The best free literary contests with deadlines through June 30 |

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Welcome to Our May Newsletter

We found over three dozen quality free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between May 15-June 30.
In this issue: The last stanza from "East Coker" by T.S. Eliot, illustrated by Julian Peters.

View Free Contests

Deadline Next Month
Deadline: June 30. 3rd year. Co-sponsored by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of The Frugal Book Promoter, and BookBaby. $6,000 in prizes, including three top awards of $1,500 each. This year's categories: General Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, and Creative Nonfiction & Memoir. Fee: $60 per entry. Jendi Reiter and Ellen LaFleche will judge, assisted by Lauren Singer 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 89,000 followers on Twitter at @WinningWriters.

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  • Learn from feedback that will be written on everything you write. Share your poetry, stories and book chapters.
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Upcoming contest deadlines:

Nonet Poetry Contest
A nonet has nine lines. The first line has nine syllables, the second line eight syllables, the third line seven syllables, etc. Line nine finishes with just one syllable. Winner receives $100 cash. Deadline: May 19.

Love Poem Contest
Write a love poem. All forms of poetry accepted. $100 cash prize. Deadline: May 23.

Non-Fiction Writing Contest
Submit personal essays, memoirs, and other literary non-fiction on any topic. The winner takes away $100. Deadline: May 28.

Unexpected Romance
Write a story that brings two people together, two people who may not realize they belong together but the audience is rooting for them. Win $100. Deadline: June 1.

Palindrome Poetry
This form has three parts: 1) the first half of the poem, 2) the pivot, and 3) the first half repeated but in reverse. See details and example at FanStory. Winner receives $100. Deadline: June 3.

See all our upcoming contests and find out more.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Dana Curtis (featured poem: "Wave Mechanics"), Robert and Mary Bagg, Elizabeth Marchitti (featured poem, "I Think I Should Give Up Exercise"), Ellaraine Lockie, Marvin Lurie, and Lesléa Newman.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Joshua Tree Writing Retreat

Joshua Tree Writing Retreat

Please visit for more details about our writing retreat. Register early for only $400, including lodging and all meals. We're giving Winning Writers subscribers a few extra days to qualify, so call 760-327-9759 to lock in your early bird discount. Mention that you saw us in this newsletter. (Later registration will be $540.)

When we gather like this to write and read together again and again, there is a kind of alchemy that happens. We get bigger inside. We have more acceptance for our writing and ourselves and each other. And we laugh more, too!

I welcome any inquiries via our website or phone. I hope you'll be able to join us. :)

—Riba Taylor for, 760-327-9759

The Backwaters Prize

Deadline: May 31

The Backwaters Prize is an annual award given to the author of the best submitted manuscript of original poems. All poets working in the English language may enter. The prize is $2,500 cash and publication of the winning manuscript. Our judge this year is Bob Hicok. We adhere to the CLMP code of ethics for administering a literary contest. Submit online through Submittable.

We congratulate our 2016 winner, Mary Jo Thompson, for her manuscript Stunt Heart, selected by Henri Cole. The Backwaters Press will publish her book this September.

The Backwaters Press

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Essays on “Starting Over”

Deadline: June 19

For an upcoming issue of Creative Nonfiction, we're looking for true stories about starting over. Tell us about a time when you or someone else took a do-over, snuck a mulligan, or hit the reset button, whether by choice or not.

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 offer a fresh interpretation or unique insight into the theme.

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

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.

Guidelines at

Creative Nonfiction

The Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry and the Serena McDonald Kennedy Fiction Award

Sponsored by Snake Nation Press. Deadline: August 31. Submit electronically or by mail.

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

We'll announce the winners of the 2016 contests in the next Winning Writers newsletter.

Creative Nonfiction Seeks Experimental Essays

Deadline: September 11

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 the earliest possible publication will be in Issue #67 (Spring 2018).

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

Essays must be previously unpublished and no longer than 4,500 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.

Guidelines at

Creative Nonfiction

The Frugal Book Promoter

Give your book the best possible start in life with The Frugal Book Promoter, available as an ebook for $5.99. It's full of nitty-gritty how-tos for getting nearly free publicity. Carolyn Howard-Johnson, former publicist, journalist, and instructor for UCLA's Writers' Program for nearly a decade, shares her professional experience and practical tips gleaned from the successes of her own book campaigns. She tells authors how to do what their publishers can't or won't and why authors can often do their own promotion better than a PR professional. The first edition was a multi-award winner. The second edition, updated and expanded by more than 100 pages, is a USA Book News winner.

"The Frugal Book Promoter is excellent...It has given me ideas that would never have occurred to me before and has changed the way I think about book promotion."
Carolyn Howard-Johnson —Mark Logie, poet and short-story writer, winner of the "most promising author" prize from

Learn more about The Frugal Book Promoter on Carolyn Howard-Johnson's website, or buy it now at Amazon.

