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Welcome to Our March Newsletter

Adam Cohen

We found over three dozen quality free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between March 15-April 30. In this issue: "Infinite Splendour of Krishna", illustrated by Julian Peters.
View Free Contests

Last Call!
Deadline: April 1. 17th 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 Next Month
Deadline: April 30. 26th 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.

Want to view past newsletters? Go to Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 105,000 followers on Twitter at @WinningWriters.

Coming in next month's newsletter: We'll announce the winners of our 15th annual Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest.

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Upcoming contest deadlines:

Rhyming Poetry Contest
Write an ABAB poem. The pattern can change with every group of four lines as long as the ABAB rhyme scheme is retained. Cash prize. Deadline: March 16 (tomorrow!)

3-Line Poetry Contest
Write a poem that has a syllable count of either 5-7-5 or 5-7-7. It should not rhyme, and it must address a loved one. The winner receives a cash prize. Deadline: March 17 (in two days!)

75-Words Flash Fiction Contest
Write a story (on any topic) using exactly 75 words. The title does not count towards the word limit. Win cash. Deadline: March 18 (in three days!)

Non-Fiction Writing Contest
Submit personal essays, memoirs, and works of literary non-fiction on any topic, 500 to 7,000 words long. Winner receives cash. Deadline: March 19 (in four days!)

Love Poem Poetry Contest
Write a love poem. All forms of poetry accepted. Your love poem can be fictional or non-fictional. It can be humorous or serious. Cash for the winner. Deadline: March 20 (in five days!)

See all our upcoming contests and find out more.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

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Rattle Announces the Winner of the 2018 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor

Rolling deadline, no fee

Congratulations to Rebecca Starks, winner of the 2018 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor for her poem "Open Carry", which appeared in Rattle's Poets Respond series last fall. The annual award gives $1,000 to the poet who made the most of metaphor in a poem published by Rattle in the previous year.

Some years the entire poem is a great extended metaphor. Other years it's a poem chock full of them. This year it was a bit of both. There are no rules, no entry fees—every poem submitted to Rattle is automatically considered. To enter your own, just follow the regular guidelines and choose an appropriate category on our Submittable portal. For more on Neil Postman and the importance of metaphor, and to read the past 12 winning poems, visit the award page.

Please enjoy the winning poem by Rebecca Starks:

Open Carry

What if each of their Lives had Stood,
a folded Umbrella, until that Day—

What if the National Umbrella Association
lobbied to change luck's laws
and we could open umbrellas in the house,
lay them on beds and give them as gifts—
and even on sunny days, carry them open
in night clubs and churches,
movie theaters and elementary schools,
offices and outdoor concerts—a real cause,
so we no longer had to leave them shut up
in closets or hanging on walls
or leaning against porch railings
or stashed in the drawers of bedside tables
in hotels—so that everyone could be prepared,
everyone be saved, the black honeycomb
of mourning stand its ground
shoulder to shoulder against the cloud's
dark motive...
It rains four inches a year in Las Vegas.
What if this isn't the time to talk about umbrellas?

I have one in my bag right now,
a Robinson, a Gamp, a spring-loaded automatic,
at a touch it will bloom
to receive the syncopated sound of rain
dancing, hopping on the taut roof
the way a gun can sound like firecrackers from the sky.
It's true there are still puddles and spray,
there is the lower half of you, the arm aches,
the skin blows inside out like a skirt in the wind.
See the man trying to keep a woman dry,
covering suede and silk and hair
with the shield of his body.
What if umbrellas don't keep you dry,
people keep you dry, and are broken trying.

COG Page to Screen Awards

"I like to listen. I'm much more interested in listening than speaking, for sure."
—Final Judge Gish Jen, whom Junot Diaz calls "the Great American Novelist we're always hearing about..."

Deadline: March 31. 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 Gish Jen
  • Your story adapted as an animated short film, 2D animation, graphic novel, or series of interpretive illustrations by students in Cogswell College's celebrated Digital Art & Animation and Digital Audio Technology programs.

Learn more and enter here.

COG is honored to present an animated adaptation of Megan Merchant's "Lullaby", selected by former US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera as winner of the 2016-17 COG Poetry Awards.

