The best free literary contests with deadlines through January 31.

Winning Writers - best resources for poets and writers

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Welcome to Our December Newsletter

Adam Cohen We found over five dozen quality free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between December 15-January 31. View their profiles now! See below for contests we especially recommend for writers at the beginning, intermediate, and advanced stages of their careers, and a large selection of calls for submissions. In this issue: "La Belle Dame Sans Merci", Part 1, illustrated by Julian Peters.

Open Now at Winning Writers
Deadline: April 1. 15th year. $2,250 in prizes, including a top award of $1,000. Final judge: Jendi Reiter. Previously published work accepted. See last year's winners and enter here.

Deadline: April 30. 24th year. $4,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $1,500 each. Fee: $18 per entry. Arthur Powers will judge. Previously published work accepted. See last year's winners and enter here.

Featured Sponsor: Get Feedback for Your Writing and Enter Writing Contests at

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  • Learn from feedback that will be written on everything you write. Share your poetry, stories and book chapters.
  • Enter fun writing contests with cash prizes. Choose from over 50 writing contests every month. View our contest listing.
  • Be a part of a community for writers of all skill levels. Make connections and friends.

Upcoming contest deadlines:

Share a Story in a Poem
Write a poem that tells a story and also rhymes. Winner receives $100 cash. Deadline: December 20.

Haiku Poetry Contest
Paint a mental image in the reader's mind with just three lines. $100 to the winner. Deadline: December 23.

Christmas Story
Submit a story that includes Christmas, up to 7,000 words. The winner takes away $100. Deadline: December 25.

Christmas Poetry
Share a poem about Christmas. Cash prize of $100 for the winner. Deadline: December 25.

See all our upcoming contests and
find out more.


Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Akua Lezli Hope, James K. Zimmerman (featured poem: "Side Trip"), Maureen Sherbondy (featured poem: "Arrow"), Anne Sweazy-Kulju, Phyllis Goldberg, Anita Haas, Trish Hopkinson, Dawn S. Davies, Lesléa Newman, Joan Gelfand, Linda Principe (featured poem: "Autumn Fire"), J.C. Todd, Linda Heuring, Julie Vincent, Patricia Renard Scholes, R.T. Castleberry, Peter Boadry, R. Bremner, and Barbara Brockway.

Winning Writers contest judge Ellen LaFleche was profiled on November 12 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, a Western Massachusetts newspaper. From the article: "Northampton poet Ellen LaFleche, 61, says she's interested in creating poetry about the experiences of women and working-class people. She also writes about the body, exploring its sensual and symbolic dimensions through imagery. And, since the recent death of several family members, she says, she is especially interested in challenging established ideas about the stages of grief as well as the experiences and sensations of the dying person."

Winning Writers contest judge Ellaraine Lockie's poem "Memorials" was featured on November 16 in the new online journal Ekphrastic California. This site accepts poems about art with a connection to California. Her poem "La Géante" was also featured there on December 4. Poems from her chapbook Where the Meadowlark Sings (Encircle Publications, 2015) were reprinted in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review as daily features from November 25-30. Her poem "Edge of Night" appears this month in a poster on the Devil's Slide Ride buses in Pacifica, California, as a result of a poetry contest sponsored by Dorsetta Hale, Pacifica's Poet Laureate, and the Parks and Rec Department.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Register Now for Creative Writing and Literature Classes at 92Y

FundsforWriters - Subscribe Free


FundsforWriters is a motivational and informational Friday newsletter devoured by over 30,000 readers. From markets to grants, crowdfunding to publishing, FFW leads writers to success. Chosen by Writer's Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for 15 years. - Calls for Submissions

We are a free online resource to help you find paying markets for your poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Updated daily, we report on editors and publishers who are actively seeking submissions, pay standard or competitive rates, and do not charge reading fees. Founded in 2001, is edited by freelance writer Brian Scott (@busyguru).

A few of our special features include:

  1. Sci-fi/fantasy markets that are soliciting stories
  2. Anthologists who are seeking submissions for special themed anthologies
  3. Magazine editors who are accepting fiction and nonfiction articles for upcoming issues
  4. Literary agents who are seeking new authors to represent
  5. New book imprints that are seeking new authors for debut titles
  6. Literary journals with time-sensitive reading periods that are accepting limited submissions of poetry and prose
  7. Announcements of new editors at high-paying magazines and what they are currently seeking from freelance writers

Visit now

The Antigone Poems

An intensely personal invocation of the ancient Greek tragedy, The Antigone Poems was created in the 1970s while writer Marie Slaight and artist Terrence Tasker were living in Montreal and Toronto. A bold retelling of the ancient tale of defiance and justice, its poetry and images capture the anguish and despair of the original tale in an unembellished modernized rendition. The Antigone Poems is available in an elegantly bound, print-only edition from Altaire Productions.

