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Winning Writers Newsletter - January 2020

J.R. Weber

We are thrilled to announce the results from our fifth annual North Street Book Prize for self-published books. We read 1,657 entries! J.R. Weber of Ewa Beach, Hawaii won this year's Grand Prize across all genres for his verse-drama, Lay of the Land, which combines an ambitious hybrid literary form with meticulous research and heroic imagery to re-create the doomed Mdewakanton Sioux uprising in 1862 against European immigrant farmers who colonized their land. He received $3,000, a marketing analysis and one-hour phone consultation with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, a $300 credit at BookBaby, and 3 free ads in the Winning Writers newsletter (a $525 value). For a limited time, Mr. Weber has generously agreed to let the Winning Writers audience download his book for free (PDF).

We further congratulate our category winners, Jeanette Stickel (Children's Picture Book), Bob Sylva (Mainstream/Literary Fiction), Suanne Laqueur (Genre Fiction), Li Mo (Creative Nonfiction & Memoir), Katy McKinney (Poetry), and Dmitri Jackson (Graphic Narrative). Melissa Yap-Stewart, Stephen Barnwell, Jessica Goody, Joan Alden, Alexander Watson, Molly Lazer, and Abigail Anklam earned Honorable Mentions. Final judges Jendi Reiter and Ellen LaFleche were assisted by Annie Keithline and Lauren Singer Ledoux. Read excerpts from all the winning entries and the judges' remarks. Read the press release.

$10,750 was awarded in all, making this one of the world's most generous contests for self-published books. Our new competition opens today, with a deadline of June 30. We are increasing the prize pool to $12,500—with a $5,000 top prize. The entry fee is now $65 per book. ENTER HERE.

View Free Contests

We found nearly four dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between February 15 and March 31. In this issue, please enjoy a preview of images from Julian Peters' new book, Poems To See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 125,000 followers on Twitter. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

Featured Sponsor: Enter Dozens of Contests for One Low Price

Don't miss these contests. All have cash prizes. At FanStory, you can enter dozens of contests, get feedback for everything you write, and have fun with your writing. Membership is only $9.95 per month. Discounts available! View the discounts.

5 Line Poem
Write a five-lined poem that has a specific syllable count to enter this contest. Cash prize to the winner.
Deadline tomorrow! February 16th

Write A Script
A script can bring a scene alive with just a little direction and words. Now is your chance to write your own. The winner takes away a cash prize.
Deadline in 4 Days! February 19th

Non-Fiction Writing Contest
We are looking for personal essays, memoirs, and works of literary non-fiction. It can be spiritual, political, or funny. Creative approaches welcomed. The winner takes away a cash prize.
Deadline February 21st

Rhyming Poetry Contest
Write a poem of any type that has a rhyme. Cash Prize!
Deadline February 24th

100 Word Flash Fiction
Write a flash fiction story on any topic that uses exactly 100 words. Cash prize to the winner.
Deadline February 28th

These are just a few of our contests. View the listing.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Jennifer Davis Michael (featured poem: "Down the Hall"), J Brooke, Kevin Hinkle (featured poem: "I Am a Rothko Painting"), Diane Thomas-Plunk, Jennie MacDonald, Thelma T. Reyna (featured poem: "Hands Holding Firm"), E Baker, Roberta BearyLesléa Newman, Gary Beck, Janet Ruth Heller, Kaya Do-Khanh, Annie Dawid, Dean Kostos, R. BremnerYvonne (a/k/a Yvonne Chism-Peace), and R.T. Castleberry.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Next Generation Indie Book Awards

Indie Book Awards

Entries are 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.

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.

Announcing The Missouri Review's 13th Annual Miller Audio Prize Contest

Miller Audio Prize

Deadline: March 15

The Missouri Review invites submissions to the 2020 Miller Audio Prize in the following four categories: audio documentary, poetry, prose, and humor. Winners in each category will be awarded $1,000, publication on our website, and promotion on our social media accounts.

Entrants choose their own entry fee ($16, $24, or $30), and each entrant will receive a digital subscription to TMR. Previously published or aired pieces are acceptable as long as you, the entrant, hold the rights. Our final judge this year is Alex Sujong Laughlin. Complete guidelines here.

