Announcing the winners of our 26th annual fiction & essay contest |

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Welcome to Our October Newsletter

Charlie Schneider, Ryan Ireland, and Elizabeth Brina

We found over two dozen quality free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between October 15-November 30.
View Free Contests
In this issue: Julian Peters' illustration of "Chanson de la plus haute tour" ("Song from the Highest Tower") by Arthur Rimbaud.

CONGRATULATIONS to the winners of our 26th annual Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest! Charlie Schneider submitted the winning story, "Lulu", and Ryan Ireland submitted the winning essay, "Circumambulatory Cacozelia". In additional to our ten Honorable Mentions, we awarded a special Second Prize to Elizabeth Brina for her essay, "How They Met". This contest received 1,572 entries from around the world. Dennis Norris II selected the winners, assisted by Lauren Singer Ledoux. Read all the winning entries. See the press release.

Our new fiction and essay contest is open now. Duotrope joins us as a co-sponsor, and we will again award $2,000 to the top two winners. The deadline is April 30, 2019.

Want to view past newsletters? See our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. For daily contest announcements and resources for writers, join our 109,000 followers on Twitter at @WinningWriters.

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Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

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Congratulations to Jessica Brody, George Harrar, Evelyn Krieger, John Reinhart, Harry Bauld (featured poem: "In the Street Without My Glasses"), R. Bremner, Lesléa Newman, Audrey Andujar Wright, Dennis Herrell, David Kherdian, Helen Leslie Sokolsky, Vivi Zografou, Robert Walton, Lorna Wood, and Lance Johnson.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Lit Crawl 2018: Cogswell College - Get Gory on October 20

Lit Crawl 2018 San Francisco

Join Cogswell College for Litquake, and get read to like a baby at bedtime! One of the most anticipated literary nights of the year, San Francisco's Lit Crawl attracts close to 10,000 people, and is the world's largest literary pub crawl. Bookstores, cafes, restaurants, shops and other venues in the Mission District participate—taking over several city blocks. This year, Cogswell students (21 years of age or older, of course) will host an edgy, high-profile literary event showcasing Cogswell's multimedia literary journal, COG.

Grandma told us not to fart in public. Violent movies were off-limits for years. But sometimes, gross is gorgeous and gore makes sense. Sometimes it's what really happened—or a necessary escape from some subtler pain.

On Saturday, October 20, in San Francisco's Mission District, COG and Litquake host respected literary authors getting gory like a Rob Zombie flick. The all-star lineup includes Molly Giles, Tomas Moniz, Ron Austin, July Westhale and Keenan Norris.

Visit our event page on Facebook for more information.

$750 New Letters Publication Award in Fiction

New Letters Publication Award in Fiction

Deadline: October 28

New Letters invites you to submit a short story on the topic of children to the New Letters Publication Award in Fiction. The winner receives a cash prize of $750 and publication in New Letters. Stories must concern this year's topic of children in some way, whether implicitly or explicitly through title, setting, plot, theme, conflict, or the minds of the characters.

All entries are considered for publication and must be unpublished. Multiple entries are welcome with appropriate fees. Entries may only be submitted through Submittable. Postal entries will not be considered. Winners will be announced in March 2019. For complete guidelines, visit our website.

Cutthroat Prizes: Poetry, Short Story, Nonfiction

Cutthroat Prizes

Tupelo Press Sunken Garden Chapbook Poetry Prize

Deadline: October 31 (postmark or online submission date)
Final Judge: Timothy Donnelly

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. Results announced in winter 2019.

Submit a previously unpublished, chapbook-length poetry manuscript with a table of contents and an acknowledgements page (if applicable). There is no mandatory page count, but we suggest in the area of 20 to 36 pages. All manuscripts will be read and considered with full respect, regardless of length, and no manuscript will be rejected simply because it's shorter or longer. We encourage online submission via our Submittable system. You may also submit via postal mail:

Tupelo Press
Sunken Garden Chapbook Poetry Prize
P.O. Box 1767
North Adams, MA 01247

For mailed manuscripts, request notification of receipt by including a SASP. For notification of the winner, enclose a SASE. Manuscripts will not be returned.

