The best free literary contests with deadlines to February 28 |

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Welcome to Our January Newsletter

Adam Cohen

We found over four dozen high-quality poetry and prose contests that are free to enter with deadlines between January 15-February 28.
View Free Contests

In this issue: See our favorite resources newly added to, and Julian Peters illustrates the lyrics to "Joan of Arc" by Leonard Cohen.

Open at Winning Writers, co-sponsored by Duotrope
Deadline April 1. Free to enter, $2,250 in prizes, including a top award of $1,000.

Deadline April 30. $5,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $2,000 each. $20 entry fee.

Want to view past newsletters? Go to Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 112,000 followers on Twitter at @WinningWriters.

Coming next month: We'll announce the winners of our fourth annual North Street Book Prize.

Featured Sponsor: Enter the Indie Book Awards by February 15 - Over 70 Categories to Choose From

Indie Book Awards

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Nick Korolev, Pete Cooper, Gary Beck, Dana Curtis, Scott Winkler, Lorna Wood, Yvonne Chism-Peace, David Kherdian, and R.T. Castleberry.

Winning Writers editor Jendi Reiter's novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press, 2016) was featured in January on the book blog Snowflakes in a Blizzard.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Affiliate link: Missing deadines as a writer? Having trouble getting motivated? Today is the last day to apply for this quarter's Inside Track, Literistic's hand-picked accountability groups led by published professionals. Learn more.

Rattle Chapbook Prize - Last Day to Enter!

Rattle Chapbook Prize

Deadline: January 15

The annual Rattle Chapbook Prize gives poets something truly special. Every year, at least one winner will receive: $2,000 cash, 500 contributor copies, and distribution to Rattle's 7,000 subscribers.

In a world where a successful full-length poetry book might sell 1,000 copies, the winning book will reach an audience seven 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 all of the winning chapbooks. 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 2018 contest:

  • Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, Tales From the House of Vasquez
  • Nickole Brown, To Those Who Were Our First Gods
  • Elizabeth S. Wolf, Did You Know? (to be published in 2019)

For a sample from the series, please enjoy the title poem from In America by Diana Goetsch, one of the three winners from 2017:


"Why don't you go to Japan and ask the cats?" I said
to the TSA agent when she asked if I was Amish,
because I believe in answering a non-sequitur

with a non-sequitur. I only said it
after I'd been cleared, after I'd been strip-searched
behind frosted glass, and then posted

the bitch's face on Facebook along with her name.
Maybe being trans is like being Amish,
or maybe I went pale when I missed my flight

as Security Agent Pamela E. Starks
conferred with Explosives Expert Gary Pickering
to discuss, based on the "soft anomaly"

picked up by the body scanner, which of them
needs to search me (at one point she
suggested they each take "half").

I suppose I could have come from Amish country,
a place so deep in the heart of America it can't be seen,
and delivered to the airport by horse and buggy—

an Amish horse, oblivious to traffic. Maybe
it's because of my long black dress, or makeup
that makes it look like I'm not wearing makeup—

a goal whose purpose used to elude me,
though I totally get it now, but please don't ask.
You could go and ask the cats in Japan,

though it's bound to earn you a contemptuous frown,
by which they mean to say, "Eat my ass
in Macy's window." How do cats in Japan

know about Macy's?
you must be asking.
Beats the hell outta me. They have
no tails—did you know?

Neither do the Amish. Just kidding.
I'm still waiting to hear about
the complaint I filed, the one that,

along with the viral video of them
repeatedly calling me "it," shut down
the TSA website for three days

while they rewrote the rules about me.
"You could be charged for this,"
friends warn me, but in America

it can't be libel if it's true. I learned that
from the cats in Japan, who you can ask—
though it's best not to disturb them.

Creative Nonfiction seeks new work for an upcoming issue dedicated to MEMOIR

Deadline: February 25

We're looking for stories that are honest, accurate, informative, intimate, and—most importantly—true. Whether your story is revelatory or painful, hilarious or tragic, if it's about you and your life, we want to read it.

Submissions must be vivid and dramatic; they should combine a strong and compelling narrative with an informative or reflective element, and reach beyond a strictly personal experience for some universal or deeper meaning. We're looking for well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice; all essays must tell true stories and be factually accurate.

Creative Nonfiction editors will award $2,500 for Best Essay and two $500 prizes for runner-up. All essays will be considered for publication in a special "Memoir" issue of the magazine to be published in 2020.

Essays must be previously unpublished and no longer than 4,000 words.

See our complete guidelines.

Creative Nonfiction

On the Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

On the Premises Short Story Contest

The premise of OTP's short story contest #33 is "Hidden". For this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which someone or something of importance to the story is hidden in some way from at least one important character. It is entirely up to you whether the person/place/thing that is hidden is ever found/revealed/unhidden.

DEADLINE: 11:59 PM Eastern Time, Thursday, February 28, 2019

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.

Ventura County Writers Club - 19th Annual Poetry Contest

Ventura County Writers Club - 19th Annual Poetry Contest

Call for Submissions: "Dignity as an Endangered Species: Maintaining Respect, Honesty, and Integrity in the 21st Century" (no fee)

We are happy to announce that the newest issue of the About Place Journal, "Dignity as an Endangered Species", will be edited by Pam Uschuk with assistant editors CM Fuhrman and Maggie Miller. Submissions are welcome through March 1. Please submit here. There is no fee.

Submit poetry and prose: stories, short essays, memoir pieces, songs, hybrids, and artwork about individual dignity that address public corruption and greed, ICE arrests, and the separation of refugee children from their parents at our border as well as the takeover of education, agriculture, the workplace, and health care by wealthy corporations. We are looking for work to counter racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, xenophobia, discrimination against vulnerable populations, and the degradation of the natural world.

