The best free literary contests with deadlines through July 31 |

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Welcome to Our June Newsletter

We found over three dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between June 15-July 31.
In this issue: Tagore in Delhi Airport, illustrated by Julian Peters.

View Free Contests

Last Call!
Deadline: June 30. 4th year. Co-sponsored by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of The Frugal Book Promoter, and BookBaby. Top award of $3,000, and each category winner will receive $1,000. This year's categories: Mainstream/Literary Fiction, Genre Fiction, Creative Nonfiction & Memoir, Poetry (new), and Children's Picture Book (new). Fee: $60 per entry. Jendi Reiter and Ellen LaFleche will judge, assisted by Lauren Singer Ledoux and Annie Keithline. See last year's winners and enter here.

Also open now, our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest will award $4,000 in prizes.

Want to view past newsletters? Go to Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 107,000 followers on Twitter at @WinningWriters.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

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Congratulations to Donna Baier Stein, Sara Etgen-Baker, K.A. Jagai (featured poem: "Red Blues"), Donald Dewey, Ray Keifetz (featured poem: "Night Farming in Bosnia"), Sandra Jensen, Robin Reardon, Edward Ferri, Jr., William Luvaas, Mike Tuohy, Gary Beck, and R.T. Castleberry

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

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A supportive and inspiring 4-week Online Poetry Retreat created by poets for poets

Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Retreat

WHAT YOU NEED: Access to email and a desire to write new poems.

WHAT WE PROVIDE: Poem prompts, sample poems, a Two Sylvias Press publication, a PDF of Fire On Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women's Poetry (a 377-page resource of some of the best poets writing today), as well as reflection questions/activities to guide and inspire. All prompts, writing exercises, and inspiration sent daily or weekly to your email (your choice!)

AND new this year—at the end of the retreat, an award-winning poet will critique one of your poems and offer ideas on where to submit them! (Choose from Diane Seuss, Adrian Blevins, January Gill O'Neil, Susan Rich, Jennifer K. Sweeney, and Jennifer Jean!)

Praise for Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Retreat
"I decided to take the Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Retreat as a way to reignite my passion for writing poetry and reconnect with my 'poet's mind' after not writing poetry for several years. The format was perfect for me—it enabled me to work alone and at my own pace while still feeling connected through daily prompts and encouragement. The result: I wrote more poems in that four-week period than I had written in as many years and new poems are still coming. The feedback I received was insightful and improved the poems while still showing respect for the essence of the work."
     —Cathy J.

The 2018 Autumn House Press Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction Contests

Autumn House Press is now accepting full-length manuscripts for our annual Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction contests! Postmark deadline: June 30, 2018. The winner in each genre will receive book publication, a $1,000 advance against royalties, and a $1,500 travel/publicity grant to promote their book.

The judges for the 2018 full-length contests are:

See our complete contest guidelines.

Congratulations to last year's winners: Melissa Cundieff's Darling Nova (poetry), Glori Simmons' Carry You (fiction), and Dickson Lam's Paper Sons: A Memoir (nonfiction). Please enjoy this selection from Darling Nova:

by Melissa Cundieff

When the feather appeared from my breast
I wouldn't name its color. I wouldn't
pluck it as if I would a word from a page
and allow it to disappear into memory.
When the beak broke my nose, I sang my old
language with a worm in it, and the worm dangled
with every exhale it took to conjure the distant
vowels of humanness. When the wings
made my ribs into a museum, people paid
to see. But I would not fly. Only answered
the people with a poem. The first or last line
was this: because from eye, blossoms entrance
I don't remember the rest, except
there was you, perched on leaning stacks
of ruined books. I can't speak for much more
than wanting to pull a rock from the wreck,
to throw it at the closed window, so we
could both leave like seeds spit against the sky.

North Street Book Prize for Self-Published Books

North Street Book Prize

Second Annual Tupelo Broadside Prize

Submission period: June 1-June 30 (online submission date)
Final Judge: Kevin Prufer
Prize: Three prizes of $350 and broadside publication

The Second Annual Tupelo Broadside Prize is an open poetry competition. The editors of Tupelo Press and Tupelo Quarterly will choose three winners who will each receive $350 in addition to broadside publication by Tupelo Press, 20 copies of the winning broadside, and publication in Tupelo Quarterly.

