The best free literary contests with deadlines to December 31 |

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Winning Writers Newsletter - November 2020

View Free Contests We found over four dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between November 15-December 31. In this issue, please enjoy "may my heart always" by e.e. cummings, illustrated by Julian Peters.

Open at Winning Writers, co-sponsored by Duotrope
Free to enter, $3,500 in prizes, including a top award of $2,000.

$8,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $3,000 each. $20 entry fee.

Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers 2016 Like what we do?
Please nominate us for the Writer's Digest list of the "101 Best Websites for Writers". Send an email to with "101 Best Websites" in the subject line by December 1. Include some brief comments on how Winning Writers helps you, and copy us at if you feel like it.

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

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Don Mitchell, Sue Gerrard (featured poem: "A Thousand Summers"), Saralyn Richard, Joan Bouza Koster, Nancy Shiffrin, Nick Korolev, Gary Beck, Judith M. Ackerman, J.W. Nelson, G. Greene, Anindita Sengupta, Annie Dawid, R.T. Castleberry, and Ellaraine Lockie.

Winning Writers editor Jendi Reiter's poems "Rumspringa on the Polar Express", "Year of the Rat", and "Vilna Is Burning" were published in the first issue of Subnivean, the literary journal of SUNY Oswego. They will be reading at the issue launch party, co-sponsored by SUNY Oswego's Great Lake Review, at 7:00 pm Eastern time on Thursday, November 19; join the Zoom meeting here. Their poem "Self-Portrait as Pastry Box", first published in Crosswinds Poetry Journal, was reprinted at Flowers & Vortexes Online. (Scroll down past the featured photos.)

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

Have news? Please email it to

Last Call! LitMag's Anton Chekhov Award for Flash Fiction

LitMag's Anton Chekhov Award for Flash Fiction Deadline: November 30

First Prize: $1,250, publication in LitMag, and agency review.

Finalists: Three finalists will receive $100 each. All finalists will be considered for possible agency review and publication.

Entries must be unpublished short stories between 500 and 1,500 words. Enter through Submittable only. Entry fee: $16.

Click for the complete guidelines and enter your flash fiction.


Two Sylvias Press Advent Calendar

With all new prompts for 2020

The Two Sylvias Press Advent Calendar is filled with surprise prompts to help you write new poems throughout December!

Our online virtual Advent Calendar is easy to use—simply click on the calendar date and a prompt appears. Each prompt is no more than three sentences in length, guiding you with ideas and suggestions for a new poem.

Once you open a prompt, it remains accessible, so no problem if you skip a day or two—the prompts will be waiting for you. The calendar and all of the prompts will be available through the month of January.

You will receive an access code for the Advent Calendar's web page at the end of November. Your daily surprise prompts will be ready for you to click on December 1st. We have also included some prizes hidden randomly within the calendar, so you may win a free Two Sylvias publication or product!

And, you can give our Online Poetry Prompt Advent Calendar as a gift (see our website for more details).

To see a sample prompt and order your Advent Calendar, please visit Two Sylvias Press.

Thank you for your support of Two Sylvias Press and poetry during the pandemic. Every order helps our press through these tough times.

Last Call! Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize

Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize

Deadline: December 1

DECEMBER MAGAZINE seeks unpublished submissions for our 2021 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize.

Judge Carl Phillips is the author of 14 books of poetry, most recently Pale Colors in a Tall Field. Since 2010, he has been the judge of the Yale Series of Younger Poets. In 2011, he was appointed to the judging panel for The Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Awards. His collection of poetry, Double Shadow, was a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award for poetry. Double Shadow won the 2011 Los Angeles Book Prize for Poetry. Carl is currently a professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis, and he also teaches creative writing.

Prizes — $1,500 & publication (winner); $500 & publication (honorable mention); all finalists will be published in the Spring/Summer 2021 awards issue and paid at regular contributor rates.

Submit up to 3 poems per entry. Enter online or by mail. $20 entry fee includes copy of the awards issue. For complete guidelines, please visit our website.

