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Special Feature: Multimedia Dramatization of "Unerring Mercy and Pure Grace", Winning Poem in the 2008 War Poetry Contest

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One of the "101 Best Websites for Writers" (Writer's Digest, 2005-2008)

December 2008

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Welcome to our December newsletter. This is the companion to our online database, The Best Free Poetry Contests. It alerts you to upcoming contests and important contest changes, highlights quality resources for writers, and announces achievements and great poems by our readers.

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Writer's Digest is calling for nominations for its 2009 101 Best Websites for Writers. As you know, we were grateful to be named to this list for the past four years. Please consider sending an email to Put "101 Best Websites" in the subject line and include a brief note about how Winning Writers helps you. Nominations are due in by January 1. Copy us on your nomination if you feel like it. We appreciate it!


FEATURED SPONSOR'S MESSAGE FanStory: Writing contests that are high-quality, safe, and free to members hosts over 50 contests each month. You can enter all contests for free as a writer on the site.

You will also receive:

  • Feedback. Detailed feedback for every poem, short story and book chapter submitted.

  • Rankings. Online statistics will show you how you are doing.

  • Writing Prompts. Daily writing prompts contests have a quick turnaround. Enter a contest today and the winner will be announced tomorrow.

  • Motivation. An active online writing community is available to help you improve your writing and get motivated.

Start getting feedback in less than 5 minutes

Membership for writers is as low as $2.80 per month. Writers receive feedback for all submissions made (including contest entries) and can take part in all contests for free. has been hosting contests since the year 2000. They are designed to be challenging, interesting and fun.

Some upcoming contests include the New Arrival Story contest for new members to For this contest writers are challenged to write a story that starts with this sentence: "It was time to make a change." Hurry, contest deadline is tomorrow!

The New Arrival Poetry contest challenges poets to write an acrostic poem.

The Holiday Story and Holiday Poetry contests have a Christmas theme.

You can view the full contest listings here. Find out more about

FanStory is one of the Writer's Digest "101 Best Websites for Writers" (2005-2008). Writer's Digest says, "Founded in 2000, this site presents free contests and peer-to-peer reviews. One fairly unique feature offered by the site is the ability to create your own contest and challenge other writers." Find out more.


Tom Howard/John H. Reid Short Story Contest
Postmark Deadline: March 31, 2009
Now in its 17th year. Prizes of $2,000, $1,000, $500 and $250 will be awarded, plus five High Distinction awards of $200 each and six Most Highly Commended Awards of $100 each. Submit any type of short story, essay or other work of prose, up to 5,000 words. You may submit work that has been published or won prizes elsewhere, as long as you own the online publication rights. $15 entry fee. Submit online or by mail. Early submission encouraged. Winning Writers is assisting with entry handling for this contest. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest - No Fee
Online Submission Deadline: April 1, 2009
Winning Writers invites you to enter the eighth annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest, called "famous" by Writer's Digest. Fifteen cash prizes totaling $3,336.40 will be awarded, including a top prize of $1,359. There is no fee to enter. Judge: Jendi Reiter. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

War Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: May 31, 2009
We seek 1-3 original, unpublished poems on the theme of war for our eighth annual contest, up to 500 lines in total. We will award $5,000, including a top prize of $2,000. Submit online or by mail. The entry fee is $15. Judge: Jendi Reiter. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse
Postmark Deadline: June 30, 2009
Now in its sixth year, this contest seeks poetry in traditional verse forms such as sonnets and free verse. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome. Prizes of $2,000, $1,000, $500 and $250 will be awarded, plus five High Distinction awards of $200 each and six Most Highly Commended Awards of $100 each. The entry fee is $7 for every 25 lines you submit. Submit online or by mail. Early submission encouraged. This contest is sponsored by Tom Howard Books and assisted by Winning Writers. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Now Open
Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: September 30, 2009
Now in its seventh year, this contest seeks poems in any style, theme or genre. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome. Prizes of $2,000, $1,000, $500 and $250 will be awarded, plus five High Distinction awards of $200 each and six Most Highly Commended Awards of $100 each. The entry fee is $7 for every 25 lines you submit. Submit online or by mail. Early submission encouraged. This contest is sponsored by Tom Howard Books and assisted by Winning Writers. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners. Winners from the 2008 contest will be announced this coming February 15.


Congratulations to Carmine Dandrea. His poetry collection Undertaking the American Dream was recently released by FootHills Publishing. He kindly shares a poem from this book below.

Congratulations to Gunilla Theander Kester. Her poetry chapbook Time of Sand & Teeth is now available for pre-order from Finishing Line Press, to be released in February.

Congratulations to Lyn Lifshin. She recently published three poetry collections. Lost in the Fog, inspired by the life and death of the thoroughbred racehorse The Fog, was released in November by Finishing Line Press. Desire was recently published by World Parade Books. Persephone was released in November by Red Hen Press.

Congratulations to Linda Leedy Schneider. Shalla Magazine nominated her poem "Tomato" for the Pushcart Prize, a prestigious annual award for the best poetry and literary prose published by small presses.

Congratulations to Tim Mayo. Garrison Keillor featured his poem "All the Women I Almost Married" on The Writer's Almanac on December 5. The poem appears in his collection The Loneliness of Dogs (Pudding House Publications, 2008).

Congratulations to Margaret Gish Miller. Her letter and poem "Jellyfish" were published in the November/December 2008 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. The poem is included in her chapbook-in-progress Lolita Looks Back. She kindly shares it with us below.

Congratulations to P.S. Cottier. Her first book of poetry, The Glass Violin, was published in Australia by Ginninderra Press. Her poetry also appeared in a recent issue of the Atlanta Review.

Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé's poetry and prose have just been published in the literary journals AGNI ("Getting to Know Scholem"), Faultline ("hypergraphia"; "pitcairn hierarchy") and Seneca Review ("When Dada Ordered Chinese"; "When Dada Skipped School"). More of his poems are forthcoming in Blue Jew Yorker, Gulf Coast, Harpur Palate, New Orleans Review, Pinch Journal, and Sonora Review.

Trina Porte's poem "mammo" was published in the Girlchild Press anthology Just Like a Girl: A Manifesta! She found the call for submissions in the Winning Writers newsletter.

Martin Steele recently published several poems and short prose pieces at OurEcho. Read his latest works inspired by the financial crisis here and here. OurEcho is a site where members can post personal narratives in poetry and prose, with monthly prizes for the best offerings.

Daniel de Culla's artwork was accepted for Issue 8 of Mississippi Crow Magazine.



Winning poem in the 2008 War Poetry Contest sponsored by Winning Writers

Aliene Pylant is the winner of our 2008 War Poetry Contest. She has created this video presentation of her poem "Unerring Mercy and Pure Grace", which juxtaposes two narratives of fathers, daughters, and conflicted loyalties in 15th-century Spain. Ms. Pylant's dramatic reading of the poem is accompanied by period artwork and scenery.

See the Google video (17 minutes)
Listen to the mp3 file
Read the poem
See the press release announcing the 2008 winners
See the guidelines for the 2009 War Poetry Contest

by Aliene Pylant

Madrid, Spring, 1466

Above the plains of Castile's civil war
fourteen-year old Princess Isabel,
half-sister to King Henry, drew apart
from the royal household's lawless core,
existing as a pearl within the shell
of court corruption, intrigue and black art.

Virtually an orphan, with father dead
and mother sent away, she found a source
of solace in Catholicism's rites
consuming in Christ's consecrated bread
an uncorrupted father-mother force
of God and Church, a sanctuary-flight.

She spent long hours in silent prayer, removed
from courtly idleness. Her pious mien
was mocked by those who saw her come and go
and gossips snickered that her actions proved
she was insane, true daughter of the Queen
besieged by madness, raving at Arevelo.

As blood relation to the feckless king
(said not to be the father of his daughter Joan)
Isabel was valuable, a pawn to trade
for arms and coin to fight the rebel wing
which sought to sever Henry from his throne.
And so a pact was signed, a deal was made.

Three thousand lancers and a chest of gold
(some sixty thousand doblas) was the price
that Don Girón, an aging warrior-priest
paid for Isabel. He'd weighed her worth with cold,
reptilian intention—the precise
calculation of a predatory beast...



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Deadlines: December 16-January 31

Here is a summary of upcoming free poetry contests. Click the contest names to be taken directly to their profiles (you may be asked to login on your first click of the day). You may also view the profiles by logging in to The Best Free Poetry Contests here and clicking the Find Free Contests link to search for contests by name.

