The best free literary contests with deadlines through June 30 |

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Welcome to Our May Newsletter

We found 30 excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between May 15-June 30.
In this issue: Paradise Lost—the serpent speaks—by John Milton, illustrated by Julian Peters.

View Free Contests

Deadline Next Month
Deadline: June 30. 4th year. Co-sponsored by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of The Frugal Book Promoter, and BookBaby. Prizes increased to $9,250, including a top award of $3,000. This year's categories: Mainstream/Literary Fiction, Genre Fiction, Creative Nonfiction & Memoir, Poetry (new), and Children's Picture Book (new). Fee: $60 per entry. Jendi Reiter and Ellen LaFleche will judge, assisted by Lauren Singer Ledoux 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.

We were mortified to discover we misspelled our Honorable Mention poet Katie Bickham's name in last month's newsletter. We apologize. Read her outstanding poem, "Shorn".

Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites issue

101 Best
We are proud to be named one of the Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers for the fourth year in a row. We appreciate your nominations. To view all 101 websites, purchase the downloadable version of the May/June Writer's Digest.

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Upcoming contest deadlines:

5-7-5 Poetry Contest
Write a poem with the 5-7-5 structure of a haiku, but on any subject. Cash prize. Deadline: May 15 (today!)

Minute Poem Contest
Your poem should follow an 8-4-4-4 syllable structure. The winner receives a cash prize. Deadline: May 20 (in five days!)

Share Your Story
A memoir gives us the ability to write about our life. But you can write about life with the option to create and fabricate and to make sense of a life, or part of that life. Write a piece of your life! Win cash. Deadline: May 25

Four Line Poem Contest
Write a four line poem with this pattern of syllables: 1-5-5-9. Winner receives cash. Deadline: May 28

This Sentence Starts The Story
Write a story that begins, "I had my chance." Cash for the winner. Deadline: May 31

See all our upcoming contests and find out more.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Try Literistic

Congratulations to Gary BeckDébora Ewing, David Michael McNelis, Sofia Kioroglou, The Poet Spiel (featured poem: "naked arms"), Rick Lupert, Dan Klefstad, Mike Tuohy, Judi FrancisLesléa NewmanKonstantin Nicholas Rega, and Gail Thomas.

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

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New Letters invites you to submit fiction or poetry to the New Letters Literary Awards or an essay to the Conger Beasley Jr. Award for Nonfiction. Winners receive $2,500 for best essay, $1,500 for best poetry, and $1,500 for best fiction, and publication in New Letters. Deadline for entry is May 18th.

All entries are considered for publication and must be unpublished. Winners will be announced mid-September 2018. Essay and fiction entries may not exceed 8,000 words; poetry entries may contain one to six poems. Entry includes a one-year subscription to New Letters.

Previous judges have included Philip Levine, Joyce Carol Oates, Rishi Reddi, Mary Jo Salter, Carole Maso, Cornelius Eady, Margot Livsey, Benjamin Percy, Robin Hemley, and Kim Addonizio.

For complete guidelines, visit our website or send an S.A.S.E. to Ashley Wann, Contest Coordinator, New Letters, 5101 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110.

Please enjoy this poem by the winner of our 2016 contest. It appeared in New Letters, Vol. 83, Nos. 2 & 3.

My Stint as a Librarian

Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry

Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry


Please enjoy this poem by Marc Harshman, author of Woman in Red Anorak, last year's Blue Lynx Prize winner.

Leaving Granddad Along

Tiferet 2018 Writing Contest

Tiferet 2018 Writing Contest

North Street Book Prize for Self-Published Books

North Street Book Prize

Charlotte Mew Chapbook Contest

Charlotte Mew Chapbook Contest

Headmistress Press, a lesbian-identified publisher of books by LBTQ poets, is proud to announce our fourth annual Charlotte Mew Chapbook Contest. Our judge for this year is Ching-In Chen. Our first-prize winner will receive $300 plus 20 copies of the winning book. All entries will be considered for publication. We will announce a winner in the fall. Our reading fee is always on a sliding scale, with fee waived upon request. Submissions welcome from lesbian, bi, trans, Two Spirit, queer and non-binary poets. Enter via Submittable.

Headmistress Press also publishes Lavender Review, the premier e-zine dedicated to poetry and art by, about, and for lesbians, and produces our unique Lesbian Poet Trading Cards. Our books are available internationally at Amazon, and in countless other online venues, including Barnes & Noble and IndieBooks.

The Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers

The Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers

15th Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival - Apply Now!

Palm Beach Poetry Festival

Focus on your work with America's most engaging and award-winning poets: Ellen Bass, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Stuart Dischell, Aracelis Girmay, Campbell McGrath, Matthew Olzmann, Gregory Pardlo, and Eleanor Wilner.

Six days and evenings of workshops, readings, craft talks, panel discussion, social events, and so much more. Additional Faculty: Lorna Blake, Sally Bliumis-Dunn, Nickole Brown, and Stephen Gibson. Special Guest: Sharon Olds, and, Poet-At-Large, Tyehimba Jess.

Visit the Faculty and Featured Poets page for more faculty information and workshop descriptions.

Attending a festival workshop is an opportunity to focus on your work with America's most engaging and award-winning poets and to be inspired by all the poets featured at our events.

Apply to attend a workshop! Application deadline is November 12, 2018.

"What more can a poet ask than to bask in the friendly rigor of excellent poets, excellent students and the Florida sun? In this conference, devoted to the poetic imagination, there is time to nurture the muse in the company of nationally recognized poets—time to eat at divine restaurants, too. Balmy weather, friendly atmosphere, and high standards, too? It's a dream gathering."
    —Molly Peacock

White Man's Disease by Paul Thornton

Winner, 2017 North Street Book Prize, Creative Nonfiction & Memoir

Paul Thornton rose from the streets of Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighborhood to become a Fortune 500 executive. But a catastrophic event threatened his marriage, his career, and his self-respect. Thornton's remarkable resurrection is a gripping, inspirational story of hope, resilience, and the essential American Dream of realizing one's full potential. Poignant, sad, tragic, funny, and compelling, White Man's Disease is a redemption story for the ages.

Available at Amazon, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and the author's website. Read the Winning Writers critique and a free excerpt.

Swallow by Jendi Reiter - Signed, Limited Edition

Swallow by Jendi Reiter

"The first thing that strikes the reader about Jendi Reiter's Swallow is, naturally, the unusual cover illustration, which appears at once to be a multi-eyed cherub (the proper Old Testament kind), a brace of clothespins, a flock of nightmare birds, sewing needles, bent nails, and a heart-shaped crown of thorns. While one may have a difficult time explaining all of this, one need only know that this image by Richard C. Jackson is the best visual realization of the horror, madness, blood, and beauty that infuse Reiter's work: Like something out of a fever dream, it just makes perfect sense."
–JoSelle Vanderhooft, The Pedestal Magazine

This chapbook is a limited edition. Request your signed copy from Available now for $8 plus postage.

Please enjoy this sample poem:

Goodbye, Capistrano

Swallows don't return in the spring. They never left. Think about it. We're afraid to cross the street when we're children; we don't like to go to strangers' parties without a date. How could a bird with a brain the size of a walnut, who doesn't even know his song is beautiful, have the courage to make a round trip to the Amazon without a map?


We see them on the branches as fall shakes down the curtain of leaves, revealing the bare set of a modernist stage play. Two men in chairs, two blue-black birds leaning into the wind. The sky has no furniture in it. Warmth is a million miles away.


Swallows wouldn't leave. They're closer to all the small things on the ground and find them fascinating. Look how they twitch their tiny heads around like someone watching three tennis matches at once. This is where the worms taste good. How would they know what lies ahead, without telephones, without magazines?


"Instinct" is a foolish word, like an insurance company's "acts of God". It means pretending to have a secret explanation for what can't be right.


Where might they go, if they won't leave their home, here where the dark and the cold fall sooner? Someplace warm, obviously, where they can be fed. And why can't we see them? Because they have become invisible.


Our houses are full of invisible swallows. They burrow into loaves of bread fresh from the oven. They're inside your pillow, eating worms in your dreams. When you switch on the light at five o'clock, then four, there's a swallow's black wings fluttering inside the bulb. One's in the stew, trying to drink his fill before he's boiled. Another nests in the ear of a girl who's begun growing her hair long to hide her thoughts.


It's very hard for the swallows to contain themselves, contented in the laundry basket, sliding in the butter dish, but they try to be polite and keep quiet. They know we'd be frightened if nature didn't switch on and off like an egg timer. We're not ready to see everything happen all at once. But the girl, brushing her blue-black hair, may hear a small chirp and raise her face to the sky.

