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Winning Writers Newsletter - November 2021

View Free Contests

We found five dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between November 15-December 31. In this issue, please enjoy another vidiette by Jim Avis, "Stairs Appear in a Hole Outside of Town", written and read by John Philip Johnson and illustrated by Julian Peters

Open at Winning Writers, co-sponsored by Duotrope
Free to enter, $3,500 in prizes, including a top award of $2,000.

$8,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $3,000 each. $20 entry fee.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 135,000 followers on Twitter. Advertise with us (buy your newsletter ads now, the price will increase from $150 to $175 on January 1).

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Chris StarkLesléa NewmanSamantha Terrell (featured poem: "When Space Was Big"), Kelli Simpson, B.J. Buckley, Mary Beth HinesRebecca Hart Olander, Gary Beck, Jessica Pegis, Joseph Stanton, Dan KlefstadElaine ChekichThe Poet Spiel (Tom W. Taylor)Phyllis KleinDuane L. Herrmann, Yvonne, and Gail Thomas.

Winning Writers Editor Jendi Reiter's lyric essay "Titanic Heart" won Honorable Mention in Midway Journal's 2021 "-1000 Below" Flash Prose and Poetry Contest judged by Tiana Clark, and was published in Vol. 15, Issue 4. In other news, their poem "when people look at me I want them to think, there's one of those people" was published in ArLiJo #153 (October 2021), the literary journal of Gival Press, as a semifinaist for the 2021 Oscar Wilde Prize. The poem takes its title from a quote by Lou Sullivan, a gay trans man who was an activist for LGBTQ rights in the 1980s.

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

Have news? Please email it to

• Joy Harjo Poetry Prize
• Barry Lopez Nonfiction Prize
• Rick DeMarinis Short Story Prize


Deadline extended to November 22

$1,500 First Prize, $300 Second Prize, Honorable Mention


GUIDELINES: Please go to our website and submit poems and stories through our online submission manager on the Submissions Page. Submit up to 3 poems (100 line limit/one poem per page) or one short story or one creative nonfiction piece (5,000 word limit/double spaced) in 12-point font. NO AUTHOR NAME ALLOWED ON ANY MS. There is a $23 nonrefundable entry fee per submission.

UNPUBLISHED WORK ONLY! No work that has already won a prize is eligible. No former CUTTHROAT prize-winning author may enter the contest he or she has previously won. Enter as often as you wish. Multiple submissions okay, but we must be informed immediately of acceptances elsewhere. Finalists considered for publication. Winners published in CUTTHROAT and announced on our website, in POETS & WRITERS, and WINNING WRITERS. No relatives of or staff members of CUTTHROAT nor close friends, relatives, or students of judges are eligible to enter our contests. See our website for more information. WE RECOMMEND YOU READ A COPY OF CUTTHROAT BEFORE ENTERING OUR CONTESTS.


"The Way Things Are Going in Liberty, Utah" by Sunni Wilkinson of Ogden, Utah
Joy Harjo Poetry Prize

"Speak to Me of Love" by Linda Lucero of San Francisco, California
Rick DeMarinis Short Story Prize

"Legally Speaking, Rats Aren't Even Animals" by Timothy DeLizza of Baltimore, Maryland
Barry Lopez Nonfiction Prize


Two Sylvias Press Advent Calendar

The Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Prompt Advent Calendar is filled with surprise prompts to help you write new poems throughout December!

Our online virtual Advent Calendar is easy to use—simply click on the calendar date and a prompt appears. Each prompt is no more than three sentences in length, guiding you with ideas and suggestions for a new poem.

Once you open a prompt, it remains accessible, so no problem if you skip a day or two—the prompts will be waiting for you. The calendar and all of the prompts will be available through the month of January.

Also with each daily Poetry Prompt Advent Calendar click, there are chances to win prizes and Two Sylvias Press publications!

You will receive an access code for the Advent Calendar's web page at the end of November. Your daily surprise prompts will be ready for you to click on December 1st.