Lilith Magazine Annual Fiction Contest (no fee)

Lilith Magazine Annual Fiction Contest

Deadline: December 31

Calling all gifted fiction writers! Lilith Magazine—Independent, Jewish & frankly feminist—seeks quality short fiction, 3,000 words or under, for our Annual Fiction Contest. First prize $250 + publication. We especially like work with both feminist and Jewish content, and are eager to read submissions from BIJOC writers. Please submit to with "Fiction Contest" and your name in the subject line and full contact info on your manuscript.

No fee to enter. Please mention you saw our ad in the Winning Writers newsletter.

LitMag's Virginia Woolf Award for Short Fiction

First Prize: $2,500, publication in LitMag, and agency review
Finalists: Three finalists will receive $100 each

All finalists will be considered for possible agency review and publication.

Deadline: December 31

Contest Fee: $20. Entries must be unpublished short stories between 3,000 and 8,000 words. Submit through Submittable only. See the results of previous contests.

Fiction and Poetry Contests from Snake Nation Press

Serena McDonald Kennedy Award
Deadline: December 31, 2020
This award was created by Barbara Passmore, friend of Snake Nation Press, to honor her grandmother. Barbara passed away this year at the age of 92 and we continue her wishes. Submit a novella (up to 50,000 words) or a collection of short stories (up to 200 pages). Previously published works may be entered. Entry fee: $25. Winner receives $1,000 and publication. We congratulate our 2018 winner Carol Roan for A Change in the Air.


Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry Award
Deadline: March 1, 2021
Submit a poetry manuscript of 50-75 pages. Entry fee: $25. Winner receives $1,000 and publication. We congratulate our 2018 winner Sara Claytor for Keeping Company With Ghosts.




To enter electronically, please email your entry to, then choose a link below to make your payment:

You may also mail your entry and fee (payable to Snake Nation Press) to:
Snake Nation Press
P.O. Box 98
Ray City, GA 31645

If you submitted an entry to either contest in 2019, it will be included in the contests above.

Submissions Are Now Open for the DISQUIET Literary Prize!

Disquiet Literary Prize

Deadline: January 15, 2021

The DISQUIET Literary Prize is now open for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Three winners will be published online in Granta (fiction), NinthLetter (nonfiction), and The Common (poetry). One grand prize winner will receive a full scholarship including tuition, lodging, and a $1,000 travel stipend to take part in the Disquiet International Literary Program in Lisbon in 2021.

In the event the 2021 program can't be held due to coronavirus restrictions, genre and grand prize winners can choose to delay the prize trip to a later year or accept a substitute cash prize of $1,000 each.

Entry fee: $15. Read the full guidelines on our website and enter at Submittable.

Rattle Chapbook Prize

Rattle Chapbook Prize

Deadline: January 15, 2021

The annual Rattle Chapbook Prize gives poets something truly special. Every year, three winners will receive: $5,000 cash, 500 contributor copies, and distribution to Rattle's ~8,000 subscribers. In a world where a successful full-length poetry book might sell 1,000 copies, the winning book will reach an audience eight times as large on its release day alone—an audience that includes many other literary magazines, presses, and well-known poets. This will be a chapbook to launch a career.

And maybe the best part is this: The $25 entry fee is just a standard subscription to Rattle, which includes four issues of the magazine and the winning chapbook, even if it isn't yours. Rattle is one of the most-read literary journals in the world—find out why just by entering! For more information, visit our website.

We congratulate our three winners from our 2020 contest:

  • Kathleen McClung, A Juror Must Fold in on Herself (September 2020)
  • Tom C. Hunley, Adjusting to the Lights (December 2020)
  • Jessy Bertron, A Plumber's Guide to the Light (March 2021)

Please enjoy "Hot Iron" by Mather Schneider, published in his 2017 Rattle Chapbook Prize book, A Bag of Hands:

Hot Iron

She uses a flat hot iron
to straighten her hair.
It has a porcelain handle
and burning platypus jaws
and each morning she gets up
and plugs it in the wall.
You can smell it getting hot.
Her hair is a gorgeous blue black
Mexican mane, but her ex
slapped her face
told her she was ugly
and her hair was too curly
every day until it stuck.
It's a delicate operation:
to change who you are
without burning your scalp.
It's been eleven years
since she's seen him, calls
another country home now
but she still gets up
and plugs in that hot iron
every morning. It's ready
when your spit sizzles.

