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Winning Writers Newsletter - April 2023

View Free Contests

We found over three dozen excellent free poetry and prose contests with deadlines between April 15-May 31. In this issue, please enjoy "The World Is Too Much With Us" by William Wordsworth, illustrated by Julian Peters.

Maurya Kerr and Tamara Panici, winners of our 20th annual Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest MAURYA KERR and TAMARA PANICI won the top awards of $3,000 each in our 20th annual Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest. Contest co-sponsor Duotrope awarded our winners two-year gift certificates (value $100) to access Duotrope's extensive literary information services. Visit the winners' pages to read their poems and see the original artwork we commissioned for them.

2,495 poets competed from around the world. We awarded 10 Honorable Mentions to Alfredo Aguilar, jason b. crawford, Jane Ebihara, James Evans, Richard Haney-Jardine, A.D. Lauren-Abunassar, Jed Myers, Dion O'Reilly, Liz Schroeder, and Gail Thomas.

Read our press release, and read all the winning entries selected by S. Mei Sheng Frazier with assistance from Michal 'MJ' Jones. Our 21st contest opens today. We bid Ms. Frazier a fond farewell for her years of service to this contest and welcome MJ in their new role as final judge. They will be assisted by Briana Grogan and Dare Williams. We will again award $3,000 to each of the top winners and are increasing the Honorable Mention awards from $200 to $300 each. The entry fee is now $22 for 1-3 poems. Enter here.

Last Call!
Deadline: April 30. 31st year. $9,000 in prizes, including two top awards of $3,000 each. Fee: $22 per entry. Final judge: Mina Manchester. Both unpublished and previously published work accepted. See last year's winners and enter here.

View past newsletters in our archives. Need assistance? Let us help. Join our 140,000 followers on Twitter and find us on Facebook. Advertise with us, starting at $40.

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• Beta readers and peer reviewers
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• Up-to-date rules for accommodating gender-specific and other cultural needs
• A chapter for word-lovers and poets
• Quickie reviews of word processors
• What front and back matter can do for your book sales, your career, and your readers
• Considerations around sensitive language have evolved greatly over recent years
• How to spot publishing scams

Get your copy now from Modern History Press (paperback $26.95) or Amazon Kindle ($8.95).

Recent Honors and Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

Congratulations to James K. ZimmermanJennifer M. PhillipsPaul DresmanLucile BurtMarvin J. LurieNoah BerlatskyLesléa NewmanTeresa BurlesonPerry TerrellNick KorolevMark Fleisher (featured poem: "Knowing When"), and Gail Thomas.

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: Schedule Your Free Publication Consultation at Atmosphere Press

Atmosphere Press

In a world of agents not responding to your emails, traditional presses taking fourteen months just to send you a form rejection, and self-publishing seeming like a last resort, what do you do? You can either let your manuscript get stale as it falls to digital dust on your laptop, or you can start taking things into your own hands.

To help you think through your options, Atmosphere Press is now offering free publication consultations for serious writers to help them explore possibilities and strategize. This call will be helpful, educational, and will be with a true and experienced publishing expert, not a salesperson.

Schedule your consultation now to get some real expert (and human) feedback on your writing and your publication options.

Ad: One More Day by Diane Chiddister

Grand Prize, 2022 North Street Book Prize Competition sponsored by Winning Writers, and Finalist in the First Novel category, Next Generation Indie Book Awards

From the North Street critique by Jendi Reiter:

Diane Chiddister's exquisite literary novel One More Day delves into the inner lives of four denizens of an old-age home. Full of tenderness that stays on the right side of sentimentality, One More Day braids its characters' paths into a journey that leaves all their lives richer. The action is intimate and small-scale, but as Robert Frost said, "the game is played for mortal stakes." Nothing less is at issue here than how we might die well.

Read an excerpt (PDF), see the trailer, and buy now at Amazon.

"Achingly beautiful, heartbreaking and ultimately a tender celebration of life."
—Natalie Symons, novelist

Ad: Last Call for Our Fiction & Essay Contest!

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

Ad: Ploughshares Emerging Writer's Contest

Ploughshares Emerging Writer's Contest

Deadline: May 15

Calling all writers: Ploughshares Emerging Writer's Contest is open now! Featuring judges Gish Jen for fiction, Sandra Cisneros for poetry, and Meghan O'Rourke for nonfiction.