And, you can give our Online Poetry Prompt Advent Calendar as a gift (see our website for more details).

To see a sample prompt and order your Advent Calendar, please visit Two Sylvias Press.

Ad: Submit Your Book Manuscript at Atmosphere Press

So far in 2021 Atmosphere authors have sold thousands of books across five continents, received starred or featured reviews with Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist, and have even appeared on a giant billboard in Times Square. Atmosphere has had books with 1,000+ first-month sales in four different genres, and their Author Connect program unites their authors with each other like no other press. And they're just getting started.

Atmosphere Press currently seeks great manuscripts, and they'll be the publisher you've always wanted: attentive, organized, on schedule, and professional. They use a model in which the author funds the initial publication of the book, but retains 100% rights, royalties, and artistic autonomy. From an exceptional editorial team through book design and into promotion, partnering with Atmosphere is the way to do your book right.

So, send your manuscript their way. Submissions are free and open to everyone and in all genres.

Ad: Last Call! LitMag's Anton Chekhov Award for Flash Fiction

LitMag's Anton Chekhov Award for Flash Fiction Deadline: November 30

First Prize: $1,250, publication in LitMag, and agency review.

Finalists: Three finalists will receive $100 each. All finalists will be considered for possible agency review and publication.

Entries must be unpublished short stories between 500 and 1,500 words. Enter through Submittable only. Entry fee: $16.

Click for the complete guidelines and enter your flash fiction.

Ad: Last Call! Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize

Deadline: December 1

DECEMBER MAGAZINE seeks entries for our 2022 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize. Judge Grace Cavalieri is the author of 26 poetry collections, the Poet Laureate of Maryland, a playwright, and the producer of "The Poet and the Poem" on Public Radio. Prize: $1,500 & publication (winner); $500 & publication (honorable mention). All finalists will be published in the 2022 Spring/Summer awards issue. Submit up to 3 poems per entry. $20 entry fee includes a copy of the awards issue. For complete guidelines please visit our website.

December, founded in 1958, has a distinguished legacy of publishing the early work of little-known writers and artists, many of whom became major literary figures, including Donald Barthelme, Marvin Bell, Stephen Berg, Rita Mae Brown, Raymond Carver, Stephen Dunn, Donald Hall, Michael Harper, Donald Justice, Ted Kooser, Philip Levine, Joyce Carol Oates, Marge Piercy, William Stafford, C.K. Williams, Charles Wright, and James Wright.

December Magazine

Ad: Lilith Magazine Annual Fiction Contest (no fee)

Lilith Summer 2021

Deadline: December 31

Calling all gifted fiction writers! Lilith Magazine—Independent, Jewish & frankly feminist—seeks quality short fiction full of heart, soul and chutzpah, 3,000 words or under, for our Annual Fiction Contest. First prize is $250 and publication. We especially like work with both feminist and Jewish content, and are eager to read submissions from writers of color and emerging writers of any age.

Please submit to with "Fiction Contest" and your name in subject line and full contact info on your manuscript.

No fee to enter. Please mention you saw our ad in the Winning Writers newsletter.

Ad: Virginia Woolf Award for Short Fiction

First Prize: $2,500, publication in LitMag, and agency review
Finalists: Three finalists will receive $100 each

All finalists will be considered for possible agency review and publication.

Deadline: December 31

Contest Fee: $20. Entries must be unpublished short stories between 3,000 and 8,000 words. Submit through Submittable only. See the results of previous contests.

Ad: Two Sylvias Press WILDER POETRY BOOK PRIZE for Women Over 50

Deadline: December 31

Attention Women Poets:

Two Sylvias Press is looking to publish Full-Length Poetry Manuscripts by Women Over 50
(Open to both established or emerging poets)

Prize: $1,000 and print book publication by Two Sylvias Press, 20 copies of the winning book, and a vintage art nouveau pendant

The Wilder Series Poetry Book Prize is open to women over 50 years of age (born on or before December 31, 1971). Women submitting manuscripts may be poets with one or more previously published chapbooks/books or poets without any prior chapbook/book publications. (We use an inclusive definition of "woman" and "female" and we welcome trans women, genderqueer women, and non-binary people who are significantly female-identified.) All manuscripts will be considered for publication. See the complete contest guidelines.

