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Winning Writers Newsletter - May 2020

View Free Contests

We found over three dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between May 15-June 30. In this issue, please enjoy "Somewhere or Other" by Christina Rossetti, illustrated by Julian Peters.

Deadline Next Month
Deadline: June 30. 6th year. Co-sponsored by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of The Frugal Book Promoter, and BookBaby. Prizes increased to $12,500, including a top award of $5,000. This year's categories: Mainstream/Literary Fiction, Genre Fiction, Creative Nonfiction & Memoir, Poetry, Children's Picture Book, and Graphic Novel & Memoir. Fee: $65 per entry. Jendi Reiter and Ellen LaFleche will judge, assisted by Annie Keithline and Jim DuBois. See last year's winners and enter here.

Also open now, our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest will award $8,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $3,000 each.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 130,000 followers on Twitter. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

Featured Sponsor: $15,000 Rattle Poetry Prize

Rattle Poetry Prize 2020

Deadline: July 15

The annual Rattle Poetry Prize is celebrating its 15th year by increasing the 1st prize to $15,000 for a single poem. Ten finalists will also receive $500 each and publication, and be eligible for the $5,000 Readers' Choice Award, to be selected by subscriber and entrant vote. All of these poems will be published in the winter issue of the magazine.

With the winners judged in a blind review by the editors to ensure a fair and consistent selection, an entry fee that is simply a one-year subscription to the magazine—and a runner-up Readers' Choice Award to be chosen by the writers themselves—the Rattle Poetry Prize aims to be one of the most writer-friendly and popular poetry contests around.

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

Please enjoy last year's winning poem, "Stroke" by Matthew Dickman:


The hotel sign blinking
in the brain

of my body
stops blinking but not

the whole sign,
you know, just a couple

of the letters,
the H and T.

Then the E and L
so all that is left

when the whole left
side of my body

comes to an end
is the O.

[poem continues at Rattle]

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Carol Smallwood (featured poem: "The Universe"), Patricia Brody, Linda Rosen, Gregory Jeffers, Mary K. O'Melveny, Cheryl J. Fish (featured poem: "Metallic Thud"), Janet Qually, Jill C. Baker, J.C. Todd, Helen Leslie Sokolsky, Ken Boe, and Ellaraine Lockie.

Winning Writers Editor Jendi Reiter's poem "Ovotestes" was published in Solstice Lit Mag's National Poetry Month 2020 feature.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Last Call! Creative Nonfiction Seeks New Essays

Creative Nonfiction wants essay submissions

Deadline: May 18

Creative Nonfiction is currently seeking new essays for upcoming issues of the quarterly magazine.

We're open to submissions on any subject, in any style. Surprise us!  

We pay a flat $125 + $10/printed page on publication. $3 fee to submit online, or free for current subscribers.

Essays must be previously unpublished and no longer than 4,000 words. Multiple submissions are welcome, as are entries from outside the United States.

Complete guidelines here.

Last Call! The Masters Review Flash Fiction Contest

The Masters Review Flash Fiction Contest

Judged by Sherrie Flick!
$3000 Grand Prize

Our annual Flash Fiction Contest is open for submissions! We're looking for your very best stories under 1000 words—and the winner receives $3000! This year's contest is judged by the spectacular Sherrie Flick, who will be selecting the finalists from a shortlist chosen by our editors.

Sherrie Flick is the author of the novel Reconsidering Happiness and two short story collections, Whiskey, Etc. and Thank Your Lucky Stars. Her fiction has appeared in many anthologies and journals, including Flash Fiction Forward, New Sudden Fiction, and New Micro, as well as Ploughshares, New World Writing, and Wigleaf. Her awards include fellowships from Sewanee Writers' Conference, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and Atlantic Center for the Arts. She served as series editor for The Best Small Fictions 2018 and is co-editor for Flash Fiction America, an anthology forthcoming from W.W. Norton.


Submit Now

ENDING SOON: Two Sylvias Press Poetry Chapbook Prize

Two Sylvias Press Poetry Chapbook Prize

Deadline: May 31

  • Judge: Traci Brimhall (author of Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod, recently out from Copper Canyon Press)
  • Prize: $500 and publication by Two Sylvias Press, 20 copies of the winning book, and an amethyst Depression-era glass trophy (circa 1930)

The Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize is open to all poets (previously published or not). Manuscripts should be 17-24 pages long. Simultaneous submissions are accepted. All manuscripts will be considered for publication.