Submit your fiction, nonfiction, or poetry for the chance to win $2,000, publication in Ploughshares, and a conversation with Aevitas Creative Management.

$24 entry fee includes a one-year subscription to Ploughshares (beginning with the Spring 2023 issue and ending with the Winter 2023-2024 issue) and free submissions to the 2023 regular reading period. Current Ploughshares subscribers may enter for free!

See the contest guidelines.

Ploughshares is a quarterly literary journal that publishes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by award-winning writers. Our issues have been guest edited by talents such as Tracy K. Smith, Celeste Ng, Tess Gallagher, and more.

Ad: Submit now for Grist's Imagine 2200 climate fiction contest (no fee)

Grist Imagine 2200 Climate Fiction Contest

Submissions are now open for Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors, Grist's cli-fi contest. Imagine 2200 seeks stories of 3,000 to 5,000 words that envision the next 180 years of equitable climate progress—roughly seven generations—imagining intersectional worlds of abundance, adaptation, reform, and hope.

There is no cost to enter. Submissions close June 13, 2023, 11:59pm US Pacific Time. The winning writer will be awarded $3,000, with the second- and third-place winners receiving $2,000 and $1,000, respectively. An additional nine finalists will each receive $300. All winners and finalists will have their story published in an immersive collection on Grist's website. Stories will be judged by a panel of literary experts, including acclaimed authors Paolo Bacigalupi, Nalo Hopkinson, and Sam J. Miller. Learn more and submit your story here.

Ad: The Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry

The Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry

Deadline: June 15

Lynx House Press seeks submissions of full-length poetry manuscripts for the annual Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry. The winner receives $2,000 and publication. Each entrant receives a copy of a book from our back catalog.

The Prize is awarded for an unpublished, full-length volume of poems by a US author, which includes foreign nationals living and writing in the US and US citizens living abroad.

Previous winners include Carolyne Wright, Jim Daniels, Roy Bentley, Arianne Zwartjes, Lynne Burris Butler, Suzanne Lummis, Prartho Sereno, Marc Harshman, and Joe Wilkins. The 2022 winner was Sara Moore Wagner for her collection Lady Wing Shot. Lynx House Press has been publishing fine poetry and prose since 1975.

Poems included in submissions may not have appeared in full-length, single-author collections. Acknowledgments pages and author names may be included. Entries must be at least 48 pages in length. The reading fee for submitting is $28.

Submit via Submittable.

Ad: The 17th Mudfish Poetry Prize

Mudfish Poetry Contest

Deadline: June 15

A prize of $1,200 and publication in Mudfish is given annually for a single poem. Deborah Landau will judge. Submit up to three poems of any length with a $20 entry fee ($3 for each additional poem). All entries are considered for publication in the next issue of Mudfish.

See our entry submission page, or make your fee payable to Mudfish and mail with your entry to:
Mudfish Poetry Prize
Attn: Jill Hoffman, Editor
184 Franklin Street
New York, NY 10013

You may also send your fee via PayPal to and submit your entry via email.

With your entry, please include a cover letter with the titles of the poems you've submitted, your name, and contact information (mailing address, phone number, and email address if available). Your name should not appear on the poems themselves. If submitting by postal mail, please also include a self-addressed stamped envelope to receive the results.

Stoned by Jill Hoffman Also from Box Turtle Press, the end of April will see the publication of Jill Hoffman's long-overdue EXCITING second novel, STONED! We welcome your pre-orders.

In Jill Hoffman's irresistible Stoned, the poet Maud Diamond not only indulges in reefer madness in her Beresford bathroom, but takes a much younger live-in lover, a handsome Russian (would-be-famous) artist, to the horror of her precocious children. An explosive triangle, by turns hilarious and heartbreaking, brilliantly drawn with outsized characters worthy of Dickens, lavish imagery, and impeccable comedic timing. Hoffman has written a book so poignant and pleasurable, like a Crème Brûlée for the eyes, you'll read it again and again. And yet for all its seeming decadence there is a purity here like a fawn running into the water.

