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Featured Poem:
"come here cowboy come here"

Featured Poem:
"Deciding to Stay"

Featured Poem:
"Two Lives"

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Critique of Hann-Shuin Yew's "Emulation"

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January 2009

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Welcome to our January 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.

Lost one of our newsletters? Graphics don't look right? Not to worry. All our recent newsletters are posted online at



Closing Next Month Utmost Christian Writers
Utmost Christian Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: February 28
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 "To Mary Magdalen, with thanks", an Honorable Mention winner in the 2005 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest:
    To Mary Magdalen,
    with thanks

    by Vicki Goodfellow Duke

    savior of pretty girls
           slammed into doors
           bloodied by steel-toed

           tripping in heels
           through the night

           into drains

           to scrub filth
           from split lips,

           certain still, their souls
           are unbroken,

           (these are the fortunate)

    safe from pills
    stashed in pockets

    they've heard the truth—

    love covers a multitude of sins

           and there's been plenty
           of lovin'

    no sense to kill yourself
    when you may be redeemed

    by tears,
    letting down your hair
    is easy,

    the hardest thing,
    to believe there's deliverance

    at the feet of a man


Tom Howard/John H. Reid Short Story Contest
Postmark Deadline: March 31
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. 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.

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest - No Fee
Online Submission Deadline: April 1
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
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
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.

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: September 30
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 on February 15.


Winning Writers Editor Jendi Reiter was one of three finalists for the Adirondack Review's 46er Poetry Prize. Her poem "And Sarai Said" will be published in their Winter issue. Read it online here. The most recent deadline for this $400 award was July 31. In addition, Jendi's poem "Picnic" won a commended award in the 2008 Cyclamens & Swords Poetry Contest and will be published in a chapbook of the prizewinners. Cyclamens & Swords is an online literary journal edited by Israeli poets Johnmichael Simon and Helen Bar-Lev. The most recent deadline for this $300 prize was November 30.

Congratulations to Sande Cropsey. She was recently interviewed on The Authors Show about her children's book, Tinker's Christmas. The interview can be heard on their website. The book has also been produced as a radio drama that aired on several stations in Georgia during the holidays.

Congratulations to The Poet Spiel. Two of his poetry collections were recently published: once upon a farmboy from Madman Ink, and she: insinuations of flesh brooding from March Street Press. Visit his website to read sample poems and stories. We especially liked his antiwar poem "come here cowboy come here". He kindly shares it with us below.

Congratulations to Pat Valdata. Her novel The Other Sister was just released by Plain View Press. The story follows three generations of Hungarian immigrants in America in the first half of the 20th century. Watch the book trailer on YouTube. Signed copies can be ordered from the author's website.

Congratulations to Laury A. Egan. FootHills Publishing will issue her full-length poetry collection, Snow, Shadows, a Stranger, in January 2009. In addition, her poem "The Peach" will be published in the third issue of the online journal Breadcrumb Scabs, and her short story, "Fog", will appear in the women's outdoor literary magazine, In the Mist. She found both of these journals through the Winning Writers Newsletter. Visit her website at

Congratulations to Persephone Vandegrift. Her short story "Letter from Helen of Sparta" won the October 2008 "Golden Grace Notes" award for best story of the month on the literary forum Notes & Grace Notes.

Congratulations to Mary Kay Rummel. Her poetry chapbook Love in the End was a finalist in the Bright Hill Press Poetry Chapbook Competition and was published in their "Poetry at Hand" series. The most recent deadline for this $300 prize was July 31. She kindly shares a poem from Love in the End, "Deciding to Stay", below. She also won the Diane Glancy Award from Dust & Fire 2009 for her poem "Blue Webs". The Dust & Fire anthology series is published by Bemidji State University in Minnesota. Guidelines are here.

Congratulations to Jill Detrick-Yee. Her poem "Two Lives" won third prize in the Alexander Popoff Youth Award Poetry Contest sponsored by Poets for Human Rights. This free contest for youth aged 17 and under offers $100 for poems relating to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The most recent deadline was November 15. Jill, age 12, found this contest through Winning Writers. She kindly shares her poem with us below.