Past Winners: Cecilia Woloch, Jasmine An, Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, Hiwot Adilow, Stella Wong, and Christopher Salerno

Created with the belief that great writing is good for the world, Two Sylvias Press is an award-winning publisher that has been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Forbes, NPR, and other noted outlets. Two Sylvias Press offers the popular National Poetry Month Writing Prompts and an Online Poetry Retreat created for writers who would like to generate new work with daily poetry prompts and creative inspiration. They also sell the nationally recognized The Poet Tarot Guidebook: A Deck of Creative Exploration.

Click here for full guidelines for the Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize

Thank you for your support of our indie press during this time.

Last Call! The Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry

The Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry 2020

Deadline: June 1

Lynx House Press seeks submissions of full-length poetry manuscripts for the 23rd annual Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry. The winner receives $2,000 and publication. Each entrant receives a copy of a book from our back catalog.

The Prize is awarded for an unpublished, full-length volume of poems by a US author, which includes foreign nationals living and writing in the US and US citizens living abroad.

Previous winners include Carolyne Wright, Jim Daniels, Roy Bentley, Arianne Zwartjes, Lynne Burris Butler, Suzanne Lummis, Prartho Sereno, Marc Harshman, and Joe Wilkins. The 2019 winner was Kirsten Kaschock for her collection Explain this Corpse. Lynx House Press has been publishing fine poetry and prose since 1975.

Poems included in submissions may not have appeared in full-length, single-author collections. Acknowledgments pages and author names may be included. Entries must be at least 48 pages in length. The reading fee for submitting is $28.

Submit via Submittable.

The MacGuffin’s 25th Annual Poet Hunt Contest

The MacGuffin

Deadline: June 15

One first place winner will receive $500 and publication in a future issue, along with up to two Honorable Mention selections. We're happy to welcome Matthew Olzmann as this year's guest judge!

We'll accept up to five poems per $15 entry fee. Please begin your submission with a cover page listing your name, email address, mailing address (for one issue, included with entry), and poem titles. On the following page(s), include your poems, with each poem beginning on a new page and devoid of any personally identifiable information to preserve the blind review. That's it!

Enter today via Submittable or our website. We're also accepting submissions via post. For full rules, see our website.

The 2020 Spokane Prize for Short Fiction

The 2020 Spokane Prize for Short Fiction

Willow Springs Books invites submissions for the 2020 Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. The winner receives $2,000 and publication. To enter, please submit a book length manuscript of at least 98 pages (with no maximum page count), and include at least 3 short stories. Manuscripts should be organized with page numbers and a table of contents. Stories may have been previously published in journals, anthologies, or limited edition volumes. However, selected story collections (stories previously published in books) will not be considered. Please do not send novels.

Entries must be submitted through Submittable or postmarked by June 15, 2020.

Our North Street Book Prize for Self-Published Books

North Street Book Prize

A testimonial from W.R. Rodriguez, 2018 North Street poetry winner

Deadline: June 30

Enter your self-published book into the sixth North Street competition, sponsored by Winning Writers and co-sponsored by BookBaby and Carolyn Howard-Johnson (author of The Frugal Book Promoter).

Choose from six categories:

  • Mainstream/Literary Fiction
  • Genre Fiction
  • Creative Nonfiction & Memoir
  • Poetry
  • Children's Picture Book
  • Graphic Novel & Memoir

The top winner in each category will win $1,000, one grand prize winner will win $5,000, and all will receive additional benefits to help market their books. Any year of publication is eligible. Entry fee: $65 per book. Submit online or by mail. Learn more.

Elk River Writers Workshop—Apply Now!

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 U.S. 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.

For our 2020 workshop, we are thrilled to welcome faculty members Rick Bass, Linda Hogan, J. Drew Lanham, William Pitt Root, and Pamela Uschuk.

Our workshop takes place August 16-20 under the big skies of Montana, in one of the most wild and beautiful settings in the country, a place that has inspired the work of conservationists, writers and artists for over a century.

Workshop classes are limited to 10 students each. In this time of uncertainty, we are offering full refunds for coronavirus-related cancellations.

More info at Elk River Writers.

Charlotte Mew Chapbook Contest

Headmistress Press

Vi Khi Nao

Deadline: July 4

Headmistress Press, a lesbian-identified publisher of books by lesbian/bi/trans poets, is proud to announce our sixth annual Charlotte Mew Chapbook Contest. Our judge for this year is Vi Khi Nao. Our first-prize winner will receive $300 plus 20 copies of the winning book. All entries will be considered for publication. We will be accepting submissions through Submittable, and will announce a winner in the fall. Our reading fee is always on a sliding scale, with fee waived upon request. Click here for guidelines and submission.