—Stephanie Emily Dickinson, author of Razor Wire Wilderness

Ad: Win $500 and Publication in Poet Hunt 28

The MacGuffin's 28th Annual Poet Hunt

Deadline: June 15

$500 and Publication will be awarded to the Grand Prize winner of The MacGuffin's POET HUNT 28. Barbara Crooker serves as the contest's guest judge. Up to two Honorable Mention poets will also be published along with the names of the finalists and semifinalists. All entrants will receive a copy of the issue that includes the judge's selections.

Send up to five poems per $15 entry fee. Include a cover page that lists your contact info and poem titles. This should be the only page containing personally identifiable information to preserve the anonymous review process. On the following page(s), include your poems, beginning each poem on a new page.

Enter via Submittable, by email, or mail your materials to:
The MacGuffin • Attn: Poet Hunt 28 • 18600 Haggerty Road • Livonia, MI 48152

For the complete rules, visit The MacGuffin's website.

Ad: Our North Street Book Prize Now Welcomes Hybrid-Published Books, Ups Top Prize to $10,000

North Street Book Prize

One of the very best contests for self-published and hybrid-published books, sponsored by Winning Writers. Submit in one of these categories:

  • Mainstream/Literary Fiction
  • Genre Fiction (e.g. romance, mystery, thriller, young adult, science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, etc.)
  • Creative Nonfiction & Memoir (Wikipedia definition)
  • Poetry
  • Children's Picture Book
  • Middle Grade (new!)
  • Graphic Novel & Memoir
  • Art Book (see definition on guidelines page)


  • ONE GRAND PRIZE WINNER WILL RECEIVE $10,000, a marketing analysis and one-hour phone consultation with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, a $300 credit at BookBaby, three months of Plus service (a $207 value) and a $500 account credit from Book Award Pro, and 3 free ads in the Winning Writers newsletter (a $525 value)
  • THE TOP WINNER IN EACH CATEGORY WILL RECEIVE $1,000, a marketing analysis and one-hour phone consultation with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, a $300 credit at BookBaby, three months of Plus service from Book Award Pro (a $207 value), and one free ad in the Winning Writers newsletter (a $175 value)
  • ONE HONORABLE MENTION IN EACH CATEGORY WILL RECEIVE $300 and three months of Plus service from Book Award Pro (a $207 value)
  • We will publish online excerpts from all entries that win a prize, along with critiques from the judges


  • $75 per book


  • The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson (PDF)
  • Free guides to successful publishing from BookBaby
  • Three months' free subscription to Book Award Pro (Essentials tier), so you can find more great contests for your book
  • A free mini-course, "An Introduction to Self-Publishing", at Self-Publishing Made Simple

Entries are accepted online and by mail. Click to learn more.

Ad: Rattle Poetry Prize

Rattle Poetry Prize

Deadline: July 15

The annual Rattle Poetry Prize celebrates its 18th year with a 1st prize of $15,000 for a single poem. Ten finalists will also receive $500 each and publication, and be eligible for the $5,000 Readers' Choice Award, to be selected by subscriber and entrant vote. All of these poems will be published in the winter issue of the magazine.

With the winners judged in a masked review by the editors to ensure a fair and consistent selection, an entry fee that is simply a one-year subscription to the magazine—and a runner-up Readers' Choice Award to be chosen by the writers themselves—the Rattle Poetry Prize aims to be one of the most writer-friendly and popular poetry contests around.

We accept entries online and by mail. See Rattle's website for the complete guidelines and to read all of the past winners.

Please enjoy last year's Readers' Choice Award winner by George Bilgere, published in Rattle #78, Winter 2022:


We're bicycling through the Tiergarten
on a summer morning in Berlin,
my wife and I, our son in his bike seat,
and it really is a lovely day, except
someone has spray painted in red,
dripping cursive on the marble pedestals
of the statues of the great poets
and composers scattered around the park,
Juden Raus, Jews Out, and my first thought
is, hey, my German is getting better,
I figured that out right away,
even though the handwriting is poor,
but of course the author was working
in the dark, and under a certain pressure,
so really, you can't blame him, and besides,
the quality of the handwriting isn't
the point here, nor is my progress
in German, which in most respects
has been disappointing. The point
is that we have a bottle of wine
and some ham and cheese sandwiches
and we're going to make the best of it,
we're going to spread the blanket
and have a picnic here in the not entirely
new Germany, that bad last century
still bleeding into this one, blood
still soaking the feet of the poets,
while our little boy, new to history,
runs laughing under a blazing sun
through the green illiterate meadows.