"...surreal and wild...terrifyingly brilliant"
—Grace Cavalieri, Washington Independent Review of Books

See reviews, sample poems from the book, and links to purchase

The Antigone Poems

Lauren Singer: Professional Editing and Proofreading

Finishing up your manuscript? Putting those last touches on your thesis or dissertation? Submitting application essays to your dream school? 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.

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 at or call 347-675-4877 for professional editing, 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!

See Lauren's six quick writing tips.

Lauren Singer

Tupelo Press Dorset Prize

Deadline: December 31. The Dorset Prize includes a $3,000 cash prize and a week-long residency at MASS MoCA worth $1,500 in addition to publication by Tupelo Press, 20 copies of the winning title, a book launch, and national distribution with energetic publicity and promotion. All finalists will be considered for publication. Results announced in spring 2016.

The final judge for the 2015 Dorset Prize will be former US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, who has asked to read not the usual 12 to 15 finalists' mss, but all 100 of our "top" submissions!

The Dorset Prize is open to anyone writing in English, whether living in the United States or abroad. Submit a previously unpublished, full-length poetry manuscript of between 48 and 88 pages (of poems). Enter online or by mail.

Learn more about the contest and read "I Think of You, Eréndira" by Maggie Smith, winner of the 2012 Dorset Prize...

Tupelo Press Dorset Prize

Women's National Book Association: 4th Annual Writing Contest

Women's National Book Association

Deadline: January 15, 2016. The Women's National Book Association is now accepting submissions for our 4th Annual National Writing Contest. All adults over 18 may enter this international contest. We are seeking excellent work on any theme to showcase to our national membership. Emerging writers are especially encouraged to enter. We will announce the winners on May 1, 2016.

There will be four awards in each category: 1, 2, 3, and Honorable Mention. The first-place winners will receive $250 each, and all the award winners will be published in a special contest edition of The Bookwoman, our national newsletter. The top winners will also be published in an anthology in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the WNBA in 2017.


  • Poetry (judged by Mary Mackey): Submit 3-5 pages, double-spaced.
  • Fiction (judged by Ann Harleman): 3,000-word maximum. Submit a story or a novel excerpt that can stand alone.
  • Creative Nonfiction/Memoir (judged by Rosemary Daniell): 2,500-word maximum.

Fees: $15 for WNBA members, $20 for non-members. Published work accepted, but please do not submit work that has received an award or been published in a publication with over 3,000 circulation.

See our complete guidelines and submit at:

Questions? Please email

Please enjoy "Hydroplaning", the second-place story Vicki deArmon submitted to our 2015 contest. See all the 2015 winning entries in this special edition of our newsletter, The Bookwoman.

2016 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

Entries must be received by January 29, 2016

Submissions are now being accepted for the seventh William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. This award, given by Stanford University Libraries in partnership with the William Saroyan Foundation, recognizes newly published works of fiction and nonfiction with a $5,000 award for the winner in each category.

The prize is designed to encourage new or emerging writers and honor the Saroyan literary legacy of originality, vitality, and stylistic innovation. For entry forms and more information on the prize, visit the Saroyan Prize website:
Congratulations to our 2014 Fiction Winner Kiese Laymon, author of Long Division, and our 2014 Nonfiction Winner Margalit Fox, author of The Riddle of the Labyrinth. See our complete list of 2014 winners and finalists.

William Saroyan

Grayson Books Chapbook Contest

Deadline: January 31, 2016. Winner will receive $500, publication of a gorgeous chapbook by Grayson Books, and 50 copies. Submit 16-24 pages of poetry. Reading fee $20. Electronic submissions preferred. Submit through

Please do not put any contact information on the manuscript; that goes on the separate submission form.

Those wishing to mail their submissions can send them to:

Grayson Books
P.O. Box 270549
West Hartford, CT 06127

Include two cover sheets (one with contact information and one anonymous) and a check made out to Grayson Books. SASE for results only. Simultaneous submissions are permissible if we are notified immediately upon acceptance elsewhere. Individual poems may have been published previously.

This year's judge is Vivian Shipley. She published two books of poetry in 2015: Perennial (Negative Capability Press) and The Poet (Louisiana Literature Press). Ms. Shipley has received the Paterson Literary Review Award for Lifetime Service to Literature, the Library of Congress's Connecticut Lifetime Achievement Award for Service to the Literary Community, and the Connecticut Book Award for Poetry two times.

Please enjoy "The First Voyages Out" by Paul Martin, winner of our 2015 competition.