When we say "lesbian-identified", we include both women who identify as lesbians and people who identify with lesbians. We recognize that lesbian communities have been and continue to be informed by bi women, trans women, Two Spirit, genderqueer, gender-nonconforming, and non-binary people, and that many of these labels are not mutually exclusive categories. In that spirit, we welcome submissions from all poets who feel an intimate connection with the term "lesbian".

Nimrod International Journal’s Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers

Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers

Deadline: July 15

Submissions are now open for the Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers, which honor the work of writers at the beginning of their careers. The Francine Ringold Awards are open only to writers whose work has not appeared or is not scheduled to appear in more than 2 publications in the genre in which they are submitting. $500 prizes will be awarded in both the fiction and poetry categories, and the winning work will appear in the spring 2021 issue of Nimrod. Work by all finalists will also be published, and finalists will be paid at a rate of $10/page up to a maximum of $200.

Established in 1956, Nimrod is dedicated to the discovery of new voices in literature, and the Francine Ringold Awards are a special way to recognize talented new poets and fiction writers.

  • Poetry: Up to 5 pages of poetry (one long poem or several short poems)
  • Fiction: 5,000 words maximum (one short story or a self-contained excerpt from a novel)
  • Fee Per Entry: $12 payable to Nimrod, includes a copy of the spring issue
  • 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. Open internationally.

For complete rules, visit Nimrod's website.

Bullies in Love by Jendi Reiter

Bullies in Love

Jendi Reiter's second full-length collection, with fine art photography by Toni Pepe, is available from Little Red Tree Publishing.

Poet Carol Smallwood says, "The writing dazzles, surprises, and beguiles the reader with its unexpected vistas. The photography questions what we see; the poems question the ever present role of sex, probe comfortable personal assumptions and our collective cultural fairy tales."

Please enjoy this sample poem, "What I'd Do With Mine", and purchase Bullies in Love on Amazon.

Fireproofing the Woods, poems by Katy McKinney

Fireproofing the Woods

First Prize for Poetry, 2019 North Street Book Prize

"It's hard to know where to stop once you've started / keeping things alive," McKinney writes in this wise and exacting collection of poems that themselves resemble individual trees in memory's own old-growth forest. Fireproofing the Woods chronicles a lifetime spent in the company of and in communion with nature. This lends it a patient, generative energy that mimics the reach of redwoods. Enter its canopy and find in its language refuge.
—Dorianne Laux, author of The Book of Men

Katy McKinney's poems are filled with river mist and the smell of pines and Douglas fir. They speak of a life lived close to nature, following the earth from cycle to cycle and watching the seasons change. She has a true heart and a true eye. This is a fine debut collection.
—Joseph Millar, author of Blue Rust

There is an immense universe in this book, yet Katy McKinney has an ability to focus our attention on the most minute aspects of the natural world, like the worms in her worm bin, and then to take us flying across icy mountains in Alaska. The sadness of a sister's death from cancer, conveyed partly by offering the sister's own words, contrasts with a quiet joy that permeates the poems of daily life—gardening, singing, quilting, even clearing duckweed from a pond. There is a consistency of tending—not only to the seedlings in her care, but to the words she lays out on the page, sometimes in innovative shapes, sometimes formally in sestinas, and once in the stunning pantoum, "Learning Spanish Like Crazy", where the good humor underlying all these poems perfectly matches the form.
—Judith Barrington, author of Horses and the Human Soul

Read the Winning Writers critique

Read sample poems (PDF)

Buy Fireproofing the Woods on the author's website
(please allow time for the web page to load)

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
Ocean Awareness Student Contest. Bow Seat will award prizes up to $1,500 in each genre for poetry, prose (fiction and essays compete together), music, film, artwork, and interactive/multimedia by students aged 11-18 about climate change and ocean conservation. 2020 theme is 'Climate Hope: Transforming Crisis'. Junior division is for students ages 11-14; Senior division is for students ages 15-18. Works submitted must have been created during the current academic year (July 2019-June 2020). All entries must also include a brief reflection, 100-250 words, on your work, along with contact information for an adult sponsor. Bow Seat is a nonprofit that fosters the next generation of environmental activists. Due June 15.

Intermediate Writers
Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award. Sisters in Crime will award a $2,000 grant for adult crime fiction, 2,500-5,000 words, by an author of color who has not published more than several pieces of short fiction or two books. (Preference is given to previously unpublished authors.) Prize must be used for "activities related to crime fiction writing and career development". Due June 8.