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Winning Writers gathers contest information from a wide variety of sources including publishers' press releases, online link directories, Poets & Writers Magazine, and e-newsletters such as TOTAL FundsforWriters, The Practicing Writer, and CRWROPPS. We encourage readers to explore these useful resources, and let us know about worthwhile contests we may have missed.

12/19: California Book Awards ++
Formerly December 21
Recommended free contest for published books whose authors lived in California when the work was written. $2,000 and gold medal for poetry, fiction and nonfiction, plus several prizes of $300 and silver medal in various genres. Poetry winners have been established writers. Entries must have been published during the current calendar year. Author or publisher should send 6 copies of book plus a completed entry form.

12/20: Somerset Maugham Awards +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest for published books of poetry and prose offers stipend of up to 6,000 pounds for foreign travel. Entrants must be UK residents and British subjects by birth, and under age 35 as of December 31. The work submitted may be poetry, fiction, criticism, biography, history, philosophy, belles-lettres or a travel book. Dramatic works are not eligible. Entries in all genres compete for one prize.

12/22: Poetry Society of America Awards +++
Formerly December 21
These highly recommended contests on various themes, with prizes up to $1,000, are free to Poetry Society of America members. We highly recommend joining ($45 per year, $25 for students). For nonmembers, a $15 fee covers all contests for which you are eligible. One entry per person per contest.
Contests restricted to members of the Poetry Society of America
Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award ($1,000 for a manuscript sample of poetry or verse-drama)
Cecil Hemley Memorial Award ($500 for a lyric poem that addresses a philosophical or epistemological concern)
Lucille Medwick Memorial Award ($500 for a poem on a humanitarian theme)
Lyric Poetry Award ($500 for a lyric poem)
Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award ($250 for a brief poem inspired by Dickinson, though not necessarily in her style)

Contests open to the general public
George Bogin Memorial Award ($500 for 4-5 poems that use language in an original way to reflect the encounter of the ordinary and the extraordinary and to take a stand against oppression in any of its forms)
Louise Louis/Emily F. Bourne Student Poetry Award ($250 for a poem by a US high school student)
Robert H. Winner Memorial Award ($1,000 for poems by authors over age 40 who have published no more than one book)
Louis Hammer Memorial Award ($250 for a distinguished poem in the surrealist manner)
12/31: Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest for published books offers two awards of $10,000 each: one for a book of fiction or poetry, the other for a book of nonfiction. The nonfiction category covers both creative nonfiction and scholarly works (biography, history, etc.) This award honors books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism or our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures. Books must have been published in the current calendar year. Plays, screenplays, unpublished and self-published works not eligible. Author or publisher should submit 5 copies plus entry form from website.

12/31: Ann Arlys Bowler Student Poetry Contest ++
Formerly January 31
Recommended free contest for students in grades 6-12 offers 6 prizes of $100 plus publication in Read Magazine. Send 1-3 poems (published or unpublished), one-page maximum per poem.

12/31: Euphoria Annual Poetry Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers $100 and online publication for the best set of 1-5 poems, 50 lines maximum per poem. Submit by email only. Previously published poems accepted. Best for emerging writers.

12/31: Griffin Prize For Excellence In Poetry +++
Highly recommended free contest offers two prizes of C$50,000 for poetry books published in the current calendar year. One prize will go to a living Canadian poet or translator, the other to a living poet or translator from any country (including Canada). See website for detailed eligibility rules. Publisher should send 4 copies of book plus a press packet. This is one of the most lucrative poetry prizes around, as well as one of the most prestigious.

12/31: Harold Morton Landon Translation Award +++
Highly recommended free contest from the Academy of American Poets offers $1,000 for the best book of poetry in translation published in the US during the current calendar year. Translator must be a living US citizen. 3 copies of book should be submitted by publisher.

12/31: Japanese Literary Translation Prize ++
Formerly February 1
Recommended free contest offers $6,000 for book-length translations of classical or modern Japanese literary works: novels, collections of short stories, literary essays, memoirs, drama, or poetry. Entries may be published or unpublished. Prize may be split between two winners. Either publisher or translator should submit 7 copies of translated book and 7 copies of the entry form plus one copy of the original title in Japanese.

12/31: Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred ++
Recommended free contest offers top prize of $500 and publication for an unpublished poem of 100 lines maximum that "expresses, directly or indirectly, a sense of the holy or that, by its mode of expression, evokes the sacred. The tone may be religious, prophetic, or contemplative." Send by mail or email.

12/31: Ohioana Poetry Award: Helen & Laura Krout Memorial ++
Recommended free contest offers $1,000 to an Ohio poet for a body of published work that has made, and continues to make, a significant contribution to poetry, and through whose work as a writer, teacher, administrator, or in community service, interest in poetry has been developed. Award is by nomination only. Nominees must have been born in Ohio or lived there for at least 5 years.

12/31: ORBIS Readers Award +
Neutral free rolling-deadline contest offers 50 pounds per issue for the best poem published in each issue of Britain's ORBIS Quarterly Literary International Journal, as determined by reader vote. Online submissions accepted from non-UK entrants only. Translations eligible.

12/31: Raiziss/de Palchi Translation Award +++
Highly recommended free contest from the Academy of American Poets alternates between a $25,000 fellowship for translators of modern Italian poetry to complete a work-in-progress (even-numbered years), and a $5,000 prize for published books of English translations of modern Italian poetry (odd-numbered years). US citizens only.

12/31: William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition +
Neutral free contest for students of medicine or osteopathy in the US and Canada offers prizes of $300, $200, $100 for a poem on any subject. Winners invited to read at Northeast Ohio Universities College of Medicine in April, possibly published in scholarly journal. Submit 1-3 poems, maximum 750 words each.

1/9: Texas Institute of Letters Awards ++
Formerly January 16
Recommended free contest offers prizes up to $6,000 for published books in various genres including poetry, fiction and translation. Entrants must have been born in Texas or resided in Texas for two consecutive years at some time, or the book's subject matter must substantially concern Texas.

1/10: Virginia B. Ball Creative Writing Contest ++
Formerly February 1
Recommended free contest for poetry and prose writers in grades 8-11 offers $30,000 scholarship to the Interlochen Arts Academy, a fine arts boarding school in Michigan. Entries must include examples of both genres. Finalists will be asked to submit an admissions application to ensure that they are otherwise qualified to attend. Formerly known as the Interlochen Creative Writing Contest.

1/15: Asnuntuck Student Poetry Contest +
Neutral free contest offers top prize of $200, other cash prizes, for poems from full- and part-time students at Connecticut public universities, community colleges, and selected high schools. Send 1-5 poems by mail or email.

1/15: Julia Ward Howe Book Awards ++
Recommended free contest offers $1,000 each for adult and children's books published in the previous calendar year by authors who live or have lived within 100 miles of Boston, Massachusetts. The adult literature category includes fiction, nonfiction and poetry; children's books may be chapter books or young adult books, but no picture books.

1/15: Levis Reading Prize ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers $1,000 for a first or second book of poetry published during the preceding calendar year. Winner also receives an expenses-paid trip to Richmond, VA for a reading in September.

1/15: Poetic Licence Contest for Canadian Youth ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly January 31
Recommended free contest for Canadian citizens or landed immigrants attending junior high or high school offers top prizes of C$350 in each of two age categories: Junior (grades 7-9) and Senior (grades 10-12). Send 1-2 poems, no more than 50 lines each. Enter by email only. Send as plain text file in the body of the message, not as attachment. Include poem titles, poet's name, address, phone, age, grade and school.

1/15: Summerfield G. Roberts Award +
Neutral free contest offers $2,500 for the literary manuscript or published book that "best portrays the spirit, character, strength, and deeds of those who lived in the Republic of Texas" (1836-46). Entries may be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays, plays, short stories, novels, or biographies. Send 5 copies.

1/15: Women Artists Datebook Contest +
Neutral free contest offers several payments of $125 for poems by women, to be included in a spiral-bound datebook with original art. Syracuse Cultural Workers describes itself as a "peace and justice publisher" with interest in the environment, social change, and marginalized groups. Send up to 5 poems, 30 lines maximum apiece, by mail or email.