A reading fee of $25 payable by check to Tupelo Press or via Submittable must accompany each submission. Multiple submissions are accepted, each accompanied by a $25 reading fee.

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.

Please enjoy this selection by Chaun Ballard, author of Flight (Tupelo Press, 2018), winner of the 2018 Sunken Garden Poetry Prize:


So now when the ghost asks me
my age, I say, I'm stomach over
the waistband; I'm button up
and neck-tied; I'm shoes no longer
the last squawking on hard wooden
floors; I'm totem pole carved with faces
of the past; I'm apple for lunch, walnuts,
and pleasant dinners; I'm red cross
bloodletting and good credit; I'm
my father in that faded polaroid
taken somewhere in California;
I'm high school reunion almost
checked the box: maybe; I'm electric
slide and Jesus music, hallelujahs
and morning glory; I'm open
book and lamp light; I'm Achilles
if he lived during the Renaissance;
I'm nearly in danger of not being
a danger; old enough to say,
you were good and died young.

Ventura County Writers Club Short Story Contest

Ventura County Writers Club Short Story Contest

Defenestrationism FLASH SUITE Contest (no fee)


Deadline: November 1
Only on

Combine three or more Flash works into something greater. Recurring characters, extended motifs, harmonious subject matters—all are such correlations, but we encourage innovation and new ideas. Go crazy with it, kids, flash your faces off.

  • Winner: $75
  • Runner-up: $60

No fee to enter. See the full guidelines.

Please enjoy this excerpt from our most recent Grand Prize Winner:

The Minotaur
by Salvatore Difalco


I could smell exhaust fumes. I wasn't fully awake. My estranged wife Carolina had knitted the burgundy mohair sweater I was wearing, before she started hating me, but I had no memory of putting it on. I rubbed my face. A glimpse of my hands made me start. My fingers looked swollen and inflamed, fingernails discoloured. I performed violent jazz hands, hoping to restore circulation. But this was painful.

People on the bus looked like animals bearing reproachful burdens. A commensurate odour prevailed. Life in the city can be hard. Yet I felt little empathy for them, my fellow beasts. We had failed. We had all failed. What was left for us to do but despair, moving from foot to foot, or hoof to hoof, like doomed livestock?

The bus driver leaned to his open side window and blew snot from his nose in a silvery mucous-jet. He turned and caught my eye. Blue-tinged steel-wool sideburns coiled from under his ill-fitting navy driver's cap. The black holes of his nostrils yawned, small black eyes peeping out above them, like their satellites.

A man beside me, who bore a resemblance to a fine English horse, lifted and lowered his chin, fluttering his lips. I held the stanchion, white-knuckled; an unpleasant disequilibrium threatened to topple me whenever the bus swerved or jerked to a sudden stop.

"You don't look well," said a woman wearing red plastic, gripping the same stanchion, in a falsetto rivaling that of Johnny, Señor Wences's talking hand. Her arm seemed unattached to her small, round body. I tried not to think about it too much.

"I slept poorly," I said.

A whiff of salami breath made me turn my head and face the window. Clouds darkened the world without. Perhaps a great storm was moving in, a monsoon, to cleanse the city.

"I know who you are," said the woman in my ear.

[story continues at]

Apply Now for the 15th Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival

Palm Beach Poetry Festival

Application Deadline: November 12

Join Us!
15th Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival in Delray Beach, Florida, January 21-26, Extraordinary Poetry Workshops

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

Six days and evenings of workshops, readings, craft talks, panel discussions, one-on-one conferences, social events, and so much more in Delray Beach. Additional faculty: Lorna Blake, Sally Bliumis-Dunn, Nickole Brown and Stephen Gibson. Special Guest: Sharon Olds. Poet-At-Large: Tyehimba Jess.