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest (no fee)

Dancing Poetry Festival Contest

Deadline: April 15

Now in its 25th year, all Dancing Poetry Festival prize winners will receive a prize certificate suitable for framing, a ticket to the 2018 Dancing Poetry Festival in the Florence Gould Theater at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, and an invitation to read their prizewinning poem at the festival.

Three Grand Prizes will receive $100 each plus their poems will be danced and filmed. Many smaller prizes. Each Grand Prize winner will be invited onstage for photo ops with the dancers and a bow in the limelight.

Please look at photos of our Dancing Poetry Festivals to see the vast diversity of poetry and dance we present each year. For poetry, we look for something new and different including new twists to old themes, different looks at common situations, and innovative concepts for dynamic, thought-provoking entertainment. We look forward to reading your submissions. See the complete contest rules and please enjoy "Matisse in Morocco" by Sandra W. Soli, a 2006 Grand Prize winner.

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

Deadline: April 30

It's time to enter the 40th annual Nimrod Literary Awards: The Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and The Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction. The Awards offer first prizes of $2,000 and publication, and second prizes of $1,000 and publication. Winners will also be brought to Tulsa in October for the Awards Ceremony and Conference for Readers and Writers.

Established in 1956, Nimrod is dedicated to the discovery of new voices in literature, and the Nimrod Literary Awards are a special way to recognize talented poets and fiction writers.


  • Poetry: 3-10 pages of poetry
  • Fiction: 7,500 words maximum (one short story or a self-contained excerpt from a novel)
  • Fee Per Entry: $20 payable to Nimrod, includes a one-year subscription (two issues)

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. All finalists and semi-finalists will be considered for publication.

For complete rules, visit Nimrod's website.

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

Gulf Coast Prizes in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry

Deadline: May 1

Gulf Coast will award $1,500 and publication in Gulf Coast to the winner in each genre. Two honorable mentions in each genre will be awarded $250. All entries will be considered for publication and the entry fee includes a one-year subscription to Gulf Coast. This year's judges are Joshua Ferris (Fiction), Chen Chen (Poetry), and Lacy M. Johnson (Nonfiction).

See the complete guidelines, learn about our judges, and enter online or by mail.

Please enjoy last year's winning poem by Sam Sax, "The Weather Underground", published in Gulf Coast:

The Weather Underground

what was it that drove the weather
underground underground?
what was the switch that flipped back
their hair to show twelve foreheads
crowned with coming bullets?
was it the times, was it the tyrants,
was it the man murdered in his bed
beside his wife, was it the price of food,
the burning rubber forests, the boys
sent across the world to die?
or was it more like the steady rise
in sea level? a slowly radicalizing shoreline
the water that comes regardless
of how you build your life raft
from what rhetoric according
to whose religion. arguments over ethics
& tactics braid up into the same
conservative hairdo unless of course
there's a knife to the neck. it's amazing
what a well planted comma can do.
a well placed bomb will change
the meaning of a bus line, a dumpster
fire, police response time, polity, polite
society. the king must always be terrified.
tell me what it is exactly that would
cause you to worm into the dirt
& rise with the flood in order to help
your countrymen breathe. whose hunger
is worthy of your riot today? what does
it take to break civility into actual ass bread?
in college we began to prepare for
the coming devastation, it was always kind
of a joke, still we learned the basics
of farming dead soil, ate each other's semen,
argued over the acquisition of firearms,
built little utopias from our books' imaginations.
apocalypse is too greek a word for
the burning river to come, for the cache
of stolen hair, the camps that have been
& will again spring from the dirt
like rotting turnips. apocalypse means
a veil lifting. the wool from the eyes.
cowardice opening its curtains. comfort
into landmines. it's seventy degrees in february.
my family is under surveilance. the king
must die.

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays on "Home"

Deadline: May 21

They say it's where you hang your hat; it's where the heart is; it's where they have to take you in. But what does home mean for communities and individuals facing rising temperatures and extreme weather; wealth disparity and resource scarcity; and the forces of globalization and nationalism? What does it mean to belong somewhere? For the winter 2019 issue of Creative Nonfiction magazine, we're looking for true stories about finding—or, perhaps, coming to terms with losing—your place in the world.

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.

All essays submitted will be considered for publication; this is a paying market.