1/19: Poetry Society of Virginia (Student Categories) +
Neutral free contest offers prizes of $50, $30, $20 for college students, $25, $15, $10 in the elementary through high school categories, plus small prizes for poems on specific themes. Age categories are Grades 1-2, Grades 3-4, Grades 5-6, Grades 7-8, Grades 9-10, Grades 11-12, Community College, and Undergraduate College. One poem per entrant. See website for line lengths and themes for each contest.

1/30: Art Center for the Islands Emerging Writers Poetry Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers prizes up to $50 for unpublished poems by students in grades 9-12. Winners printed in competition booklet to be distributed at award ceremony in April. Sponsor is an arts organization in Texas.

1/30: Michigan High-School Poetry Contest +
Formerly February 8
Neutral free contest offers prizes up to $200 for unpublished poems by Michigan high school students. Winners published in The Albion Review, the literary journal of Albion College in Michigan. Send 1-3 poems, maximum 50 lines each.

1/31: Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest sponsored by the Goethe-Institut Chicago honors an outstanding literary translation from German into English published in the US during the preceding calendar year. Literary novels, short stories, plays, poetry, biographies, and correspondences are eligible. Prize is $10,000 plus a 3-month stay at the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin and travel expenses for award ceremony in Chicago in June. Publishers should submit 6 copies of the book along with any relevant publicity materials.

1/31: Limp Wrist Poetry Contest ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest for poetry by LGBT high school juniors and seniors offers $150 plus tuition and airfare to the Juniper Summer Writing Institute, a prestigious literary conference for young writers, sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Submit one poem, maximum 75 lines, by email to

1/31: Lohmann Poetry Prize +
Neutral free contest offers 3 prizes of $200 for poems by current residents of Washington State. Submit one poem, maximum 2 double-spaced pages. No simultaneous submissions (new rule for 2009).

1/31: Paradise Poetry Prize +
Don't enter before January 1
Neutral free contest offers bookstore gift certificates worth up to $75 for poems by residents of Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden counties in Western Massachusetts. Maximum one poem per person, up to 30 lines. For the 2009 contest, poems should be on the theme of "joy".

Login to The Best Free Poetry Contests now to view these and all our profiles of free contests. You can browse contests by deadline date, name, recommendation level and more.

Key to Ratings
Highly Recommended: +++
Recommended: ++
Neutral: +

All deadlines are postmark deadlines unless otherwise specified.



FundsforWriters - the grant expert for writers
FundsforWriters is freelance hope for writers. Contests, grants, markets, publishers/agents and jobs for the serious and hobby writer. Ample calls for submission in four newsletters and a library of specialty ebooks. Published in The Writers Magazine and Writer's Digest, editor C. Hope Clark provides "hope" for your writing future.

Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference

The Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference
Next conferences: January 16-19, February 20-23
Special intensive retreat: February 6-9 (limited to 10 poets)

The Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference provides the faculty, connections, and method necessary to set poets with a completed manuscript or manuscript-in-process on a path towards publication. Includes workshops, consultations with press editors, evening poetry readings, editorial panel Q&A, group critique of selected poems, and an after-conference strategy session.

The cost of the conference is $1,295 and includes tuition, pre-conference materials, lodging and meals. The January and February conferences will be held at the elegant Brandt House in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Attendance is limited. For an application and complete guidelines, please visit You may also call 978-897-0054, email or write to Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference, Concord Poetry Center, 40 Stow Street, Concord, MA 01742-2418.
Success Stories from Our Attendees
  • Jamie Ross, whose book Bringing in the Name has won the 2008 Four Way Books Intro Prize, attended Colrain with the manuscript in November 2006.

    "To say you (Joan) and Fred and the Colrain conference were formative in this whole deal would be an understatement! I met Martha there, too—though you never could have told me at the time that I'd even be sending the collection to Four Way."

  • Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno, a June 2007 attendee, has won the Beatrice Hawley Prize from Alice James Books and her book Slamming Open the Door will be published in April 2009.

    "There is no question in my mind that had I not attended the Colrain Manuscript Conference and received the kind of encouragement and judicious advice that I did there, I would not have won the Beatrice Hawley Award—would not have revised my manuscript the way I did, or even had the confidence to send it out."

  • Kristin Bock, a first conference attendee (March 2006), will have her manuscript from the conference, Cloisters, published by Tupelo Press in 2008.

    "I'm so grateful to the Colrain conference! What struck me most about the Colrain experience was the kindness and generosity of the attendees, the workshop leaders, and the editors. Everyone worked hard, taking the time to provide thoughtful and detailed feedback on each other's work. The editors gave individual attention to each and every poet, answering all of our burning questions about our manuscripts and the often cryptic world of publishing. A heartfelt thanks to all!!"

  • Lauren Rusk, also a first conference attendee, signed a book contract with Plain View Press for publication of her manuscript from the conference, Pictures in the Firestorm.

    "The most useful parts of the conference for me were doing the thought-provoking and instructive pre-conference assignments, hearing the editors speak on the panel about their motivations and daily realities, and receiving your insightful feedback on the parts of my manuscript we discussed in the workshop. Our time together remains vividly in my mind."

  • Diana Adams, another first conference attendee, had her manuscript, Cave Vitae, accepted for publication by Plain View Press.

    "At the conference I learned to think of a book of poems as a larger poem, and using Fred Marchant's and Jeffrey Levine's experienced advice was able to completely reconstruct my book, giving it a new life, synchonized and more coherent."

  • Allegra Wong, second conference attendee (August 2006), has had her manuscript, A Pure Bead, solicited for publication by conference editor, Joan Houlihan (Del Sol Press). A Pure Bead was published in 2007.

    "My consultation with Dennis Maloney, White Pine Press, was helpful in several specific ways. Poets Joan Houlihan, Teresa Cader, and Fred Marchant are dedicated and dynamic workshop leaders. The workshops showed us what an editor is seeking. I know so much more about the publishing world."

  • Anne Shaw, first conference attendee (March 2006), has had her manuscript, Undertow, selected as winner of the 2007 Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Prize, to be published by Persea Books in December 2007.

    "I wanted to share my big news with both of you: I won the Persea Books contest! My ms Undertow is finally going to be published... I can't believe it. I am still in shock. I also want to thank both of you for the Colrain conference. I think it helped a lot in terms of making contacts, and getting me to think about the order of the book. When I went home I re-ordered and re-titled the ms, and I think that helped. The meeting with Martha Rhodes was very, very helpful too. At any rate, thank you both."

  • Suellen Wedmore, third conference attendee (November 2006), has won the Grayson Books Chapbook Contest.

    "I just wanted to thank you again for the support and advice you offered at the Colrain Poetry Manuscript workshop. One thing I learned/deduced while I was there was that my manuscript was perhaps really two chapbooks—so I began sending out chapbooks instead of a full manuscript. And just last night I learned that I won the Grayson Press Chapbook prize with a book built around my war poems. Chalk one up for Colrain! And thanks again!"

  • Charles Boyer, another first conference attendee, had his manuscript The Mockingbird Puzzle accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press.

    "I've had some good news. I had a chapbook accepted at Finishing Line Press, a Kentucky literary press. It should be coming out sometime in June. Thanks to all of you for your advice and encouragement with the poems!"

  • Click for more Colrain Publication News

Last Call!
Coal Hill ReviewCoal Hill Review Poetry Chapbook Competition
Online Submission Deadline: December 31
Coal Hill Review and Autumn House Press are pleased to announce the Coal Hill Review Chapbook Competition: your chance to have your work featured as a special electronic chapbook in a standalone issue of Coal Hill Review.

Terrance Hayes will select the winner who will receive $250 and publication of his or her work as an online chapbook.

Please review our guidelines below, then visit our website for online submission.

Coal Hill Review is an online journal dedicated to publishing fine poetry by both emerging and established writers. We hope to gather a range of diverse voices and styles and to explore work outside the traditional limitations of popular trends and printing costs.

The Review takes its name from Coal Hill, otherwise known as Mount Washington, Pittsburgh, PA, the home of Autumn House Press. Where once people mined its rich coal seams, we now mine for poetry.

The Editors
Coal Hill Review Chapbook Competition Guidelines
  • This competition is open to all poets writing in English.
  • There is a $15 reading fee paid through our PayPal account.
  • Manuscripts should be 10 to 15 poems.
  • Poems should not have been published previously.
  • The winning chapbook will be published electronically as a special issue of Coal Hill Review, and the poet will receive $250.
  • All finalists will be considered for publication in Coal Hill Review.
  • The final judge for the competition is Terrance Hayes.
  • Please address any questions to jstorey (at) with the words "CHAPBOOK COMPETITION QUERY" in the subject line.
  • Manuscripts will not be reviewed until PayPal payment is confirmed.
  • Click for more details and online submission.

