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Winning Writers Newsletter - September 2023

View Free Contests

We found nearly three dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between September 15-October 31. In this issue, please enjoy "Spring and Fall" by Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jim Avis vidiette with comics by Julian Peters and music by Natalie Merchant.

Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest - Last Call
It's last call to enter our 21st annual Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest. We will award $3,000 for a poem in any style or genre and $3,000 for a poem that rhymes or has a traditional style. Ten Honorable Mentions will receive $300 each (any style). The top 12 entries will be published online. The top two winners will also receive two-year gift certificates from our co-sponsor, Duotrope (a $100 value). Length limit: 250 lines per poem. Entry fee: $22 for 3 poems. Multiple entries welcome. Final judge: Michal 'MJ' Jones, assisted by Briana Grogan and Dare Williams. Deadline: September 30. Submit online here.

Coming next month, we'll announce the winners of our 31st Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 135,000 followers on Twitter and 43,000 followers on Facebook. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Linda Dittmar, Eileen Malone, Laura PlummerMary K. O'MelvenyTerri Kirby Erickson (featured poem: "Night Talks"), Axel Forrester, Carrie Naughton, Timothy Jay SmithMichael McKeown Bondhus (featured poem: "Bean Sí"), J BrookeGloria Mindock, Judy Juanita, and Richard Raymond III.

Winning Writers contest judge Michal 'MJ' Jones's poem "Praying Mantis" was featured on Poetry Daily on September 14. It was selected from their new collection Hood Vacations (Black Lawrence Press, 2023). Michal is offering poetry critiques via the Black Lawrence Press online store through September 30, starting at $25.

Winning Writers editor Jendi Reiter's essay "Double Incision Diary" was the runner-up for the Michael Steinberg Nonfiction Prize in the 2023 Solstice Lit Mag Annual Literary Contest. Nonfiction judge Grace Talusan said, "In addition to the powerful writing about the body, I appreciated the form and structure of Reiter's account of their surgery and the way that time circles around the profound event." The most recent submission period was April 1-June 7 for this award series, with prizes of $500 for poetry, fiction, essays, and graphic literature.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Do you use TikTok or Instagram? Send your news to the @winningwriters account so we can share it!

Ad: A Supportive and Inspiring 4-Week Online Poetry Retreat Created by Poets for Poets

Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Retreat

  • October Session: October 2-29 with the Editors of Two Sylvias Press

The editors of Two Sylvias Press (Kelli Russell Agodon & Annette Spaulding-Convy) will critique poems for the October Session. We send you poetry prompts, example poems, creativity suggestions, and reflection questions to inspire your writing—ALL VIA EMAIL.

You can participate in this Online Poetry Retreat at home or on the go! ​This online retreat is private and does not include interaction with the other participants (unless you would like to join an optional and private Facebook group to share poems and your retreat experience).

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

WHAT WE PROVIDE: Poem prompts, sample poems, a Two Sylvias Press print publication (your choice), creativity suggestions, and reflection questions/activities to guide and inspire.

AND—at the end of the retreat, you will receive a professional critique of one of your poems with ideas on where to submit it!

Praise for Two Sylvias Press Online Poetry Retreat
"Thank you so much for your thoughtful and encouraging comments on my poems! I so appreciate your time and insight. I wasn't sure what to expect when I registered for the retreat, not having participated in anything like this before. I was hoping it would nudge me out of a writing lull and push me in new directions, and it absolutely delivered. The prompts introduced me to new and excellent poems, pushed me out of my comfort zone (sometimes way out!) and opened many new pathways for me to explore. I ended the retreat with several promising poems and several prompts I am still working on. The little messages of encouragement always seemed to arrive at just the right time, and the deadline to submit two poems for feedback gave me extra motivation. I would love to participate in future retreats!"
     —Lindsay Rutherford (read other testimonials here)

Click here to learn more and register.

