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Winning Writers Newsletter - December 2022

View Free Contests

We found over four dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between December 15-January 31. In this issue, please enjoy a vidiette of "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden, illustrated by Julian Peters and read by Joe Biden.

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

$9,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $3,000 each. $22 entry fee.

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Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to Roberta Beary, Chaun BallardRichard Eric Johnson (featured poem: "Until We Meet Again"), J Brooke, Annalee F. Cobbett, Carol D. Marsh, Alan W. King, Samantha Terrell, and Michael Bondhus.

Winning Writers contest judge Michal 'MJ' Jones's debut poetry collection, Hood Vacations, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in January and is available for pre-order. MJ says, "In churning out these poems, I thought about the many ways in which my familial and ancestral legacy was about dreaming of escape—escape from the horrors of racism and then eventually from Blackness itself through attempts at assimilation. I thought about the ways we've been taught to vacate ourselves–our Blackness, transness, queerness, etc. and wanted to write toward a refusal to do so." Read sample poems on the publisher's website.

Winning Writers mourns the passing of our subscriber Dean Kostos, an author, educator, and anthologist of Greek and Greek-American poetry. Dean's books include the poetry collection Pierced by Night-Colored Threads (MadHat Press) and the memoir The Boy Who Listened to Paintings (Spuyten Duyvil). Read an interview with him at Lambda Literary on ending mental health stigma.

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

Have news? Please email it to

Ad: Goldilocks Zone 2022, a Contest from Sunspot Lit

Sunspot Lit

Deadline: December 19, 2022

Prize: $200 cash plus publication for the winner; publication offered to runners-up and finalists

The Goldilocks Zone appears wherever conditions make a planet habitable. Sunspot Lit is looking for the single short story, novel or novella 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.

No restrictions on theme or category. Maximum of 2,500 words for short stories 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. Fee per entry: $9.50.

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 an average of two months after contest completion, 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 selected.

Learn more and submit via Submittable.

Ad: Last Call! Lilith Annual Fiction Contest (no fee)

Frankly Feminist

Deadline: December 31, 2022

Gifted fiction writers! Lilith magazine—independent, Jewish & frankly feminist—seeks quality short stories with heart, soul and chutzpah, 3,000 words or under, for our Annual Fiction Contest. First prize: $300 and publication. No entry fee! We especially like fresh fiction with feminist and Jewish nuance, and are eager to read submissions from writers of color and emerging writers of any age. Submit to with the subject line "Fiction Contest" and your last name. Include full contact information on manuscript.

And check out FRANKLY FEMINIST: Short Stories by Jewish Women from Lilith Magazine, on sale now wherever you buy books or directly from Brandeis University Press.

Ad: CLOSING SOON! Two Sylvias Press WILDER POETRY BOOK PRIZE for Women Over 50

WILDER Prize from Two Sylvias Press

Deadline: December 31, 2022

Attention Women Poets:

Two Sylvias Press is looking to publish Full-Length Poetry Manuscripts by Women Over 50
(Open to both established and emerging poets)

Prize: $1,000 and print book publication by Two Sylvias Press, 20 copies of the winning book, and a vintage art nouveau pendant

The Wilder Series Poetry Book Prize is open to women over 50 years of age (born on or before December 31, 1972). Women submitting manuscripts may be poets with one or more previously published chapbooks/books or poets without any prior chapbook/book publications. (We use an inclusive definition of "woman" and "female" and of course welcome trans women, genderqueer women, and non-binary people who are female-identified or AFAB.) All manuscripts will be considered for publication. See the complete contest guidelines.

Learn more about the prize and Two Sylvias Press. Previous winners & manuscripts chosen for the Wilder Poetry Book Prize include Gail Griffin, Michelle Bitting, Gail Martin, Kelly Cressio-Moeller, Erica Bodwell, Adrian Blevins, Dana Roeser, Molly Tenenbaum, and Carmen Gillespie.

Simultaneous submissions allowed.

NOTE: Our mission at Two Sylvias Press is to support poets. Your manuscript will NOT be disqualified if it was submitted incorrectly. We will not penalize you for trying and making a mistake. If we have a question or concern about your manuscript format, we will contact you and allow you to resubmit. Please know that we are on your side. Thank you for trusting us with your work.

Ad: DISQUIET Literary Prize—Last Call!

Deadline: January 2, 2023

Submit now to 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:

Winners in each genre will receive full tuition waivers to attend Disquiet in Lisbon this summer (June 25-July 7, 2023) One grand prize winner will receive a full scholarship including tuition, lodging, and a $1,000 travel stipend. Runners-up will receive partial scholarships. Reading fee: $15.

Click for the contest guidelines.
Enter at Submittable.

