The best free literary contests with deadlines through September 30 |

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Welcome to Our August Newsletter

S. Michael Wilson

We found over two dozen quality free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between August 15-September 30.
View Free Contests
In this issue: "Le vaisseau d'or" by Émile Nelligan, illustrated and translated by Julian Peters.

Congratulations to S. Michael Wilson, winner of our 2016 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. Wilson's poem, "Dick Candles", burned bright and earned $1,000. We awarded runner-up Christina Myers $250 for "Tampon Bullet, Direct Hit". Honorable mentions and $100 went to Danny Caine, Sarah Crowe, Laura Docter, Michael Forester, Ralph Gagliardo, Debra McQueen, George Northrup, Michelle Reiter, Garry Somers, and Vicki Wilke. A record-breaking 4,834 contestants entered. Read all the winning entries with comments from judges Jendi Reiter and Lauren Singer. Read the press release. Our 2017 contest is now open for entries. As always, this contest has no fee.

Deadline Next Month
14th 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. Length limit: 250 lines per poem. Entry fee: $10 per poem. Final judge: S. Mei Sheng Frazier, assisted by Jim DuBois. Deadline: September 30. Submit online here.

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Upcoming contest deadlines:

Minute Poem Contest
A fun poem to write. It follows the "8,4,4,4" syllable count structure. Winner receives $100 cash. Deadline: August 15 (today!)

2-4-2 Poetry Contest
This poem has three lines. The first line has 2 syllables, the second line has 4 syllables and the last line has 2 syllables again. The subject can be anything. $100 for the winner. Deadline: August 20.

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 it. The winner takes away $100. Deadline: August 22.

5-7-5 Poetry Contest
This poem should have three lines, similar to 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 of $100 for the winner. Deadline: August 27.

Horror Story Writing Contest
Write a horror or thriller story. Put your readers on edge or terrorize them. Recommended length is 2,000-3,500 words, 7,000 maximum. Winner receives $100. Deadline: August 31.

See all our upcoming contests and
find out more.


Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Tim Mayo (featured poem, "The Uncapping"), Wim Coleman, Brett Busang, Carol Smallwood, Joan Leotta, Zachary Perry, James K. Zimmerman, Margaret Gish Miller (featured poem, "One Morning"), Madeleine McDonald, Gloria Mindock, Vivian Khan, and Helen Bar-Lev.

Winning Writers Editor Jendi Reiter was longlisted for the 2016 Exeter Story Prize from Creative Writing Matters, for her story "Taking Down the Pear Tree".

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

Have news? Please email it to

92Y's Unterberg Poetry Center Writing Program

New from C. Hope Clark: Echoes of Edisto

Echoes of Edisto by C. Hope Clark is out and reviews are rolling in rich and positive. Like this one:

"As always C. Hope Clark has me at page one! I love her concern for detail. You can feel Callie Jean Morgan's emotions and struggles, and as she enters back into law enforcement you keep pulling for her. As soon as you open the book, you are pulled in by a sudden loss and captivated till the very end. I look forward to anything this author writes! All of her books transport your mind to the center of her books' being. A perfected skill we are all happier for. Keep that magic coming!"

Buy Echoes of Edisto now at Amazon.

Win a Review Copy of Two Natures by Jendi Reiter

Jendi Reiter's debut novel, Two Natures (Saddle Road Press, forthcoming September 2016), is now available for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. This genre-bending novel couples the ambitious political analysis of literary fiction with the pleasures of an unconventional love story.

How to Win a Free Review Copy
Sign up for Goodreads and request to join the M/M Romance Group, then check the Don't Buy My Love thread after August 18. The giveaway starts August 25, with reviews due by September 15.

Praise for Two Natures

We have had so many coming of age stories that it seems like that the genre has played itself out. I figured that if there would be any more written, they would have to be really spectacular. That is exactly what Jendi Reiter's Two Natures is...

It is a pleasure to read a novel that is literary in all of its aspects. I also found that the issue of faith that is so important to me is beautifully handled here. For those who are dealing with this issue, there is much to be learned here. We so often substitute things and events that are near for the goals that we search and one reviewer put it perfectly when he says that at that time, "Style has become God, sex has become a contact sport and jobs, money and survival are always around the corner somewhere else". We all know someone like Julian and many of us see ourselves in him. The highest praise that I can give this book is to say that "I love it" and I do. Julian is an everyman and in that he is a composite of so many gay personalities. You owe to yourselves to read this wonderful novel.

Reviews by Amos Lassen

Read an excerpt.
Listen to Julian's Playlist on Pinterest.

Two Natures

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays on "How We Teach"

Creative Nonfiction

Deadline: August 29. Creative Nonfiction magazine is seeking new essays for an upcoming issue dedicated to HOW WE TEACH.

For our spring 2017 issue, we're looking for original essays about teaching—whether in a traditional classroom or online; in summer camp or college; in preschool or in a prison; in the woods or in a workshop. 

We welcome personal stories as well as profiles, and we're open to a very wide range of experiences and circumstances. Above all, we are looking for narratives—true stories, rich with scene, character, detail, and a distinctive voice—that give insight into what it means to teach.

Submissions must be 4,000 words or fewer.

$1,000 for best essay; $500 for runner-up.

Guidelines at

Gulf Coast: Barthelme Prize for Short Prose

Deadline: August 31. Gulf Coast is now accepting entries for the 2016 Barthelme Prize for Short Prose. The contest is open to pieces of prose poetry, flash fiction, and micro-essays of 500 words or fewer. Jim Shepard will judge. Submit online or by mail. Click for the complete guidelines.

Established in 2008, the contest awards its winner $1,000 and publication in the journal. Two honorable mentions will also appear in issue 29.2, due out in April 2017, and all entries will be considered for paid publication on our website as Online Exclusives. The entry fee includes a one-year subscription to Gulf Coast.