Ad: Ploughshares Subscribers Submit for Free

Ploughshares Summer 2023 Issue

Ploughshares' Summer 2023 Issue is out now! Guest-edited by Tom Perrotta, the Summer 2023 Issue features talents Fabio Morábito, Ea Anderson, Tom Bailey, Olufunke Grace Bankole, Lauren Cassani Davis, and more!

Subscribe to Ploughshares and get the Summer 2023 Issue, as well as guarantee your copy of our upcoming Fall Issue, releasing next month! Subscribers can also submit to our regular reading period, which is currently open, for free!

Ad: Mysteries of the Mist by C.A. Rand

Mysteries of the Mist

Coralee, who just turned sixteen, is spending her summer vacation at the Silver Wing Point lighthouse with her beloved grandfather. She loves the smell of the briny sea and the way it crashes against the sandy beach and this year she discovers something so fantastical, so secret that she knows this will be the best summer yet.

But a fun vacation soon turns into a stormy disaster when her grandfather goes out to sea and doesn't return. Coralee must rely on the newfound secrets of the sea to save him. Will she do it in time to save his life?

"Perfect for 7+" — Kidliomag review

On sale now at Amazon.

Ad: Next Generation Indie Book Awards

Early-bird deadline: September 30, 2023

Entries are now being accepted for the 2024 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the most exciting and rewarding book awards program open to independent publishers and authors worldwide who have a book written in English and released in 2022, 2023, or 2024 or with a 2022, 2023, or 2024 copyright date. The Next Generation Indie Book Awards are presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group.

Enter by the early-bird deadline of September 30 and you can pick a second category for your book for free. There are 80+ categories to choose from, so take advantage of this exciting opportunity to have your book considered for cash prizes, awards, exposure, possible representation by a leading literary agent, and recognition as one of the top independently published books of the year!

Ad: Goldilocks Zone 2023 sponsored by Sunspot Lit

Sunspot Lit

Deadline: September 30

Authors and Artists Eligible

The Goldilocks Zone appears wherever conditions make a planet habitable. Sunspot Lit seeks a short story, flash piece, book-length excerpt, artwork, graphic novel, or poem that combines excellence in craft with reader or audience appeal, and thus falls into the Goldilocks Zone. Literary or genre works accepted.

First prize is $500 plus publication. Runners-up and finalists are offered publication. No restrictions on theme or category. Maximum of 2,500 words for fiction or nonfiction, 24 lines for poetry, and 8 pages for graphic novels. No size requirements for painting, photography, video stills or sculpture, although each entry is limited to one image.

Fiction and nonfiction submissions are eligible to receive feedback for an additional fee. This is entirely optional, and selecting feedback or entering the contest without feedback will have no bearing on the judging rounds. Each submission will receive a brief writeup (about one single-spaced page) commenting on critical strengths and weaknesses. This option is not available for art or poetry. The commentary will be provided 4-6 weeks after the contest closes. Please note that feedback is only available through the Submittable form. Feedback is not available for poetry or art, and will not be provided even if the feedback fee is paid.

Entry fee: $12.50

Prize: $500 cash and publication for the winner; publication offered to runners-up and finalists.

All fees are final and nonrefundable. Revised entries can be made by withdrawing the original entry and resubmitting, paying a new fee for the new submission.

Sunspot asks for first rights only; all rights revert to the contributor after publication. Works, along with the creators' bylines, are published in the next quarterly digital edition as well as in the annual print edition.

Works should be unpublished except on a personal blog or website. Artists offered publication may display their pieces in galleries, festivals or shows throughout the publication contract period.

Enter as many times as you like, but only one piece per submission. Simultaneous submissions are accepted. Please withdraw your piece if it is published elsewhere before the winner is announced.

Enter through Sunspot's Submittable form or through Duotrope.

Ad: LAST CALL! Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

Sponsored by Winning Writers

TOM HOWARD PRIZE: $3,000 for a poem in any style or genre

MARGARET REID PRIZE: $3,000 for a poem that rhymes
or has a traditional style

The top two winners will also receive two-year gift certificates from our co-sponsor, Duotrope (a $100 value)

Honorable Mentions: 10 awards of $300 each (any style)

Submit published or unpublished work. Top 12 entries published online.