Jendi Reiter's Two Natures: "An Enlightening and Challenging Novel"

Two Natures

Jendi Reiter's debut novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press) is the spiritual coming-of-age story of a NYC fashion photographer during the 1990s AIDS crisis. Two Natures won the Rainbow Award for Best Gay Contemporary Fiction and was a finalist for the Book Excellence Awards, the Lascaux Prize for Fiction, and the EPIC e-Books Awards.

British literary critic and fiction writer Jack Messenger says:

"Jendi Reiter's wise and ambitious novel Two Natures is the story of young gay man Julian Selkirk who, Crusoe-like, finds himself washed ashore in New York in 1991 and 'dependent on the kindness of strangers'. Julian is an aspiring fashion photographer whose career lows and highs quickly alternate, mirroring his personal exploration of the gay scene and his search for love. The spiritual and the carnal, the beautiful and the sordid, interweave in complex patterns, overshadowed by the gathering AIDS crisis, as the years to 1996 become increasingly hostile to difference. The intensely personal is the politically fraught, and Julian has to cope with the vagaries of love and ambition while mourning friends and lovers.

"Two Natures is an all-encompassing work that plunges us into New York's rent-controlled apartments, gay bars and nightclubs, and the overlapping world of fashion shoots and glamour magazines, in pursuit of the spirit of the times."

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
Smith College High School Poetry Prize. High school sophomore and junior girls in New England or New York can win $500 for a poem of up to 25 lines. Winner and up to three finalists will read their poems via Zoom with the contest judge, a well-known poet. Due December 1.

Intermediate Writers
UNT Rilke Prize. The University of North Texas will award $10,000 for a published book by a mid-career poet. Prize includes travel expenses for readings at UNT in April of the following year. Entrants must have published at least two previous books of poetry (excluding chapbooks). Eligible books must have been published between November 1 of the preceding year and October 31 of the deadline year. Publisher or author should submit two copies of book and entry form. Due November 30.

Advanced Writers
Four Quartets Prize. The Poetry Society of America and the T.S. Eliot Foundation will award $21,000 for a unified and complete sequence of poems, 14 pages minimum, published in the US in a print or online journal, chapbook, or book during the current year. Due December 23.

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

Search for Contests

Calls for Submissions

Glish: Variety English Poetry Project
(The Pinch journal seeks unpublished poems in Singlish, Konglish, Spanglish, AAVE, and other English-associated linguistic forms - November 15)

Tint Journal
(creative writing by those for whom English is not a first language - November 30)

Somewhere We Are Human: An Anthology on Migration, Survival, and New Beginnings
(poems and essays by migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in the US - December 5)

Flowers & Vortexes
(previously published poems - December 13)

The Corona Chronicles
(anthology of fiction and essays where the pandemic is a factor in the story - December 31)

The Best New True Crime Stories: Partners in Crime
(narrative journalism about lawbreaking couples - February 15, 2021)

InkShares All-Genre Contest
(fiction and nonfiction manuscripts to share in online forum - February 28, 2021)

Tales for Love: Nature Writing Anthology
(poetry and fiction about finding hope in nature during the pandemic - April 15, 2021)

The Best New True Crime Stories: Crimes of Passion
(narrative journalism anthology about crimes of obsession and revenge - October 1, 2021)

PSA: Introducing the Literacy Relief Fund

ProLiteracy is proud to announce the launch of the Literacy Relief Fund. The fund provides direct relief to adult literacy programs, tutors, and students.

Across the United States programs are struggling to connect with learners remotely and are in desperate need of training, books, and digital/print curricula. Contributions to the Literacy Relief Fund will give these programs access to both digital and print learning materials needed to provide education remotely.

Everyone continues to feel the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, but people with lower levels of education are hit harder. While the majority of adult basic education students have smartphones, a ProLiteracy survey found that students need larger screen format devices (e.g., tablets, laptops) to effectively learn, study, and communicate online. In addition, many students can’t afford the broadband or wifi connections that are needed for a remote learning environment.