Congratulations to Ruth Hill. She began subscribing to Poetry Contest Insider in Spring 2008. Since that time, she has had 12 poems accepted for publication out of 36 contests entered. Her first poem was published in The Litchfield Review. Two of her poems for children were selected by Level 4 Press. She sold two memoirs and several photographs to Ocean Magazine for cash. Her poem about Stanley Park in Vancouver placed fourth on the "Highly Commended" list of the Hastings International Poetry Competition. She was one of the winners in the "Judging Poetry" contest from Utmost Christian Writers. Three more poems were published in Word Catalyst, and two inquiries have yielded further work.

Robert Blumenstein recently released his second novel, Snapping the String. This psychological thriller follows a teenager's efforts to exonerate himself of his parents' murder while confined in a mental hospital. Read Gary Dale Cearley's interview with the author at the Aux Arcs Publications blog. Mr. Blumenstein's own website is here.

Nikhil Parekh's poetry book Love Versus Terrorism was reviewed in the Indian Express newspaper. He was also interviewed about his writing on the South African site Polokwane City Forum.

Ellen LaFleche's poem "Washing Rapunzel's Hair" will be published in the 2009 issue of Alligator Juniper, the award-winning literary journal of Prescott College in Arizona.


If you enjoy using The Best Free Poetry Contests, consider upgrading to Poetry Contest Insider. The Best Free Poetry Contests profiles the 150 or so poetry contests that are free to enter. With your Poetry Contest Insider subscription, you'll get access to all of our 750+ poetry contest profiles, plus over 300 of the best prose contests. Contest rules, addresses and deadlines change constantly. We update Poetry Contest Insider nearly every day to stay on top of them. Search and sort contests by deadline, prize, fee, recommendation level and more. Access to Poetry Contest Insider is just $7.95 per quarter, with a free 10-day trial at the start. Cancel at any time.

Most contests charge entry fees. You can easily spend hundreds of dollars and many hours entering these contests each year. Don't waste your time or money. Out of hundreds of contests, there might only be two or three dozen that are especially appropriate for your work. We help you find them fast. Interviews and links to award-winning entries help you refine your craft. Learn more about Poetry Contest Insider.
    Our customers say...

    "...about a year ago I shifted my writing focus (novels, nonfiction) to poetry. I use your site exclusively to select contests. I've won, placed, and/or published 13 poems. The site is great. I can't imagine how much time it would take to search contests out and qualify them one at a time."
    Lee Whipple, Florida

    "Your website is invaluable: definitely the best around. I have benefited greatly from the database of contests. Thank you and keep up the fantastic work!... Last year I received first prize in both the Dorothy Prizes and the Room of One's Own poetry competition—both of which I learned of through your database."
    Vicki Duke, Alberta, Canada

    See more testimonials here, plus coverage of Winning Writers in Writer's Digest and The Writer, or start your trial now.


Deadlines: January 16-February 28

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.

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".

2/1: Gannon University's High School Poetry Contest +
Neutral free contest for students in grades 9-12 offers prizes of $100, $75, $50, plus reading with distinguished author at award ceremony in April. Send 1-3 poems, any length. Gannon University is a Catholic college in Erie, Pennsylvania.

2/1: Paterson Poetry Prize ++
Recommended free contest offers $1,000 for the best book of poetry published during the previous calendar year. Book must have 48+ pages and a press run of 500+ copies. Publisher should submit 3 copies plus entry form. Recent winners have been well-established poets.

2/1: Wednesday Club Junior Poetry Contest +
Neutral free contest for students in grades 10-12 offers prizes of $100, $75, $50, $25. Entrants must attend high schools in the area of St. Louis, Missouri. Entries must be submitted through the school’s English Department. Send 3 copies of 3 poems, any length.

2/1: Wednesday Club Poetry Prize +
Neutral free contest for writers living within a 50-mile radius of St. Louis, Missouri offers prizes of $700, $300, $150. Must be over 18 to enter. Send 2 copies of 2 poems, any length.