Dream Quest OneLast Call!
Dream Quest One Writing Competition
Postmark Deadline: December 31
This writing contest is open to anyone who loves to express their innermost thoughts and feelings in poetry or to write a short story that's worth telling everyone! We're accepting poems, 30 lines or fewer on any subject, and short stories, 5 pages maximum on any theme (single- or double-line spacing). Multiple entries welcome.

Short Story First Prize: $500, 2nd: $250, 3rd: $100
Poetry First Prize: $250, 2nd: $125, 3rd: $50

Entry fees
$10 per story
$5 per poem

How to Enter
Send your work with a cover page that lists the title(s) of your poem(s)/story(ies), name, address, phone number, and email address, along with a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for entry confirmation. Make your entry fee payable to "DREAMQUESTONE.COM" and mail to Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest, P.O. Box 3141, Chicago, IL 60654. Visit for details and to enter.

Please enjoy this excerpt from "The Golden City" by Charlotte Ashlock of Ontario, Canada, first-prize winner for prose in our Winter 2005-2006 contest:
The Golden City
by Charlotte Ashlock

...Besides the storytellers, there were also minstrels, poets, artists, and dancers—entertainers of every description, plying their wares on the street-corners. A man with a glass eye juggled six different colors of flame, a magician made apparitions appear in colored smoke, a cobra with a diamond tiara extended her undulant body from a jug, to dance to the piper's eerie music. A red-haired young man sang ballads of a love and a loss he had almost certainly never felt, while a bevy of maidens stood around him sighing and wondering if they could comfort this mightily picturesque and tragic figure. A haughty artist paced restlessly back and forth before his easel, examining his picture from every angle and applying one stroke of the brush every twenty minutes, meanwhile talking to anyone who would listen to him about the uses of perspective and chiaroscuro, and the terrible sacrifices an artist makes to pursue his sacred calling. A poet, a man the size of a bear with a huge beard and hair that stuck out all around his head like the rays from the sun, sat on the side of a fountain, penning lines with earnest intensity, and occasionally arising to let forth screams, howls, and mighty roars, while tearing at his hair, ripping pages from his book, crumpling them up and throwing them like missiles while thundering that he would never be a poet and he might as well go back to blacksmithing. He attracted a larger group of onlookers than the magician, who assisted him in a friendly way with his self-abuse, and collected his crumpled pages and tried to publish them as their own (for the verses he threw away were, invariably, excellent...)

[click for the complete story]

Lunch Hour StoriesLast Call!
Lunch Hour Stories 2008 VERY Short Story and Narrative Prose Poem Contest
Postmark Deadline: December 31

THREE winners will receive cash prizes, free copies, and publication in a print anthology. Up to NINE additional winners will receive publication.

Stories and poems should be narrative (story-like) in nature and written in paragraph form. They should be previously unpublished and 500 words or less each.

Send as many entries as you wish. All stories and poems will be considered, regardless of genre or theme (except children's, religious, nonfiction and erotica). Send us your most creative work! Visually beautiful, moving or humorous, we want it all. Simultaneous submissions are okay, too.

Send one copy and a $5 non-refundable reading fee per entry to: VSS/PP CONTEST, Lunch Hour Stories, PMB 1117, 22833 Bothell Everett Highway, Suite 110, Bothell, WA 98021-9366, USA. If you want a list of results, please include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) with your entry.

As an alternative to submission by mail, you may submit via email to editor(at) (replace at with @) and pay online at

Complete submission guidelines and contest entry details can be found at Thank you for supporting Lunch Hour Stories magazine, and good luck!

Kore Press Last Call!
2009 Kore Press Short Fiction Award
Online Submission Deadline: January 15, 2009 (extended from October 31, 2008)
A prize of $1,000 plus chapbook publication by Kore Press will be given for an original, unpublished short story written in English. Manuscripts should have a minimum of 4,000 words and a maximum of 12,000 words. Judge: Tayari Jones. This competition is open to any woman writing in English, regardless of nationality. $15 reading fee. Submissions accepted online through our Submission Manager. For full guidelines, please visit

Please enjoy this excerpt from "The Saving Work" by Tiphanie Yanique. This chapbook won the 2007 Kore Press Short Fiction Award.
"The Saving Work" (excerpt)

A church is burning down. On a Caribbean island, in the countryside, up a road that might lead to a saving beach, but does not—a church is burning down. Everyone who is associated with this church will later think "my church has burnt down." But for now there are only two women there to look at the fire, and blame each other.

They are both white American women in the middle of their lives. They and their families are members of this church. They are each married to a local black man, both of whom are skinny and frail of body. These women want to be the strong ones. They have always been the strong ones.

Deirdre Thompson has brought the garlands for the church stairs. She has brought the pew pins and the flowers for the altar. She was the first to arrive and see the bright flames. She is already dressed in her gold silk suit. She saw the smoke from far away in her car, but she imagined some filthy native was burning garbage in his yard. The smoke seemed to disappear as Deirdre drew near the church. This was an illusion.

Her car had lumbered its way along the narrow cut into the land that is the church road. The men of the church laid the road, and, as a result, it dips erratically. The arms of thin trees scraped at the closed windows of Deirdre's car. She wondered why no one had cut them back. She thought, with some worry, about how the limousine would make its way. The road opened into the clearing where the church crackled in the center. Through the windshield Deirdre saw what she thought was just a smallish fire, more smoke than anything. Nothing to alert the people in the nearby houses, some two hundred yards beyond the bushes.

But now Deirdre knows what she's seeing. She's seeing the end.

Grayson Books Closing Next Month
Grayson Books Chapbook Competition
Postmark Deadline: January 16, 2009
Prize: $500, publication of chapbook and 50 copies
Reading fee: $15
Submit: 16-24 pages of poetry, two cover sheets (one with contact information and one anonymous)
SASE for results only

Simultaneous submissions are permissible if we are notified immediately upon acceptance elsewhere.

This year's judge is Dick Allen, whose seventh collection of poetry, Present Vanishing, will be published by Sarabande Books in October 2008. Sarabande also published his two previous works, The Day Before: New Poems and Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Selected. His poetry has been included in The Best American Poetry series, in The Best American Spiritual Writing, and in scores of other national poetry anthologies.

Please mail your entry and fee to:
Grayson Books
P.O. Box 270549
West Hartford, CT 06127-0549

Please enjoy this excerpt from the title poem in Dream Teaching, published by Grayson Books in 2005:
Dream Teaching
by Edwin Romond

I am first in line for coffee
and the copier is not broken yet.
This is how dreams begin in teaching high school.

First period the boy who usually carves skulls
into his desk raises his hand instead
to ask about Macbeth and, for the first time,
I see his eyes are blue as melting ice.
Then, those girls in the back
stop passing notes and start taking them
and I want to marvel at tiny miracles
but still another hand goes up
and Butch the drag racer says he found the meaning
in that Act III soliloquy. Then more hands join the air
that is now rich with wondering and they moan
at the bell that ends our class and I ask myself,
"How could I have thought of calling in sick today?"

PatriateClosing Next Month
Longleaf Press 2008 Poetry Chapbook Contest
Postmark Deadline: January 31, 2009
Longleaf Press offers a prize of $100 plus 50 chapbooks. Open to North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama and Florida residents who haven't published a full-length collection. Submit 18-23 pages, $15 entry fee, self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) and cover sheet with name, phone, email, and address. No identifying info on manuscript. Mail to: Longleaf Press, Methodist University, 5400 Ramsey Street, Fayetteville, NC 28311. Questions? Please email Editor Robin Greene at

Please enjoy this selection from Patriate by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin, winner of the 2007 Poetry Chapbook Contest:

               "Attentiveness deepens what it regards."
               —Jane Hirshfield, in Nine Gates

Until you make one thousand

of a form,
the potter warned,
you will not truly understand it.

He strode from student
to student smashing down
imperfect cylinders they'd pleaded
upward out of mud.

Think of this in yoga class, aching up
into the seven-hundredth downward
facing dog, still comprehending only clumsiness.

Think of this in the marriage bed
with your new husband. Pray you both live
long enough to make the one thousandth reprise.