The DISQUIET International Literary Program is a two-week program that brings writers from North America and from around the world together with Portuguese writers in the heart of Lisbon for intensive workshops in the art and craft of writing.

The program is premised on several beliefs: That the conversations and exchange of ideas that result from meeting writers from around the world pushes one's own work beyond the boundaries of the self. That all writers need a community to support and sustain them. That stepping out of the routine of one's daily life and into a vibrant, rich, and new cultural space unsettles the imagination, loosens a writer's reflexes…To those ends: Come be DISQUIET-ed with us!

Ad: Call for Manuscripts! Colorado Prize for Poetry

The 2023 Colorado Prize for Poetry

  • Prize: $2,500 honorarium and publication
  • Reading fee: $28 (includes a one-year subscription to Colorado Review)
  • Submit: 48 to 100-page poetry manuscript

The Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University is seeking submissions to the Colorado Prize for Poetry until January 14th, allowing for a five-day grace period. Authors do not need to reside in Colorado or the United States. Our final judge will be associate poetry editor Felicia Zamora.

The Colorado Prize for Poetry is an international poetry book manuscript contest established in 1995. The winning book will be published by the Center for Literary Publishing and distributed by the University Press of Colorado in the fall of 2023. To find out what sort of work we publish, please take a look at some of our previous winners.

Manuscripts may consist of poems that have been published, but the manuscript as a whole must be unpublished. Please do not submit self-published books.

We have a limited number of fee waivers available for writers experiencing financial hardship. Email directly to request one of these waivers.

Find out more on our website and submit online via Submittable.

Ad: Call For Submissions—Ploughshares Seeks Poetry, Nonfiction, Fiction, and Longform Prose

Ploughshares is always seeking to discover literature's next big names. Submit your poetry, nonfiction, fiction, and longform prose to our regular reading period before it's too late! All Ploughshares subscribers can submit to our regular reading period and to our upcoming Emerging Writer's Contest for free. Learn more and submit.

Ploughshares has published quality literature since 1971. Our award-winning literary journal is published four times a year; our lively literary blog publishes new writing daily. Since 1989, we have been based at Emerson College in downtown Boston.

Ad: Rattle Chapbook Prize Closes Next Month!

Deadline: January 15, 2023

The annual Rattle Chapbook Prize gives poets something truly special. Every year, three winners will each 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 three winning chapbooks, even if one of them 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 2022 contest:

Please enjoy this poem from CooXooEii Black's winning chapbook:

The Morning You Saw a Train of Stars Streaking Across the Sky

five years and you forgot
the excitement of being on a mountain.
early morning, before the hunt, blurred hours
between night and day. the crickets chilled
in silence. sheep ridge lay in front of you.
you forgot the sensation of waiting on the sun.
when its light-blue floods over the mountain
and mixes with the dark, everything seems
to ask for the lead.

for the first time, you drove your own truck
with your uncle in the passenger seat. you remember
your first gun shot, elk drop,
sip of beer, fish caught, and war-whoop.
your uncle present for all.
a small moment, sure, to be driving him
but you're proving your coming of age.

he's told you about your dad.
said he's a cool dude. that they text from time to time.
he told you about cali and you can't imagine
your uncle in the city. you can't imagine
being with anyone on the mountain except this man
who used to parachute into smoke for a living.

those mountains are ruthless to the clueless.
you ask your uncle how he learned his way
around them. you asked and you asked and you asked.
he said be prepared to see anything.
so from that moment forward you fixed your eyes
onto the barely warming sky, your family,
your people, younger siblings,
your reservation, and every figure
that has become a father, and you wait
for the coming miracles.

Ad: On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)

On The Premises

Deadline: Friday, March 3, 2023, 11:59pm Eastern US Time

Last time we checked, 77% of web-based fiction magazines pay their fiction writers nothing.

So did 60% of print-only fiction magazines!

If you'd like to try getting paid for your fiction, why not consider us? Since 2006, On The Premises magazine has aimed to promote newer and/or relatively unknown writers who can write creative, compelling stories told in effective, uncluttered, and evocative prose. We've never charged a reading fee or publication fee, and we pay between $75 and $250 for short stories that fit each issue's broad story premise. We publish stories in nearly every genre (literary/realist, mystery, light/dark fantasy, light/hard sci-fi, slipstream) aimed at readers older than 12 (no children's fiction).

The premise of our 41st contest is "Where Is...?" For this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which one or more characters have a problem because something (someone?) important is missing. Whether whatever is missing is ever found is up to you. Choose the answer that makes the story work better.

Any genre except children's fiction, exploitative sex, or over-the-top gross-out horror is fine. We will not accept parodies of another author's specific fictional characters or world(s), and we do not accept fan fiction for the same reason. We will accept serious literary drama, crazy farces, and any variation of science fiction and fantasy you can imagine. Read our past issues and see!