Learn more about the prize and Two Sylvias Press. Previous winners & manuscripts chosen for the Wilder Poetry Book Prize include Michelle Bitting, Gail Martin, Kelly Cressio-Moeller, Erica Bodwell, Adrian Blevins, Dana Roeser, Molly Tenenbaum, and Carmen Gillespie.

Simultaneous submissions allowed.

NOTE: Our mission at Two Sylvias Press is to support poets. Your manuscript will NOT be disqualified if it was submitted incorrectly. We will not penalize you for trying and making a mistake. If we have a question or concern about your manuscript format, we will contact you and allow you to resubmit. Please know that we are on your side. Thank you for trusting us with your work.

Ad: Rattle Chapbook Prize

Deadline: January 15, 2022

The annual Rattle Chapbook Prize gives poets something truly special. Every year, three winners will each receive: $5,000 cash, 500 contributor copies, and distribution to Rattle's ~8,000 subscribers. In a world where a successful full-length poetry book might sell 1,000 copies, the winning book will reach an audience eight times as large on its release day alone—an audience that includes many other literary magazines, presses, and well-known poets. This will be a chapbook to launch a career.

And maybe the best part is this: The $25 entry fee is just a standard subscription to Rattle, which includes four issues of the magazine and the winning chapbook, even if it isn't yours. Rattle is one of the most-read literary journals in the world—find out why just by entering! For more information, visit our website.

We congratulate our three winners from our 2021 contest:

  • Gil Arzola, The Death of a Migrant Worker (September 2021)
  • Amanda Newell, I Will Pass Even to Acheron (December 2021)
  • Elizabeth Ambrose Johnston, Imago, Dei (March 2022)

Please enjoy the title poem to Jesse Bertron's winning chapbook from 2019:


Top out is the best phase
of new construction plumbing
if light is what you're after.
If light is what you're after, look:
a forest of deciduous blond studs.
There's open air where windows go, plus
in top out, you're uncoiling rolls of PEX
into the attic and back down, so your face
is always tilted toward the sky.
The worst for light: set out. Which is mostly
what I do. And let me tell you.
When I'm wedged beneath
a vanity, some windowless hall bath,
my back arched to give the golden nuts
of tailpieces turn after turn until they squeak
against their gaskets, I am dreaming about light.
I am dreaming of a cup of coffee in my hand
loading up outside the warehouse, 7 a.m.,
light clocking in over the toll road
past the chain link fence.
It's out of fashion, now, to talk about the dawn.
It's kind of something you just see and whap
your lover or whoever on the thigh, and just be quiet
and be satisfied: the dawn.
But on the jobsite radio, there's ballads
about loving the person you have married
or about how your work is difficult but yours—
none of it music I would choose!—
and when I'm wedged beneath a vanity, sawzalling
a ventpipe that some roofer has pissed into
so stale urine sprays onto my cheeks,
I like to stop and listen to that music.
Not because I like to hear things said in great detail
whose beauty should be obvious in brief.
But it comforts me. And I don't shit on comfort
for not being something more.

Ad: 2022 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

William Saroyan Prize for Writing

Entries must be received by January 31, 2022

Submissions are now being accepted for the 10th William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Two prizes of $5,000 each are given for works of fiction and nonfiction. The awards, co-sponsored by Stanford Libraries and the William Saroyan Foundation, are intended to encourage new or emerging writers and honor the Saroyan legacy of originality, vitality, and stylistic innovation.

Submit five copies of your work published between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021, with a $50 entry fee by January 31, 2022. Writers who have published four or more books are ineligible. Visit the Saroyan Prize website for complete eligibility and submission details.