Judged by Michal 'MJ' Jones, assisted by Briana Grogan and Dare Williams.

Recommended by Reedsy as one of The Best Writing Contests.

Submit 1-3 poems for one $22 entry fee.

Enter via Submittable by September 30

Ad: 2023 Fiction, Non-Fiction and Memoir Contest

IML Publications with judge Jacqueline Gay Walley

Deadline extended to October 1

IML Publications is a boutique publishing company dedicated to amplifying the voices of contemporary writers who are nomads and explorers of language, form, and the psyche. We're currently looking for high-quality, 50-page submissions of memoir, non-fiction and fiction.

To enter, please visit our contest guidelines page and submit the first 50 pages of your manuscript with a one-page synopsis. You may pay the $35 entry fee with Zelle, PayPal, or personal check.

Recommended by Reedsy

Five finalists in each category will be contacted by email and asked to submit complete manuscripts up to 100,000 words. These will be judged by our esteemed author, Jacqueline Gay Walley. The winner will receive $1,000 and possible book publication in print and digital editions.

This contest is recommended by Reedsy and has been advertised in Poets & Writers and Writer's Digest.

Questions? Please email

Ad: Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize Will Award $5,000 Per Genre

33rd Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize

Deadline: October 1

The Missouri Review invites entries for the 33rd Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize. Winners receive $5,000 and publication in the Spring 2024 issue of TMR, as well as promotion on our website, in our newsletter, and across our social media platforms. Submit one piece of fiction or nonfiction up to 8,500 words or up to 10 pages of poems. Enter online or by mail, following the guidelines here. All entries are considered for publication, whether for the print and digital issues or our online exclusive features, BLAST and Poem of the Week. Regular entry fee: $25. All-Access entry fee: $30. Winners will be announced in early 2024.

Each entrant receives a one-year digital subscription to the Missouri Review (normal price $24) and a digital copy of The Talent: Stories of Authors and Artists, the latest title in our imprint, Missouri Review Books, a short story anthology featuring former contributors (normal price $7.95). All-Access entrants receive access to the last decade of digital issues of TMR, which also offers audio recordings of the stories, poems, and essays featured in each issue.

Past winners have included Alix Christie, Thomas Dodson, Seth Fried, and Amanda Baldenaux in fiction; Jennifer Perrine, Chelsea B. DesAutels, Heather Treseler, and Diane Seuss in poetry; and Matthew Wamser, Robert Stothart, Jennifer Anderson, and Jo Anne Bennet in nonfiction. Check out all the past winners, runners-up, and finalists back to 2006 here. Read a prizewinning story by Melissa Yancy, an essay by Peter Selgin, and a selection from poetry winners Katie Bickham, Kai Carlson-Wee, and Alexandra Teague. Hear from past entrants what it's like to win here, here, and here. Also, be sure to check out Readings & Conversations with several recent winners of the Editors' Prize on our YouTube channel.

Ad: Mudfish Poetry Prize - Deadline Extended!

Mudfish Poetry Contest

Deadline extended to October 1

Last chance to enter the 17th Mudfish Poetry Prize judged by Deborah Landau! A unique contest in that each entry is passionately reviewed for inclusion in Mudfish 24 which, judging by the poems we've already received, will be a thrilling issue.

Please send at least 3 poems to us via email or snail mail, pay through PayPal or check, and know that your poems will be read with immediate appreciation and skill.

Like putting your foot in a shoe store fluoroscope machine as a child. We see your poem to its bones. See the contest guidelines.