$6,000 in Prizes: Nimrod International Journal’s Literary Awards for Fiction and Poetry

Nimrod Literary Awards


The 42nd annual Nimrod Literary Awards—The Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and The Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction—are open. The Awards offer first prizes of $2,000 and publication and second prizes of $1,000 and publication. Winners will be brought to Tulsa in October for the Awards Ceremony and Conference for Readers and Writers. All finalists and semi-finalists will be considered for publication at a rate of $10 per page.


  • Poetry: 3-10 pages
  • Fiction: 7,500 words maximum
  • Fee Per Entry: $20 payable to Nimrod, includes a one-year subscription

No previously published works or works accepted for publication elsewhere. Author's name must not appear on the manuscript. Include a cover sheet containing major title(s), author's name, full address, phone, and email. Entries may be mailed to Nimrod or submitted online.

For complete rules, visit Nimrod's website.

Win $1,000 for a Humor Poem (no fee)

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

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 "Lost Gloves" by Linda Eve Diamond, winner of a Grand Prize in 2019.

Win $3,000 for a Story or Essay

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

Montreal International Poetry Prize

Montreal International Poetry Prize

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.

Spirit Bridges by Li Mo

Spirit Bridges
Winner of the 2019 North Street Book Prize for Creative Nonfiction & Memoir

"Spirit Bridges is a deeply moving and intimate chronicle of Li Mo's long journey to America. Born in China, on the eve of the Cultural Revolution, Li is the daughter of one of China's first woman journalists. She recalls her tumultuous early years, including her father's disappearance and subsequent execution by the government, through the eyes of a child.

"The mother is a daunting figure in this book: skillful, disciplined, terrifying, beautiful. She is awesome, seen through her daughter's eyes, wielding a power of performance and words to which the young Mo feels she cannot aspire. A wild, misfit girl, deeply rooted in the world of the senses, Li struggles painfully in school despite her mother's literary and journalistic achievements.

"After being smuggled out of China by her mother in a dangerous journey, she finds herself alone in Madrid by the time she is eleven, caring for three young brothers while her mother makes a first trip to the United States. She dreams of the day her mother will return to bring them to 'Gold Mountain'. Her mother's letters sustain her, promising a new life of ease and plenty, but once they have made the final journey, the reality of their life in a Lower East Side tenement is stark.

"Mo struggles for self-expression throughout her life—to find a language she can both speak and understand. Ultimately, she does find a use for words—the poetry of this memoir is testament to that. But she finds her voice also in the beauty and wonder of the natural world and through her own development as a visual artist:

'The blank paper was a cloud shifting...Painting became a healing language. Colors softened a world filled with dangerous warnings.'

"Spirit Bridges is a wild ride of changes in one woman's life—both internally and in the world around her. It is story of finding one's voice in a constantly shifting, sometimes terrifying world. Through it, we come to know a woman with a playful spirit and a keen longing for and sensitivity to beauty, pain, and joy."

—Rama Williams

Read an excerpt from Spirit Bridges (PDF)

Request to buy Spirit Bridges from the author or purchase on Amazon

Jendi Reiter's Two Natures: "An Enlightening and Challenging Novel"

Two Natures

Jendi Reiter's debut novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press) is the spiritual coming-of-age story of a NYC fashion photographer during the 1990s AIDS crisis. Two Natures won the Rainbow Award for Best Gay Contemporary Fiction and was a finalist for the Book Excellence Awards, the Lascaux Prize for Fiction, and the EPIC e-Books Awards.

British literary critic and fiction writer Jack Messenger says:

"Jendi Reiter's wise and ambitious novel Two Natures is the story of young gay man Julian Selkirk who, Crusoe-like, finds himself washed ashore in New York in 1991 and 'dependent on the kindness of strangers'. Julian is an aspiring fashion photographer whose career lows and highs quickly alternate, mirroring his personal exploration of the gay scene and his search for love. The spiritual and the carnal, the beautiful and the sordid, interweave in complex patterns, overshadowed by the gathering AIDS crisis, as the years to 1996 become increasingly hostile to difference. The intensely personal is the politically fraught, and Julian has to cope with the vagaries of love and ambition while mourning friends and lovers.