Congratulations to our 2020 Fiction Winner Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenya for Friday Black, and our 2020 Nonfiction Winner Jennifer Croft for Homesick. View our complete list of 2020 winners and finalists.

Ad: Veterans Writing Award (no fee)

Veterans Writing Award

This biennial award is open to U.S. veterans and active-duty personnel in any branch of the U.S. military and their immediate family members. Submit an unpublished full-length memoir, collection of nonfiction essays, or creative nonfiction piece in manuscript form, up to 90,000 words. Entrants must not have published a full-length manuscript or collection of stories previously.

The award includes a $1,000 cash prize and a publication contract with Syracuse University Press. Manuscripts of high merit not selected for the final award may receive honorable mention. Learn more.

Next submission period: December 15, 2022-February 15, 2023

Ad: Call for Indie Book Entries - 80+ Categories

Entries are now being accepted for the 2022 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 2020, 2021 or 2022 or with a 2020, 2021 or 2022 copyright date. The Next Generation Indie Book Awards are presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group.

With 80+ categories to choose from, enter by February 11, 2022 to take advantage of this exciting opportunity to have your book considered for cash prizes, awards, exposure, possible representation by a leading literary agent, and recognition as one of the top independently published books of the year!

Ad: Measureless Silence, poems by Cris Mulvey

Measureless Silence
Cris Mulvey, the grand prize winner of our most recent North Street Book Prize, has just released her second chapbook of poetry with Finishing Line Press. She writes, "It is called Measureless Silence and brings together a collection of my poems about the Wild and the West." Proceeds from the sale of the book will be offered to the Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance, which works to protect and steward the lands, water, and wildlife of the Badger-Two Medicine, Glacier National Park, and surrounding areas of Montana.

"There is a music in these poems that works magic with the particularity of the images to create a whole body experience out of which willows, swans and bison rise as if from within our own being, untamed and untameable. In Measureless Silence, Christine Mulvey has composed a symphony of words that sings the wonder and devastation that is our world. Each poem is a summons, whether through the 'wrap of forest' or the harsh light of 'glitz and bling', to discover ourselves as the wild itself: pristine, ravaged, and innocent as snow, as wings, as wind."

—Kim Rosen, author of Saved by a Poem: the Transformative Power of Words

Available now! Order Measureless Silence for $14.99 plus $3.49 for shipping.

Please enjoy these sample poems:


Walking onto the frozen lake
beneath these chiseled mountains,
snow puff-powdering the purple air,

ravens rustling by carrying light
like a drink in the curve of their backs,
the ragged cry of their cackling

deepening the thrum of silence:
I am a pine seed stuttering
onto a stainless platter,

the air around me
the color of bluebirds' feathers
twirling into an ocean of sky.


Come with me out to where the soft round shapes
of the fallen snow lie draped across the bushes like the thighs
and hips of a sleeping god curled up on the open bedspread of the land.

Here willow twigs stand frozen, furred by hoar
and under the diamond glint of the bowl of night the river,
black as molten pitch, whispers underneath its skin of ice.

In the silence, only an occasional flumpf of snow
falling from bare boughs, tinkling the air, or the mournful
honking of the swans calling from the lake the whole night through.

Here tell me the story of your lonesomeness, your unheard prayers!
And I will show you how, underneath that ridge inked like a koan
across this boundless white, a solitary bison ploughs his head

in big slow sweeps from side to side
knowing that six feet down
there must be grass.

Ad: Jendi Reiter's Two Natures: "A powerful narration of a man's life"

Two Natures

Poet and critic Victoria Leigh Bennett recently reviewed Jendi Reiter's debut novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press) on Victoria's blog Creative Shadows:

"Julian is a fashion photographer addicted to assigning values in an aesthetic way to surfaces, to externals, all the while trying to see beneath the surfaces of people and events himself, in order to survive and seek happiness...Still, he is always drawn onward, into risky situations and into mourning for those who have fallen victim to AIDS, and he must constantly be assessing how he will evaluate those of his friends whose behaviors and choices flash up vignettes morally as clear as photographs and yet as confused in their significance for him as double exposures.