Learn more about our journal and submit.

42 Miles Press Poetry Award

David Dodd Lee

Deadline: March 15
Judge: David Dodd Lee, Series Editor

The 42 Miles Press Poetry Award was created in an effort to bring fresh and original voices to the poetry reading public. The prize is offered annually to any poet writing in English, including poets who have never published a full-length book as well as poets who have published several. New and Selected collections of poems are also welcome.

Manuscripts submitted for the 42 Miles Press Poetry Award should exhibit an awareness of the contemporary "voice" in American poetry, an awareness of our moment in time as poets. We are excited to receive poetry that is experimental as well as work of a more formalist bent, as long as it reflects a complexity and sophistication of thought and language.

Urgency, yes; melodrama, not so much.

The winning poet will receive $1,000, publication of his or her book, and 50 author copies. The winner will also be invited to give a reading at Indiana University South Bend as part of the release of the book. The final selection will be made by the Series Editor. Current or former students or employees of Indiana University South Bend, as well as friends of the Series Editor, are not eligible for the prize.

Winners will be announced via our website in the summer of 2019. We will also announce the winner in major magazines such as Poets & Writers. The winning book will be published in September 2020 and be available to purchase on SPD and Amazon. Previous 42 Miles Press publications include books by Allan Peterson, Betsy Andrews, Bill Rasmovicz, Carrie Oeding, Erica Bernheim, Kimberly Lambright, Nate Pritts, Mary Ann Samyn, Tracey Knapp, William Stobb, and Christine Garren.

See the complete guidelines and submit by mail or email.

Read "Sonnet No. 44" by Nate Pritts, winner of our 2016 contest.

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest (no fee)

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

Dancing Poetry Contest

Deadline: April 15

Now in its 26th year, all Dancing Poetry Festival prize winners will receive a prize certificate suitable for framing, a ticket to the 2019 Dancing Poetry Festival at the John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Theater at the Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum, 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 "Shadow Dancers" by Claire J. Baker, winner of a Grand Prize in 2018.

Jendi Reiter's An Incomplete List of My Wishes: "Exquisite...Mischievous Wit"

An Incomplete List of My Wishes

From an Amazon 5-star review by Elise Dennis:

Reiter's voice is the voice of a poet, often exquisite—"Desire smells like acid in the dark. Its face is a hundred faces, rising out of the stop bath" ("Julian's Yearbook")—and at other times mischievous in its wit—"...this is a story for, or at least about, children. Imps are for impulse, as A is for apple, as I is for ice" ("Memories of the Snow Queen").

Reiter's characters struggle with painful family relationships and sexual secrets they sometimes try to keep secret even from themselves, like the young gay men awakening to their sexual identity against the haunting background of the AIDS crisis...Readers familiar with Reiter's novel Two Natures will delight in the prequels here to both Julian's and Peter's adventures, while readers not yet familiar with Two Natures may find their appetites whetted to read that novel as well.

Buy An Incomplete List of My Wishes now for $1.99 on Kindle.

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
John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest. US high school students under the age of 20 can win $10,000 for essays about how an elected official who served during or after 1917, the year John F. Kennedy was born, risked his or her career to take a stand based on moral principles. Due January 18.

Intermediate Writers
Caine Prize for African Writing. Awards 10,000 pounds for published short stories by African writers, defined as someone who was born in Africa, or who is a national of an African country, or who has a parent who is African by birth or nationality. Due January 31.

Advanced Writers
John Gardner Fiction Book Award. Binghamton University will award $1,000 for the best English-language book of fiction (novel or short story collection) published by a US resident in the previous calendar year. Due February 1.

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

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Favorite New Resources

Since we are no longer publishing the quarterly special issues of our newsletters, we are integrating their content into our regular newsletters. Here are some of our favorite newly added resources at Winning Writers. For a full list, see our Resource pages.


10 Tips for Creating Your First Children's Picture Book
Advice from a publishing professional on picture book layout and storytelling

19th Century Character Trope Generator
Algorithm creates fun genre pastiche

Barnes & Noble Press
Bookstore chain offers free self-publishing service compatible with the B&N Nook e-reader

The Bookends Review
Online journal publishes author interviews, book reviews, and creative writing

F-BOM Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Feminist Book Club
Writers' forums, contests, and blog devoted to feminist speculative fiction

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"Joan of Arc", illustrated by Julian Peters

Joan of Arc by Julian Peters

Julian Peters illustrates the lyrics to "Joan of Arc" by Leonard Cohen (1971)

Now the flames they followed Joan of Arc
As she came riding through the dark;
No moon to keep her armour bright
No man to get her through this very smoky night.
She said, "I'm tired of the war,
I want the kind of work I had before,
A wedding dress or something white
To wear upon my swollen appetite."

"Well, I'm glad to hear you talk this way,
You know I've watched you riding every day
And something in me yearns to win
Such a cold and lonesome heroine."
"And who are you?" she sternly spoke
To the one beneath the smoke.
"Why, I'm fire," he replied,
"And I love your solitude, I love your pride."

[see the complete lyrics]

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter

Poems from Paul Fericano's "Things That Go Trump in the Night"
Famous lines from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Henry Kissinger, Humphrey Bogart, Bing Crosby, and many others are reworked into zingers that reference the Cheeto-in-Chief and his felonious hangers-on. Individually, the poems and squibs are good for a chuckle or a mood-lifter when the news gets you down. Taken as a whole, the numbing repetition of "Trump" starts to feel like a warning: dictators want all culture to be flattened into their own image.

[read more]

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

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