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Winning Writers Newsletter - April 2019

View Free Contests Latorial Faison and Sean Patrick Mulroy


We found over three dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between April 15-May 31.

LATORIAL FAISON and SEAN PATRICK MULROY won the top awards of $1,500 each in our 16th annual Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest. Contest co-sponsor Duotrope awarded Faison and Mulroy one-year gift certicates (value $50) to access Duotrope's extensive literary information services. 3,895 entries were received from around the world. We awarded 10 Honorable Mentions to Wes Civilz, McKayla Conahan, Jen Stewart Fueston, Brooke Harris, Simon Lewis, Belle Ling, Kathleen Lynch, Matt W. Miller, Tim Slade, and Lena Khalaf Tuffaha. Read today's press release, and read the winning entries selected by Soma Mei Sheng Frazier and assistant judge Jim DuBois. Our 17th contest opens today. Ms. Frazier and Mr. DuBois return to judge, and we have increased the top prizes to $2,000 each. Enter here.

Last Call!
Deadline: April 30. 27th year. $5,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $2,000 each. Fee: $20 per entry. Final judge: Dennis Norris II. Previously published work accepted. See last year's winners and enter here.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 116,000 followers on Twitter at @WinningWriters. Interested in advertising? Learn more.

Featured Sponsor: Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition

Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition

Early-Bird Deadline: May 1 ($15 entry fee)
Final Deadline: May 15 ($20 entry fee)

Lorian Hemingway Writers of short fiction may now enter the 2019 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition. The competition has a thirty-nine year history of literary excellence, and Lorian Hemingway and her small judging panel are dedicated to enthusiastically supporting the efforts and talent of writers of short fiction whose voices have yet to be heard. Lorian Hemingway, a granddaughter of Nobel laureate Ernest Hemingway, is the author of three critically acclaimed books: Walking into the River, Walk on Water, and A World Turned Over. Ms. Hemingway is the competition's final judge.

The first-place winner will receive $1,500 and publication of their winning story in Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts. The second- and third-place winners will receive $500 each. Honorable mentions will also be awarded to entrants whose work demonstrates promise. Cutthroat was founded by editor-in-chief Pamela Uschuk, winner of the 2010 American Book Award for her book Crazy Love: New Poems, and by poet William Pitt Root, Guggenheim Fellow and NEA recipient. The journal contains some of the finest contemporary fiction and poetry in print, and the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition is both proud and grateful to be associated with such a reputable publication.

Submit original unpublished fiction up to 3,500 words in length. No restriction on country of author. Submit online or by mail. Learn more on our website.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Barbara de la Cuesta, Evelyn Krieger, Trent Busch, Mary K. O'Melveny, Gary Beck, Sheila K. Barksdale, Patricia J. Machmiller, Roberta Beary, R. Bremner, Don Mitchell, Ruth Thompson, Sarah Kornfeld, Paul C. Thornton, R.T. Castleberry, and Yvonne Chism-Peace.

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

Have news? Please email it to

COG Page to Screen Awards – Deadline Extended!

April Sinclair

Deadline extended to April 30

This year's COG Page to Screen Awards final judge is award-winning YA legend April Sinclair, whose debut novel Coffee Will Make You Black was named Book of the Year (Young Adult Fiction) by the American Library Association, received the Carl Sandburg Award, and established Sinclair as one of the first author-activists to amplify the voices of urban teens. Accordingly, Sinclair was voted the #43 Favorite Author of the 20th Century.

Gunning to be voted into the ranks of America's favorite authors of the 21st century? Plenty of decades to go...but it starts with getting your work out there, and the COG Page to Screen Awards offer one writer the opportunity to see their work adapted for the screen.

Submit unpublished short stories and creative nonfiction pieces no longer than 7,000 words. Entry fee: $17.

Winner receives:

  • $1,000 prize
  • Publication online and in the print issue of COG
  • A blurb about your short story by April Sinclair
  • Your story adapted as an animated short film, 2D animation, graphic book/ebook, or series of interpretive illustrations by students in the celebrated Digital Art & Animation Program and Audio & Music Technology Program at Cogswell College
  • Results will be announced in May 2019.

Check out COG's adaptations of prior literary competition winners—including Megan Merchant's Lullaby, selected by 2017 US Poet Laureate and 2017 COG Poetry Awards final judge Juan Felipe Herrera.

