The best free literary contests with deadlines through September 30 |

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Welcome to Our August Newsletter

Madeleine Jackman

We found over two dozen quality free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between August 15-September 30.
In this issue: An excerpt from "Sensuka" by Alice Elm, illustrated by Julian Peters.

View Free Contests

Congratulations to Madeleine Jackman, winner of our 2018 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. "The Swipe Sonnets" earned her $1,000. We awarded runner-up Dolorem Ipsom $250 for "Clock Signal: The Medulla of the Device". Sarah Cannavo won a special Third Prize of $150 for "The 5 Stages of Being on Hold". Honorable mentions and $100 went to Daniel Ari (2nd year in a row), Laura Burrow, Lori Jakiela, Erin Kirsh, Beatrice Lane-Smailes, Jeanne Lutz, Michael Meyerhofer, Cayla Printz, Mick Ó Seasnáin, R.D. Simmons, Theresa Sowerby, and Nina Thilo. 4,748 contestants entered. Read all the winning entries with comments from judges Jendi Reiter and Lauren Singer Ledoux. Read the press release. Our 2019 contest is now open for entries. We welcome our new co-sponsor, Duotrope, who will give the winner a one-year gift certificate (a $50 value) to go with their $1,000 prize. As always, this contest has no fee.

Deadline Next Month
16th year. We will award 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. The top two winners will also receive one-year gift certificates from our new co-sponsor, Duotrope (a $50 value). Length limit: 250 lines per poem. Entry fee: $12 per poem. Final judge: S. Mei Sheng Frazier, assisted by Jim DuBois. Deadline: September 30. Submit online here.

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Featured Sponsor: Enter Dozens of Contests for One Low Price

Enter all contests for $9.95!

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Just $9.95 per month to enter all contests with cash prizes. Discounts available when choosing the one year or two year membership. Pricing information.

Don't miss these contests. All have cash prizes. At FanStory you can enter all these contests with upgraded membership. Find out more.

Acrostic Poetry Contest
Write an acrostic poem. An acrostic poem is a poem where the first letter of each line spells out a word. View an example in the announcement. Cash Prize!
Deadline: Aug 17th (two days!)
Dribble Flash Fiction
Write a story on any topic that uses 50 words. Cash prize to the winner.
Deadline: Aug 21st (six days!)
20 Syllable Poem
For this contest you are to write a short poem. The poem should have exactly 20 syllables. You can structure it anyway you choose and choose the word count. But the total syllable count for the completed poem must have exactly 20 syllables. This contest has a cash prize.
Deadline: Aug 25th
Rhyming Poetry Contest
Write a poem of any type that has a rhyme. Cash prize to the winner.
Deadline: Aug 28th
5-7-5 Poetry
For this contest you are to write a short poem. It should only have three lines. But the structure is that of a Haiku. The first line has 5 syllables. The second line has 7 syllables. The third line has 5 syllables again. Write about anything. Cash prize for the winning entry.
Deadline: Sep 2nd
Romance Writing Contest
Write a story that brings two people together, two people who don't necessarily realize that they belong together but the audience is rooting for them. Cash prize to the winner.
Deadline: Sep 5th

These are just a few of our contests. View the listing.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Try Literistic

Congratulations to J. Weintraub, Judith Cody (featured poem: "A Thousand Nights at the War Window"), Judy Juanita, Melinda Luisa de Jesús, Alex Mohajer, Mary K. O'Melveny (featured poem: "Declaration of Love"), Ian M. Evans, James K. Zimmerman, Ann Thompson, Tom Taylor/The Poet Spiel, Tim Goldstone, Joan Kydd, James Kotsybar, Anna Scotti, Annie Dawid, Janet Garber, Terri Kirby Erickson, Ihar Kazak, Fred Waiss, and Konstantin Nicholas Rega.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

In addition to cash prizes and online publication, this year's top Tom Howard and Margaret Reid prizewinners will also receive one-year gift certificates from our new co-sponsor, Duotrope (a $50 value).

Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

Call for Submissions: Contemporary Chicanx Writing

For this anthology we are looking for Chicanx writers

The Steve Kowit Poetry Prize

The Steve Kowit Poetry Prize

You can read the 2017-18 San Diego Poetry Annual for free! Click here

Cutthroat Prizes: Poetry, Short Story, Nonfiction

Cutthroat Prizes

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

Beatrice by Ellen LaFleche

Beatrice Ellen LaFleche, a judge of the North Street Book Prize, explores the emotional life of a semi-cloistered nun in this chapbook from Tiger's Eye Press. Sister Beatrice serves on a jury, bakes bread in the convent kitchen, scatters her mother's ashes in the ocean, and reflects on her friendship with another nun. Order directly from Ms. LaFleche for $10 at

"The tides of the sacred feminine seek an outlet in the cloistered body of Sister Beatrice, a working-class mystic. The convent offers both refuge and confinement—the paradox of a women-ruled society where women must de-sexualize themselves. The ascetic environment cannot quench the vitality of Beatrice's imagination, which finds golden-faced gods in copper pans and lust's soft satisfaction in a raw quahog."
—Jendi Reiter, editor, Winning Writers, and author of Bullies in Love

Please enjoy "Bliss" and "Forbidden Fruit", sample poems from the chapbook.

Jendi Reiter's Story "The House of Correction" Wins Award from Solstice Lit Mag

An Incomplete List of My Wishes

Winning Writers Editor Jendi Reiter's short story "The House of Correction" was the runner-up for the 2018 Fiction Award from Solstice Lit Mag. Now celebrating its 10th year, this online journal has been featured in Best American Essays, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize shortlist. Contest judge Ann Hood commented that the piece "uses POV expertly to create a complex story... But it's the believable and well-placed plot twists that make this story such a fine one."

"The House of Correction" is included in Reiter's debut short story collection, An Incomplete List of My Wishes, now available for pre-order from Sunshot Press/New Millennium Writings. New York Times bestselling novelist Jacqueline Sheehan says of this collection, "Jendi Reiter is a masterful short story writer. Truth and humor are woven intricately, ripe with emotion and stripped down to the bone. You will read these again and again."

Please enjoy this excerpt:

The House of Correction

"I am going to this wedding," Zebatinsky declared to Carla. His middling daughter. Middle. But the switched word lodged in his brain, as happened more and more these days, branching out tendrils of other words, a not unpleasant process until he was obliged to backtrack its meanderings to the conversation he'd left hanging. Carla in the muddle, middle-born between fiery David, now a banker in Hong Kong, and beautiful Natalie, who'd played piano in Carnegie Hall, found a husband, and died. Carla taught high school physics and nutrition at Bronx Science. She thought she knew everything about his prions. Or was that muons? He'd forgotten which were the particles that glued up your synapses, and which ones bombarded you without sensation, like a hand passing through a slide projection.

"How, Poppy? I can't let you fly to Miami all by yourself. What if you get confused?"

Zebatinsky bit back a flippant remark. Getting confused in his own little apartment on West End Avenue and 94th, among the softly creaking shelves of books from thirty-five years of teaching Russian literature, was not only harmless but his privilege, his birthright, which middle-aged Carla was itching to trick him out of, with her sly talk of golf courses and assisted living centers in Connecticut. On the other hand, getting confused in a too-loud, too-bright airport that stank of sweet coffee and porta-potty deodorizer was not an adventure he cared to repeat.

"You'll come with me. See, it says 'Isaac Zebatinsky and guest.'" He pointed to the handwritten address on the square ivory envelope, the words scrunching together toward the end as if the writer had miscalculated the size of the small paper. "It's a weekend. You can do your lesson plans on the plane."