2/1: Wick Poetry High School Competition +++
Highly recommended free contest for Ohio high school seniors offers $4,000 tuition to Kent State University, renewable up to four years pending good academic standing. 2nd & 3rd Prize winners receive $3,000 and $1,500 renewable scholarships. Send 4 copies of one poem, 100 lines maximum.

2/2: IUPUI Poetry Contest +
Neutral free contest for high school students or homeschooled students of high school age includes prizes up to $200, plus eligibility for scholarships if student enrolls at IUPUI. Enter by mail or online. Submit one poem, no more than one page in length.

2/2: Poetry in Motion Contest +
Entries must be received by this date; formerly January 15
Neutral free contest for residents living within a 50-mile radius of St. Louis, Missouri offers $50 plus the opportunity to have your poetry published on posters in MetroLink trains and buses, in conjunction with the Poetry Society of America's "Poetry in Motion" program. Previously published work accepted. Send 1-3 poems, maximum 15 lines each. Entries must be received by 5pm local time on the deadline date.

2/6: Arts & Letters Awards +++
Formerly February 15
Highly recommended free contest for residents of the Canadian Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Prizes are as follows: senior division (age 19 and up): 17 awards of C$1,000 each (6 poetry, 5 fiction, 3 nonfiction, 2 scriptwriting and 1 humanitarian essay); junior division (age 12-18): 23 awards of C$250 (10 poetry, 10 prose and drama, 1 French language, 2 humanitarian essay). Entries must have been written in the past 12 months. Only one submission per person per art form (literary arts, music or visual arts); i.e., literature entrants must choose between poetry, fiction, nonfiction and drama genres. No simultaneous submissions.

2/9: Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Award +
Entries must be received by this date; formerly February 12
Neutral free contest from ICON, the student literary journal of Kent State University's Trumbull Campus, offers $100 for the best 1-2 poems, any length. Entries should be typed, single-spaced, with author's name, address and phone number on each poem. One submission per person. Email Gary Ciuba with questions.

2/13: Hollins University Literary Festival Contest +
Entries must be received by this date; formerly February 15
Neutral free contest offers $100 apiece for unpublished poems and short stories by college undergraduates, along with reading at the Lex Allen Literary Festival on March 7. Submit 1-3 poems or 1-2 stories, no length limit specified. Enter by mail or email. Entries must be received by noon EST on the deadline date.

2/13: Library of Virginia Literary Awards ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly February 8
Recommended free contest offers prizes of $3,500 in each genre for books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction published in the preceding calendar year by Virginia authors and/or on a Virginia theme. Publisher or author should send 3 copies of book plus entry form.

2/15: Memoir (and) Prize for Creative Nonfiction ++
Formerly February 29
Recommended free contest offers twice-yearly prizes for the best memoirs submitted to their magazine during each reading period (November 1-February 15, May 1-August 15). Online submissions preferred. Send 1-5 poems or one prose piece, maximum 10,000 words. See website for art formatting requirements. "Memoir (and) publishes memoirs in many forms. We strive with each issue to include a selection of prose, poetry, graphic memoirs, narrative photography, lies and more."

2/15: The Binnacle Ultra-Short Competition +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest from The Binnacle, the literary journal of the University of Maine at Machias, seeks poems up to 16 lines and prose up to 150 words. A minimum of $300 in prizes will be awarded, with a minimum prize of at least $50, plus publication. At least one of the prizes will go to a UMM student. Enter by email only.

2/27: Judith Siegel Pearson Award +
Neutral free contest offers annual awards averaging $250 for the best creative or scholarly work on a subject concerning women. Award categories rotate each year. Poetry will be the genre of choice in 2009, essays in 2010, fiction in 2011, and drama in 2012. Prose and drama length limit is 20 double-spaced pages, poetry 4-10 poems (maximum 20 pages).

2/27: New Words Poetry Competition +
Formerly February 29
Neutral free contest for Ohio residents offers prizes of $125, $100 and $75 for 1-3 unpublished poems, maximum 5 pages total. Sponsored by the Akron Art Museum.