Advanced Writers
Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship for Editorial Writing. The Society of Professional Journalists will award one $75,000 fellowship to an outstanding mid-career editorial writer or columnist to have time away from daily responsibilities for study and research by taking courses, pursuing independent study, traveling, and participating in other endeavors that enrich their knowledge of a public interest issue. Candidate must currently be a part-time or full-time editorial writer or columnist at a US news publication and have worked in this capacity for three years minimum. Freelancers are also eligible. Due June 20.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

PSA: Have a Vehicle You No Longer Need? Donate It for Literacy!

Donate Your Car and Support ProLiteracy

If you have a car, truck, trailer, boat, RV, motorcycle, or other motorized vehicle that you no longer need, you can donate it to raise funds for ProLiteracy and may earn yourself a tax deduction.

By donating, you can avoid the costs associated with selling your vehicle such as advertising or repairs, and you'll no longer need to pay for insurance for something you don't need. Your vehicle does not have to be in working order, but it does need to be in one piece, have an engine, and be towable.

Learn more.

Favorite Books

This month, editor Jendi Reiter presents selected books that deserve your attention. There are many more in our Books resource section.

Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel

Julian K. Jarboe
Queer magical realism unites the brilliantly inventive tales in this debut short story collection, in which the humor and verve of rebellious outsiders offer sparks of hope in the dystopian world we've made. A sassy queer witch seeks shelter from a manipulative priest in a town rapidly sinking beneath the waters of global warming. A young person's dysphoria is made literal when they menstruate sharp objects instead of blood. Kafka's "Metamorphosis" gets a new twist from a narrator who wants to transition into "a beautiful bug" despite authorities who insist that it's only a metaphor.

Jami Attenberg
This novel about the last day in the life of a corrupt real estate developer in New Orleans is an insightful, morbidly funny story about how tragic choices reverberate through the generations. One could call it a Jewish version of "The Sopranos", but where that show was cynical and bleak, this book is full of compassion and even a kind of poetic justice at the end.

Rachel Cline
This slim, incisive, timely novel of the #MeToo Movement explores the long aftermath of a popular teacher's serial predation on tween girls in a 1970s Brooklyn private school. Two middle-aged women, once childhood best friends, find themselves on opposite sides of another sexual misconduct case because of the different psychological strategies they employed to cope with their victimization. The Question Authority fearlessly examines the gray areas of consent, understanding that young women routinely overestimate how much choice and objectivity they could really bring to a relationship with an older male mentor.

Tiffany Jewell
This social justice handbook for middle-grade and young adult readers offers tools for understanding your identity and social position, unlearning myths of American history, affirming yourself in a prejudiced world, and using your privileges to disrupt racism. Upbeat, energetic illustrations by Aurelia Durand create a mood of hope and momentum for dealing with tough truths. Jewell's background in Montessori education is reflected in her trusting and empowering young people to make mature moral choices.

Cynthia Lowen
Elegant and unforgiving as equations, these poems hold us accountable for living in the nuclear age. Persona poems in the voice of J. Robert Oppenheimer, "the father of the atomic bomb", reveal self-serving rationalizations and belated remorse, while other poems give voice to the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This collection is notable for exposing the emotional logic of scientific imperialism, rather than revisiting familiar scenes of the bomb's devastating effects. Winner of the National Poetry Series, selected by Nikky Finney.

Julian Peters
Understand classic poems in a new way through this artistic dramatization of 24 works by Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, Maya Angelou, Seamus Heaney, and many others.

The Stanford Graphic Novel Project
FLYING KITES: A STORY OF THE 2013 CALIFORNIA PRISON HUNGER STRIKE This fictionalized account of a real-life hunger strike to protest prison conditions exposes the horrors of solitary confinement and the inspiring struggles of families to stay connected to their incarcerated loved ones. The e-book is free to download for your computer or tablet.

"Somewhere or Other" by Christina Rossetti, illustrated by Julian Peters

Poems to See By features 24 classic poems with visual interpretations by comic artist Julian Peters. Mr. Peters has graciously allowed us to reprint "Somewhere or Other" from the book.

Somewhere or Other

Somewhere or Other

Somewhere or Other

Somewhere or Other

The Last Word

Jendi ReiterPoems of Love and Loss by Helen Bar-Lev
Helen is the Overseas Connections Coordinator for Voices Israel Group of Poets in English, and winner of numerous awards including the International Senior Poet Laureate title from the Amy Kitchener Foundation. She has had over 100 exhibitions of her landscape paintings, 34 of which were one-woman shows. She lives in Metulla with her partner, Bernard Mann, author of the Biblical historical novel David & Avshalom: Life and Death in the Forest of Angels.

[read more]

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

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