"More than just being a history of Julian's accommodations to his situation and moments of growth and decision, this is a romance novel for the gay male community, with none of the quick, easy answers of a cheap trade romance tale.  Instead, it is a genuinely fraught romance in the sense of the original French 'roman', a powerful narration of a portion of a man's life and its loves in the French style, following the bright and sometimes frightening or threatening kaleidoscopic, shifting patterns and cutting edges that one sees through the lens imperfectly when one is the central viewer...

"And there is no lack either of scenes of passion, frank and explicit and enticing without being undignified or in any way what one would describe as pornographic, for they are written always from the perspective of a kind of love without sentimentality, and yet sentiment itself is often there. There is a sharingness and a fellow-feeling in these pages that if read with sincere commitment to the human situation do not lend themselves to mockery, derision, or denial."

Read an excerpt from the novel.

Buy it now at Saddle Road 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
Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers. High school sophomores and juniors throughout the world can win free tuition to The Kenyon Review's two-week summer seminar for writers aged 16-18. Winner and runners-up also published in the highly prestigious journal. Submit one poem. Due November 30.

Intermediate Writers
UNT Rilke Prize. The University of North Texas will award $10,000 for a published book by a mid-career poet. Prize includes travel expenses for readings at UNT in the spring of the following year. Entrants must have published at least two previous books of poetry (excluding chapbooks). Eligible books must have been published between November 1 of the preceding year and October 31 of the deadline year. Publisher or author should submit three copies of book and entry form. Due November 30.

Advanced Writers
Tony Quagliano Poetry Award. The Hawaii Council for the Humanities offers a $1,000 achievement award for poets who consistently strive for "cutting edge" and "avant-garde" innovation, which means experimental, innovative, "pushing the envelope" literature. Submit 20-page manuscript sample, which may include published and unpublished poems, along with a bibliography of at least 25 poems that have been published, including the title and date of each source publication, and a statement explaining how the poet has built and strengthened a literary community. Offered in odd-numbered years only. Due December 1.

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 Roundup, Poets & Writers, The Writer, Duotrope, Submittable, and literary journals' own newsletters and announcements.

Full House Literary: Tarot Project
(short creative writing and art to incorporate into a Tarot deck - November 15)

Prairie Fire: "Uncharted Territory" Issue
(poems, stories, and essays about venturing in new directions - November 24)

Abandon Journal: "Abandon Time" Issue
(poetry, prose, art, comics that take risks - November 30)

Tint Journal
(creative writing and art by non-native English speakers - November 30)

Months to Years
(poetry and essays about terminal illness - December 1)

Rain Fiction Pod: "In Tartarus We Drink Ambrosia"
(poetry and stories about pain that led to joy - December 1)

Abandoned Mine
(accessible poetry that makes an emotional impact - January 15)

PSA: Literacy Opportunity Fund - New from ProLiteracy

The Literacy Opportunity Fund awards grants to nonprofit organizations within the United States that provide literacy services directly to students.

Funded by the Nora Roberts Foundation and administered by ProLiteracy, the Literacy Opportunity Fund distributes grants of $3,000 to $6,000 to support general operating expenses.

This new fund aims to meet the needs of literacy organizations of all types and sizes so that they may effectively and efficiently provide services to students.

Learn more and sign up for email updates about this fund.

Favorite Books

This month, editor Jendi Reiter presents selected books that deserve your attention. There are many more in our Books resource section. Winning Writers may receive a commission when you purchase a book using one of these links.

