The best free literary contests with deadlines to October 31 |

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Winning Writers Newsletter - September 2019

View Free Contests We found over two dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between September 15-October 31. In this issue, please enjoy "Beauty", an excerpt from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

S. Mei Sheng Frazier and Jim DuBois will judge the Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

Last Call!
Deadline September 30. We have increased the Tom Howard Prize to $2,000 for a poem in any style or genre, and the Margaret Reid Prize to $2,000 for a poem that rhymes or has a traditional style. Ten Honorable Mentions will receive $100 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: $12 per poem. Final judge: S. Mei Sheng Frazier, assisted by Jim DuBois. Submit online or enter by mail.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 123,000 followers on Twitter at @WinningWriters. Interested in advertising? Rates are going up on January 1. Lock in our current rates now.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Annie Dawid, Shobana Gomes, Paul C. Thornton, Charlotte Mandel, Abigail Keam, The Poet Spiel, B.J. Buckley, Jeff Yocum, Anna Scotti, Latorial Faison, Terry Scott Boykie, and Charlie Bondhus.

Winning Writers Editor Jendi Reiter was a finalist for the 2019 Oscar Wilde Award from Gival Press. Their poem "Dreaming of Top Surgery at the Vince Lombardi Rest Stop" will be published in Gival's online journal ArLiJo in March 2020. This $100 prize for poetry on LGBTQ themes has an annual deadline of June 27.

Winning Writers contest judge Ellen LaFlèche's new poetry collection Walking into Lightning (Saddle Road Press, 2019) was favorably reviewed in August in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, a Western Massachusetts newspaper. Editor Steve Pfarrer wrote, "These poems run a gamut of emotions—grief and loss, certainly, but also joy and love when recalling better times and memories, as well as acceptance of the future. LaFlèche writes movingly about being loved by another person and loving another person, and she also writes about coming to terms with loss."

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

Have news? Please email it to


Dzanc Books 2019 Contests

Deadline: September 30

Award-winning independent press Dzanc Books seeks daring, experimental, and innovative literary fiction for its three annual contests:

  • the Prize for Fiction, which recognizes bold and well-crafted novels (40,000 words and up) and offers a $5,000 advance and publication;
  • the Short Story Collection, which seeks unique and powerful book-length collections and offers a $2,500 advance and publication;
  • the Novella Prize, seeking sharp and creative short works (between 18,000 and 40,000 words), which offers a $1,500 advance and publication.

The winner of the Prize for Fiction will be selected by Pulitzer Prize finalist Lee Martin (The Bright Forever and Late One Night), Peg Alford Pursell (A Girl Goes into the Forest), and John Englehardt, whose novel Bloomland (Indie Next List, September 2019) won last year's contest. All other contests are judged in-house. Winners and finalists will be announced on November 15. $25 submission fee per entry. Enter via Submittable.

Enter the Indie Book Awards - Over 70 Categories to Choose From - Early Bird Special

Indie Book Awards

EARLY BIRD SPECIAL - Enter online by September 30 and receive a $60 discount on the entry of a second category.

The Early Bird Special Entry Fee is only $75 and includes the entry of one title in two categories. On October 1, the price to enter two categories increases by $60.

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. The Next Generation Indie Book Awards is presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group.

With over 70 categories to choose from, enter by February 14, 2020 to take advantage of this exciting opportunity to have your book considered for cash prizes, awards, exposure, possible representation by a leading literary agent, and recognition as one of the top independently published books of the year!

S. Mei Sheng Frazier will judge the Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest, assisted by Jim DuBois

Last call! Sponsored by Winning Writers

TOM HOWARD PRIZE: $2,000 for a poem in any style or genre

MARGARET REID PRIZE: $2,000 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 $100 each (any style)

Top 12 entries published online

Judged by S. Mei Sheng Frazier, assisted by Jim DuBois

Enter via Submittable by September 30

LitMag's Anton Chekhov Award for Flash Fiction

Deadline: October 1

First Prize: $1,250, publication in LitMag, and agency review by Sobel Weber Associates (clients include: Viet Thanh Nguyen, Richard Russo, Laura Lee Smith).

