:59pm Eastern US Time

Last time we checked, 77% of web-based fiction magazines pay their fiction writers nothing.

So did 60% of print-only fiction magazines!

If you'd like to try getting paid for your fiction, why not consider us? Since 2006, On The Premises magazine has aimed to promote newer and/or relatively unknown writers who can write creative, compelling stories told in effective, uncluttered, and evocative prose. We've never charged a reading fee or publication fee, and we pay between $75 and $250 for short stories that fit each issue's broad story premise. We publish stories in nearly every genre (literary/realist, mystery, light/dark fantasy, light/hard sci-fi, slipstream) aimed at readers older than 12 (no children's fiction).

The premise of our 42nd short story contest is "Picture This".

For this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long based on the photograph above. For instance, specific details about the picture can inspire your story. A second approach is to have this photo represent a location where at least part of your story takes place. A third possibility is, one or more of your characters see a digital display, printout, painting, drawing, or other representation of the contents of this photo, and the image itself is somehow important to your story. Any of these approaches will work fine, as long as the judges can tell how the photo relates to your story.

Any genre except children's fiction, exploitative sex, or over-the-top gross-out horror is fine. We will not accept parodies of another author's specific fictional characters or world(s), and we do not accept fan fiction for the same reason. We will accept serious literary drama, crazy farces, and any variation of science fiction and fantasy you can imagine. Read our past issues and see!

You can find details and instructions for submitting your story here. 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,, the Short Story and Novel Writers guidebooks, and other short story marketing resources.

Ad: Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

Sponsored by Winning Writers

TOM HOWARD PRIZE: $3,000 for a poem in any style or genre

MARGARET REID PRIZE: $3,000 for a poem that rhymes
or has a traditional style

The top two winners will also receive two-year gift certificates from our co-sponsor, Duotrope (a $100 value)

Honorable Mentions: 10 awards of $300 each (any style)

Submit published or unpublished work. Top 12 entries published online.

Judged by Michal 'MJ' Jones, assisted by Briana Grogan and Dare Williams.

Recommended by Reedsy as one of The Best Writing Contests of 2023.

Submit 1-3 poems for one $22 entry fee.

Enter via Submittable by September 30

Ad: Celebrate the Summer of Barbie with Jendi Reiter's Poetry Chapbook


Excited for the new "Barbie" movie? Pair it with the perfect summer reading, Jendi Reiter's poetry chapbook Barbie at 50. Winner of the Červená Barva Press Poetry Prize, this collection "is a lush collection of poems with lines embroidered with the craft of a studied life," according to contest judge Afaa Michael Weaver. Naugatuck River Review editor Lee Desrosiers says, "Barbie at 50 contains an inventive re-imagining of the fairytale woman as well as iconic images of women, including Barbie. The poems are replete with surprise and peppered with humor."

Enjoy this sample poem:

          The Happy Endings Support Group

                                    for Ellen LaFleche

The girls watch the clock when it's Snow's turn.
As if there's a shortage of one-note men
who need their porridge spoons washed.

Cindy sighs, he always knows where I am now.
The rest mm-hmm a warm harmony
of the same complaint, save Gret
who felt her brother's fingers thin as chicken bones
and still can't bring herself to pity
a girl who has two shoes.

Rory was the greedy child, the curious one.
She's the group leader, though you wouldn't expect it.
Buzz-cut golden hair, denim overalls. No more pricks,
she laughs, blessing them with a scarred finger.
One's enough.

They have questions, anyhow.
Snow dreams about scrubbing windows
till the glass falls inward,
pressed down on her face like a kiss.
Cindy still sorts the beans on her gilded plate
though she's happy to report she no longer sees
talking birds and mice.

Gret doesn't talk about the obvious.
Some have bread, some have stones,
is all she'll say, settling her bulk on the couch.

Cindy thinks Gret is overcompensating.
Food can fill a hole
deep as an oven, black as old women's teeth.
Cigarettes keep her own weight down,
she brags, not sharing how she still loves the ash,
its velvet burn at her fingertips.

Others have passed through this circle:
big-toothed Carmen with her fur coat
and tiresome leer, Bella the rescuer
who got bored with her men
once they'd rehabbed the beast off their backs.

Blessings suck, Rory encourages them,
sitting lotus in the shadowless
flat light of afternoon,
so different from the dawn she was named for.
Let go of what you need.

Snow and Cindy share a smirk,
rolling their Maybelline eyes.
Not all of us have time
to go out of style for a hundred years
Every prince is one prince,
smooth as a wax apple
needing a crystal dish to rest on.