Meet Carolyn when she presents at BookBaby's Independent Authors Conference in Philadelphia, Nov 3-5. Register by May 30 for the early bird rate.

Edisto Stranger by C. Hope Clark

Available for pre-order! Release date May 26.

Book Four in the series. A cold case heats up...

A dead man in Big Bay Creek, spring break, and a rogue FBI agent would be enough to drive Chief Callie Jean Morgan to drink...if she hadn't already quietly crawled inside a bottle of gin to drown her sorrows over a life ripped apart by too many losses. When her investigation into the stranger's death heats up an unsolved abduction case, Callie finds herself pitted against the town council, her son, the agent, and even the raucous college kids enjoying idyllic Edisto Beach. Amidst it all, Callie must find a way to reconcile her grief and her precious taste for booze before anyone else is killed.

"Those who haven't read any of C. Hope Clark's books are short-changing themselves. You can't begin a C. Hope Clark book and then put it down." - Clay Stafford, author and filmmaker, founder of Killer Nashville and publisher of Killer Nashville Magazine.

"Hope Clark has created another fascinating heroine in former Boston PD detective Callie Morgan. Her books are fast-paced mysteries set against the backdrop of a tiny South Carolina island where murder never happens—or so the locals would like to believe. I'm happy to recommend it." - Kathryn R. Wall, author, the Bay Tanner mysteries

Pre-order now at Amazon

Two Natures by Jendi Reiter: Now $4.99

Two Natures by Jendi Reiter

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

Jendi Reiter's debut novel, Two Natures (Saddle Road Press), is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble, and iBooks. This genre-bending work couples the ambitious political analysis of literary fiction with the pleasures of an unconventional love story.

Read Jendi's interview at Drops of Ink

Can you tell us about your new release? What inspired you to write it?
Two Natures is the spiritual coming-of-age story of Julian Selkirk, an aspiring fashion photographer, during the 1990s AIDS crisis in New York City. He wants true love but doesn't always feel he deserves it because of the emotional baggage of shame from his dysfunctional Southern Baptist family. Each of his lovers teaches him something about unselfish love and finding the divine within himself.

The book's theme arose from the ongoing conflict in contemporary Christianity over equality for LGBTQ people. I was baptized in the Episcopal Church, which has been at the forefront of this debate since we ordained an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2004. The issue tore apart some of my Christian friendships and prayer circles, including the writing group where I was working on the earliest drafts of this novel.

I was raised by two mothers in New York City in the 1970s-80s. Because of work and personal problems, they had to remain closeted, so we were cut off from gay culture during a pivotal era of community-building, activism, and artistic expression. Writing about gay New York is a way for me to connect with that history now and imaginatively live the alternate life I wished for.

How did you come up with the title?
Two Natures refers to the Christian doctrine that Jesus was both fully divine and fully human. Julian's struggle throughout the novel is to integrate his spiritual and erotic sides, which his religious upbringing split apart.

[read more]

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
Sapiens Plurum Earth Day Short Fiction Contest. Awards prizes up to $1,000 for short stories, 1,500-3,000 words, by authors aged 18+, on an environmentalist theme that changes for each contest. For 2017, entrants should write a compelling short story that challenges readers "to dream big enough dreams" by imagining a future in which humanity evolves to a better place. Due May 27.

Intermediate Writers
Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award. Sisters in Crime will award a $1,500 grant for adult crime fiction, 2,500-10,000 words, by a previously unpublished author of color. Prize must be used for "activities related to crime fiction writing and career development". Due June 15.

Advanced Writers
Griffin Poetry Prize. 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). 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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Calls for Submissions

PSA: Support ProLiteracy

Elimination of illiteracy is as serious an issue to our history as the abolition of slavery. -Maya Angelou

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The Last Stanza from "East Coker" by T.S. Eliot, illustrated by Julian Peters

Mr. Peters writes, "This is my visual adaptation of the last stanza of T. S. Eliot's 'East Coker', the second poem of his Four Quartets. It was originally published in 1940. Eliot's remains are interred in the parish church of St. Michael's in East Coker, a village in Somerset, England. The poet's memorial plaque inside the church reads, 'in my beginning is my end—in my end is my beginning.'"

Reprinted by kind permission of Mr. Peters. Visit his website.

The Last Word

Is Feminism the Right Movement for Nonbinary People?
It's patriarchy, not the existence of trans and nonbinary folks, that starves feminism for resources, so that radical feminists fear competition from issues other than the traditional one of male violence against women. I believe there should be spaces for the specific needs and solidarity of cis women who've been oppressed by men, just as there are (or should be) spaces foregrounding people of color, lesbians, trans and gender-nonconforming people, etc., but there should also be ultra-inclusive spaces where everyone affected by patriarchy and gender-based violence can share insights and support each other's rights.

[read more]

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

Jendi Reiter
One of the 101 Best Websites for Writers (Writer's Digest)