"Two Natures is an all-encompassing work that plunges us into New York's rent-controlled apartments, gay bars and nightclubs, and the overlapping world of fashion shoots and glamour magazines, in pursuit of the spirit of the times."

Read the full review.

Buy Two Natures on Amazon.

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
Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. Restless Books will award a $10,000 advance and publication in print and e-book editions for a manuscript of literary prose, 45,000 words minimum for fiction and 25,000 words minimum for nonfiction, by a first-generation immigrant of their country who has not previously published a book in that particular genre in English. "First-generation" can refer either to people born in another country who relocated, or to residents of a country whose parents were both born elsewhere. Prize alternates annually between fiction (even-numbered years) and nonfiction (odd-numbered years). Due March 31.

Intermediate Writers
Judith A. Markowitz Award for Emerging LGBTQ Writers. Two prizes of $1,000 each are offered to LGBTQ authors who have published 1-2 books of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. Candidates' contributions to the LGBTQ literary field beyond their writings and publications will also be considered. Submit a writing sample of your strongest representative work (an excerpt of a larger piece or a stand-alone work, 10 pages maximum for poetry and 20 pages maximum for prose), up to 3 letters of recommendation, and a 1,000-word nomination statement. In addition, supplemental literary work such as short stories and essays, or editing LGBTQ-themed anthology collections may be submitted for consideration. Individuals may nominate themselves or other writers. Due February 17.

Advanced Writers
Frank O'Connor International Short Story Fellowship. The Munster Literature Centre and the Cork City Council will award a stipend totaling 7,500 euros; a 12-week residency in Cork, Ireland; and various writing, mentoring, and teaching opportunities for an English-speaking writer from outside Ireland who has published at least two full-length works of fiction, of which at least one must be a short story collection. Applicant should be of international standing and respected by peers, with experience in the coaching or teaching of other writers either through workshops and/or mentoring inside or outside a formal academic setting. Due February 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: National Book Fund Grants for Educational Materials

The National Book Fund (NBF) provides adult literacy and basic education programs with educational materials to help teach adults to read.

Before ProLiteracy established the NBF, literacy programs that couldn't afford to buy books for students and instructors simply did without them. Students shared worn-out books with other students. Instructors used cast-off books, outdated resources, and photocopies during lessons. But today, with the help of NBF, we're changing all that.

Highlights from Our Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest Archives

Here are some of our favorite poems from past Wergle Flomp contests. They may not have all won a top prize, but we still remember them fondly. To see more winning poems, visit our Contest Archives.

Ron Hayes with son Griffin

"Who Wins at Monopoly: Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson?"
by Ron Hayes
Finalist, 2007 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

Untitled ("Marine salads...")
by Anonymous
Finalist, 2007 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

"The Captain of Crunch"
by Cody Jurs-Allen
Honorable Mention, 2008 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

"Upon the Steaming Sky"
by Justin Blackburn
Finalist, 2008 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

A Preview of Images from Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry by Julian Peters

We are thrilled to learn that Julian Peters will publish a book of illustrated poetry on March 31. We pre-ordered our copy and encourage you to do the same.

"These are poems that can change the way we see the world, and encountering them in graphic form promises to change the way we read the poems. In an age of increasingly visual communication, this format helps unlock the world of poetry and literature for a new generation of reluctant readers and visual learners.

"Includes poems by Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, Maya Angelou, Seamus Heaney, e. e. cummings, Dylan Thomas, Christina Rossetti, William Wordsworth, William Ernest Henley, Robert Hayden, Edgar Allan Poe, W. H. Auden, Thomas Hardy, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Philip Johnson, W. B. Yeats, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Tess Gallagher, Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, and Siegfried Sassoon."

Poems To See By
Poems To See By - Sample Images

The Last Word

Jendi ReiterPoetry by Garret Keizer: "Yosodhara"
Compared to the Greek and European pagan gods, or the compassionate but remote and all-powerful Adonai of the Hebrew Bible, can we say that Jesus is unique in foregrounding the Lover energy–a path centered on healing, personal intimacy, engagement with the world of the senses, and prioritizing human relationships over abstract principles?

[read more]

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

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