Ad: From Mormon to Mermaid by Lorelei

From Mormon to Mermaid

Winner of the 2022 North Street Book Prize for Creative Nonfiction & Memoir

For fifty years Lorelei lived the life of a devout Mormon woman.

As a child, her mother told her stories of her pioneer ancestors who crossed the plains to find religious freedom. She grew up in Salt Lake City, was baptized in the Tabernacle font on Temple Square, performed baptisms for the dead in the Salt Lake Temple, and also played the world-famous Tabernacle organ. She attended Brigham Young University, was sealed to her husband for time and all eternity in the Los Angeles Temple, and always said yes to the many callings her bishops extended to her.

Her life revolved around Mormonism and its clearly outlined path leading to exaltation. Then life's dilemmas thundered around her as she studied and prayed, and the doctrinal foundation she had built her life on crumbled.

From the North Street critique by Jendi Reiter:

The author recalls how her Sunday School teacher told her at age seven, "When the prophet speaks, the thinking is done." Lorelei's father made a convoluted effort to reconcile this directive with believers' free will, but her subsequent life showed that the compromise was unworkable.

Like many traditional religious organizations, the Mormon church depended on an army of female volunteers whose leadership was not acknowledged or compensated. When Lorelei was a teenager, the church threw its financial and political clout behind blocking the Equal Rights Amendment. Decades later, they were instrumental in passing Proposition 8, the (thankfully short-lived) ban on same-sex marriage in California. The author's devotion to the church was continually tested by cognitive dissonance between the amount of labor that women did, and the official stance that excluded them from authority...

First-round judge Annie Mydla said of this book: "At a time when religious fanaticism is growing stronger in our country and worldwide, I'm finding books with an inside view irresistible… The author is not content to escape and then expose the unhealthy aspects of the system she was born into. She also finds something rich and strange within herself… [The mermaid theme] communicates that freedom is not just escape, it also involves the responsibility of creating new and sustainable conditions in which the real self can live every day."

Read an excerpt from From Mormon to Mermaid (PDF)

Buy this book on Amazon

Ad: Paisley Invasion by Alicia Czechowski

Paisley Invasion

Winner of the 2022 North Street Book Prize for Graphic Novel & Memoir

Extraterrestrial beings in paisley form arrive on Planet Earth. Seemingly benign, Paisleys proceed to invade human spaces with little regard for decorum, or existing décor. Confronted with swarms of Paisleys, people watching TV, dog-walking, or showering are variously intrigued, terrified, or enraged. Humanity is faced with a conundrum: Why have Paisleys come to Earth, and what will be the outcome of their peculiarly strange visitation?

Formatted as a coloring book, Paisley Invasion is a story presented in a sequence of images that entice the reader to "read" between the lines, and outside the lines, too, to create a unique narrative. You are invited to spin-out and color-in the provocative fantasy that awaits within its covers.

From the North Street critique by Jendi Reiter:

While the vibe is definitely Summer of Love record album covers, not haunted Edwardian mansions and silent movie stills, I recognized the same spirit in Paisley Invasion as in Gorey's enigmatic Les Passementeries Horribles, a wordless book in which monstrous tassels stalk unsuspecting ladies and gentlemen. The mood of both books balances on a razor's edge between comical and sinister. You laugh, but glance nervously over your shoulder, in case one of those ornate blobs is coming for you. The absurdity can't quite dispel the tension that has no rational cause—how much harm could those things do?

It's the uncanny, all by itself, that spooks us. These floating objects have no faces for us to read their emotions, yet they seem conscious and determined. We can't understand how they could be alive, let alone what they want. Wisely, Czechowski doesn't privilege one human reaction over another. We are free to add our interpretations to the story when we color it in, like the illustrations in the Anti-Coloring Books that were deliberately incomplete so that children could make their own drawings.

Read an excerpt from Paisley Invasion (PDF)

Buy this book on Amazon

Ad: THE BLESSED, an epic audio fantasy

The Blessed

Poet and voice-over artist Kyle Derek McDonald, winner of the 2007 War Poetry Contest sponsored by Winning Writers, is proud to present The Blessed, an audio experience unlike any other! Having completed his boyhood dream of composing a grand epic poem, Kyle has since recorded it as a full cast, fully scored and sound-designed audio experience that's a banquet for the ears and a jumpstart for the mind.