The Second Annual Tupelo Broadside Prize is open to anyone writing in the English language, whether living in the United States or abroad. Translations are not eligible for this prize, nor are previously published poems. Employees of Tupelo Press and authors with books previously published by Tupelo Press are not eligible.

Please submit 3-5 poems, maximum of 21 lines each, in one file, with the $22 reading fee, between June 1-June 30. Submissions will be accepted via Submittable only.

Attach all poems in your submission as a single document in .doc, .docx, or .pdf form. Be sure that your document is complete and formatted correctly before uploading. Click here to submit.

Results will be announced in early fall and all submitters will be notified via Submittable.

Enjoy one of last year's winning selections, "To Speak of One Is to Speak of the Other", by Susan Tichy.

To Speak of One Is to Speak of the Other
by Susan Tichy

Live trees mourn the dead ones, feed their roots

for years : thin flanks

of a worn-out doe, her twins

won’t make it, either

'And I did not weary myself in wishing

that a daisy could see the beauty of its shadow'

The Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers

The Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers

$10,000 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 "Love Refrains" by Barbara Lydecker Crane, one of the 2017 Rattle Poetry Prize Finalists:

Love Refrains

          a ghazal

Mom banged her hairbrush down in a reprimand of love.
"What an awful question! You don't understand love.

"Of course Dad loves you. How can you question that?
He doesn't have to blare it out, like a brass band of love.

"You aren't a princess to be coddled on a lap or praised
without good reason. That's a never-never land of love.

"Your father works hard, with a great deal on his mind.
Now don't go causing trouble, making a demand of love.

"Yes, I know he yells and sends you to your room a lot.
But be glad he never hits you with the backhand of love.

"Once, banished to your room, you drew a picture poem
for him. I watched him beam at you with unplanned love.

"He said he's proud of you. I've heard him tell you twice."
She brushed my hair, hard. "Barb, that's a brand of love."

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays for "Let's Talk About Sex" Issue

Deadline: July 16

For the spring 2019 issue of Creative Nonfiction magazine, we're looking for true stories about doing it. Whether you're straight, gay, or other; alone, in a couple, or in a crowd; doing it for the first time or the last, or not doing it at all, we want to hear your story.

As always, we're interested in stories that are more than mere anecdotes, and we love work that incorporates an element of research and/or makes a connection to a larger story or theme. We welcome personal stories as well as profiles, and above all, we are looking for narratives—true stories, rich with scene, character, detail, and a distinctive voice—that offer a fresh interpretation or unique insight into the theme.

Please note: for this issue, we are interested primarily (and perhaps even exclusively) in stories of consensual and/or victimless sex. Also note, we are not seeking erotica. No photos, please.

Creative Nonfiction editors will award $1,000 for Best Essay and $500 for runner-up. All essays will be considered for publication.

See our complete guidelines.

Creative Nonfiction

On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

On The Premises

The premise of OTP's short story contest #32 is "Near Death Experience". For this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which one or more characters almost die, but do not. (Other characters in the story can die, but not the one(s) the story focuses on.)

DEADLINE: 11:59 PM Eastern Time, Friday, August 31, 2018

One entry per author. There is no fee for entering this contest. Winners receive between US$60 and US$220, and publication.

GENRE RULES: No children's fiction, no exploitative sex, no over-the-top grossout horror, and no stories that are obvious parodies of well-known fictional worlds/characters created by other authors.

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.

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]

Rosa by Barbara de la Cuesta

Rosa by Barbara de la Cuesta

Winner, Brain Mill Press Driftless Unsolicited Novella Series
Darkly witty and compulsively readable, Barbara de la Cuesta's novella lets us into the private life and secret thoughts of Rosa, an undocumented home health aide grappling with menopause and her unruly body, unexpected romance, grown children who alternately worry her and fill her with pride, and how life is confronting her with everything she has ever denied herself or hidden away from. Rosa is a natural storyteller, insightful in hindsight about her own motivations and unflinching in her willingness to look at the girl she was and the woman she has become. Rosa is a daring, funny, and emotional story about a woman moving her life out of the margins and into the sun with the power of confession.