Learn more and donate to the Literacy Relief Fund.

Favorite Books

This month, editor Jendi Reiter presents selected books that deserve your attention. There are many more in our Books resource section. Winning Writers earns a small commission from books sold by Amazon.

13th Balloon

Mark Bibbins
This multi-layered yet accessible book-length poem is an elegy for the author's late partner, Mark Crast, one of the many casualties of the AIDS crisis at its height in the 1980s and early 90s. From the vantage point of 2020, a middle-aged gay man looks back on the ghosts of his community and surveys a youth culture that knows of the mass devastation only as history, if at all. Brief unpunctuated lines give the poem the contemporary immediacy of a social media newsfeed, while the everyday embodiments of grief have a timeless relevance.

Gillian Cummings
This collection of sensual prose-poems is an imagined autobiography of the model Fernande, the subject of French photographer Jean Agélou's erotic postcards in the early 20th century. Slipping gracefully between English and French, her wordplay is as elusive as a woman desired by all, understood by none.

Amanda Leduc
A hybrid of memoir and literary criticism, this important and engaging book challenges us, as writers, readers, and myth-makers, to resist the habitual misuse of disability as a symbol of tragedy or villainy. Canadian novelist Leduc interweaves her thesis with personal memories of growing up with cerebral palsy and interviews with modern disability activists.

Don Mitchell
In this compelling hybrid memoir and true-crime account, Mitchell recounts how the cold-case murder of his friend Jane Britton, a fellow graduate student in the Harvard anthropology department, was solved after 49 years. Shibai, a Japanese word for a stage play, also means "gaslighting" or "bullshit" in the slang of Mitchell's native Hawai'i. As an anthropologist among the Nagovisi people of Bougainville, Mitchell learned early that truth is always filtered through the stories we tell ourselves and the roles in which our culture casts us. When Becky Cooper, a journalist for the New Yorker, contacts him for a book she is writing about Jane's case, he discovers, in retelling the story to a stranger, that his long-held assumptions about the murder don't hold up. With him, the reader relives the Kafka-esque terror of being suspected by the police, the frustration when the investigation is stonewalled or misled by people he once loved, and the sorrow and relief of finally filling in the gaps about Jane's last moments. The resulting saga is a profound and subtle meditation on memory, aging, and our responsibility to the dead. Like a shadow that provides contrast in a photograph, Jane's unlived life stands as a counterpart to Mitchell's honest and self-aware journey through the milestones of his 77 years, from the triumphs and disappointments of his academic career to his deep relationship with the Hawaiian landscape and people.

Sam Sax
sad boy/detective
In this innovative, sensual chapbook about a possibly-neurodivergent queer boy's coming of age, the central metaphor of "the boy detective" expresses the protagonist's separateness from, and scandalous curiosity about, human bodies and the social world they inhabit. Phenomena that everyone around him take for granted are a fascinating mystery to him. The sadness comes from the paradox that as he tries to get under the world's skin and see what it's made of, he pushes it farther away, because his probing has violated social conventions. Winner of the Spring 2014 Black River Chapbook Competition from Black Lawrence Press.

"may my heart always" by e.e. cummings, illustrated by Julian Peters

Poems to See By features 24 classic poems with visual interpretations by comic artist Julian Peters. Mr. Peters has graciously allowed us to reprint "may my heart always" from the book. Poems to See By makes a wonderful gift for the holidays. The hardcover edition is less than $20 at Amazon (you might see a 3 for the price of 2 offer—if so, grab it!)

may my heart always

may my heart always

may my heart always

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

Poem: "Strap-On Ghazal"
During the darkest moments of Election Week 2020, I spent a lot of time in the graveyard across the street from my house, invoking the ancestors. Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali (1949-2001) is buried there. These delightful reminiscences from poet Steven Cordova on the Lambda Literary website show Ali's gay side, as in both sexuality and playfulness. I apologize to his spirit for the poem I wrote this morning after visiting his grave. Please sponsor me to write even worse poems every day this month in support of the Center for New Americans.

[read more]

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