See our complete guidelines.

Creative Nonfiction

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

Bullies in Love by Jendi Reiter

Bullies in Love

Winning Writers editor Jendi Reiter's fourth poetry book and second full-length collection, Bullies in Love, is available from Little Red Tree Publishing, with illustrations by fine art photographer and Massachusetts Cultural Council award winner Toni Pepe. Poems in this collection have won prizes from Atlanta Review, Anderbo, Alligator Juniper, Descant, New Millennium Writings, Solstice Literary Magazine, Wag's Revue, and others.

Based in North Platte, NE, Little Red Tree publishes books of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and art that "delight, entertain, and educate", as well as the print and online literary magazine Peacock Journal.

"A collection to enjoy and savor...the writing dazzles, surprises, and beguiles the reader with its unexpected vistas. The photography questions what we see; the poems question the ever present role of sex, probes comfortable personal assumptions and our collective cultural fairy tales."
—5-star Amazon review by Carol Smallwood, author of Divining the Prime Meridian (Wordtech Editions, 2015)

Please enjoy this sample poem and purchase Bullies in Love on Amazon.

Polish Joke

This circus has been in our family
forty years, no,
round it up to a hundred—
from the days of us bundled and stowed
out of the old country faster than horses,
lucky as a round number,
one skinny papa with two zero eyes.
You wouldn't have believed to look at us
that we were carrying a circus.
Back then, it was just fleas.

But what gets you across the ocean
except a conjurer who pulls
scarves of red battles, blue hills and yellow butter
out of his memory hat
for weeks in the seasick dark?
Who charms fat rabbits
out of an empty cupboard
except a dame hard enough
to tango with pythons
and disappear a sword down her throat?

Later, when we had enough eggs to juggle,
we added some new members
you might recognize:

The girl who jumps from high places,
that versatile girl
who is not really sawed in half,
who is not really rising asleep from her bed
snagged on invisible wires.
The bickering family with flapping shoes
and greasepaint smiles red as borscht,
honking up in their tiny car
through the middle of somebody else's ballet,
laughter sticking to them like flypaper.
The young fellow with eyes black as magnets
who combs out golden manes,
leads tawny bodies through caged tricks,
but makes the anxious ladies wet their handkerchiefs
by sticking his head for a moment
in the whipped animal's jaws.

Our greatest addition was the strongman:
Even forty years,
no, call it a hundred
since he's been gone,
his sausage-armed sons
and their sons after them
are still pounding that mallet
against the target at their feet,
sweating to make that same bell ring
loud enough to shatter
the old man's perfect score.

"Polish Joke" was first published in the anthology Tic Toc from Kind of a Hurricane Press. Download this anthology for free (PDF).

Daughter of Destiny by Nicole Evelina

Daughter of Destiny

Winner of the 2017 North Street Book Prize

"A new twist on an old tale that gives agency, sympathy, and personality to a woman typically cast as a one-dimensional adulteress. Classic characters find their way into Guinevere's orbit in unexpected ways, keeping the novel both familiar and fresh." —Library Journal

"Evelina's re-imaginings of this familiar material is unfailingly energetic and innovative, and her version of Guinevere herself is captivating virtually from the first page—no small feat in an overall plot with such well-defined parameters. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to its sequel." —Historical Novel Society

"This first offering by Evelina is rich and stunning, easily comparable to novels by other bestselling historical fiction authors. She has done her research and created a world that is compelling, historically accurate, and a realistic portrayal of the times balanced with the mystic and the magical." —Chanticleer Book Reviews

"Written in lyrical prose and deposits you right in the middle of medieval times. The writing is fast paced, historically correct for the era, and a page turner. I sympathized with the character whom fictional history buffs branded a lustful harlot...Great twist at the end. Evelina's 15 years of research are a powerful addition to a fantastic read. Can't wait for Book Two. Prepare to embrace Guinevere. I feel privileged to have read this outstanding novel by a great writer." —Sandra Masters, Readers' Favorite (5-star review)

"Wonderfully gripping. A stunning first novel." —The Wishing Shelf Book Awards

Read an excerpt and buy now at 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
Speculative Literature Foundation Older Writers Grant. Two grants of $500 apiece for unpublished writing samples (poetry, drama, fiction, or nonfiction) by writers aged 50+ who are just starting to write professionally. Due March 31.

