The best free literary contests with deadlines to May 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 YouTube

Winning Writers Newsletter - April 2021

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 "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower" by Dylan Thomas, illustrated by Julian Peters.

Tony Keith Jr. and Kayleb Rae Candrilli

TONY KEITH JR. and KAYLEB RAE CANDRILLI won the top awards of $3,000 each in our 18th annual Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest. Contest co-sponsor Duotrope awarded Keith and Candrilli two-year gift certificates (value $100) to access Duotrope's extensive literary information services. Visit the winners' pages to see the original artwork we commissioned for their poems.

5,785 entries were received from around the world. We awarded 10 Honorable Mentions to Threa Almontaser, Judith Antelman, R.D. Bailey, Amber Edwards, Maria Greer, Kathryn Etters Lovatt, Hannah Louise Poston, Anne Delana Reeves, Anna Scotti, and Imane Terhmina.

Read today's press release, and read the winning entries selected by Soma Mei Sheng Frazier and assistant judge Jim DuBois. We wish Jim all the best as he pulls back from contest judging to focus on game design. He will be sorely missed! Our 19th contest opens today. Ms. Frazier returns to judge, and will now be assisted by Vernon Keeve III. We will again award $3,000 to each of the top winners, and we have sliced the effective entry fee in half! Whereas before each $15 submission could contain one poem, now it can have two. Enter here.

Last Call!
Deadline: April 30. 29th year. $8,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $3,000 each. Fee: $20 per entry. Final judge: Dennis Norris II. Both unpublished and previously published work accepted.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 135,000 followers on Twitter and find us on Facebook. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

Photo of Kayleb Rae Candrilli by Beowulf Sheehan, 2019

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Alice Wolf Gilborn (featured poem: "Apples and Stones"), Sherri Felt Dratfield, Gavin Larsen, Annie Dawid, Kayleb Rae CandrilliTaylor Byas, Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, Joshua Nguyen, Remi RecchiaKelli Russell AgodonElizabeth Miki BrinaRobin Reardon, Gloria Mindock, Richard de ForestTamara Kaye SellmanTresha Faye Haefner, Mary Langer Thompson, Linda Dove, Shanna McNair, Elie Azar (featured poem: "Words That Didn’t Want to Be Written on Paper"), Gail ThomasLesléa Newman, and Diane Elayne Dees.

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

Have news? Please email it to

The Bruise of Your Absence by Cris Mulvey

From the author of Mine to Carry, winner of the 2020 Grand Prize in the North Street competition sponsored by Winning Writers

The Bruise of Your Absence

A chapbook of poems about grief that navigate loss without self-pity...shines with a connection to the natural world. Mulvey is a poet unafraid of naked passion.

"Cris Mulvey's artfully crafted poems are painfully and triumphantly elegiac. These verses mourn for the loss of a child surrendered to adoption, for family gone to the grave, and for the lingering/persistent shadow of an absent lover. 'I wait for you, / fire at my core', writes Mulvey. These poems navigate loss without self-pity, and they radiate with meaning beyond gratuitous sentimentality. The strength of Mulvey's poetic aesthetic shines like a beacon through the dark, page after page, as she sings so bravely straight into the face of pain."
Lowell Jaeger (Montana Poet Laureate 2017-2019)

"Rhapsodic yet spare, these poems shine with a connection to the natural world and the rawness of loss. This poet doesn't shy away from her own inner landscape; though it is painful, her grief 'is a river cutting a swathe through the trees,/where the dark at night, shot with ten thousand stars,/pours down shining.' Diving below any easy answers or shallow escapes, Cris Mulvey uses powerful imagery to engage us in moments of intimacy and, ultimately, hope."
—Ingrid Keriotis, author of the poetry collection It Started with the Wild Horses.

"These are poems of wild sensuality, 'fingering the body of the earth with tender curiosity', as one of the most unforgettable poems in this collection puts it. The ecstasy of surrender leads to decay, but not oblivion. An intensely felt sense of place binds these poems—this is a grey, windswept landscape of blackened hearths and murderous owls, where parents are mourned, and a child is born, lost, re-found. Mulvey is a poet unafraid of naked passion. Her burning here is 'heat unsheathed!' indeed."
Rachel Howard, author of the memoir, The Lost Night, and the novel, The Risk of Us.

Purchase The Bruise of Your Absence at Finishing Line Press.

Fetch by Jerald Pope


2020 North Street Book Prize winner for Children's Picture Book

Told in striking black and white etching with a touch of red, Fetch is a 48-page wordless story that follows a man and his dog as they go out to play for the final time. What happens next is a surprise and a delight. Fetch...a story with no words that you will want to read again and again and share with those you love and those whose hearts have been touched by the love dogs so freely give.