Think of the ash tree, bringing forth
new thousands of leaves in perfection
each spring: tossing them lightly
away in fall.

Think of writing one thousand
sonnets, one thousand sestinas, one
thousand ghazals.

Think of relinquishing
hope of understanding

Closing Next Month
Oregon Quarterly 10th Annual Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest (no fee)
Postmark Deadline: January 31, 2009
Oregon Quarterly invites entries to the 10th Annual 2009 Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest in both student and open categories. Entries should address ideas that affect the Northwest. The Oregon Quarterly staff will select finalists and the contest judge will choose the top three winners in each category. Past judges have been Kim Stafford, Barry Lopez, John Daniel, Karen Karbo, Brian Doyle, Lauren Kessler and Craig Lesley.
  • Prizes in the Open Category: $750, $300, $100
  • Prizes in the Student Category: $500, $200, $75
  • No entry fee required
  • First-place essays will appear in Oregon Quarterly
  • A selection of top essays will be featured in a springtime public reading on the UO campus
  • Fifteen finalists (ten in the open category and five students) will be announced in the Summer 2009 issue of Oregon Quarterly
  • All finalists will be invited to participate in a writing workshop with the contest judge on the day of the reading
Entries should be nonfiction, should not have been previously published, and should be no more than 1,500 words in the student category and 2,000 words in the open category. The student contest is open to any student currently enrolled and pursuing a graduate or undergraduate degree at a college or university. One entry per person. Find the submission address and complete guidelines at (click on Essay Contest).

Please enjoy this excerpt from "The Old Hackleman Place, An Obituary", by Ellen Waterston. This essay won first place in the open category of our ninth annual contest.
Each summer I take a sentimental journey—head out into the High Desert, turn north out of Brothers, and drive deep into Oregon's "outback", deep into the brittle-boned, bake-oven, parched-earth desert, finally reaching a ridge that looks down on an emerald valley, strikingly green running up against the sere yellow hillsides of cheat and bunch grass. I sit down on a rock, a vestige of some millennial volcano or fossilized ocean sand (out here it could be either), my lofty perch putting me eye-to-eye with the red-tailed hawks cruising the updraft, lazily looking for the sage rats that flee a swather in the meadow far below as it cuts the ripe hay, leaving it in neat, parallel windrows. This is my annual pause and reflect, a chance to contemplate my life now and to muse on my past in the rough embrace of that beloved, dusty ranch where I once lived. While I do, I leaf through my new copy of the Oregon Road and Recreation Atlas, to look for familiar landmarks, to confirm that the map agrees I am where I think I am. I'm stunned to discover it doesn't, that the designation of "Hackleman Ranch" has been removed. The longtime map locator for where I lived as a newlywed, carried three children, raised a family, and lost a husband to addiction was gone...

Click to download "The Old Hackleman Place, An Obituary" and all the winning essays from our ninth contest in a PDF.

Steel Toe Books: January Submission Period
Open Reading Period For Poetry Manuscripts by Ethnic Minorities and/or First-Generation Immigrant, Non-Native Speakers of English Steel Toe Books
Your submission must be received between January 1-31, 2009
Steel Toe Books publishes full-length, single-author poetry collections. Manuscripts are selected through open reading periods. In an effort to diversify our catalog, during the upcoming January reading period we will only be considering manuscripts by ethnic minorities and/or first-generation immigrant, non-native speakers of English.

During our October 2008 open reading period, we received 52 manuscripts, from which we selected Richard Newman's Domestic Fugues for publication. In Newman's poems, complex rhyme schemes and patterns of repetition feel natural and effortless; his diction is never strained, his rhymes are subtle and fresh, and the form always seems to perfectly suit the poem's purpose. We were charmed by Newman's humor, which is often self-deprecating.

Submission process:

There is no reading fee for authors who submit during our open reading periods, but we ask everyone who submits to purchase one of our existing titles directly from us. On the Steel Toe Books online Order Form, select one or more books to order and fill out the form. Print out the completed form, and send it, along with:
  • a check or money order for the selected book
  • a copy of your 48-80 page manuscript for consideration
  • an acknowledgments page
  • a cover page with your contact information
Do not send a SASE for notification. Upon selecting a new title, we will make an announcement on the News page of our website.

Mail the packet to:
Steel Toe Books
c/o Tom C. Hunley
Department of English
Western Kentucky University
1906 College Heights Boulevard, No. 11086
Bowling Green, KY 42101-1086
We look for workmanship (economical use of language, high-energy verbs, precise literal descriptions, original figurative language, poems carefully arranged as a book); a unique style and/or a distinctive voice; clarity; emotional impact; humor (word plays, hyperbole, comic timing); performability (a Steel Toe poet is at home on the stage as well as on the page). We don't want dry verse, purposely obscure language, poetry by people who are so wary of being called "sentimental" that they steer away from any recognizable human emotions, or poetry that takes itself so seriously that it's unintentionally funny.

Salem College Center for Women Writers 2009 International Literary Awards Salem College Center for Women Writers 2009 International Literary Awards:
Prizes in Short Fiction, Poetry and Creative Nonfiction!

Postmark Deadline: February 2, 2009
The Salem College Center for Women Writers announces its 2009 International Literary Awards in short fiction (5,000 words maximum), creative nonfiction (5,000 words maximum) and poetry (100 lines maximum; up to 2 poems per submission, any style). Final judges are John McNally in fiction, Jennifer Niven in creative nonfiction and Molly Peacock in poetry.

The winner in each genre receives $1,200. The two honorable mentions in each genre receive $150. Applicants must write in English.

Please include the following per entry:
  • Three typed copies of unpublished manuscript (prose double-spaced, author's name must not appear on manuscript)
  • One cover sheet with name, address, telephone, email, genre, word count/line count and title of work(s)
  • $15 reading fee in cash, check or money order in US dollars, per submission, made payable to Salem College CWW International Literary Awards
  • SASE for notification of winners (optional)
Please mail your submission to Salem College Center for Women Writers, 601 South Church Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27101. For complete guidelines, visit or email

Utmost Christian Writers
Utmost Christian Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: February 28, 2009
US$3,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to poets of Christian faith. $20 entry fee (US and Canadian funds accepted).
  • First Prize: US$1,500
  • Second Prize: US$500
  • Third Prize: US$350
  • Honorable Mentions (4): US$100 each
  • Special Prize for Best Rhyming Poem: US$150
  • Special Prize for Best Traditional Rhyming Poem: US$100
Click for the complete rules and entry form.

Please enjoy "In a Civilized Society an Adulteress Isn’t Stoned", First Prize winner in the 2004 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest:
In a Civilized Society an Adulteress Isn't Stoned
by Jan Wood

She is taken inside the city gates
to a cavern of the hallowed
and fixed, legally and properly
                   under rubber-glove treatment
                   her fruit-stone is removed
                   —a pip, flesh and juice-slippery
                   that will never be rocked to sleep
                   sterilized-silence decrees
                   its beginning and end
                   will not be engraved.

She is granted three wishes
—'the' pill or needle—a widened license to practice
—a crypt for her label and shame
                   rejection makes its gravel bed
                   in a pelvic nest below her heart
                   stone-faced she turns from newborn cry
                   broken by lovers 'not-interested'
                   —skipped gemstones leave bare fingers
                   and widening ripples on amniotic waters.

She is stonewalled by her sisters
with fruit in the melons of their belly
HIV and genetic warts not being table conversation
                   nor the trade she plies
                   with their bed-rocked spouses
                   mineral deposits pour down her legs
                   in a monthly cycle of no sons
                   her womb a marketplace
                   of peril and liquidation.

                   sorrow leaves through her crevices
                   molten lava erupts and scalds
                   she hardens merciless,
                   an igneous solid
                   her metamorphic meat
                   a cold marble slab

She is the granite weight
of a society
that prides itself on being
civilized; beyond the age of stoning.