Submit to COG's Page to Screen Awards at Submittable.

$6,000 in Prizes: Nimrod International Journal's Literary Awards for Fiction and Poetry

Nimrod Literary Awards

Deadline: April 30

The 41st annual Nimrod Literary Awards—The Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and The Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction—are open. The Awards offer first prizes of $2,000 and publication and second prizes of $1,000 and publication. Winners will be brought to Tulsa in October for the Awards Ceremony and Conference for Readers and Writers. All finalists and semi-finalists will be considered for publication, and those published will be paid $10 per page. The final judges for 2019 are Kim Addonizio (poetry) and Margot Livesey (fiction).


  • Poetry: 3-10 pages
  • Fiction: 7,500 words maximum
  • Fee Per Entry: $20 payable to Nimrod, includes a one-year subscription

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 via Submittable.

For complete rules, please visit Nimrod's website.

Last Call! Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

Curt Johnson Prose Awards

Deadline: May 1

DECEMBER MAGAZINE seeks submissions for our 2019 Curt Johnson Prose Awards in fiction and creative nonfiction. Judges—Rita Mae Brown (fiction) and Amy Chua (nonfiction). Prizes each genre—$1,500 & publication (winner); $500 & publication (honorable mention). All finalists will be listed in the 2019 Fall/Winter awards issue. $20 entry fee includes a copy of the awards issue. All submissions considered for publication. Submit one story or essay up to 8,000 words. For complete guidelines and judge information, please visit our website.

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays for “Exploring the Boundaries” Section

Deadline: May 13

Creative Nonfiction is currently seeking experimental nonfiction for the "Exploring the Boundaries" section ("experimental", "boundaries"...yes, we know these can be loaded terms). We're looking for writing that is ambitious, pushes against the conventional boundaries of the genre, plays with style and form, and makes its own rules. As always, we have only one absolute rule: nonfiction must be based in fact.

Please note that this is NOT a call for an entire "Exploring the Boundaries" issue of the magazine; accepted pieces will be published one per issue, and earliest possible publication will be in Issue #72 (Fall 2019). 4,500 word maximum.

See our complete guidelines.

Creative Nonfiction

Carve Magazine Raymond Carver Short Story Contest

Deadline: May 15

Now in its 19th year, the Carve Magazine Raymond Carver Short Story Contest is one of the most renowned fiction contests in the world. Featuring prominent guest judges and offering $2,500 across five prizes, the contest delivers exciting new fiction from writers all over the world. The contest opens each year April 1-May 15 and prizewinners will appear in the fall issue of Carve in October alongside in-depth interviews of the authors. Additionally, Carve will forward the winning stories to three literary agencies. Claire Fuller, author of Bitter Orange, is the 2019 guest judge.

Visit Carve's page at Submittable to read the full guidelines and submit.


New Letters New Letters invites you to submit fiction, poetry, or an essay to the New Letters Literary Awards. Winners receive $2,500 in each genre and publication in New Letters. Deadline for entry is May 20th.

All entries are considered for publication and must be unpublished.  All entrants receive a one-year subscription. Winners will be announced mid-September 2019. Essay and fiction entries may not exceed 8,000 words; poetry entries may contain one to six poems.

Previous judges have included Philip Levine, Joyce Carol Oates, Rishi Reddi, Mary Jo Salter, Carole Maso, Cornelius Eady, Margot Livesey, Benjamin Percy, Robin Hemley, and Kim Addonizio.

For guidelines visit our website or send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Ashley Wann, Assistant Editor, New Letters, 5101 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110.

Mudfish Poetry Prize #14

Deadline: May 30

We're waiting for you!
Judged by poet & critic John Yau

First Place: $1,200 + publication in Mudfish 21
First & Second Honorable Mentions: publication in Mudfish 21

Submit 3 poems for $20, $3 for each additional poem.
Please include author name and poem titles on cover page only.

Send submissions to:
184 Franklin Street Ground Floor
New York, NY 10013

New electronic submission option
Go to Mudfish and pay your entry fee via PayPal (accepts credit and debit cards also). Then, email your poems to (include your PayPal transaction ID number).