You can find details and instructions for submitting your story here. 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,, the Short Story and Novel Writers guidebooks, and other short story marketing resources.

Ad: Jendi Reiter's Made Man in Q Spirit's Top Books of 2022

Made Man by Jendi Reiter

Jendi Reiter's latest poetry collection, Made Man (Little Red Tree, 2022), was featured in Q Spirit's Top 34 LGBTQ Christian Books of the Year. Lesbian minister and inclusion activist Kittredge Cherry curates this website for queer-themed and affirming spiritual artwork.

Kitt says of Made Man, "Female-to-male transition and gay identity are explored, often through the angle of Christian theology and culture, in this queer poetry collection. Literary style illuminates unexpected juxtapositions such as the Nicene Creed as interpreted by Frankenstein and an astronaut taking communion on the moon."

Please enjoy this poem from the book, first published in Ruminate Magazine. Purchase the book at Little Red Tree or Amazon.

Buzz Aldrin Takes Communion on the Moon

I don't believe I will rise again
like a wafer in an astronaut's glove,
flimsy disc set against the real
delicious zero of infinite black.
Know these words you read were put in my mouth
like the sticky dough the Irish priests
presented as a god's body to bent-down children.
I'm bones with my arms around bones
of my granddaughter in a scorched field,
dismembered a quarter-century past
suing to block the men of NASA
from forcing their god on the moon.
Lovely indifference of radio waves,
carrying alike the claiming words of man
and me,
"Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the most hated
woman in America,"
which is to say, a woman,
like the Statue of Liberty.
When your children don't slay
the heathen and the lamb
by daily recitation in school
it's me you could thank, if I wasn't ashes.
That suit-inflated Presbyterian
is still out there rhapsodizing about low-gravity wine
curling up the side of his chalice
gracefully as a teenage centerfold.
When you look up tonight
into the cold black sea of light-years
don't think of my son
or the flames he imagines licking
my vanished soul,
but praise the dust
of rocks so far-off no foot
will ever stamp it with small theories,
and let it, because unreachable,
be heaven enough.

Ad: Write & Publish More Poems in 2023!

Two Sylvias Weekly Muse

For 2023, Write More Poems, Submit More Work, and Get Organized in Your Poetry Life!

The Weekly Muse is a tool created by poets for poets that arrives in your inbox every Sunday morning to help you write new poems, find new opportunities to submit your work, and organize your week! Filled with exclusive interviews with favorite poets and your questions answered by editors, the Weekly Muse was just named a Substack Bestseller! And the Weekly Muse also has a private Facebook page where you can share poems, give or get feedback on your work from other poets and Two Sylvias Press editors, and find the nurturing community you've been missing.

"I only subscribed for the weekly poetry prompts and exercises, but the Weekly Muse has fast become one of the most valuable tools for me as a poet. I've learned so much and I've had poems accepted for publication from Weekly Muse recommendations! The editors of Two Sylvias Press really care about poets and the amount of time and energy put into the Weekly Muse is apparent. Also, I appreciate how they sometimes jump into the private Facebook page to respond to poems and answer poets' questions. I have become a huge fan of Two Sylvias and the Weekly Muse!"
~ John D., Weekly Muse Subscriber

With the new year ahead, this is the perfect time to try the Weekly Muse. For the price of a 3-4 hour poetry class, you can receive prompts, opportunities, inspiration, and ongoing support ALL year long! Click here for a subscription to the Weekly Muse with a 7-day free trial. Cancel at any time.

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
Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest. US college students can win a top prize of $10,000 and other large prizes for essays about ethical issues and the place of ethics in human life. Entries should be 3,000-4,000 words. See website for specific themes. Entrants must be registered full-time undergraduate juniors or seniors at accredited four-year colleges or universities in the US during the fall semester in which the contest opens for submissions, and they are required to have a faculty sponsor. Submit online by December 30.

Intermediate Writers
Lyric Poetry Award. The Poetry Society of America will award $500 for a lyric poem on any subject. No entry fee for members; $10 entry fee for nonmembers. We highly recommend joining the society ($55 per year, $35 for students). PSA sponsors several other awards as well. Submit your entry online by December 31.

Advanced Writers
International Booker Prize. The Booker Prize Foundation will award 25,000 pounds each for author and translator of an English translation of a novel or collection of short stories to be published in the UK or Ireland between January 1 and April 30, 2023 by an established UK/Ireland imprint. (See website for deadlines for books published after April 30.) Author and translator need not be UK/Ireland citizens or residents, but entries must be submitted by an established UK/Ireland publisher. Due January 13.

