The best free literary contests with deadlines through October 31 |

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Welcome to Our September Newsletter

S. Mei Sheng Frazier

We found over two dozen quality free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between September 15-October 31.
View Free Contests
In this issue: Salvatore Quasimodo's "Ed è subito sera", illustrated and translated by Julian Peters.

Last Call!
Deadline: September 30. Compete for the Tom Howard Prize of $1,500 for a poem in any style or genre, and the Margaret Reid Prize of $1,500 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. Length limit: 250 lines per poem. Entry fee: $10 per poem. Final judge: S. Mei Sheng Frazier, assisted by Jim DuBois. Submit online here.

Want to view past newsletters? Go to Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 75,000 followers on Twitter at @WinningWriters.

Featured Sponsor: Two Natures Launches Today from Saddle Road Press

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Read an excerpt and Buy Two Natures now—$0.99 at Amazon for a limited time.

September 29 Launch Event in New York City
Jendi Reiter will launch her book at the Bureau of General Studies - Queer Division Bookstore at the LGBT Center, 208 West 13th Street, at 7:30pm on September 29. The public is invited. Also featured is poet Charlie Bondhus, winner of the Publishing Triangle's Thom Gunn Award, reading from the new edition of his poetry collection How the Boy Might See It (Jane's Boy Press).

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Donna Baier Stein, Warwick Newnham, Ruth Hill, Ginny Albert, G.G. Silverman, Bob Van Laerhoven, Bill DeArmond, Roberta Beary, J. Paul CooperTricia McCallum, and Ruth Finnegan.

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

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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

New from C. Hope Clark: Echoes of Edisto

Echoes of Edisto by C. Hope Clark is out and reviews are rolling in rich and positive. Like this one:

"As always C. Hope Clark has me at page one! I love her concern for detail. You can feel Callie Jean Morgan's emotions and struggles, and as she enters back into law enforcement you keep pulling for her. As soon as you open the book, you are pulled in by a sudden loss and captivated till the very end. I look forward to anything this author writes! All of her books transport your mind to the center of her books' being. A perfected skill we are all happier for. Keep that magic coming!"

Buy Echoes of Edisto now at Amazon.

The Missouri Review’s 26th Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize

Deadline: October 1. $5,000 for the winner of each category! Send us your best fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction for a chance to win. Winners and select runners up will be published in the Missouri Review. Your entry fee includes a one-year subscription to the Missouri Review in print or digital format. To see complete guidelines and to enter, please visit

The Missouri Review’s 26th Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize

Tupelo Press Sunken Garden Chapbook Prize

Postmark Deadline: October 31. The Sunken Garden Poetry Prize is a prestigious national poetry prize for adult writers. Established in 2002, the Prize has drawn submissions from around the country that have been judged by renowned poets such as Martha Collins, Patricia Smith, and Tony Hoagland. The winner receives a cash prize, an introductory reading at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, and publication of a chapbook. Hill-Stead began partnering with Tupelo Press for the publication of the chapbook in 2013.

The Tupelo Press Sunken Garden Poetry Prize includes a cash award of $1,000, publication by Tupelo Press, a book launch, and national distribution with energetic publicity and promotion. The final judge for this year's contest is to be Maggie Smith. Results announced in winter 2017. Reading fee: $25 per manuscript. Submit online or by mail.

Read the complete guidelines before submitting your manuscript:

Read about past winners here:

Read about the Sunken Garden Festival here:

Read about all Tupelo Press contests and open reading opportunities at:

Here is a poem by Suzanne Parker, author of Feed (Tupelo Press, 2016), winner of the most recent Sunken Garden Poetry Prize:

The Just-Cut Field

The dog keeps eating sh-t
and dead things—mice, snakes,
dismembered frogs—but, first
he rolls in them. A shoulder,
the belly, then a quick flip
and the whole of him shifting
left and right, rubbing himself against
what the just-cut hay and blades
have revealed. There is no
calling him off his delirium,
tongue agog, hunting, refusing
to loop the field as we usually do,
but smashing forward to find
what only his nose knows
as pleasure. He leaves me stranded
between the choices—
watch and wait as he zigzags
to the logic of desire
or pull him back, clip on the leash.
Tupelo Press Sunken Garden Chapbook Prize

Vermont Writers' Prize

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays on "The Dialogue Between Science & Religion"

Deadline: December 12. Science and religion, despite their rich, interwoven history, are too often portrayed as opposites in nearly every way. As part of a larger effort to facilitate dialogue between these two ways of knowing the world, Creative Nonfiction and Issues in Science & Technology magazines are seeking original narratives illustrating and exploring the relationships, tensions, and harmonies between science and religion—the ways these two forces productively challenge each other as well as the ways in which they can work together and strengthen one another.