A tale of bravery in a world overrun by chaos, The Blessed follows the journey of three heroes—Virilus, a great warrior with a troubled past, Sagir, a young wizard afraid of fighting, and Fré, a pixie whose enthusiasm is too large for her wee body—as they seek to master themselves and to push out a violent, megalomaniacal invader.

Ambitiously composed in Sesta Rima—rhyming six-line stanzas—and with a compelling cast of unique characters, The Blessed offers a galloping fantasy epic experience unlike anything else.

Shakespeare meets the Avengers.

Go to The Blessed website and start listening right away at no cost!

And, feel free to reach out to Kyle with any questions or reactions at

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
Parsec SF/Fantasy/Horror Short Story Contest. Pittsburgh-based Parsec will award prizes up to $200 for unpublished fantasy, sci-fi, and horror stories. The first-place story will be published in the program book for Confluence, an annual convention. Submit 1-2 stories, maximum 3,500 words each, on this year's theme, "Preserve or Purge". The contest is open to non-professional writers only: those who have not met eligibility requirements for SFWA or equivalent, sale of a novel or sale of 3 stories to a large-circulation publication. Special category for writers age 19 and under. Enter by May 1.

Intermediate Writers
bpNichol Poetry Chapbook Award. Meet the Presses will award CDN$4,000 to the Canadian author and CDN$500 to the publisher of the best English-language poetry chapbook, 10-48 pages long, published in Canada in the preceding year. Due May 31.

Advanced Writers
Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship for Editorial Writing. The Society of Professional Journalists will award one $75,000 fellowship to an outstanding mid-career editorial writer or columnist to have time away from daily responsibilities for study and research by taking courses, pursuing independent study, traveling, and participating in other endeavors that enrich their knowledge of a public interest issue. Candidate must currently be a part-time or full-time editorial writer or columnist at a US news publication and have worked in this capacity for three years minimum. Freelancers are also eligible. Due June 19.

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.

Class Collective
(poetry, fiction, essays, and commentary with class-based perspective on politics and culture - rolling deadline)

Brevity: Transgender Flash Nonfiction Issue
(micro-essays on gender-expansive experience - April 30)

Chestnut Review: Chapbook Reading Period
(poetry, prose, or hybrid manuscripts - April 30)

Galley Beggar Press: Prose Reading Period
(UK press seeks adult literary novels, story collections, narrative nonfiction - April 30)

Sundress Publications: Transmasculine Poetics Anthology
(published or unpublished poems by transmasculine authors - April 30)

Sunflowers at Midnight: "Bodies" Issue
(poetry and fiction on this theme - May 1)

The Saltbush Review: "Fracture" Issue
(poetry, literary fiction, creative nonfiction on this theme - June 16)

Voices of Lincoln Poetry Contest
(adult and youth categories, theme "Who, What ,Where, When, Why?" - July 20)

Woman, Life, Freedom: Iran Poetry Anthology
(Guernica Editions seeks poetry and translations relating to the Iranian Revolution - March 15, 2024)

Selected Greats from our Fiction & Essay Contest Winners

This month, editor Jendi Reiter highlights selected entries from past Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contests. This year's deadline is April 30. Learn more about the contest.

Renee Flemings "IN THE DUST"
by Renee Flemings

Honorable Mention
2019 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

by Jim Zervanos

Honorable Mention
2020 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

by Tamako Takamatsu

First Prize
2021 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

by P.L. Watts

Honorable Mention
2022 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

"The World Is Too Much With Us" by William Wordsworth, 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 "The World Is Too Much With Us" from the book. This comic originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of the Italian poetry magazine Atelier, accompanied by an Italian translation by Francesca Benocci.

The Last Word

Jendi Reiter Poetry by Raheem Rahman, the Caged Guerrilla
Raheem Rahman, an incarcerated writer in Maryland, recently wrote to us at Winning Writers about his podcast The Caged Guerrilla. Rahman's twice-weekly show discusses prison life, urban culture, self-improvement, and activism. He's a raw, dynamic speaker who understands how "prison reform" requires radical change in the power structures outside the prison walls.

[Read more]

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