The best free literary contests with deadlines through July 31.

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Welcome to Our June Newsletter

We found over 40 quality free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between June 15-July 31. View their profiles now!
In this issue: "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae, illustrated by Julian Peters.

Last Call!
Deadline: June 30. 2nd year. Co-sponsored by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of The Frugal Book Promoter, and BookBaby. $6,000 in prizes, including three top awards of $1,500 each. Categories: Mainstream/Literary Fiction, Genre Fiction, Creative Nonfiction & Memoir. A collection of stories or essays counts as one entry. Fee: $50. Jendi Reiter and Ellen LaFleche will judge, assisted by Lauren Singer and Annie Keithline. See last year's winners and enter here.

Also open now, our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest will award $4,000 in prizes.

Want to view past newsletters? Go to Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 69,000 followers on Twitter at @WinningWriters.

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Upcoming contest deadlines:

Blank Verse Poetry Contest
A blank verse poem is written without rhymes and in iambic meter. This form often appears in narrative and dramatic poetry. Winner receives $100 cash. Deadline: June 18.

Etheree Poetry
This form consists of ten lines of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 syllables. Etheree can also be reversed and written 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. $100 for the winner. Deadline: June 24.

Quinzaine Poetry
A quinzaine is a three-line poem that has fifteen syllables. No rhymes. There should be seven syllables in the first line, five in the second line and three in the third line (7/5/3). The first line makes a statement. The next two lines ask a question relating to that statement. The winner takes away $100. Deadline: June 30.

Love Poem Poetry Contest
Your love poem can be fictional or non-fictional, humorous or serious. Cash prize of $100 for the winner. Deadline: July 6.

What If?
Write a story on this theme: "What if your character could hear the voices of people that had passed on to the next life?" Winner receives $100. Deadline: July 12.

See all our upcoming contests and
find out more.


Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Laura Foley, Charles Atkinson, Dean RaderGina Marie MammanoMike TuohyZara WestTricia CerroneRoberta BearyValerie IhsanThelma T. Reyna, Annie Dawid, Beth Coetzee, Joan Kantor, Eleanor Gamarsh, J. Paul Cooper, R.T. Castleberry, Diane Lockward, R. Bremner (featured poem: "Cloud formations over Carolina"), Guy Williams, and Madeleine McDonald.

Congratulations to our North Street Book Prize judge Ellen LaFleche. Her poem "Before the sickness, when" won first prize in the 2016 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize for Poetry. The most recent deadline for this $2,000 award was March 15. This poem and her poem "Because the dead cannot tell us what it's like to die" were published on their website, along with poems by the four honorable mention winners: Adele Ne Jame and Winning Writers subscribers Joan Baranow, Sally Clark, and Joyce Schmid.

Congratulations to our outgoing Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest judge Ellaraine Lockie. Three of her previously published poems won $850 in prizes in the 2016 San Mateo County Exposition Literary Arts Contest. Ellaraine recommends researching county fairs in your area to find writing contest opportunities: "Call the county fair phone numbers and get on mailing lists for their catalogs or online entry information."

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

Have news? Please email it to

Waking the Bones by award-winning author Elizabeth Kirschner

Winner of the 2015 North Street Book Prize in the category of creative nonfiction, Waking the Bones was released by The Piscataqua Press in Portsmouth, NH in 2015. A poetic tour de force, this memoir is bookended by Kirschner's years in her cottage, Sea Cabin, on Spruce Creek in Kittery Point, ME. Order your copy today from The Piscataqua Press at RiverRun Bookstore, Amazon, or

"A poet by trade, Kirschner has created a book so lyrical, so gorgeously styled, so filled with metaphor and meaning, so filled with magic and painful reality, that it transcends the genre of memoir." ~Ellen LaFleche, assistant judge of the North Street Book Prize

"Waking the Bones is one of those memoirs one dreams about reading—a gutsy, shameless, prose poem of the highest lyrical order that leaves one in awe of the process and the talent put out by the author." ~Alessandra Domina

Read an excerpt from Waking the Bones.