Yes, it's stupid, this happiness.
That's why they have jobs:
Cindy's an accountant, Snow does some modeling
and Gret works in a school cafeteria.
Rory remembers the switch flipped by her wake-up kiss,
how the clockwork courtiers stepped back
into their outdated lives, churning soured milk
when they could've driven to the 7-11.

Poor husbands, poor children, growing up beautiful,
hearing the same stories
that end as soon as there's good news.
You have everything you need to be happy right now
is how Rory always closes,
and suddenly Gret is deep in the black forest,
her lost brother's sweaty hand folded in hers,
the sky amazing with stars
making a hundred paths.

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
Toni Beauchamp Prize in Critical Art Writing. Gulf Coast literary journal will award publication and prizes up to $3,000 for a critical art writing piece, maximum 1,500 words, by young and mid-career US writers who "deal with the spirit of the age and [are] unafraid to ask difficult questions". Critical art writing genre includes thematic essays, exhibition reviews, scholarly essays, as well as other creative approaches and formats to writing on the visual arts. Previously unpublished work and work that has been published within the last year will be considered. Due August 31.

Intermediate Writers
Granum Foundation Prizes. The Granum Foundation will award a $5,000 top prize to a US resident age 18+ for a writing sample of a work-in-progress (all genres compete together). Authors must not have published more than five books or chapbooks. The prizes are meant to assist writers in "completing substantive literary works (poetry books, essay or short story collections, novels, and memoirs) or to help launch these works". A special Translation Prize of at least $1,500 is also awarded to a US-based writer age 18+ to support the completion of a translation into English. Due August 1.

Advanced Writers
Debra E. Bernhardt Labor Journalism Prize. The New York Labor History Association and LaborArts will award $1,000 for a published article that furthers the understanding of the history of working people in the US or Canada. Entries should have been published in print or online between August 31 of the preceding year and August 30 of the deadline year. Articles focused on historical events, and articles about current issues (work, housing, organizing, health, education) that include historical context, are both welcome. Due September 5.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

Winning Writers finds open submission calls and free contests in a variety of sources, including Erika Dreifus' Practicing Writer newsletter, FundsforWriters, Erica Verrillo's blog, Authors Publish, Lit Mag News Roundup, Poets & Writers, The Writer, Duotrope, Submittable, and literary journals' own newsletters and announcements.

Flash Frog: "Ghost Stories" Issue
(flash fiction ghost stories - July 31)

(dark, unusual fiction and poetry - July 31)

River River Books
(poetry manuscripts - July 31)

Sarabande Books: Nonfiction and Translation Reading Period
(book-length manuscripts - July 31)

Monosyllabic Queer Theory Poetry Anthology
(transform the ideas in your favorite queer theory text into a poem using single-syllable words - August 1)

(speculative short fiction and art with Christian themes - August 1)

Women Who Murder
(essays for a true-crime anthology about female killers - August 15)

Always Crashing
(experiments in merging creative writing with video, collage, or art - September 15)

Rattle: "Ghazal" Issue
(poems in the ghazal form - January 15, 2024)

Favorite New Resources

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

Apogee Journal

Apogee Journal
Online literary journal that engages with identity and its intersections

Blue Marble Review
Paying market for creative writing by students aged 13-22

The Caged Guerrilla
Incarcerated writer Raheem A. Rahman's podcast about life on the inside

Ink & Peat Podcast
Podcast hosts self-published and indie authors to discuss their books and marketing

Largehearted Boy
Long-running literary blog pairs new books with authors' music playlists

Massive Bookshop
Nonprofit online bookseller supports decarceration and bail funds in Massachusetts

The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database
Split This Rock searchable database of over 600 poems by contemporary socially engaged poets

Reedsy's 50 Best Writing Websites of 2023
Publishing-services company Reedsy names its favorite sites for the inspiration and business of writing

Sundress Reads
Submit your small press book for review on the website of this reputable literary publisher

"In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae, illustrated by Julian Peters, animated and read by James Avis

In Flanders Fields

James Avis animates Julian Peters' illustrations of "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae. Here is the text of the poem via Poetry Foundation, which also hosts a different animation of this poem along with "The Owl" and "Dulce et Decorum Est":

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

The Last Word

Jendi ReiterPoetry by Perry Brass: "The Death of the Peonies"
Author, journalist, and activist Perry Brass explores the intersection of gay male sexuality and spirituality. His books include The Manly Art of Seduction and the novel King of Angels. This poem, which he has kindly allowed me to reprint, was staged as a musical performance at Dixon Place in 2000 with support from the NYC Gay Men's Chorus.

The Death of the Peonies

At first they are nothing.
A stubble on the earth
and then their stems shoot up
and tangle and gossip with one another,
and twist their leaves about each other
rancorously, grabbing towards the light
thrusting their fingers out in fisted buds...

[Read more]

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