Grayson Books

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays on "Learning from Nature"

Creative Nonfiction

Deadline: February 1, 2016. Creative Nonfiction magazine is seeking new essays for an upcoming issue dedicated to LEARNING FROM NATURE.

The natural world has long been a source of inspiration. We're interested in stories about how we learn from nature—whether it's airlines developing boarding methods based on movement in ant colonies or aviation engineers studying eagles' wings in order to build more aerodynamic planes; new-age fabric inspired by pine cones or energy-efficient skyscrapers modeled after termite mounds. We're looking for well-crafted narratives that will illuminate the relationship between humans and the environment, particularly as we face the challenges of climate change.

Submissions must be 4,000 words or fewer.

$5,000 for best essay; $1,000 for runner-up.

Guidelines at


Submission period: September 1, 2015-March 1, 2016. Award-winning literary annual upstreet seeks quality submissions of short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry for its twelfth issue. Past issues include interviews with Jim Shepard, Lydia Davis, Wally Lamb, Michael Martone, Robin Hemley, Sue William Silverman, Dani Shapiro, Douglas Glover, Emily Fragos, Robert Olen Butler, and Joan Wickersham.

This issue will feature an interview with poet Tony Hoagland, winner of the Poetry Foundation's Mark Twain Award and many other honors and prizes. Distributors: Ingram, Media Solutions, Disticor (Canada). Chains: Barnes & Noble, Hastings, Books-A-Million.

For new guidelines, including payment, and to submit, see

From upstreet number eleven:

In the Free Box
by Carol Edelstein

A stuffed bear with one eye
sits upright against the broken toaster.
Set by the road, the cardboard

that holds them has seen a few rains.
What's left after the good things
have been taken interests me.

I have to glance in.
I want that rare feeling of not wanting.
For a while when the grief of your

passing was still new, I had it.
I rode all around town on that slow pony.
How rich I felt, clinging to her back.


On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

Deadline: March 4, 2016. The premise of our 27th short story contest is "Changes". Write a story in which one or more character(s) have to deal with some kind of significant change. It can be any kind of change you like, and on any scale, from a change affecting only one person (or one place, or one thing) to something affecting everyone/everything everywhere, or anything between those extremes.

Winners receive between US$60 and US$220, and publication. There is no fee to enter our contest.

GENRE NOTE: Any genre except children's fiction, exploitative sex, or over-the-top gross-out horror is fine. We will also never accept parodies of another author's specific fictional character(s) or world(s). No exceptions!

Click for details and instructions on submitting your story. To be informed when new contests are launched, subscribe to our free, short, monthly newsletter. On The Premises magazine is recognized in Duotrope, Writer's Market,, and other short story marketing resources.

On The Premises

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
Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writers. Awards $10,000 and publication for a manuscript of literary prose (this year, fiction) by a first-generation US immigrant who has not previously published a book in English. Due December 31.

Intermediate Writers
Caine Prize for African Writing. Awards 10,000 pounds for short stories by African writers. Due January 31.

Advanced Writers
Griffin Prize for Excellence in Poetry. 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). 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

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture (December 15)
Terrapin Books "Dolls" Anthology (December 15)
Barking Sycamores "Reconstruction" Issue (December 19)
Kenyon Review "Poetics of Science" Issue (December 31)
The Poeming Pigeon “Cannabis” Issue (December 31)
Poetry and Business (December 31)
Pirene's Fountain "Collateral Damage" Anthology (January 2)
World Enough Writers "Bang!" Anthology (February 15)


PSA: Volunteer for Literacy

Tutor for Literacy

Literacy and education programs need volunteers! There are many ways you can help, from investing your time and expertise to donations of money, goods, or space. To get started, use the National Literacy Directory's Volunteer Search to locate a program that has volunteer opportunities.

The National Literacy Directory launched in 2010 with funding from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. It is designed to help individuals find local literacy and education programs and General Educational Development testing centers in their areas. The National Literacy Directory contains over 7,000 educational agencies located across the United States.

The National Literacy Directory is a joint effort of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the National Center for Families Learning and ProLiteracy.

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Julian Peters: "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" by John Keats (part one)

La Belle Dame Sans Merci
La Belle Dame Sans Merci
La Belle Dame Sans Merci

See the next installment in our January 15 newsletter. See the text of the poem and commentary at the Poetry Foundation. See more comics by Julian Peters.

The Last Word

Reiter's Block Year in Review
2015 was a time of transition, living out the implications of changes that began last year and gathering the courage to go public with them. Please enjoy this overview of my recent publications, spiritual thoughts, and favorite books of the year. [continue at Reiter's Block]

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

Jendi Reiter