Now Open
The Age Begins BooksWOMEN in 2009—A New Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: March 12, 2009
This is a call to all poets who write about WOMEN. Write about someone who inspires you. You can use a character depiction or can use a triumphant situation or surprise us. "ALL" writers welcomed, original and unpublished entries. Winners will be notified in April 2009 by Oneal Walters, and their names published here. Be the first WOMEN in 2009 Poetry Contest winner!
  • 1st Place US$110, plus interviewed
  • 2nd Place US$60
  • 3rd Place US$30
Submission fee US$7 per poem. Make your money order or certified check payable to Oneal Walters. Email entries and questions to Snail mail entries and submission fees to:
Oneal Walters' WOMEN in 2009 Poetry Contest
P.O. Box 21034
Jane Finch Mall Post Office
3975 Jane Street
Downsview, Ontario M3N 3A3
All poems remain the property of the poet. For complete details, please see

TIFERET: A Journal of Spiritual LiteratureEnter the Tiferet Writing Awards—Prizes Doubled to $500 Each
Postmark Deadline: April 1, 2009
TIFERET: A Journal of Spiritual Literature offers awards of $500 each (doubled from $250) for Poetry and Prose. We publish writing from a variety of spiritual and religious traditions.

Our mission is to help reveal spirit through the written word and to promote peace within the individual and the world.

$15 entry for one story or essay (Prose) up to 25 pages or 6 poems (Poetry).

To enter, please mail your submission and check payable to TIFERET to 211 Dryden Road, Bernardsville, NJ 07924. Or you may submit your entry online. Specify a genre of "Contest-Poetry", "Contest-Nonfiction", or "Contest-Fiction", then pay the entry fee using PayPal.

Winners will be announced Summer 2009.

Poetry Judge
Elisabeth Murawski

Prose Judges
   Nonfiction: Peter Selgin
   Fiction: Ilan Stavans



These free prose contests with deadlines between December 16 and January 31 are included as a bonus in The Best Free Poetry Contests.

Click the contest names below to go straight to their profiles, or login to The Best Free Poetry Contests here. After you login, please click the Find Free Contests link, then search by Prose Contest Type to find prose contests.

12/19: Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Awards ++
Formerly December 31
Recommended free contest offers three prizes of $500 for books of fiction and nonfiction (creative or scholarly) written by an African-American and published in the US during the current year. There is one award for adult fiction, one for nonfiction and one for a first novel. The awards honor books that depict the "cultural, historical, or sociopolitical aspects of the African Diaspora". Must be nominated by publisher.

12/19: Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics +++
Formerly December 7
Highly recommended free contest for US college students offers top prize of $5,000, other large prizes, for essays about ethical issues and the place of ethics in human life. See website for specific themes. Entrants must be registered undergraduate full-time juniors or seniors at accredited four-year colleges in the US during the semester in which the deadline falls.

12/20: McKitterick Prize +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest offers 4,000 pounds for a first novel by an author over age 40 as of December 31. The work must either have been first published in the UK in the year in which the deadline falls (and not first published abroad), or be unpublished. Send 4 copies of the published book, or one copy of the first 30 pages of the manuscript.

12/31: Bathsheba Monk Short Story Contest +
Neutral free contest for short stories, any length, offers $500 and online publication. Contest is sponsored by fiction writer Bathsheba Monk, author of Now You See It...: Stories from Cokesville, PA, a story collection covering 40 years in the lives of two young girls who vow to escape their dying rust belt town and reinvent themselves.

12/31: Desert Writers Award +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers annual fellowship of $2,000 for writers of literary or creative nonfiction to spend time writing in and about the desert landscape. Send 10-page writing sample, project description and biographical statement. Enter by email only. Finalists may be interviewed.

12/31: Glamour Magazine "My Real-Life Story" Essay Contest ++
Recommended free contest offers $5,000 and possible publication in Glamour Magazine for personal essays by women, 2,500-3,500 words. Enter by mail or online. Open to US residents 18+.

12/31: Japan Center-Canon Essay Competition +
Neutral free contest for high school and college students in NYC and Long Island offers scholarships up to $2,000 for essays on the spirit of Japan. Enter by mail or online.

12/31: L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest +++
Highly recommended free contest for emerging writers of short science fiction, fantasy and horror offers quarterly prizes of $1,000 plus an annual $5,000 grand prize for one of the four winners. Send only one story per quarter, maximum 17,000 words. See website for eligibility rules. Entrants may not have professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium.

12/31: Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction +++
Highly recommended free contest offers $5,000 for the best novel about the Civil War published during the current calendar year. Publishers, critics or authors should send 10 copies of the book to the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College.

12/31: Seventeen Magazine Fiction Contest ++
Formerly January 2
Recommended free contest for short fiction by US teens (ages 13-21) offers top prize of $2,500 and publication in Seventeen Magazine. For the 2008-09 contest, the assignment is to complete a story begun on the website by Meg Cabot, best-selling author of The Princess Diaries. Entries must be postmarked by December 31 and must be received by January 7.

12/31: TCU Texas Book Award ++
Recommended free contest offers $5,000 for the best book of fiction, nonfiction, art or photography about Texas, which was published in the past two years. All genres compete together. Offered in even-numbered years only. Author, publisher or agent should send 3 copies of the book. Winner must give speech at awards banquet in Fort Worth in the spring. For the contest with a December 31, 2008 deadline, eligible books are those published between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2008.

1/10: John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest for US high school students offers prizes up to $5,000 for essays about how a contemporary elected official (post-1956) risked his or her career to take a stand based on moral principles. Essays should be 1,000 words maximum and cite at least five research sources. Online entries preferred.

1/15: Donald Murray Prize ++
Recommended free contest from the National Council of Teachers of English offers $500 for the best essay about teaching and/or writing that was published in the previous calendar year. Anyone may nominate an essay of any length. Send 2 copies with information on the source and date of publication. Email John Boe for complete rules.

1/15: South Carolina Fiction Project ++
Recommended free contest for South Carolina residents offers 12 prizes of $500 and publication for the best unpublished story up to 2,500 words. Winners will be published on the websites of the SC Arts Commission and The Post and Courier, a Charleston newspaper. Entrants must be 18 or older.

1/15: VCU Cabell First Novelist Award ++
Formerly February 8
Recommended free contest from Virgina Commonwealth University offers $5,000 for a first novel published during the previous calendar year. Author, agent and editor also receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Richmond, VA to participate in the Virginia Commonwealth University First Novelist Forum. Send 3 copies of published book.

1/30: Susan Sontag Prize for Translation ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers a $5,000 fellowship for a translation project by applicants under the age of 30. The 2009 prize is for Spanish-to-English translations of a novella, a play, a collection of short stories or poems, or a collection of letters. Applications available on website; materials should include personal statement, 5-page sample translation, project description and letter of recommendation.

1/31: American Kennel Club Fiction Writing Contest ++
Recommended free contest offers top prize of $750 for short stories up to 2,000 words that feature dogs of an AKC-registrable breed or a breed listed in the Miscellaneous class. No simultaneous submissions. The AKC is a well-known organization that sets the criteria for purebred show dogs, as well as advocating for animal welfare and providing information for dog owners and breeders.

1/31: Amy Writing Awards ++
Recommended free contest offers $34,000 in prizes, top prize of $10,000, for articles with a Biblical perspective that were published in secular newspapers or magazines, or on mainstream, non-religious news or e-magazine websites (no blog entries), in the previous calendar year. "Examples of issues for consideration, but not limited to these, are family life, divorce, value trends, media and entertainment character, pornography, political morality, US national interests, abortion, religion and addiction to drugs and alcohol. The biblical impact on individual character and outlook are also appropriate issues. The need for obedience through biblical truth should be evident."

1/31: Betty Trask Prize +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest offers awards totaling 25,000 pounds for a published first novel of "a romantic or traditional nature", i.e. not experimental. Author must be a Commonwealth citizen. If published, the work must have been published in the UK in 2008 or be due for publication in 2009. Entrants must be under 35 as of December 31, 2008. Winner must agree to use the prize money for foreign travel.

1/31: Caine Prize for African Writing +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest offers 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 whose parents are African, and whose work has reflected African sensibilities. Up to 5 shortlisted authors receive a travel stipend. For the 2009 contest, entries must have been published between February 1, 2004 and January 31, 2009. Must be submitted by publisher. Send 6 copies of published story. (They prefer 6 originals but will accept 1 original and 5 photocopies.)

1/31: Jack London Writing Contest ++
Recommended free contest for students in grades 9-12 offers prizes of $2,000, $1,000 and $500 for stories and essays of 2,000 words maximum (entries in both genres compete together). Entries should be submitted by the student's English teacher.

1/31: Jerry Jazz Musician Fiction Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Thrice-yearly free neutral contest offers $100 and web publication for short fiction. The Jerry Jazz Musician reader has interests in music, social history, literature, politics, art, film and theatre, particularly that of the counter-culture of mid-20th century America. Entries should appeal to a reader with these characteristics. Submit stories of 1,000-5,000 words by email to as an MS Word or Adobe Acrobat attachment. Please be sure to include your name, address and phone number with your submission. Please include "Short Fiction Contest Submission" in the subject heading of the email.