Intermediate Writers
Natan Book Award. The Jewish Book Council and Natan, an organization for young Jewish philanthropists, will award up to $25,000 for the completion and marketing of a nonfiction book under contract to a publisher and scheduled for publication between December 1 of the deadline year and October 31 of the year following the deadline year. The book must have the potential to be a breakthrough book for mainstream audiences that will catalyze public discussion and debate. Ideally, the book should address one or more of Natan's grant areas: the reinvention of Jewish life and community for the 21st century; changing notions of individual and collective identity for 21st century Jews; and the evolving relationship between Israel and world Jewry. Due March 31.

Advanced Writers
George W. Hunt, S.J., Prize. America, the national Catholic review published by the Jesuits of the United States, sponsors this award along with the Saint Thomas More Chapel and Center at Yale University. A $25,000 fellowship will be offered to a writer aged 22-49, whose work reflects engagement with Catholic thought and culture. For 2018, the selection committee is considering original works of cultural and historical criticism. Due March 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: Women in Literacy - The Pioneers


ProLiteracy profiles Dolly Parton, a pioneer of literacy:

Multi-talented country music professional and devoted philanthropist Dolly Parton changed the future of children's literacy across the country and around the world.

Parton's late father was never able to read or write. This inspired her to raise awareness and find a way to help children want to learn how to read, and to enjoy doing it. This led to one of the biggest moves in her already flourishing career.

In 1995, Parton founded Imagination Library in her hometown, Sevier County, Tennessee. Imagination Library sent free books to children from birth to age five in Sevier County. The program quickly gained momentum and by 2003, it became a national success with over one million books mailed out.

In 2006 the program launched in Canada. The success didn't stop there and it was launched in the United Kingdom in 2007, and in Australia in 2013.

The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, a Best Practices award from the Library of Congress Literacy Awards, and recognition in Reading Psychology are just a few of the many honors that Dolly Parton and Imagination Library have received. Additionally, numerous milestones have been achieved with new goals created each time. Such milestones include the addition of free audio and braille books in 2011 and the achievement of sending over a million books a month in 2016.

Recently, Imagination Library partnered with the Library of Congress and dedicated its 100 millionth book to the library.

The Imagination Library has also acquired a large number of organizations as champions of its service, including our home city of Syracuse's very own Literacy Coalition of New York.

"Inspiring kids to love to read became my mission. In the beginning, my hope was simply to inspire the children in my home county but here we are today with a worldwide program that gives a book a month to well over 1 million children."
—Dolly Parton

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"Infinite Splendour of Krishna", illustrated by Julian Peters

Infinite Splendour of Krishna

In Chapter 10 of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Khrisna elaborates on his transcendent nature. He is to be found within all things, but above all, as he tells his interlocutor, the warrior Arjuna, he is to be conceived of and looked for in all that is superlative and inspiring, basically the crème de la crème of creation. Among mountains, he is Mount Meru, thought to be the center of the Universe; among the celestial bodies, he is the Sun in the daytime and the Moon at night; among the letters, he is "A"; among animals, he is the lion; among birds, the mythical eagle-like Garuda; among water creatures, he is the crocodile; among trees, the banyan tree; among all the causes for procreation, he is Love; and among seasons, Krishna is the Spring, the bringer of flowers.

Based on the translation of the Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Easwaran (Nilgiri Press, 1985). Artwork by Julian Peters. See more at Mr. Peters' website.

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

This month, please enjoy this poem by K. Dymek:
"How Not to Come Out to Your Grandmother"

She tells me not to curse because it's "unladylike"
like that's something that would stop me,
like that wouldn't, in fact, encourage
F-Bombs to launch themselves from my fricative-hungry lips;
I'm feeling smart-ass,
feeling sassy,
toss out
"Good thing I'm not a lady, then…"

Yes you are, she paints
my ribcage raw & pink–

I am my own worst antagonist at this point,
purchasing pain with the prolongation of this conversation
I retort, "No I'm actually part boy"

in my smile voice,
in my, this-is-all-an-elaborate-joke-or-is-it voice,
testing the waters.

[read more]

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

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