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
Sapiens Plurum Earth Day Short Fiction Contest. Awards $1,000 to authors aged 18+ for a compelling short story on an environmentalist theme. This year's question: "Can we rewrite our children's history?" Due June 1.

Intermediate Writers
Black Orchid Novella Award. $1,000 and publication in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine for the best traditional mystery novella. Entries should be 15,000-20,000 words. See website for thematic and stylistic restrictions. Essentially, they are looking for an old-fashioned story of deduction, with a witty style and an engaging relationship between the characters, and no explicit sex or violence. Due May 31.

Advanced Writers
Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction. Writers' Trust of Canada will award a top prize of C$60,000 for nonfiction published in Canada by Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Books to be published between May 16, 2018 and September 30, 2018 should be submitted by July 18.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

PSA: Spanish Literacy Can Be a Gateway to English Literacy

Adult learners who are not literate in their native language find it more difficult to learn, read, and speak fluently in a second language. 

Formal education isn't always an option for Latino immigrants, especially adults. Teaching native-language literacy first can significantly increase the percentage of Latino immigrants who feel confident enrolling and succeeding in English language classes and other adult education classes. Learning to read and write in one's primary language is vital to success in the workplace, managing health care, and raising a family.

ProLiteracy is the new home of Leamos (Let's Read), an easy-to-use online course that teaches non-literate Spanish-speaking adults to read and write in Spanish. With the course and the help of a tutor, adults will have the opportunity to learn basic literacy so they can pursue other educational goals for the first time in their lives, including learning English, passing the citizenship exam, and getting a better job.

Click to learn more.

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An excerpt from Paradise Lost by John Milton, illustrated by Julian Peters

Reprinted by kind permission of Julian Peters. Learn more at Text of Paradise Lost provided by Wikisource.

Primeval Landscape by Julian Peters

The serpent speaks:

"For only in destroying I find ease
To my relentless thoughts; and, him destroyed, 
Or won to what may work his utter loss,
For whom all this was made, all this will soon
Follow, as to him linked in weal or woe;
In woe then; that destruction wide may range.
To me shall be the glory sole among
The infernal Powers, in one day to have marred
What he, Almighty styled, six nights and days
Continued making, and who knows how long
Before had been contriving? though perhaps
Not longer than since I in one night freed 
From servitude inglorious well nigh half
The angelic name, and thinner left the throng
Of his adorers. He, to be avenged,
And to repair his numbers thus impaired,
Whether such virtue, spent of old, now failed
More Angels to create—if they at least
Are his created—or to spoil us more,
Determined to advance into our room
A creature formed of earth, and him endow,
Exalted from so base original, 
With heavenly spoils, our spoils. What he decreed
He effected; Man he made, and for him built
Magnificent this World, and Earth his seat;
Him lord pronounced, and, O indignity!
Subjected to his service Angel-wings,
And flaming ministers, to watch and tend
Their earthly charge. Of these the vigilance
I dread, and to elude, thus wrapt in mist
Of midnight-vapor, glide obscure, and pry
In every bush and brake, where hap may find 
The serpent sleeping, in whose mazy folds
To hide me, and the dark intent I bring—
O foul descent! that I, who erst contended
With Gods to sit the highest, am now constrained
Into a beast, and, mixed with bestial slime,
This essence to incarnate and imbrute,
That to the highth of Deity aspired.
But what will not ambition and revenge
Descend to? Who aspires must down as low
As high he soared, obnoxious first or last 
To basest things. Revenge, at first though sweet,
Bitter ere long back on itself recoils.—
Let it; I reck not, so it light well amid,
Since higher I fall short, on him who next
Provokes my envy, this new favorite
Of Heaven, this man of clay, son of despite,
Whom, us the more to spite, his Maker raised
From dust. Spite then with spite is best repaid."

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

The Binding of Isaac and the Sacrifice of the False Child
What if the son that Abraham has to kill is not his real son? What if he's being asked to kill his agenda for Isaac—the mindset in which Abraham values his child not because of who Isaac is, but because of the role he's expected to play in securing Abraham's worldly importance? Narcissistic parenting is the idol that Abraham lays on the altar.

[read more]

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

One of the 101 Best Websites for Writers (Writer's Digest)