Visit our website to find out more. Apply to attend a workshop using Submittable!

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays for "Games" Issue

Deadline: November 19

Creative Nonfiction, in partnership with the Center for Games & Impact at Arizona State University, is looking for new work about the role of games and play in our everyday lives. For this special issue, we're seeking true stories that explore the ways our society integrates games, and especially games whose impact transcends entertainment and changes us in ways outside of the gaming context.

We're looking for stories that illuminate the great variety of ways in which games have affected the lives of diverse individuals and communities—offering opportunities to fail forward within a safe context, play with possible selves and futures, collaborate with people from different backgrounds, develop professional or other skills, become protagonists in simulated worlds, or collaborate with others on solutions to real-world problems.

Above all, we are looking for vivid narratives—illuminative stories, rich with scene, character, detail, and a distinctive voice—that offer unique insights into the subject. We want evocative narratives that allow readers to step into ideas, and stories should be grounded in factual occurrences and true events. All essays submitted will be considered for publication; this is a paying market.

See our complete guidelines.

Creative Nonfiction

Deadline Extended! Call for Submissions: Contemporary Chicanx Writing

For this anthology we are looking for Chicanx writers

Two Sylvias Press WILDER POETRY BOOK PRIZE for Women Over 50

Two Sylvias Press Wilder Poetry Book Prize

Deadline: November 30

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

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

The Wilder Series Book Prize is open to women over 50 years of age. 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 of the Wilder Poetry Prize include Adrian Blevins, Dana Roeser, and Carmen Gillespie.

DECEMBER MAGAZINE seeks submissions for our 2019 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize

Kim Addonizio

Deadline: December 1

JudgeKim Addonizio is the author of seven poetry collections, two novels, two story collections, and two books on writing poetry. She is an NEA and Guggenheim Foundation fellow, has won two Pushcart Prizes, and was a National Book Award Finalist for her collection Tell Me.

Prizes — $1,500 & publication (winner); $500 & publication (honorable mention); all finalists will be published in the 2019 Spring/Summer awards issue. Submit up to 3 poems. $20 entry fee includes copy of the awards issue.

For complete guidelines, please visit our website.

2019 Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award in Poetry (no fee)

2019 Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award

Kansas Poets with book-length works published in the past three years (2016/17/18) are eligible to win the $1,000 2019 Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award in Poetry. The annual award, rotating between poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, is sponsored by the Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection at Washburn University in Topeka. There is no fee to enter.

This year's judge will be Steven Hind, longtime English professor at Hutchinson Community College, one-time editor of Young Kansas Writers, and one of the deans of Kansas Poetry, as evidenced in his collections: Familiar Ground (1980), That Trick of Silence (1990), In a Place With No Map (1997) and The Loose Change of Wonder (2006).

Deadline for submission is December 31, 2018. For complete guidelines, please visit our website.

The 2018 Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award in Literary Nonfiction went to Louise Krug for her memoir Tilted: the Post-Brain Surgery Journals. Other previous winners are Andrew Milward in Fiction, for his story collection I Was a Revolutionary, and Amy Fleury, for her poetry collection Sympathetic Magic.

Poetry and Short Story Prizes from BkMk Press

Submission deadline: January 15, 2019. $1,000 and book publication for each winner.

The annual John Ciardi Prize for Poetry and the G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction are awarded to collections of poetry and short fiction in English by a living author. Guidelines available here.

Prize-winning books have received reviews or features in: Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, ForeWord Reviews, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Kansas City Star, Slate, etc., and won or placed in the Poets' Prize, Eric Hoffer, IPPY, ForeWord, Chautauqua, Balcones Fiction, Devil's Kitchen, etc.

Founded in 1971 and part of the University of Missouri-Kansas City since 1983, BkMk Press publishes collections of poetry, short fiction, and creative essays. Publishing roughly six titles a year, the press has over 140 titles in print.