Manhattan Book Review by Jo Niederhoff (five stars)
" can we truly understand anyone if we don't know where they come from? This question (and its answer, that we can't) are the reason I love this novella so much. In a time so fraught with suspicion regarding illegal immigrants, it feels more important now than ever to read their stories, in both fiction and nonfiction. Rosa is a magnificent display of empathy, a chance to see through the eyes of those who are all too often dismissed with either disdain or pity."

Read a free excerpt
Buy at Amazon

Two Natures by Jendi Reiter: "So Much Beauty Here"

Two Natures by Jendi Reiter

Set in New York City in the early 1990s, Jendi Reiter's debut novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press) is the coming-of-age story of Julian Selkirk, a fashion photographer who struggles to reconcile his Southern Baptist upbringing with his love for other men.

  • 2016 Rainbow Awards: First Prize, Best Gay Contemporary Fiction; First Runner-Up, Debut Gay Book
  • Named one of QSpirit's Top LGBTQ Christian Books of 2016
  • 2016 Lascaux Prize in Fiction Finalist
  • 2017 National Indie Excellence Award Finalist
  • 2017 Book Excellence Awards Finalist
  • 2018 EPIC eBook Awards Finalist

"Painfully honest but worth it. There's so much beauty here—in the author's use of language certainly. And in the pursuit of non-dualism, in various levels of the story, creating complex characters that are so very human and contradictory, hypocritical. Extending the reference to Christ's two natures and how very not human it is to be split..."
Amazon 5-star review by Leah E.

Buy Two Natures 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
Blue Mountain Arts Poetry Card Contest. Awards $350 and web publication for poems suitable for a greeting card. No length limit specified, but shorter poems (one page) are probably best. Due June 30.

Intermediate Writers
Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Awards $10,000 for a first published book of poetry, 48 pages minimum, by a US citizen or legal resident. Books must have been published between July 1 of the previous year and June 30 of the deadline year. Send 8 copies of book and entry form from website. Judges seem to favor books that have already won prizes and/or come from the top literary presses. Due July 1.

Advanced Writers
Griffin Poetry Prize. Two top prizes of Can$65,000 will be awarded 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). See website for detailed eligibility rules. Publisher should send 4 copies of book plus entry form and a press packet. Due June 30.

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

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Tagore in Delhi Airport, illustrated by Julian Peters

Julian Peters writes, "On my way back from Silchar, India, where I participated in the Anuvad Arts Festival, I had an 8-hour layover at Indira Gandhi International airport in Delhi, where I read the poems of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and scribbled some drawings inspired by them on the blank spaces in my flight information printouts."

Tagore in Delhi Airport by Julian Peters

Gitanjali 50

I HAD GONE a-begging from door to door in the village path, when thy golden chariot appeared in the distance like a gorgeous dream and I wondered who was this King of all kings!

My hopes rose high and me thought my evil days were at an end, and I stood waiting for alms to be given unasked and for wealth scattered on all sides in the dust.

The chariot stopped where I stood. Thy glance fell on me and thou camest down with a smile. I felt that the luck of my life had come at last. Then of a sudden thou didst hold out thy right hand and say 'What hast thou to give to me?'

Ah, what a kingly jest was it to open thy palm to a beggar to beg! I was confused and stood undecided, and then from my wallet I slowly took out the least little grain of corn and gave it to thee.

But how great my surprise when at the day's end I emptied my bag on the floor to find a least little gram of gold among the poor heap. I bitterly wept and wished that I had had the heart to give thee my all.

Reprinted by kind permission of Julian Peters. Learn more at

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

Daily Bible Study Is My Problematic Fave
Wondering if there's an interpretation of Mary versus Martha that retains Jesus' point about priorities, without shaming Martha for doing what women have been told they have to do since the beginning of Western civilization in order to support the higher calling of (mostly male) contemplatives. Yet, in what ways am I passive-aggressive like Martha, blaming structural forces for my lack of courage or energy to claim my contemplative time as valuable? Am I really constrained, or am I not doing what God calls me to do because I'm afraid of displeasing people?

[read more]

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

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