Order Fetch directly from the author's website.

Owl Girl by Jerald Pope

Owl Girl

a little girl, lost in the woods,
is snatched up by a big owl,
who takes her home.

Welcome to Owl Girl, a new fairy tale. Bring along the child that hides in your heart. You might recognize characters from those childhood days, the Brothers Grimm, or your own dreams in this story of the search for one's true place in the world.​

Order Owl Girl directly from the author's website.

Call for Submissions: The Blue Mountain Review

The Blue Mountain Review

The Blue Mountain Review is published by The Southern Collective Experience. Innovation with an awareness of their arts' deep roots is a pursuit shared by Collective members. Thus "collective experience" has both existential and mythic connotations. And although we were birthed in the diverse climes of Georgia, the designation "Southern" isn't meant to exclude contributors from other regions. (Everyone is south of somewhere.) Rather, it highlights iconic, living Southern ethics—welcoming guests, relaxing with loved ones, treating all with integrity and honor. Creators and creative work that share these ideas are welcomed and celebrated regardless of geography.

Submissions for poetry: Any style is accepted. Any length is accepted. Please submit only three poems per issue.

Submissions for fiction: Please limit your prose to no more than 2,500 words. Send only one prose piece per issue. | Please limit your micro fiction to 1-to-3 pieces per issue, 300 words per story. | Please limit your essay to no more than 2,500 words. Send only one piece per issue.

All visual arts: We leave this category up to the artist to interpret and submit in standard, easily opened attachments.

With each submission, we request a $5 fee. Detailed critiques are available for $50.

Click here to learn more.

Last Call! "Rise Up" Poetry Contest

Rise Up Poetry Contest

Deadline: April 30

Submit 14 or less lines in any style, on any topic. Entry fee $20.

1st Prize –
$200 and Prime Anthology Placement (Back cover of Book) – Free paperback copy of Rise Up. A featured position for a minimum of one week on

2nd Prize –
$100 and Prime Anthology Placement (First Page) - Free paperback copy of Rise Up.

3rd Prize –
$50 and Prime Anthology Placement (Last Page) - Free paperback copy of Rise Up.

Finalists (Up to 80) will receive publication in the Rise Up anthology. Finally, really great writers can be published in something of substance! All finalists will receive a free digital copy of Rise Up on or before October 14, 2021.

Any topic or style is acceptable. For Rise Up, show us that you have resilience and strength and can "rise up" and overcome challenges.  All that is expected is that your poetry reflects emotions and thoughts coming from the depths of you. Winners will be announced on on May 18, 2021.

See the complete guidelines.

Oprelle Oprelle Publications enjoys finding "diamonds in the rough". O.P. wants to recognize hidden talent by giving unknown writers a chance to be published. Rise Up is our current book project.

Last Call! Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

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, 11:59pm Hawaii Time

Last Call! Curt Johnson Prose Awards

Curt Johnson Prose Awards

Deadline: May 1

DECEMBER MAGAZINE seeks submissions for our 2021 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 2021 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.

Carve Magazine Raymond Carver Short Story Contest

Raymond Carver Contest

Deadline: May 15

Now in its 21st 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. Leesa Cross-Smith, author of This Close To Okay, is the 2021 guest judge.

Visit our website to read the full guidelines and submit.

Oprelle Masters Poetry Contest

Oprelle Masters Poetry Contest

Deadline: May 18

The Oprelle Masters Poetry Contest is an exclusive contest for previously published authors with at least one writing/poetry award. The 2021 Masters Contest is the first top tier contest offered by Oprelle Publications LLC. Five authors will get to showcase up to 20 of their personal works in a Poetry Masters Anthology. Winners receive a Crystal Trophy, a featured position on, and $1,500, $1,000, or $500 in cash, plus one or more copies of the anthology with their picture, biography, and inspiration inside.

See the complete guideines and enter here.

Oprelle's mission is to share the works of those who are growing and rising in the poetry, art, and written word industries. Through ongoing contests, we provide resources and exposure for poets, artists, and authors. We hope to not only provide these opportunities, but to inspire new talents to press forward with their extraordinary gifts.

The 23rd Annual Blue Lynx Prize

Explain This Corpse

Deadline: June 15

The reading period for the 2021 Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry is open. The competition awards $2,000 plus publication for an unpublished, full-length poetry collection by a US author, which includes foreign nationals living and writing in the US and US citizens living abroad. Each entrant will receive a book from our back catalog.