"Jill Hoffman, a painter and a poet and a fiction writer, edits a thick and handsome literary magazine called Mudfish."
—Donald Hall,
A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety

The Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry

The Blue Lynx 2019 Prize for Poetry

Deadline: June 1

Lynx House Press seeks submissions of full-length poetry manuscripts for the 22nd annual Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry. The winner receives $2,000 and publication.

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, Lou Lipsitz, Roy Bentley, Arianne Zwartjes, Doren Robbins, and Lynne Burris Butler. The 2018 winner was Joe Wilkins for his collection Thieve. Lynx House Press has been publishing fine poetry and fiction since 1975. Its titles are distributed by the University of Washington Press.

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

Submit via Submittable.

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays for “Power” Issue

Deadline: June 10

Creative Nonfiction is looking for new work about power. For this issue, we are seeking true stories that explore the dynamics within groups and systems, however big or small—for example, family units, schools, sports, churches, and government.

We're interested in everything from the murky world of politics to the power games we all occasionally play. Share your stories about power lunches, power grabs, power suits, powerlifting, people power (and/or power to the people), or will power. Tell us about a time when you (or someone else) had power, or a time when you didn't, or tell us about your secret superpower.

Above all, we are seeking vivid narratives, sourced from true events, that demonstrate strong storytelling, voice, and grasp of detail.

Essays must be previously unpublished and no longer than 4,000 words. All essays must tell true stories and be factually accurate. Everything we publish goes through a rigorous fact-checking process, and editors may ask for sources and citations.

See our complete guidelines.

Creative Nonfiction

POET HUNT 24 is now open!

The MacGuffin's 24th Poet Hunt Contest runs from April 1 through June 15! One first place winner will receive $500 and publication in a future issue. This year, we're excited to bring in Richard Tillinghast to serve as guest judge.

There are two ways to enter: submit online by visiting our website and selecting "MacGuffin" from the SHOP tab where you can purchase an entry; or mail up to 5 poems, an index card with your name, poem titles, and contact info, and a $15 check/cash entry fee (make checks payable to Schoolcraft College) via post. For full info, see our contest rules.

North Street Book Prize for Self-Published Books

North Street Book Prize

The Rattle Poetry Prize Will Award $10,000 for a Poem

Rattle Poetry Prize

Deadline: July 15

The annual Rattle Poetry Prize is once again offering $10,000 for a single poem to be published in the winter issue of the magazine. Ten finalists will also receive $200 each and publication, and be eligible for the $2,000 Readers' Choice Award, to be selected by subscriber and entrant vote.

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.

Enjoy "The Blades" by Katie Bickham, winner of the 2018 Readers' Choice Award:


In the new world, as the goddess dictated,
each time a man touched a woman against
her will, each time he exposed himself,
each time he whistled, dropped something
in her drink, photographed her in secret
she sprouted a wing from her spine. Not feathered,
like birds or angels, not cellular, translucent,
veined like dragonflies, but a wing
like a blade, like a sword hammered flat,
thin as paper. One wing per wrong.
At first, the women lamented. All their dresses
needed altering, their blankets shredded,
their own hair sliced off like a whisper
if it grew down their backs. And those
misused by fathers, bosses, drunken strangers
evening after evening were blade-ridden,
their statures curved downward like sorrow
under such weight. But this was not the old world
of red letters or mouthfuls of unspoken names,
not the old world of women folded
around their secrets like envelopes, of stark
rooms where men asked what they’d done
to deserve this. And the goddess whispered
to the women in their dreams, and they awakened,
startled, and knew the truth.
They pinned up their hair, walked out into the morning,
their blades glittering in the sun, sistering
them to each other. They searched for the woman
with the most blades, found her unable to stand,
left for dead, nearly crushed beneath the blades’ weight.
They called her queen. They lifted her with hands
gentle as questions, flung her into the air,
saw her snap straight, beat the wings at last,
and they followed her, a swarm of them, terrible
and thrumming, to put the blades to use.


Our Last Six Months, Grand Prize Winner, North Street Book Prize

Our Last Six Months

When independent single dad Aubrey reveals that he has stage 4 cancer, "normal life" goes out the window for his ex-wife and their thirteen-year-old son. They and others witness his brave efforts to heal himself in his final months of life as he struggles to come to terms with his mortality. The family learns on their feet as they encounter each new situation. The narrative shares an unsentimental description of the patient's experiences with hospitals and nursing care, the end-of-life decisions he encounters, the activities of his caregivers, the responsibilities of his health-care advocates, and the role of professional helpers such as Social Workers and Hospice.