This just in...Ross Barkan's review of Stoned, the new novel from Mudfish editor Jill Hoffman:

The poet Maud Diamond is smitten with the much younger Russian, Kazimir, in this riotous send-up of New York bohemia in the bombed out, if lovely, 1970s and 1980s. Kazimir is an artist, theoretically brilliant but doomed by his own instability. Maud has two children from a prior marriage and an all-consuming love of pot. Kazimir, fond of grand gestures like luring a full-grown horse to her apartment, prefers vodka. Her children grow, resentfully, in the shadow of this loving, strange, and absurdly volatile relationship—Lily, as a teenager, turns to a phone sex line to make ends meet—and Hoffman, through Maud's deadpan first person, keeps the reader locked into each new frenzied episode. Scattered among the novel's pages are a variety of finely-cut comic gems ("When I was young I was horrified by Eleanor Roosevelt. I thought a woman had to be beautiful.") and punchy asides that lend the novel its subtle force. The muck and blood of old New York are everywhere, and redemption through art is still somehow possible. Maud, through a windy snowfall, carries a four foot by five foot blank canvas from Pearl Paint (since shuttered). She is like "Odysseus tied to the mast," now "pirouetting on the sidewalk, trying not to let the thing drag me off my course like sirens' songs." Soon she'll meet another man. He'll smile at her with "wintery" blue eyes. Another adventure is about to begin.


A Hotel Room of One's Own

Deadline: October 5
Fee: $25

What writer wouldn't want to attend the wildly popular Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop and spend two all-expenses-paid weeks at a hotel to write? Free room service. A housekeeping staff. An omelette bar. A TV remote of your own. The sun rising over the Great Miami River (aka, the Dayton Riviera).

And, most importantly, a "Do Not Disturb" sign.

Applications for A Hotel Room of One's Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program will be accepted September 5-October 5.

Improvisor Dion Flynn, best known as Barack Obama (and other characters) on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and comedy writer Monica Piper, longtime head writer for Rugrats, will choose the two grand prize winners. Preference will be given to emerging humor writers. The package is worth approximately $5,000, but the experience is priceless. Cash prizes for finalists and honorable mentions.

Read the announcement and FAQs. Then apply here for what Forbes says "may be the best writer's residency in the country."

Ad: DISQUIET Literary Prize

Deadline: January 5, 2024

Submissions are now open for the DISQUIET Literary Prize! This contest is for writing in fiction, nonfiction, or poetry by a writer who has not yet published more than one book with a major press. The first prize winners in each genre will be published:

   - the fiction winner in
   - the nonfiction winner in
   - the poetry winner in The Common

One grand prize winner will receive a full scholarship including tuition, lodging, and a $1,000 travel stipend to Lisbon in 2024 (June 23-July 5). Genre winners will receive full tuition waivers. Cash prize available in lieu of travel. Reading fee: $15.

Read the full contest guidelines and enter at Submittable.

Ad: Next Generation Short Story Awards

Next Generation Short Story Awards

Deadline: February 28, 2024

Entries are now being accepted for the 2024 Next Generation Short Story Awards, a new and exciting awards program celebrating authors worldwide who have written a short story in English. The Next Generation Short Story Awards is a not-for-profit awards program brought to you by the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the largest international book awards program in the world for independent and self-published authors.

Take advantage of this exciting opportunity to have your story considered for cash prizes, awards and international exposure plus winners will have their short story published in an annual anthology of winners. There are 25+ categories to choose from. Enter your story today at

Ad: $2.99 Birthday Sale for Two Natures by Jendi Reiter

Two Natures

September 15 is the publication anniversary of Winning Writers editor Jendi Reiter's debut novel, Two Natures (Saddle Road Press), so we're celebrating with a sale. For just $2.99 on Kindle, catch up with fashion photographer Julian Selkirk's romantic escapades and political awakening during the AIDS crisis—and get ready for the sequel in 2024!

See what 5-star reviewers are saying on Amazon:

"Like the earlier work of Patricia Nell Warren, Reiter's representation of gay male psychology and eroticism is clear-eyed and unabashed."

"This story ripped my guts out, made me laugh, made me cry, made me angry (that part is a testament to great writing and compelling characters—I wanted to hug Julian on one page and slap him into next Tuesday on the next), and left me with the strangest sense of hope at the end."

"Because of the book's power, I am asking myself about how to define reliable to meet its obligations. Reiter's words embrace the quiet courage to become morally vulnerable."

Read an excerpt from Two Natures.