Past winners include Heather Sellers, Kirsten Kaschock, Joe Wilkins, Jim Daniels, Carolyne Wright, Suzanne Lummis, and Lou Lipsitz. Judges have included Yusef Komunyakaa, Melissa Kwasny, Christopher Buckley, Dara Wier, Dorianne Laux, and Robert Wrigley.

Lynx House Press has been publishing fine poetry and prose since 1975. Our titles are distributed by the University of Washington Press.

Manuscripts may include poems that have appeared in journals, magazines, or chapbooks. Poems that have previously appeared in full-length, single-author collections are not eligible. Acknowledgments pages and author names may be included. Entries must be at least 48 pages in length.

Mail your manuscript and $28 reading fee (payable to Lynx House Press) to Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry, P.O. Box 96, Spokane, WA 99210 or submit online via Submittable.

The MacGuffin’s 26th Poet Hunt Contest

MacGuffin Poet Hunt

Submit during April 1-June 15

One first place winner will receive $500 and publication in a future issue, along with up to two Honorable Mention selections. We're excited to welcome Indigo Moor to serve as this year's guest judge!

We'll accept up to five poems per $15 entry fee. Please begin your submission with a cover page listing your name, email address, mailing address (for one issue, included with entry), and poem titles. On the following pages, include your poems, with each poem beginning on a new page and devoid of any personally identifiable information to preserve the blind review. That's it!

See the full rules on our website, then enter by mail or online at Submittable.

Win $5,000 for Your Self-Published Book

North Street Book Prize

Deadline: June 30

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

Choose from seven categories:

  • Mainstream/Literary Fiction
  • Genre Fiction
  • Creative Nonfiction & Memoir
  • Poetry
  • Children's Picture Book
  • Graphic Novel & Memoir
  • Art Book (new!)

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.

Rattle Poetry Prize

Rattle Poetry Prize

Deadline: July 15 (11:59pm Pacific Time for online entries)

The annual Rattle Poetry Prize celebrates its 16th 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 last year's Rattle Poetry Prize winner by Alison Townsend, published in Rattle #70, Winter 2020:


At sunset the russet oak turns into a lamp.
Each polished leaf glows amber, lit by sun.
As a child, I raked leaves with my mother each fall.
We burned small pyres, their flames the color of loss.

Each polished leaf glows amber, lit by sun.
I could not know my mother would die young.
We burned small pyres, their flames the color of loss.
I stand here watching, older now than she ever was.

I could not know my mother would die young.
The tree is a galleon, its sails coppered by light.
I stand here watching, older now than she ever was.
I raked leaves into rooms and houses as a girl.

The tree is a galleon, its sails coppered by light.
I'll always be a daughter, part of her body’s bright map.
I raked leaves into rooms and houses as a girl.
Death is a lit tree, its amber walls falling in pieces.

I'll always be a daughter, part of her body’s bright map.
As a child, I raked leaves with my mother each fall.
Death is a lit tree, its amber walls falling in pieces.
At sunset the russet oak turns into a lamp.

Press 53 Award for Poetry

Press 53 Award for Poetry

Deadline: July 31

The Press 53 Award for Poetry is awarded annually to an outstanding, unpublished collection of poems. This competition is open to any writer, regardless of his or her publication history, who is 18 years of age or older, provided the manuscript is written in English and the author lives in the United States or one of its territories.

Submit a manuscript that is approximately 60 to 120 pages in length. Entry fee: $30. 

Award includes: Publication by Press 53 of the winning poetry collection as a Tom Lombardo Poetry Selection; $1,000 cash advance; 50 copies (total prize valued at $2,000). The winner will be announced on or before November 1.

Press 53 Poetry Series Editor Tom Lombardo will be the only judge for this contest; the contest will be judged solely on the strength of the poems as a collection.

Learn more and submit online or by mail.

We congratulate our most recent winner, Chanel Brenner. Lombardo said of Brenner’s manuscript, "Smile or Else is a masterpiece in the elegiac genre, a collection that examines a mother's mourning over the death of her son, and chronicles her recovery through the life of her surviving younger son. There is deep grieving, but also a contrasting sense of hope. The poet weaves through her collection excellent poems of mourning, separation, and recovery."

An Incomplete List of My Wishes: Stories by Jendi Reiter

An Incomplete List of My Wishes

Winner of the 2017 Sunshot Book Prize for Fiction, Winning Writers Editor Jendi Reiter's debut story collection explores the fraught relationships among queer and straight family members, the search for a post-traumatic spirituality, and the fine line between soulmates and intimate enemies.

Novelist John Shore (Everywhere She's Not, American Fiction Award winner) says in his 5-star Amazon review, "You will never read a better, more fully realized collection of short stories. This is a masterful work."