We welcome personal stories of scientists, religious figures, or (just as important) everyday people seeking to explore or reconcile their own spiritual and scientific beliefs. We also welcome research-based narratives about historical moments in scientific and/or religious discovery; stories by or about contemporary scientists wrestling with the ethical quandaries their work entails; or essays by religious, legal, humanistic, or other experts who have encountered interesting and revealing instances of science-religion dialogue and harmonies.

Above all, we are looking for narratives—true stories, rich with scene, character, detail, and a distinctive voice—that provide a nuanced, thoughtful consideration of the complex interplay and unexplored interdependencies and synergies between science and religion.

Submissions must be 5,000 words or fewer.

$10,000 for best essay; $5,000 for runner-up.

Guidelines at

Creative Nonfiction

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
The Nation Student Writing Contest. "It's clear that the political system in the United States isn't working for many young people. What do you think is the central issue for your generation in Election 2016?" US high school and college students can win $1,000 and publication of their essays in The Nation. Due September 19.

Intermediate Writers
Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry. $5,000 for the best full-length collection of poetry published in the previous calendar year by an African national, African resident, or poet of African birth or African parentage with roots from any country, living anywhere in the world. Due October 1.

Advanced Writers
PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Books of fiction (novels, novellas, and short story collections) by US citizens published in the current year can win a top prize of $15,000. Four runners-up will receive $5,000 each. Due October 31.

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

Marty Calanche

Marty Calanche has struggled with reading since he was a child. At first he did well in school, moving right along from first grade to fourth. Then things changed. He started to notice that his reading was bad, but he still kept moving up grades. In the eighth grade he realized that he did not want to go on to the next grade. He was not ready for it and his lack of reading and spelling skills made him feel ashamed.

"I told my teacher and my principal that I wasn't ready to go to high school because I couldn't spell or read," Marty said. "Their reply was that I had to go because they needed the room for the new kids who were coming in." Marty did continue with school, but left after the 11th grade, before he had the chance to graduate.

He had always been able to learn skills on the job, and in the 1980s he worked with the flight safety parts for the Apache helicopter. Marty was laid off in 1992. He moved to Tucson, Arizona, in hopes of finding a job, but employers told him that he would need his G/E/D to apply for a position.

Marty became discouraged and turned to alcohol. He struggled for years. One day he woke up and no longer wanted or needed a drink. It was time to change his life. In 2010, Marty went to Literacy Connects in Tucson, Arizona. The group empowers people of all ages to develop a sustainable culture of literacy and creative expression.

"I was still embarrassed. When you can't read you think that you're the only one like this," Marty said. "But the staff and tutors at Literacy Connects are so kindhearted and very encouraging. I'm excited that I will soon be able to write a letter to my mom, for the first time ever. Someday I will get the G/E/D that I've been wanting since I was a kid."

Since learning to read, Marty has been an ambassador for ProLiteracy's continued efforts to increase access to and awareness of quality literacy services. He has participated as a student, tutor trainer, member of the advocacy committee, and board member. In 2015, Marty was invited to be on the floor of the Arizona House of Representatives as the honored guest of his local representative.

"There is so much to think about now," Marty said. "I'm seeing the future and it looks good! I am surrounded by people who care and who are helping me to improve my life and I love them all. I have always heard that it's not how you start; it's how you finish!"

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Julian Peters: "Ed è subito sera" by Salvatore Quasimodo

Julian Peters adapts Salvatore Quasimodo's "Ed è subito sera" (1930), one of the shortest, but also one of the most well-known poems in the Italian literary canon:

The poem could be translated as follows:

Reprinted by kind permission of Julian Peters. Visit Julian Peters Comics to learn more.

The Last Word

September Links Roundup: Could This Be Magic
I return as always to the Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference." The wisdom is the kicker. In my abusive family of origin, I was groomed to fix adult problems that I actually had no power or duty to change, while having to resign myself to unnecessary physical pain and fear. So every time I light a candle to ask St. Dymphna or Ursula the Sea Witch for protection, I wonder, "Is this just my child self escaping into a fantasy world, avoiding the knowledge of my helplessness?"

[read more]

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

Jendi Reiter
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