Buy now for $2.99.

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
Bennington College's Young Writers Awards. Bennington will award online publication and prizes up to $1,000 in each of three categories (poetry, fiction, and nonfiction) to high school students. Finalists and winners are also eligible for sizable, four-year undergraduate scholarships at Bennington if they ultimately enroll there. Must be received by November 1.

Intermediate Writers
Luschei Prize for African Poetry. The African Poetry Book Fund at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will award $1,000 for the best full-length collection of poetry, 48 pages minimum, published in the previous calendar year by an African national, African resident, or poet of African birth or African parentage. Translations are eligible; self-published books are not. Due October 1.

Advanced Writers
Natan Notable Books Award. The Jewish Book Council and Natan will award $5,000 and marketing support for a nonfic­­tion title that will cat­alyze con­ver­sa­tions aligned with the themes of Natan's grant­mak­ing: rein­vent­ing Jew­ish life and com­mu­ni­ty for the twen­­ty-first cen­tu­ry, shift­ing notions of indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, the his­to­ry and future of Israel, and the evolv­ing rela­tion­ship between Israel and world Jewry. Submit books pub­lished for the first time between April 1, 2023 and March 31, 2024. Must be received by October 2.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

Winning Writers finds open submission calls and free contests in a variety of sources, including Erika Dreifus' Practicing Writer newsletter, FundsforWriters, Erica Verrillo's blog, Authors Publish, Lit Mag News Roundup, Poets & Writers, The Writer, Duotrope, Submittable, and literary journals' own newsletters and announcements.

Pyre Magazine
(weird fiction, literary horror, magical realism - September 18)

(creative writing about environmental justice - September 22)

Abandon Journal: "Abandon Earth" Issue
(poetry, fiction, essays, art, reviews, comics, on selected theme - September 30)

Clinch: A Martial Arts Literary Magazine
(creative writing expressing the martial arts virtues of "patience, meditation, and surprise" - September 30)

Con Corazón en la Mano: Writing the Heartland
(personal essays by Latinx Midwesterners - September 30)

Kenyon Review: Three Themed Features
(poetry and prose about extinction, writing from rural spaces, and literary curiosities - September 30)

The Last Line
(stories ending with a required sentence - October 1)

(creative writing by disabled, queer, trans, or neurodivergent writers - October 31)

Foglifter Journal
(poetry, fiction, essays by LGBTQ authors - November 1)

The Talon Review
(poetry, fiction, art, audio/video, hybrid work - November 5)

Highlights from our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest Archives

This month, editor Jendi Reiter presents some of our favorite poems from our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest. There are many more in our Contest Archives.

Harry E. Gilleland Jr.

by Harry E. Gilleland Jr.

Most Highly Commended
2008 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest

by Caroline Zarlengo Sposto

Most Highly Commended
2011 Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse

by Richard Brook

Honorable Mention
2017 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

by McKayla Conahan

Honorable Mention
2018 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

by Matt W. Miller

Honorable Mention
2018 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

"Spring and Fall" by Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jim Avis vidiette with comics by Julian Peters and music by Natalie Merchant

Spring and Fall

Julian Peters invites you to enjoy "a beautiful and moving video by Jim Avis, pairing my comics adaptation of Gerard Manley Hopkins's poem 'Spring and Fall' with a musical interpretation of that same poem by Natalie Merchant."

The original comics adaptation, along with 23 others, can be found in Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry (Plough Publishing).

This text of the poem comes from Poetry Foundation:

Spring and Fall
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

      to a young child

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow's spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter Meta-Fiction's Diminishing Returns
I've been disappointed with a recent trend in structuring the multi-vocal or self-problematizing novel. These books don't reveal their layers of construction from the outset. Rather, what you get is an opening section that reads like a believable and emotionally engaging traditional narrative. Then, the next quarter or third of the book discloses that the story you just read is an inaccurate fiction by one of its characters, or by another character whom you haven't yet met. Following this, you guessed it, there's a third narrative undercutting the second one.

[Read more]

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