Carla blinked hard, her way, ever since childhood, of disguising a sudden hurt. See, he was still sharp enough to notice the important things. A mixed blessing because awareness included guilt for his unintentional dig. She didn't want to tell old Poppy why she was single in her forties but it must bother her more than she let on. Perhaps that excused the tone of her question: "How do you know the Abramoffs, anyway? I don't remember them."

He sighed, buying himself some time with the implication of a long and emotional story to come, as he studied the invitation's embossed sea-blue script: Rabbi and Mrs. Gershom Abramoff welcome you to celebrate the marriage of his daughter Sarah Nicole Abramoff to Jasper Michael Shapiro on Saturday, February 23rd, at 6:30 PM, Temple Shaarei Tefilah, followed by an address in Miami. The truth was, Zebatinsky had no idea who these people were.

[story continues]

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
Preservation Foundation Essay Contest for Unpublished Writers. Awards prizes up to $200 and web publication for essays, 1,000-10,000 words, by unpublished writers, defined as those whose creative writing (as opposed to writing for freelance or salaried jobs) has never produced revenues of over $750 in any single year. Topics are General Nonfiction, Biographical, Travel, and Animals. The Preservation Foundation is a Tennessee-based nonprofit with the goal of preserving the extraordinary stories of ordinary people. Due August 31.

Intermediate Writers
Young Lions Fiction Award. The New York Public Library awards $10,000 for the best published book of fiction (novel or short story collection) by a US author age 35 or under. Books must have been published or scheduled for publication during the current calendar year. Must be submitted by publisher. Due August 31.

Advanced Writers
Griffin Poetry Prize. Awards 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). Must be submitted by publisher. Due December 31.

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

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Calls for Submissions

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An excerpt from "Sensuka" by Alice Elm, illustrated by Julian Peters

Julian Peters writes, "The Montreal poet and writer Alice Elm wrote a stunningly beautiful poem, in French, that is directly inspired by my on-going "Views of an Imaginary City" series. The name of my invented city, which gives its name to this poem, is derived from the German word Sehnsucht, a difficult-to-translate term describing a very particular (and yet at the same time very vague) kind of existential longing. According to Wikipedia, Sehnsucht is 'sometimes felt as a longing for a far-off country, but not a particular earthly land which we can identify. Furthermore there is something in the experience which suggests this far-off country is very familiar and indicative of what we might otherwise call "home".' Alice has captured this feeling perfectly, and taken it quite a few steps further, or deeper, than I could ever have done, plunging into what I can now regard as a shared memory of a non-existent homeland, in a non-existent city, by a non-existent sea."

Sensuka, illustrated by Julian Peters


The water.
Sensuka on the water, in the morning, when the earth meditates.
This presence that penetrates me to have plunged my eyes under its color.
I exist only by her, sucked by her transparency.
Words can not translate that his hand is placed on my heart, that his invisible smile disintegrates me.
I was in it like her in me, the water, in the morning, when the earth meditates on the shore of Sensuka.

The reptile nicknamed it. This ripple that rose in cliffs at the end of the beach to rush to the end of the wharves. And its hypnotic power.
From the pleasure dock, I plunged into it after sunset, succumbing to the call of its illuminated fluidity, one night.
I did not want to rush anything, especially not to undo his secret wrinkles.
My heart respected my desire.
And I stayed there, suspended, victim of the beauty of the world. Until I wake up.

["Sensuka" continues]

Reprinted by kind permission of Julian Peters. Translated from French to English by Google. Learn more at Mr. Peters' website.

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

Could We Be God's Alternate Personalities?
I wonder if the entire way that Western philosophy privileges monism is bound up with our besetting sins of imperialism, exclusionary religion, and totalitarian ideology. All these failures of empathy share the presumption that singularity is saner, purer, and holier than diversity. If dissociative identities are not a flaw in God, we don't have to insist that everyone worship the same alter, or that the highest form of worship is to surrender and erase our personal wills within God's will.

[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)