BkMk Press, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 5101 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110.

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays for "Memoir" Issue

Deadline: February 25, 2019

Creative Nonfiction magazine is seeking new work for an upcoming issue dedicated to memoir.

We're looking stories that are honest, accurate, informative, intimate, and—most importantly—true. Whether your story is revelatory or painful, hilarious or tragic, if it's about you and your life, we want to read it.

Submissions must be vivid and dramatic; they should combine a strong and compelling narrative with an informative or reflective element, and reach beyond a strictly personal experience for some universal or deeper meaning. We're looking for well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice; all essays must tell true stories and be factually accurate.

Creative Nonfiction editors will award $2,500 for Best Essay and two $500 prizes for runner-up. All essays will be considered for publication in a special "Memoir" issue of the magazine to be published in 2020. Essays must be previously unpublished and no longer than 4,000 words.

See our complete guidelines.

Creative Nonfiction

Lauren Singer Ledoux: Professional Editing and Proofreading

Lauren Singer Finishing up your manuscript? Putting those last touches on your thesis or dissertation? Submitting application essays to your dream school? Can't figure out where to put the dialogue in your magnum opus? These writing projects can take a lot out of a person. Sometimes the work is so dense and the topics so subjective that it's difficult to see a clear end in sight. Sometimes the solution is as simple as lending another pair of eyes to those stuck points.

Don't pull out more hair—give yourself a break! I'll help ease your typing tension so you can show that writer's block who's boss. Email Lauren Singer Ledoux at or call 347-675-4877 for professional copyediting, proofreading, and general assistance with your current project. I have many years of experience, a bundle of great references, and am currently a staff judge at Winning Writers. Let's tackle those big ideas together!

"When I needed help with my chapbook manuscript, Lauren was candid, professional, and insightful. She was a pleasure to work with and I will definitely be hiring her for editing in the future."
-Catherine Weiss

"If you need fresh eyes and solid creative insight, Lauren is absolutely the person to call."​
-Stephanie Huey

​"Lauren regularly edited for me. Her comments and corrects were thoughtful, thorough, and holistic. She also frequently went above and beyond and offered style suggestions and additional ways to structure my approach.​"​
-Roxanne Astra Slate

​"​Lauren takes the time while editing, to both consider the one-day reader and the voice of the author.​"​
-Tara Jean Bernier

See Lauren's six quick writing tips.

An Incomplete List of My Wishes - Available Now!

An Incomplete List of My Wishes

Jendi Reiter's debut story collection, An Incomplete List of My Wishes, was runner-up for the 2017 Sunshot Prose Prize and is now available from Sunshot Press/New Millennium Writings. The stories in An Incomplete List of My Wishes have won prizes from such journals as The Iowa Review, New Letters, Bayou Magazine, Solstice Lit Mag, and American Fiction. These tales explore the fraught relationships among queer and straight family members, the search for a post-traumatic spirituality, and the fine line between soulmates and intimate enemies.

Mom Egg Review says:

"This short story collection is the product of a wonderful mixing of novelist and poet. For each of Jendi Reiter's stories, the tension is expertly built but never released. By exposing the fraught nature of different relationships, the reader must sit in their own discomfort, wondering about the things never said."

Buy it now for $1.99 on Kindle.

Will you be in Western Massachusetts on Wednesday, October 24? Jendi will present An Incomplete List of My Wishes at 7pm at Broadside Bookshop, 247 Main Street, Northampton, MA. See the Facebook event for details. Read a story from the book.

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
PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. PEN America will award 12 prizes of $2,000 and anthology publication for the first published short story, 12,000 words maximum, by a US citizen or permanent resident. Entries must be submitted by publisher. Due November 10.

Intermediate Writers
Eric Gregory Awards. Awards 20,000 pounds in prizes for a collection of up to 30 poems, drama-poems, or belles-lettres, by a writer who will be under age 30 as of March 31 of the year following the deadline. The author must be a British national or a resident in Great Britain and Northern Ireland for at least three years. Previously published work accepted. Due October 31.