1/31: Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest ++
Recommended free contest seeks essays that "address ideas that affect the Northwest" region of the US. Top prize of $750 in the open category, $500 in the student category (college or graduate school), plus smaller prizes and publication in Oregon Quarterly, the University of Oregon magazine. Maximum 2,000 words for the open category, 1,500 words for the student category. One essay per person.

1/31: Premio Aztlan Literary Prize +
Formerly December 31
Neutral free contest offers $1,000 for published books of fiction by Chicano/Chicana authors who have published no more than two books. Books must have been published in the calendar year in which the deadline falls. Winner must agree to attend the award ceremony and deliver a lecture at the National Latino Writers Conference in May (the prize includes travel and lodging expenses). Send 5 copies of book plus supporting materials. As of 2009, the prize has changed sponsors, from the University of New Mexico to the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

1/31: Spectra Pulse Short Fiction Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest for speculative short fiction offers $100 and publication in Spectra Pulse, Bantam Spectra's exclusive magazine distributed at Comic-Con San Diego and select conventions and bookstores. Contest is open to US authors aged 18+ who have not yet published a work of fiction nor entered into a publishing contract. Submit one story, 2,000 words maximum. No simultaneous submissions. Enter by email.

1/31: Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant ++
Recommended free contest offers a $1,000 grant to an Ohio writer aged 30 and under with no published books. Submit 1-6 prose pieces (fiction or creative nonfiction), each of which should be 10-60 double-spaced pages in 12-point font. Applicants must have been born in Ohio or lived there for at least 5 years. See website for details and entry form.

Login to The Best Free Poetry Contests now to view these and all our profiles of free contests.

Key to Ratings
Highly Recommended: +++
Recommended: ++
Neutral: +

All deadlines are postmark deadlines unless otherwise specified.



MW Enterprises Anthology
Postmark Deadline: December 31
MW Enterprises is seeking submissions of poetry and short prose by authors born 1960-82, for Volume 8 of its anthology series A Generation Defining Itself. Send up to 10 entries, maximum 1,500 words each. Previously published work accepted. MW Enterprises considers itself a "reality-based" publisher. Manuscripts are chosen based on their contribution to the search for reality, versus escapism and illusion. The editors say, "This project focuses on the unique givens or circumstances into which your generation was born, how your generation has dealt with those givens, and from this what unique perspectives have emerged. Submissions are preferred which reveal these realities. Conversely, not sought are compositions that merely describe universal constants, such as descriptions of nature, texts that could be attributed to numerous generations. The mission of this book series is to go beyond simplified stereotypes and cliches to uncover the true social/political/philosophical dynamics of your generation."

Breadcrumb Scabs
Entries must be received by January 1
Breadcrumb Scabs is an online poetry magazine about the human condition. They are currently seeking submissions of poetry and artwork for their second issue, due out in February 2009. (Submissions are full for the first issue, which will be posted in January.) Submit 1-5 poems by email to with a short bio. Editors particularly encourage work by women and LGBT authors. Must be 18+.

"Some of what we would love to see: Confessional poetry. Love poetry with unflattering, pessimistic imagery. Poetry that makes us think politics with personal, tiny snapshots. Poems about fighting against oppression and repression. Poems about guilt. Poetry that makes us feel nauseous. Sentimentality distorted with grittiness. Anything with strange and interesting imagery.

"Get your hands dirty with real human emotion. Dark is okay here, as is political, or erotic, or absurd, or poems that can't seem to fit in anywhere else. We'll give them a try. Free verse is much preferred, but rhyming and forms like prose-poetry are okay, too. No length minimums or maximums."

Feminist Avant-Garde Poetics and Activism Conference
Entries must be received by January 15
Belladonna Books is a Brooklyn-based literary activist project that promotes avant-garde work by "women writers who are adventurous, politically involved, multi-form, multicultural, multi-gendered, unpredictable, dangerous with language (to the death machinery)." In celebration of their 10th anniversary, Belladonna is partnering with the CUNY Graduate Center's Women's Studies Certificate Program, Center for Research on Women and Society, Center for Humanities, Poetics Group, and English Department to present a conference aimed at advancing and broadcasting the life of Feminist Avant-Garde Poetics and Activism Today. The event will take place at the CUNY Graduate Center on September 24-25, 2009. Proposals should be emailed to See website for themes and format.

Power of Words Conference
Entries must be received by January 15
The Transformative Language Arts Network seeks proposals for workshops to be offered at the Power of Words Conference, September 3-7, 2009 at Goddard College in Plainfield, VT. They are interested in experiential, didactic, and/or performance-based workshops that focus on writing, storytelling, drama, film, songwriting, narrative medicine and other forms of TLA. They particularly encourage workshop proposals from people of color, or proposals that focus on social change, the spoken or sung word, and how to make a living using transformative language arts in service to our communities. See website for details and application form.
Entries must be received by January 16, a writers' resource site with an urban-leftist sensibility, seeks poems for inclusion in CRAM Volume 4, an anthology that publisher C.J. Laity will be distributing free of charge at the AWP annual conference in Chicago in February 2009. Your $20 reading fee will be returned if your work is not selected. Pay via credit card link on website, then email 1-3 poems, maximum 40 lines each, as an MS Word attachment to Early submissions have an advantage.

New Plains Review
Entries must be received by February 16
The New Plains Review, the literary journal of the University of Central Oklahoma, seeks writing on the theme of "Service" for its spring 2009 issue. Editors say, "We invite you to interpret 'service' broadly: military and community service, school service requirements, jury duty, all forms of volunteering, religious services, food service, customer service, serving a subpoena or tennis ball, etc. We're interested in poetry, fiction, essays and creative nonfiction that is thoughtful and compelling, and we'll reprint previously published work (provided the author owns the copyright)." This issue will also run a "letters" column of short, informal pieces relating experiences of "service". The editors are looking for detail, honesty and brevity in these letters. Email your entries as an MS Word attachment to Executive Editor Douglas Goetsch, or send hard copies to NEW PLAINS REVIEW, Submissions, Box 184, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, OK 73034. Please put email, phone and postal contact on the first page of your submission.

Off the Coast
Postmark Deadline: March 15
Off the Coast, a quarterly poetry journal based in Downeast Maine, seeks unpublished poems, artwork, and newly published poetry books for review. Send 1-3 poems pasted into an email to or mailed to editors Valerie Lawson and Michael Brown, Off the Coast, P.O. Box 14, Robbinston, ME 04671. The March 2009 issue will have an "international" theme. Poets are encouraged to send translations as well as poems written in or about locations outside the United States, which—as James Baldwin put it—includes minority cultures and places inside the US.

Steel Toe Books
Postmark Deadline: January 31 (don't enter before January 1)
Steel Toe Books, a poetry press based at Western Kentucky University, seeks submissions of poetry manuscripts, 48-80 single-spaced pages. For their next open reading period in January 2009, they are looking for work by ethnic minorities and/or first-generation immigrant, non-native speakers of English. In lieu of a reading fee, entrants are asked to purchase a book from their catalog.



Breaking Into the Greeting Card Market
In this article from, Shery Ma Belle Arrieta covers the basics of writing and selling greeting card verse.

Dodge Poetry Festival YouTube Channel
This YouTube channel features videos of readings and performances from the renowned Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, held biennially since 1986 in northern New Jersey.

Gloom Cupboard
Irreverent British e-zine publishes poetry, flash fiction, stories and articles about contemporary culture. Surreal and satirical works are welcomed.

Lyrical Passion Poetry E-Zine
Literary webzine with a specialized focus on Japanese short form poetry. Several contests throughout the year offer modest prizes for haiku, senryu, free verse, and flash fiction.

Online video showcase of over 150 poets reading their work at various venues in Southern California. Poets featured include US Poet Laureate Kay Ryan and Anne Carson. The site also includes video interviews with authors and publishers. Poetry.LA was started by poet Hilda Weiss and videographer/writer Wayne Lindberg as a way to bring broader exposure to poets beyond the coffeehouses, bookstores and cafes where most of these readings were taped.

The Open Face Sandwich
Brilliantly deranged literary journal of innovative prose and found texts. Highlights from the first issue include a short memoir by Ariana Reines, excerpts from the unpublished novels of Hortense Caruthers (an author so reclusive that she may not exist), and lovely photos of Atlanta roadkill.