Please enjoy "Taylor Swift" by our 2015 winner, Hugh Behm-Steinberg.

Donald Barthelme

The Gulf Coast Prize in Translation for Poetry

The Gulf Coast Prize in Translation for Poetry

Deadline: August 31. Gulf Coast is now accepting entries for the 2016 Gulf Coast Prize in Translation for Poetry. Send up to ten pages of poetry translated into English. Idra Novey will judge. Submit online or by mail. Click for the complete guidelines.

Established in 2014, the contest awards its winner $1,000 and publication in the journal. Two honorable mentions will each receive $250. All entries will be considered for paid publication on our website as Online Exclusives. The entry fee includes a one-year subscription to Gulf Coast

Please enjoy this excerpt from The Romantics' Conspiracy by the winner of our 2015 contest, Samantha Schnee, who translated El complot de los Románticos by Carmen Boullosa.

Awards for Poetry and Fiction at Snake Nation Press

Deadline: August 31. Submit electronically or by mail. We congratulate the winner of our most recent Serena McDonald Kennedy Fiction Award, Misty Urban of Findlay, IL, for her manuscript A Lesson in Manners, chosen by Jacob Appel. The winner of our Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry is John Paul O'Connor of Franklin, NY, for his manuscript Half the Truth, chosen by Tania Rochelle. Read the judges' comments.

Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry

  • $1,000 award and publication
  • Entry fee: $25
  • Submit a manuscript of up to 75-100 pages
  • Previously published works may be entered

Serena McDonald Kennedy Fiction Award

  • $1,000 award and publication
  • Entry fee: $25
  • Submit a novella of up to 50,000 words or a manuscript of short stories of up to 200 pages
  • Any well-written manuscript on any topic will be considered
  • Previously published works may be entered
A Lesson in Manners, published by Snake Nation Press

Sarton Women’s Book Awards Now Open

Sarton Women's Book Awards

Deadline: November 16. The Sarton Women's Book Awards are sponsored by the Story Circle Network, an international nonprofit association of women writers. The annual awards are given to women authors in five categories: memoir, biography, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, young adult and new adult fiction.

The awards are limited to submissions originally written in English and published in the United States and Canada by small/independent publishers, university presses, and author-publishers (self-publishing authors). Professional librarians not affiliated with the Story Circle Network select the winners. Guidelines here.

The award program is named in honor of May Sarton, who is remembered for her outstanding contributions to women's literature as a memoirist, novelist, and poet. Go here to see previous winners.

Go here to enter:

Spotlight Contests

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
Kathy Fish Fellowship for Emerging Writers. $500 fellowship for flash fiction. Due September 15.

Intermediate Writers
Young Lions Fiction Award. 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. Must be submitted by publisher. Due September 2.

Advanced Writers
Griffin Poetry Prize. Awads two top prizes of Can$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). 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: How Literacy Changes Lives

At 45 years old, Earl Mills was married with five children, owned his own home, and worked for 25 years at the same company. Yet he had a secret that few others knew: he could not read.

His lack of reading skill was exposed when he was put on the spot at church one night when he was asked to read a Bible passage. No one knew he couldn't read except his wife. Earl says, "When you can't read, you keep it under a lock and a key and you let hardly anyone inside of that part of your life."

Earl sought the assistance of the Craven Literacy Council. When he went to them they assessed him at a second-grade reading level. He had trouble spelling words like girl and bird. With sheer determination he embarked on a three-year process of learning how to read. In addition to improving his literacy skills, Mills developed his ability to capture the frustrations and triumphs through his poetry. Today, he has published several books of poetry, including From Illiterate to Poet and From Illiterate to Author.

Earl is now a passionate advocate for literacy. He recently attended the National ProLiteracy Conference in Charleston, South Carolina where he was asked to read a few of his inspiring poems to the audience of 500 literacy professionals. ProLiteracy is a national nonprofit that develops materials and programs for over 1,000 literacy member programs across the country. When people learn to read and write, they have the power to change their lives and their communities.

Read "Twenty Six Letters", a poem by Mr. Mills.

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Julian Peters: "Le vaisseau d'or" by Émile Nelligan


A great ship it was, cut from solid gold:
Its masts touched the sky, on uncharted seas;
The Goddess of Love, hair loose, chest bare,
Stretched out upon its prow, under an excessive sun.

But one night it came to strike against the great reef
In the guileful ocean mid the Siren's singing,
And the terrible shipwreck cast its keel
Into the depths of the abyss, an immutable coffin.

A ship of gold it was, whose diaphanous sides
Revealed its treasures, which the profane seamen,
Disgust, Hate, and Neurosis, have fought for among themselves.

What is left of it in the brief tempest?
What's become of my heart, that abandoned ship?
Alas! It has sunk into the depths of the Dream!

Le vaisseau d’or by Émile Nelligan, illustrated by Julian Peters


Le vaisseau d’or by Émile Nelligan, illustrated by Julian Peters

Le vaisseau d’or by Émile Nelligan, illustrated by Julian Peters

Le vaisseau d’or by Émile Nelligan, illustrated by Julian Peters

Reprinted by kind permission of Julian Peters. Visit Julian Peters Comics to learn more.

The Last Word

Nonbinary Femme Thoughts
"I am certain of the reality of my masculine other self (he wrote a whole novel, after all) and my lifelong discomfort with assumptions that I should feel at home in women-only spaces. Beyond that, though, I struggle with the fear that this is all ridiculous unless I operationalize it somehow... When I dress femme, with a curvy female figure, I brace myself for being challenged that my queer identity isn’t real."

[read more]

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

Jendi Reiter
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