Advanced Writers
Griffin Poetry Prize. Two top prizes of C$65,000 for poetry books published in the current calendar year. One prize will go to a living Canadian poet or translator, the other to a living poet or translator from any country (including Canada). Publisher should send 4 copies of book plus entry form and a press packet. Due December 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: Literacy Changes Lives

Mayra Sanchez

Can you just imagine not being able to read your child a bedtime story? Or being able to read a menu in a restaurant? Or fill out a job application? There are more than 36 million adults in America that struggle with basic reading, writing, and math skills.

Take a look at the stories of some adult learners. Real people. Real stories. Stories of heartbreak, embarrassment, even desperation. In equal measure, you will hear tales of accomplishment, triumph, and inspiration.

"Getting My Diploma Was Once an Unthinkable Victory"
In elementary school Mayra Sanchez was put in special ed because of a language barrier—she was born in Puerto Rico. The label followed her all the way through high school. She graduated with an IEP Diploma. But the employers she was trying to work with in the health care field told her that it was not acceptable. Her goal was to become a phlebotomist. She had been told in high school that she would never achieve a diploma because of her learning disability.

But Mayra was determined. She joined the Syracuse City School District's Adult Education program and took classes for three years while working full time. When she finally passed the TASC Test and earned her High School Equivalency Diploma, she was very emotional. She broke down while telling her story at graduation and Kathy Lent, coordinator of adult education for the district, finished reading her speech for her. Today she is working full time as a phlebotomist and is taking her pre-reqs at the college level to join an X-Ray Tech program.

Read more about the life-changing work of ProLiteracy and its members.

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Arthur Rimbaud - Chanson de la plus haute tour - Song from the Highest Tower - Illustrated by Julian Peters

Arthur Rimbaud – Chanson de la plus haute tour – Song from the Highest Tower - illustrated by Julian Peters

Julian Peters writes, "The poem is perhaps my absolute favourite of Rimbaud’s. I won’t even bother trying to translate it, though; its beauty is all in its musicality, the way it seems to spiral gracefully into the ether like the smoke from one of Rimbaud’s clay pipes."

Chanson de la plus haute tour

Oisive jeunesse
À tout asservie,
Par délicatesse
J’ai perdu ma vie.
Ah! que le temps vienne
Où les cœurs s’éprennent.

Je me suis dit : laisse,
Et qu’on ne te voie :
Et sans la promesse
De plus hautes joies.
Que rien ne t’arrête
Auguste retraite.

J’ai tant fait patience
Qu’à jamais j’oublie;
Craintes et souffrances
Aux cieux sont parties.
Et la soif malsaine
Obscurcit mes veines.

Ainsi la Prairie
À l’oubli livrée,
Grandie, et fleurie
D’encens et d’ivraies,
Au bourdon farouche
De cent sales mouches.

Ah! Mille veuvages
De la si pauvre âme
Qui n’a que l’image
De la Notre-Dame!
Est-ce que l’on prie
La Vierge Marie ?

Oisive jeunesse
À tout asservie,
Par délicatesse
J’ai perdu ma vie.
Ah! que le temps vienne
Où les cœurs s’éprennent.

Reprinted by kind permission of Julian Peters. Learn more at Mr. Peters' website. Anglophones, we have mercy. Here is a translation of the poem into English. Read more about Rimbaud and this poem at Poetry Foundation.

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

Mx. Personality
My forced exposure to psychological tests a decade ago convinced me that "personality" is a contestable concept. (A belief which, needless to say, did not improve my score.) The self is situational, changing over time, and wearing different personae depending on the norms and trust level in a given social setting. Attempting to quantify it as a fixed trait, like eye color, can erase the impact of interpersonal stressors and make the subject feel powerless to change.

[read more]

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

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