Finalists: Three finalists will receive $100 each. All finalists will be considered for possible agency review. All entries will be considered for publication.

Guidelines: Entries must be short stories between 500 and 1,500 words. Please use 12-point type, preferably Times New Roman, and submit your short story as either a Word document or a PDF. Only previously unpublished short stories are eligible. Writers may submit multiple stories, each of which requires a separate submission. Enter through Submittable only. Entry fee: $16.

Notification: The contest will be judged by the editors of the magazine. The winning short stories and finalists will be announced publicly on our website and social media as well as by email to all contestants in January of 2020.

Click to enter your flash fiction.

The 29th Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize

The 29th Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize

Deadline: October 1

$5,000 Fiction | $5,000 Nonfiction | $5,000 Poetry

Winners receive publication, invitation to a reception and reading in their honor, and a cash prize. Submit one piece of fiction or nonfiction up to 8,500 words or up to 10 pages of poems. Enter online or by mail. All entries considered for publication. Regular entry fee: $25. All-Access entry fee: $30. Winners will be announced in early 2020.

Each entrant receives a one-year subscription to the Missouri Review in digital format (normal price $24) and a paperback copy of A Faithful but Melancholy Account of Several Barbarities Lately Committed, Jason Brown's collection of linked stories, from Missouri Review Books (normal price $14.95). All-Access entrants receive full access to our ten-year digital archive.

Questions? Email

Read a prizewinning story by Melissa Yancy, an essay by Peter Selgin, or past poetry winners Katie Bickham, Kai Carlson-Wee, and Alexandra Teague.

New Letters Publication Award in Fiction

New Letter

Deadline: October 14

New Letters invites you to submit a short story on the topic of place and locality to the New Letters Publication Award in Fiction. The winner receives a cash prize of $750 and publication in New Letters. Stories must concern this year's topic and exhibit a grounding in a physical environment, region, or locality in some way, whether implicitly or explicitly through title, setting, plot, theme, conflict, or the minds of the characters.

All entries are considered for publication and must be unpublished. Multiple entries are welcome with appropriate fees. Entries may only be submitted through Submittable. Postal entries will not be considered. Winners will be announced in March 2020. For complete guidelines, visit our website.

The Woven Tale Press Prose Competition: Deadline October 15

The Woven Tale Press Prose Competition

2019 contests at Cutthroat

Bullies in Love by Jendi Reiter

Bullies in Love

Winner of the Little Red Tree International Poetry Prize, Jendi Reiter's second full-length collection is illustrated with fine art photography by Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowship winner Toni Pepe.

"This book is an immensely enjoyable, sometimes beautiful, and often moving romp—tamed and targeted rage—through the hazardous territory of inter-personal and political relationships. Reiter's way with contemporary American English is acutely sensitive, and I cannot think of a better way to address the apparent oxymoron of the collection's title. It is a full, rich book—you will get your money's worth. It is also often laugh out loud funny—an impressive rarity in poetry that is also serious."

—5-star Amazon review by E. Taylor

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

What Does It Mean When You Dream of the Ocean?

Cthulhu's got issues with his mother.
Ten thousand years old and he still wets the couch.
He could always eat the doctor,
snap like a skinny lobster leg
in his octopus beak, but frankly,
he's too bored to find another.
How he misses the cold black deep, the misshapen towers,
the endless waiting, half-asleep
among slow and nameless things.
Now words clog his gullet like broken clamshells
and every sightline has an edge.

He picks up a crayon,
a rake from the sand tray,
and drawing a trail
of slime on the Chinese carpet,
describes the Black Goat of the Woods.

Very interesting.
It must stand for something else.
R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn,
Cthulhu explains. The doctor writes
DSM-5 297.1, 301.7.

He waits for the spell of her symbols
to send a blinding color through the window,
the anti-white, prism of unseeable shades.
His suckers stick to the leatherette.
Eons ago some creature must have pushed him
out of her cave into a greater one,
but what matters memory?
These human bugs, these prawns,
trace their inch-long lives in sand,
look down to the scribble for reasons,
blind to the stars.

Risperidone 2 mg/d.