"Emily Bracale of Bar Harbor, Maine won this year's Grand Prize across all genres for her graphic narrative, Our Last Six Months, a tender, homespun, and informative memoir of how her blended family came together to nurse her ex-husband through terminal cancer…Despite the heavy topic, the artwork has an intimate, humorous flavor, almost like The New Yorker's Roz Chast…We were so impressed with the potential of this format that we are adding a Graphic Narrative category for the 2019 prize."
—Jendi Reiter, awarding the Grand Prize to Our Last Six Months

"This is more than a memoir—it is an essential guidebook for others in similar difficult situations. The author gives us a direct and true account in an honest and openhearted way, never maudlin or sentimental. Illustrations help to tell this story with warmth and humor. This is a gem of a book."
—Jeanie Smith, Board President, The Whole Health Center

Learn more and buy Our Last Six Months.

W R Rodriguez & The Bronx

The Bronx Trilogy

The Bronx is a worthy subject for poetry: this belief has motivated Rodriguez's writing for over four decades. Growing up with his parents’ memories of the Golden Age of The Bronx, Rodriguez witnessed the borough's fall to ruin. He refers to his three books as The Bronx Trilogy. All are available on his Smashwords page.

From the Banks of Brook Avenue, the third book of the trilogy, just won first prize for poetry in the North Street Book Prize competition. Jendi Reiter’s critique can be read at Winning Writers. A Kirkus reviewer wrote:

Poet Rodriguez...brings his Bronx Trilogy to a resounding, satisfying conclusion...His verse is unpretentious though never unprepossessing...Rodriguez makes room for a strand of social commentary that not only lends his writing weight and force, but also makes the collection a compelling read for New Yorkers and non-New Yorkers alike... (Kirkus Reviews)

Concrete Pastures of the Beautiful Bronx, the second book, received this commentary by Ingrid Swanberg, editor of Abraxas and of Ghost Pony Press:

These poems lyrically evoke the Bronx realities of the "promised land"—its people, ancestors, ghosts, tenements, streets, cemeteries, landlords, police, laborers, poverty, baseball, "the secrets of the land beneath the asphalt" and, above all, the joy and exuberance of the young...He expresses a patience with America, "nation of immigrants", as rare as the beauty his poetry uncovers in the slums of the Bronx.

The Shoe Shine Parlor Poems et al, the first book, was published by Ghost Pony Press in 1984. In The Bronx County Historical Society Journal, Mary Ilario wrote:

The erratic rhythm of his poems evokes images sharp as photographs. You meet the people of his world, a world filled with casual violence and brutality...No, his poetry is not at all pretty, but it is very beautiful. I think you will find it well worth reading, even if you don’t like poetry.

Also available at Smashwords (free!): From the Banks of Brook Avenue: Annotated Edition
Each of the forty poems is followed by a discussion of the people, places, and events that inspired it, and the author shares previous drafts and early notes.

Read sample poems and listen to the author read them on his website.

Buy The Bronx Trilogy and the individual books on Smashwords.

Saving Nary, a novel by Carol DeMent

Saving Nary

"a sensitive, complex portrait of people coming to terms with unthinkable acts perpetrated against one another"
—Jendi Reiter, awarding the North Street Book Prize to Saving Nary

First Prize, Genre Fiction, 2018 North Street Book Prize
Finalist, Multicultural Fiction, 2018 Indie Book Awards

Exploring the losses, loyalties and secrets held within families broken by war and genocide, Saving Nary presents a palette of unique characters who struggle to make sense of the events that led them to America, even as they ponder the bewildering culture and lifestyle of their new homeland.

Refugee Khath Sophal lost everything when the Khmer Rouge swept into power in Cambodia: family members murdered before his eyes; his daughters taken from him and still missing; his sanity barely intact from the brutality he has been forced to witness.

Now resettled in the Pacific Northwest, Khath treads a narrow path between the horrors of his past and the uncertainties of the present. Then Khath meets Nary, a mysterious and troubled Cambodian girl whose presence is both an aching reminder of the daughters he has lost, and living proof that his girls, too, could still be alive.