See our complete directory of resources at This is also the gateway to our recommended books, magazines, service providers, advice for writers (with manuscript tips) and poetry critiques.



Mad to Live
By Randall Brown. A pregnant woman develops a craving for bugs. A couple bond over the failure of their wife-swapping party. A father consoles his child over the dinosaurs' extinction, while wishing his own parents had allowed him to believe in heaven. These are some of the seeds from which spring Randall Brown's quirky, brilliant, heart-rending short-short stories. This collection won the 2007-08 Flume Press Fiction Chapbook Competition. Their book design is also a standout.

Roman Lives: Coriolanus, Pompey, Caesar, Cicero, Brutus, Mark Antony
By Plutarch (Mestrius Plutarchus). This Naxos Audiobooks abridgment dramatizes key episodes in the Roman Republic's transition to dictatorship, with lessons about pride, honor, and worldly vanity that are still relevant today. Plutarch pioneered the genre of biography in the West with his lives of Greek and Roman leaders.

A Story Is a Promise & Deep Characterization
By Bill Johnson. This readable guide to plotting a work of fiction helps you identify the human need that your story promises to fulfill, and the actions that will advance that goal. Johnson, a script doctor, uses examples from action movies like "Rocky" and "The Hunt for Red October" to illustrate the different elements of a story. Whereas many writing manuals focus on the micro-elements of the scene (dialogue, setting, characterization), Johnson looks at the macro-elements, the "why" rather than the "how", in a way that will help any novelist wondering which scenes to include in her next draft.



2009 Poet's Market
The 2009 edition of Poet's Market is on sale for $18.47 at Amazon. Published each August by Writer's Digest, this is the best annual guide to 1,600 journals, magazines, book publishers, chapbook publishers, websites, grants, conferences, workshops and contests. Helps you find publishers who are looking for your kind of work. Also updated are Novel & Short Story Writer's Market and Writer's Market for works of prose. Writer's Market is "the most valuable of tools for the writer new to the marketplace," says Stephen King in On Writing.

Alibris Coupon
New, used and out-of-print books, college textbooks and bargains. Order at least $49 of books shipping from Alibris and they'll ship for free.
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Counting Out My Growth in Deaths
by Carmine Dandrea

This sun-filled Sunday morning
when I woke,
I knew that you would not;
I knew that you had gone,
and that your eyes
were closed to Sundays
and to sun.

All my life
I have counted out my growth
in deaths
until they have become
the total of my time
as every stone
that makes a cairn
becomes a marker of the spot;
and your death, Grandfather,
is only one
among the many deaths
I register;
but how special to my growth
it is, I think I know.

At ninety years, your mind alive
to Sundays and to sun,
you simply fell asleep at five—
a quiet afternoon of naps—
and died. No pain we knew of
crossed you in that hour.
Of course, you were alone,
and that was fitting too.
The family had gone home
and left the dream you had
to you.

Who could have known,
although we were aware
at ninety every moment spins
a pinwheel in the sky,

and every arrow spun
is ever pointed straight.
Death smiles, sweet and sure
as lovers do in summer sun,
each time you close your eyes.

With you, another part of time
that calibrates my growth
and scales love has gone.
The sun of yesterday
will not be here tomorrow.
The sun, however, rises
as perhaps I do.
But you, old dial, stand still
the farthest measure of my hour.

I have counted out my growth
in deaths,
and yours is shortening
my life's shadow.
My growth slows
with fainter, thinner line
to mark my moments
in creative light.
The sun at noon is nude,
and so am I.

Copyright 2008 by Carmine Dandrea

This poem is excerpted from his collection Undertaking the American Dream, which was recently released by FootHills Publishing.


by Margaret Gish Miller

Like lingerie
suspended in
space inside
an aquarium,

their pastels delicate,
soft as roses with thorns.
For they say jellyfish

have no heart and
sting in self-
preservation, a part

of their seductive
water dance.
I must have

had the heart
of a jellyfish
at twelve.

For that man, in his
fisherman's fascination,
caught me. Kept me

as his own. And I
repeatedly stung
myself for this.

This debris
of my heart so sore,
I soar into this space

and time
to gather the girl
that was you.

Copyright 2008 by Margaret Gish Miller

This poem was published in the November/December 2008 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, and is included in her chapbook-in-progress Lolita Looks Back.


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Adult low literacy is connected to every socioeconomic problem this country faces today

FACT: More than half of the inmates in our state and federal prisons are illiterate. Inmates who receive basic literacy instruction during or after incarceration are less likely to return to prison. The average cost of housing a prison inmate is $25,000 a year. It costs $500-$800 for one year of adult literacy instruction.

FACT: One-half of the two million immigrants entering the U.S. each year are not literate in their own language. This makes it more difficult for them to gain the English-speaking skills they need to find jobs, advance to better jobs, and maintain safety on the job. Programs that provide these individuals with English-as-a-second-language instruction need support if they are to keep pace with the demand for their services.

FACT: Annual Medicare costs for adults with low literacy skills are more than four times greater than costs for others; medication errors, long hospital stays, and overuse of emergency rooms attributed to low literacy cost as much as $238 billion a year—enough to fund health insurance for every uninsured individual in the U.S.

FACT: Basic literacy, GED preparation, and English-as-a-second-language services are provided by community-based organizations (CBOs) and adult basic education (ABE) programs. More than 90 percent of these programs have waiting lists for classroom space or tutors. People who seek out literacy services understand that they can change their lives and their families' lives by improving their reading, writing, math, and computer skills. They took that first important step by contacting a program—only to be told that it will be months before they can begin.

FACT: Current federal appropriations to adult literacy and basic education programs, combined with state matching dollars and philanthropic donations, make it possible for only 3 million adults to receive instruction.

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This month, Critique Corner is pleased to present "In Break Formation" by Donal Mahoney.

If you would like a chance to be critiqued, please email your poem to me at Send the poem in the body of your email message (no attachments) and put "poetry critique" in the subject line. One submission per poet per month. Thanks!

In Break Formation
by Donal Mahoney

The indications used to come
like movie fighter planes in break
formation, one by one, the perfect
plummet, down and out. This time they're

slower. But after supper, when I hear
her in the kitchen hum again, hum
higher, higher, till my ears are

numb, I remember how it was
the last time: how she hummed
to Aramaic peaks, flung
supper plates across the kitchen
till I brought her by the shoulders

humming to the chair.
I remember how the final days
her eyelids, operating on their own,
rose and fell, how she strolled
among the children, winding tractors,
hugging dolls, how finally

I phoned and had them come again,
how I walked behind them
as they took her by the shoulders,
house dress in the breeze, slowly

down the walk and to the curbing,
watched them bend her in the back
seat of the squad again,

how I watched them pull away
and heard again the parliament
of neighbors talking.

Copyright 2008 by Donal Mahoney

Originally published in The Beloit Poetry Journal, Winter 1968-69

Critique by Jendi Reiter

I chose Donal Mahoney's "In Break Formation" for this month's critique because it illustrates how understatement and the careful withholding of information can enhance the power and freshness of a poem about a traumatic subject. Families affected by mental illness are often marked by secrecy, shame and confusion. Their members may feel like powerless spectators to the events of their own lives. Mahoney captures the dream-like numbness of this family's surrender, first to the momentum of the mother's madness, then to the authorities who take her away. The contrast between his flat reportage of details and the strangeness of those details sets up a dramatic tension that resembles the "humming" of an incoming bomb.

As we learn from the first stanza, the title was inspired by images of war planes being shot down and separated from their aerial formation. So, too, the woman in this poem is pulled away from her family, her unpredictable course determined by her broken internal compass. "Break formation" in this context also suggests the building-up of forces prior to a psychotic break.

The narrator, who I assumed was her husband and the father of the children in the fourth stanza, tries to steer her "humming to the chair" but his piloting skills are overwhelmed. That phrase gave me a mental image of an electric chair on death row, humming with energy as it is prepared for the next prisoner. Perhaps electroshock treatment, as well? Domestic, military and medical scenarios seamlessly shade into one another, prompting reflections on how dysfunction in one of these systems might impact the others....

Click to continue reading this critique

This poem, our critique and contest suggestions for poems in this style appear in full at:

See all of our poetry critiques.


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The Best Free Poetry Contests for January 16-February 28