The True

Sarah Kornfeld
A darkly humorous cautionary tale for the post-truth era, this work of narrative nonfiction recounts Kornfeld's quest to comprehend the life and death of her former lover and mentor, renowned Romanian theatre director Alexandru Darie. Passionate and enigmatic, Darie was generous with his attention but secretive about the alcohol abuse and political trauma that fatally affected his health. Visiting Romania shortly after his death in 2019, Kornfeld falls under the sway of a volatile young woman who claims to have been his girlfriend. The onset of COVID in early 2020 adds another layer of distance and mystification to their correspondence, as Kornfeld, back in America, becomes enmeshed in elaborate online negotiations to produce a book and TV series about Darie. When the whole enterprise is revealed to be a hoax, Kornfeld must face how grief led her to search for answers where there were none—a parallel to her country's plunge into simplistic conspiracy theories and quick-fix politics.

Toni Morrison
This slim volume of three essays is adapted from lectures that the celebrated novelist delivered at Harvard in 1990. She asks an incisive question that will turn your traditional high school and college reading material on its head: how was the presence of a subjugated Black population a necessary foil for the development of an American literary identity of innocence, rugged individualism, and white masculinity? Rather than debating whether Twain and Hemingway should be "canceled", so to speak, Morrison is more interested in what all texts can tell us about whiteness as a self-concept. In that way, even (or especially) problematic representation of Black characters is valuable to illuminate occluded power relations, for a key feature of whiteness is that it positions itself as universal, as the absence of race.

Jerry Craft
In this engaging and important middle-grade graphic novel, Black 7th-grader Jordan Banks is transplanted from his Washington Heights neighborhood to a mostly white and rich prep school in Riverdale, where he uses humor and cartooning to process the challenges of making new friends and coping with microaggressions from students and teachers.

Frannie Lindsay
Winner of the 2009 Word Works Washington Prize, this spare and radiant poetry collection centers on acceptance of loss. Its key figures are a beloved sister who died of cancer, and their late father, a perpetrator of incest.

Justin Phillip Reed
This award-winning Black queer poet's sophomore collection gives a furious and brilliant voice to the shadow side of literary classics from Homer to Plath. The syntax of this poetry collection is thorny and twisted, and the word choice demands slow re-reading to discern the full meaning and appreciate the muscular rhythm. Reed is fond of using words that could be either nouns or verbs, placing them in such a way that you would mistake one for the other until the context becomes clear. One could see this style as a political choice in keeping with the book's passionate reclaiming of Blackness as an aesthetic. Reed is asserting that he deserves the reader's close attention. He is as important, and as intellectually accomplished, as the writers in the white literary canon that these poems deconstruct with wicked cleverness.

"Stairs Appear in a Hole Outside of Town", a vidiette by Jim Avis of a poem by John Philip Johnson, illustrated by Julian Peters

Julian Peters remarks: "Here is Jim Avis’s video adaptation of my comics rendition of John Philip Johnson's beautifully unsettling poem, 'Stairs Appear in a Hole Outside of Town'. The poem is read by the author himself.

Stairs Appear in a Hole Outside of Town

"I've recently become very intrigued by the aesthetic and psychological concept of 'liminal space'. The term—from the Latin limen (threshold)—refers to those transitional spaces of modern life, such as corridors, stairwells, parking lots, shopping mall atriums, and so on, which we move through without really noticing them, but which, when seen in a slightly different light, such as in a photograph devoid of human figures, may fill us with a strange kind of unease. One may even get the feeling, when experiencing these spaces in this 'slightly off' fashion, that they hold another kind of liminal quality, that they are hinting at some kind of vaguely apprehended transition point into a different reality. This poem is a striking demonstration of the uncanny pull of such liminal spaces."

You can find 24 other such "poetry comics" (including one based on another John Philip Johnson poem) in Mr. Peters' recent book, Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry (Plough Publishing, 2020). For a limited time, order directly from Plough and use the code win30 to get a 30% discount. It's a great holiday gift!

The Last Word

Jendi ReiterInequality Isn't Magic
The real chilling effect on campus comes from economic precariousness and exploitation. Few people have the freedom to speak their mind when burdened with six-figure debt. Whether Left or Right ideologies prevail in a particular institution matters less than the fact that modern university endowments are built on the underpaid labor of grad students and adjunct professors with no health benefits.

Read more

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