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

Search for Contests

We'll Critique Your Entire Book or Manuscript for Just $180, Shorter Work for $90—Satisfaction Guaranteed!

Winning Writers Critique Service

Compare to book and manuscript critique services charging $600 and up. For $180, we'll provide a professional critique that's 1,500-3,000 words long. You may also submit up to 3 specific questions to be answered within your critique. We guarantee your satisfaction. View a sample critique. Learn more and place your order.

We also offer critiques of poems, stories, and essays and children's picture books for just $90.

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.

Afternoon Visitor
(poetry and visual art - rolling deadline)

Wesleyan University Press: Open Poetry Reading Period
(queries for collections of poetry or translations - December 16)

Fantastic Books: Jewish Futures
(sci-fi stories about diverse future possibilities for Judaism - December 18)

Black Ocean: Debut Poetry Reading Period
(poetry first-book manuscripts - December 23)

Antimony and Elder Lace Press
(cosmic horror novels - December 25)

JackLeg Press
(queries for poetry and literary prose manuscripts - December 30)

7.13 Books
(debut literary novels - December 31)

Sinister Wisdom: Trans Partners Issue
(extended deadline for creative writing feature by lesbians with trans partners - December 31)

Agape Editions: "The Dying Light" Issue
(noir creative writing - January 1)

Swagger: A Celebration of the Butch Experience
(poetry, fiction, essays, and artwork - January 1)

Kenyon Review: "Luminous Gender Vessel" Issue
(poetry, prose, artwork, audiovisual media exploring gender constructs - January 5)

Ploughshares: Look2 Essays
(pitches for essays on overlooked writers - January 15)

Saddle Road Press: Open Submission Period
(poetry, literary fiction, creative nonfiction manuscripts - January 15)

Fulcrum Books: Women's Reproductive Health Anthology
(personal essays by authors of all genders on abortion, pregnancy, and other reproductive health issues for women - January 20)

Rooted Two: Best New Arboreal Nonfiction
(anthology of tree-themed essays, memoirs, and graphic narratives - January 31)

Under a Warm Green Linden: America//Being America
(poems on contemporary public policy - April 30)

Arc Poetry Magazine: "Crip Lives" Issue
(own-voices poetry about living with chronic illness, mental or physical - May 15)

Award-Winning Poems

This month, editor Jendi Reiter highlights poems from around the web that have won recent prizes.

Terra Incognita TERRA INFERNA
by Sara Henning
Winner of the 2022 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize
Entries must be received by December 31
This long-running poetry manuscript prize gives $1,000 and publication by Ohio University Press. Excerpted from Henning's winning collection Terra Incognita, a sequence of elegies following her mother's death from colon cancer, this poem imagines a young woman's unrealized potential to resist a male lover who erases her like one of his artworks.

by Angelo Mao
Winner of the 2019 Burnside Review Press Book Award
Entries must be received by December 31
Winners of this manuscript contest receive $1,000 and publication by Burnside Review Press, a literary publisher in Portland, Oregon. Mao's debut collection, Abattoir, brings a poetic consciousness to his work with lab mice as a Harvard research scientist. This poem uses Laplace's Law that "describes a balloon taking air from another" as a metaphor for China's takeover of Hong Kong in 2020.

by Joanne Jagoda
Winner of the 2022 Gemini Magazine Poetry Open
Entries must be received by January 3
This accessible online journal gives prizes up to $1,000 in their annual contest for unpublished poems. Jagoda's winning piece, accompanied by an archival family photo, poignantly reflects on the divergent fates of her ancestors.

by Sahar Muradi
Winner of the 2022 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry
Entries must be received by February 28
This competitive annual award for poetry manuscripts is sponsored by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. The 2023 guidelines are in process; the deadline is usually the end of February. Muradi's Octobers was the most recent winner. A zuihitsu is a Japanese literary form composed of free-associative thought fragments or loosely connected short personal essays. In this piece, the speaker begins "in Cornwallville, thinking of Kabul," preparing to give birth in America while reflecting on the different forms of displacement that her fellow Afghanis experience.

"Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden—a vidiette by Jim Avis based on illustrations by Julian Peters, read by Joe Biden

Poems to See By features 24 classic poems with visual interpretations by comic artist Julian Peters. Here Jim Avis has made a vidiette from Mr. Peters' illustrations of "Those Winter Sundays", a poem by Robert Hayden, paired with a reading by Joe Biden.

Those Winter Sundays

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter December Links Roundup: We Trans’ed Princess Di
You can have a little gabagool, as a treat: Saturday Night Live's "Don Pauly" sketch imagines what would happen if the Jersey mob got "woke". It's a scream.

[Read more]

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