Cthulhu wakes
at 4 AM from the dream of a woman
in a black bustle, a pin at her neck,
telling her child he's too ugly to go outside
their wooden house whose steps tumble down to the docks.
Copper and salt singe the air.
The sheets are wet and he is hungry.

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.

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
Writers' HQ Flash Quarterly Contest. Awards quarterly prizes worth up to 450 pounds for unpublished flash fiction, 500 words maximum. Top three winners each quarter win membership in Writers' HQ, a British writing resource site and workshop sponsor, and admission to three WHQ writing retreats. Winners outside the UK can substitute a manuscript critique for the retreats. Enter online. Due September 30.

Intermediate Writers
Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize. Awards prizes up to $1,000 to US poets for previously unpublished poems of any length that "help make real for readers the gravity of the vulnerable state of our environment at present". Also, the top three winning poems will be published in the Academy of American Poets' Poem-A-Day digital series, reaching 500,000 readers. Poems may be submitted in Spanish but must be accompanied by an English translation. Performance or Spoken Word poets may submit their work via video. Submit one entry online. Due November 1.

Advanced Writers
Marfield Prize/National Award for Arts Writing. Awards $10,000 for a nonfiction book first published in the US in the current calendar year about an artistic discipline (e.g., visual, literary, performing, or media arts). Publishers, agents, or authors should submit 3 copies of the book plus entry form. Winner will participate in a short, all-expenses-paid residency in Washington, DC. Sponsored by the Arts Club of Washington. Due October 29.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

PSA: Empower Women Through Literacy

Write Her Future

Lancôme USA and ProLiteracy have partnered to create the Write Her Future Institute, an initiative to increase low literacy rates among women and raise awareness of the critical issue of low adult literacy that affects 43 million adults in the United States, two-thirds of whom are women. Through this program, adult basic education organizations have the opportunity to transform the lives of thousands of women across the country.

Adult education helps break the cycle of intergenerational illiteracy and poverty by empowering women with skills they need to be successful. We can all help women gain literacy skills to get better jobs, improve their health, leave abusive relationships, break the cycle of poverty, learn English as a second language, and support their families.

The Lancôme grant to ProLiteracy will provide free access to Voxy®, a personalized language learning platform that pairs authentic content with personalized live instruction—all delivered in a fully mobile experience. Through the Write Her Future Institute, adult education programs can apply for free one-year Voxy licenses for women adult learners. Learn more and apply.

Highlights from Our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest Archives

This month, editor Jendi Reiter presents some of our favorite poems from our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest. There are many more in our Contest Archives.

Samuel Tan

by Samuel Tan

Second Prize
2009 Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse

by Myron L. Stokes

First Prize
2012 Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse

by Sarah Rice

Honorable Mention
2013 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

by Jeff Walt

Honorable Mention
2013 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

by Kathleen Spivack

Honorable Mention
2017 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest (Traditional Verse category)

Beauty: An excerpt from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

The Prophet

And a poet said, Speak to us of Beauty.

Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide?

And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech?

The aggrieved and the injured say, "Beauty is kind and gentle.

Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us."

And the passionate say, "Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread.

Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us."

The tired and the weary say, "Beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit. Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow."

But the restless say, "We have heard her shouting among the mountains,

And with her cries came the sound of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions."

At night the watchmen of the city say, "Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the east."

And at noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say, "We have seen her leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset."

In winter say the snow-bound, "She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills."

And in the summer heat the reapers say, "We have seen her dancing with the autumn leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair." All these things have you said of beauty.

Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,

And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.

It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,

But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.

It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear,

But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.

It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,

But rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight.

People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.

But you are life and you are the veil. Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.

But you are eternity and you are the mirror.

Read The Prophet on Wikisource

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter High-Demand Religion and Male Loneliness
It stands to reason...that philia [non-sexual friendship] based on shared spirituality would be especially deep and meaningful. The stronger the pressure to face in the same direction, as in high-demand religions like Orthodox Judaism and evangelical Christianity, the more that bond is reinforced. The men's passion for one another—again, not necessarily sexual—is given cover by their passion for God. Because these religions are punitively heteronormative and patriarchal, these men can have it both ways, being vulnerable and devoted to one another in "feminine" ways without losing status.

[read more]

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

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