Nary's mother Phally, however, is another matter. A terrible suspicion grows in Khath's mind that Phally is not who or what she claims to be. A split develops in the community between those who believe Phally and those who believe Khath. And those, it seems, who just want to stir up trouble for their own personal gain.

Khath's search for the truth leads him to the brink of the brutality he so despises in the Khmer Rouge. His struggle to wrest a confession from Phally ultimately forces him to face his own past and unravel the mystery of his missing daughters.

Buy Saving Nary on Amazon.

A moving masterpiece, worthy of five stars…

Winner of the 2018 North Street Book Prize for Creative Nonfiction & Memoir

Pavarotti and Pancakes has been called a moving memoir that chronicles growing up with a mother who slid into psychosis because of sexual abuse suffered during her childhood. Part family saga, part cultural history of Italian-American manhood, this tragicomic coming-of-age is set against the rise and fall of Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The author's extended family embodied the best and worst of southern Italian culture: loyalty, pride and a secretive code of silence. They spent decades protecting the family's good name by expertly sweeping abuse and alcoholism under the rug. The author's father, a concrete contractor nicknamed "Frankie the Voice" for his musical talent and guinea charm, brazenly rubbed elbows with members of the Mafia who controlled Atlantic City in the 1980's. His cavalier and chauvinistic approach to life angered his in-laws, who blamed his manly code of incompetency for their sister's misery and depression.

Critics have said that Pavarotti and Pancakes is a cathartic, immersive, and compelling read, with a hopeful ending.

"Pavarotti and Pancakes stood out from other family-trauma memoirs we've read, because the author wants to tell the story of something larger than himself: an Italian immigrant community with gifts and flaws on an operatic scale. Atlantic City herself becomes a character—his mother's story arc writ large, all glittering promise and seamy collapse. Instead of prescriptive platitudes about recovery and forgiveness, Granieri simply lets his agonized love for his mother emerge from the texture of their everyday lives. It comes through in his nostalgia for the long-lost happiness of Sunday breakfasts, or the years of shell-shocked patience as the boys try to concentrate on normal childhood preoccupations of homework, girls, and baseball while stepping over her filthy prone form on the carpet."
—Jendi Reiter, awarding the North Street Book Prize to Pavarotti and Pancakes

Buy Pavarotti and Pancakes on Amazon.

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
Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships. Poetry magazine, highly prestigious, awards five fellowships of $25,800 each for US authors aged 21-31 as of the deadline. Upload 10 pages of poetry. Due April 30.

Intermediate Writers
Black Orchid Novella Award. $1,000 and publication in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine is awarded for the best traditional mystery novella. Prefers an old-fashioned story of deduction, with a witty style and an engaging relationship between the characters, and no explicit sex or violence. Due May 31.

Advanced Writers
Whiting Foundation Creative Nonfiction Grant. Up to eight grants of $40,000 each will be awarded to US writers completing creative nonfiction books that are currently under contract with US publishers. Due April 22.

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 Pays—Get the Facts

Literate citizens earn more money, take better care of their health, commit fewer crimes, and are better able to help their children learn. ProLiteracy has been leading the charge for over 60 years. Get the facts.

Selected Greats from our Fiction & Essay Contest Winners

This month, editor Jendi Reiter highlights selected entries from past Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contests. This year's deadline is April 30. Learn more about the contest.

Tom Alberti "Stranger in the Snow"
by Tom Alberti
Third Prize
2012 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

"After It Rains"
by Stacie Tomita
Most Highly Commended
2013 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

by Dana Yeo
Most Highly Commended
2013 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

"Born-Again Anthropologist"
by L. Lanser-Rose
Honorable Mention
2014 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

See more winning entries in our Contest Archives

Children: An excerpt from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

The Prophet

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.

And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Read The Prophet on Wikisource

The Last Word

Jendi ReiterGraphic Novels and Comics Roundup: Witches, Gods, and Ducks
The purple melodrama of "Batman" suits my camp aesthetic, but at read-aloud time, I try to point out the mental-health ableism and inaccuracy of Arkham Asylum as a revolving door of grotesque villains. Batman and the Joker seem like two sides of self-hating homosexuality—the flamboyant predator and the Übermensch of the police state.

[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)