Waking the Bones

On Sale Now: Edisto Jinx by C. Hope Clark

The latest mystery thriller in The Edisto Island Mysteries from C. Hope Clark

"Edisto Jinx is one of the most realistic, believable amateur sleuth novels I've ever read (although Callie, while not a cop at the story's opening, is no amateur). It brings new meaning—and verisimilitude—to the fanciful idea of amateur detectives knowing and finding out more than the police. I love how Clark paints a true picture of how this debacle would play out in real life."
Clay Stafford, author / filmmaker, founder of Killer Nashville and publisher of Killer Nashville Magazine.

Buy Edisto Jinx at Amazon. View the trailer.

Pre-order now: Two Natures by Jendi Reiter

Jendi Reiter's debut novel, Two Natures (Saddle Road Press, forthcoming September 2016), is now available for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. This genre-bending novel couples the ambitious political analysis of literary fiction with the pleasures of an unconventional love story.

Praise for Two Natures

Julian is a Southern boy and transplanted aspiring fashion photographer in New York City in the 1990s; a gay man facing the height of the AIDS epidemic and professional, social, and spiritual struggles alike as he questions himself, God's will, and Christian values in the advent of a specific kind of apocalypse.

It's rare to discover within a gay love story an equally-powerful undercurrent of political and spiritual examination. Too many gay novels focus on evolving sexuality or love and skim over underlying religious values systems; but one of the special attributes of Two Natures isn't just its focus on duality, but its intense revelations about what it means to be both Christian and gay.

—Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review/California Bookwatch

Read an excerpt.
Listen to Julian's Playlist on Pinterest.

Two Natures

Autumn House Press

Our 2016 Full-Length Contests for Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction are now open!

Send us your full-length manuscripts of poetry (50-80 pages), fiction (200-300 pages), and nonfiction (200-300 pages)! The winner in each genre will receive book publication, a $1,000 prize, and a $1,500 travel/promotion grant. Postmark deadline: June 30.

The final judges for this year's contest:
Poetry - David St. John
Fiction - William Lychack
Nonfiction - Michael Martone

Congratulations to last year's winners!
Poetry - Brian Swann's St. Francis and the Flies
Fiction - Kathy Anderson's Bull and Other Stories
Nonfiction - Harrison Candelaria Fletcher's Presentimiento: A Life in Dreams

See our complete contest guidelines, and enjoy this excerpt from Presentimiento:

"It's like this," my mother tells me. "People were very spiritual in the old days. Not like they are now. They knew spirits are all around us. When I was a girl there weren't many phones in the country. When someone died, they told you in other ways. A chair moved. A picture fell. Once my grandmother came into the kitchen and said, 'I dreamed of my friend last night lying in a coffin. Get your things. We're going to Villa Nueva.' Sure enough, when we got there, we found out her friend had died. It happened all the time. It's called a presentimiento. Something you feel in your heart."​


The Rattle Poetry Prize

Rattle Magazine #52

Deadline: July 15. The annual Rattle Poetry Prize offers $10,000 for a single poem to be published in the winter issue of the magazine—but even if you don't win, you won't leave empty-handed! All entrants receive a one-year subscription to Rattle—and all subscriptions come with two chapbooks from our new prize series, including the 2016 winner, 3arabi Song by Zeina Hashem Beck.

So for the $20 entry fee, you'll receive four issues of Rattle, two award-winning chapbooks, and a shot at winning $10,000 for your best unpublished poem. Poetry contests don't get much better than that!

We accept entries online and by mail. See for the complete guidelines and to read all of the past winners.

In the meantime, please enjoy "Ghazal: Back Home" by Zeina Hashem Beck, from her chapbook 3arabi Song, shipping to all our 7,000+ subscribers this fall.

Awards for Poetry and Fiction at Snake Nation Press

Deadline: August 31. Submit electronically or by mail. We congratulate the winner of our most recent Serena McDonald Kennedy Fiction Award, Misty Urban of Findlay, IL, for her manuscript A Lesson in Manners, chosen by Jacob Appel. The winner of our Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry is John Paul O'Connor of Franklin, NY, for his manuscript Half the Truth, chosen by Tania Rochelle. Read the judges' comments.

Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry

  • $1,000 award and publication
  • Entry fee: $25
  • Submit a manuscript of up to 75-100 pages
  • Previously published works may be entered

Serena McDonald Kennedy Fiction Award

  • $1,000 award and publication
  • Entry fee: $25
  • Submit a novella of up to 50,000 words or a manuscript of short stories of up to 200 pages
  • Any well-written manuscript on any topic will be considered
  • Previously published works may be entered
A Lesson in Manners, published by Snake Nation Press

On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

On The Premises

Deadline: September 2. The premise of our 28th short story contest is "Darkness". Write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which the concept of "darkness" plays an important role. You may interpret "darkness" any way you want—literally, metaphorically, or any other way. Darkness doesn't have to have a value judgment attached to it, and it doesn't have to be symbolic in any way, although it can.

Please remember that we value creativity. A story about "the forces of light" fighting "the forces of darkness" will struggle to rate highly on the creativity meter. Try something else.

Winners receive between US$60 and US$220, and publication. There is no fee to enter our contest.

GENRE NOTE: Any genre except children's fiction, exploitative sex, or over-the-top gross-out horror is fine. We will also never accept parodies of another author's specific fictional character(s) or world(s). No exceptions!

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.

Spotlight Contests

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
Roll of Thunder Publishing Contest. Win a book publishing contract with Penguin Random House, including a $35,000 advance, royalties, and an option for a second children's/YA novel, for a complete children's fiction manuscript about diversity written by a US writer of color aged 18+ who has not previously published any work of fiction in any medium. Due June 21.

Intermediate Writers
Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Awards $10,000 for a first published book of poetry by a US citizen or legal resident. Due July 1.

Advanced Writers
Griffin Poetry Prize. Awards two top prizes of C$65,000 for poetry books published in the current calendar year. One prize will go to a living Canadian poet or translator, the other to a living poet or translator from any country (including Canada). Due June 30.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

PSA: How Literacy Changes Lives

Meet Earl Mills. Earl is all too familiar with the shame and embarrassment of being illiterate. At 45 years old, Earl was married with five children, owned his own home, and worked for 25 years at the same company. Yet he had a secret that few others knew: he could not read.

His lack of reading skill was exposed when he was put on the spot at church one night when he was asked to read a Bible passage. The problem was that at 44 years old, he couldn't read. No one knew except his wife. Earl says, "When you can't read, you keep it under a lock and a key and you let hardly anyone inside of that part of your life."

Earl sought the assistance of the Craven Literacy Council. When he went to them they assessed him at a second-grade reading level. He had trouble spelling words like girl and bird. With sheer determination he embarked on a three-year process of learning how to read. In addition to improving his literacy skills, Mills developed his ability to capture the frustrations and triumphs through his poetry. Today, he has published several books of poetry, including From Illiterate to Poet and From Illiterate to Author.

Earl is now a passionate advocate for adult literacy. He recently attended the National ProLiteracy Conference on Adult Literacy in Charleston, South Carolina where he was asked to read a few of his inspiring poems to the audience of 500 adult literacy professionals. ProLiteracy is a national nonprofit whose mission is to help adults learn to read by developing materials and programs for over 1,000 literacy member programs across the country. When adults learn to read and write, they have the power to change their lives and their communities.

Read "Twenty Six Letters", a poem by Mr. Mills.

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Julian Peters: "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae

In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, illustrated by Julian Peters
In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, illustrated by Julian Peters
In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, illustrated by Julian Peters
In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, illustrated by Julian Peters

Reprinted by kind permission of Julian Peters. Visit Julian Peters Comics to learn more. See the text of this poem at

The Last Word

Winners of the 2016 ASPS David Kato Prize for LGBT-Themed Poetry
David Kato was an Ugandan activist for the rights of sexual minorities, who was killed in a probable hate crime in 2011. For several years since then, I've sponsored this prize for poems on the theme of LGBT human rights, as part of the Alabama State Poetry Society award series. Here is an excerpt from "Defixio in the Heartland" by Christine Riddle, winner of this year's First Prize.

...But where was god that Easter morn
when daybreak found the stable door,
when dawn exposed the binding spell,
seared and scorched but legible,
when loving a man was deemed the sin
that sparked the blaze made starlight dim,
and trapped the innocents within?

[read more]

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

Jendi Reiter
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