Reviewer Meghan O'Neill at Mom Egg Review says, "This short story collection is the product of a wonderful mixing of novelist and poet. For each of Jendi Reiter’s stories, the tension is expertly built but never released. By exposing the fraught nature of different relationships, the reader must sit in their own discomfort, wondering about the things never said."

Learn more and read "Memories of the Snow Queen", a story from the book.

Buy the book at Sunshot Press.

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
Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships. Poetry magazine will award five fellowships of $25,800 for US authors aged 21-31 as of the deadline. Upload 10 pages of poetry (published work may be included) and an introductory page using their online submission manager. Prestigious. Due April 30.

Intermediate Writers
Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award. Sisters in Crime will award a $2,000 grant for adult crime fiction, 2,500-5,000 words, by an author of color who has not published more than ten pieces of short fiction or two books. (Preference is given to previously unpublished authors.) Prize must be used for "activities related to crime fiction writing and career development". Winner is required to submit a report about how the prize was spent and serve as a member of next year's award selection committee. Send short story or first chapter(s) of a manuscript-in-progress, resume, and cover letter describing how the applicant is emerging in the genre and how the grant money would be used. Due May 15.

Advanced Writers
Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. Writers' Trust of Canada will award C$60,000 for novels or short story collections published in Canada between October 1 of the previous year and September 30 of the deadline year by Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Deadline varies depending on when the book was published: Books published between October 1 and March 9 must be received by March 10; those published between March 10 and May 18 must be received by May 19; and those published between May 19 and September 30 must be received by July 14. Publishers should submit entry form, digital copies of each title, press kit, and list of titles published by that publisher, to establish eligibility via sponsor's online form.

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, Trish Hopkinson's blog, Erica Verrillo's blog, Authors Publish, Lambda Literary, Lit Mag News RoundupPoets & Writers, The Writer, Duotrope, Submittable, and literary journals' own newsletters and announcements.

Rattle: "Indian Poets" Issue
(poetry by authors from India - April 15)

Sequestrum: "Optimism" Issue
(poetry, fiction, and essays with a hopeful tone - April 15)

Sequestrum "Slipstream" Issue
(magical-realist and sci-fi poetry and prose - April 15)

Sinister Wisdom: "Trans/Feminisms" Issue
(lesbian-feminist creative writing and art that explores and celebrates transness - April 15)

Tea-Ku Poetry Anthology
(haiku about tea - April 20)

Brain Mill Press National Poetry Month Contest
(poetry about the traumas of 2020 - April 30)

Fatal Flaw: "Ritual" Issue
(poetry, prose, and artwork that finds beauty in imperfection - May 7)

Brilliant Flash Fiction
(stories 300 words max - May 14)

Pensive: A Global Journal of Spirituality and the Arts
(poetry, prose, artwork, and translations with spiritual or philosophical themes - May 15)

The Best New True Crime Stories: Partners in Crime
(narrative journalism about lawbreaking couples - June 1)

Black Lawrence Press: Black Womanhood Anthology
(personal essays about the myth of the "strong Black woman" - June 30)

Flowers & Vortexes
(poetry - August 30)

The Best New True Crime Stories: Unsolved Crimes and Mysteries
(narrative journalism about cold cases - September 1)

Aesthetic Press
(commercial fiction by authors of color - January 1, 2022)

PSA: Adult Literacy Facts

Important Information about the Citizenship Test

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.

Laura Shumaker

by Laura Shumaker
Honorable Mention
2007 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

by Thomas Lee
Most Highly Commended
2008 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

by Tony Myres
First Prize
2012 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

by Jo-Ann Allan-Forbes
Honorable Mention
2015 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

See more winning entries in our Contest Archives

"The force that through the green fuse drives the flower" by Dylan Thomas, illustrated by Julian Peters

Poems to See By features 24 classic poems with visual interpretations by comic artist Julian Peters. Mr. Peters has graciously allowed us to reprint "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower" from the book.
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

The Last Word

Jendi ReiterTwo Poems from Joshua Michael Stewart's Break Every String
This lyrical autobiography is a blues song for the dead-end economy of Midwestern towns and the family wreckage they harbor. His characters crackle with energy that could find its outlet in verses or fists, parenting your own children or stealing someone else's, a guitar or a bottle. Stewart writes of his teen years: "I was nabbed for keeping up the family business—shoving merchandise down my pants." As the one who escaped, Stewart plays through all the octaves of emotion, from gratitude to judgmental pride, to survivor guilt, to wary compassion: "of loving/the lost with raucous praise, of letting the gone go."

Read more

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