2/28: California Federation of Chaparral Poets Youth Contest +
Formerly February 23
Neutral free contest for California students in grades 7-12 offers prizes up to $50 in each of 6 categories for poems 20 lines maximum. Categories are Junior (grades 7-9), Senior (grades 10-12), Light Verse, and three themed contests: "Hope", "Youth's View of Humanity", and "I Remember". Email Elaine Harper for more information.

2/28: Chistell Writing Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers top prizes of $100 for short fiction and poetry, for writers aged 16+ who have never been published in a major publication. Chistell is an independent publisher of popular literature with a focus on African-American women. Send 1-2 poems or one story; online submission only. 2009 theme is "Courage".

2/28: Dylan Days Writing Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest sponsored by singer-songwriter Bob Dylan's hometown offers top prizes of $100 for poems and short stories in both open and student categories, plus a prize of $100 for one-act plays. Enter poetry and fiction by email only, drama by mail only. Send 1-2 poems, maximum 2 pages, or one story, 1,000-1,500 words. Student category is for current high school or undergraduate students with no literary publishing credits other than school publications. "Entries need not be about Bob Dylan or use his style of writing; but they should strive for creativity, originality and literary theme."

2/28: Jo-Anne Hirshfield Memorial Poetry Awards +
Neutral free contest offers prizes of $100, $50 and $25 in each of two age categories: high school students and adults. Open to Chicago-area authors only. Send 2 copies of 1-5 unpublished poems.

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 - Editor C. Hope Clark
From a long-time reader...
    "Dear Hope, Do you know how many other writers I know who have had a "Hope Awakening"? Didn't fully understand the gold in these newsletters until they finally had that epiphany of what a mine they're sitting on? You are SUCH a force in the writing world. I swear, you're the Oprah of the writing world." ~Courtney Mroch
Come visit and see why Hope's readers love FFW.

One Night Only!
Ezra Pound PlayEzra Pound Play Coming to New York City on January 26—Free Admission
See William Roetzheim's Pound at the Dramatists Guild's Frederick Loewe Room at 1501 Broadway, New York City, on Monday, January 26, at 7pm. Free admission. RSVP to

The poet Ezra Pound was a key figure in the birth of modernism at the start of the twentieth century, and he was an active proponent of the Social Credit economic movement during the depression. Leading up to and during World War II he made radio broadcasts from Italy that were offensive and unpatriotic. He was charged with treason, but ultimately the government avoided a trial by locking him in an insane asylum for eighteen years instead. This play gives Ezra Pound the trial that he never had, with the audience as the jury. Ultimately, the play explores the boundaries of free speech in the area between art and politics.

Please enjoy these excerpts from the play, and click to learn more:
    [During this next bit Ezra Pound enters engrossed in a copy of tonight's program. Ezra is twenty, full of energy, and self-confident to the point of arrogance.]


    What the ensanguined llllllll is the matter with this bloody goddamndamnblastedbastardbitch born putrid seahorse of a stinkerous printer????? Is his serbo-croatian optic untterly impervious to the twelfth letter of the alphabet???? JHEEZUSMARIAJOSE!!! Madre de dios y de dios del perro. Sacrobosco di Satanas. Of course if if if bloodywell if this blasted program appears with anything like one twohundredandfiftieth part of these errors we are done, and I shall never be able to get a fair trial out of this damn...

    OK, so here I am at a party, I'm talking to this gorgeous lady, looking into her eyes with my deep green eyes, and maybe I tell her [He hams it up during this]:

    You came in out of the night
    And there were flowers in your hand,
    Now you will come out of a confusion of people,
    Out of a turmoil of speech about you.

    I who have seen you amid the primal things
    Was angry when they spoke your name
    In ordinary places.
    I would that the cool waves might flow over my mind,
    And that the world should dry as a dead leaf,
    Or as a dandelion seed-pod and be swept away,
    So that I might find you again,

    [Looks up] Yep, I got lucky on a regular basis...


    [Mr. Frankson is the head of the Department of Justice, a slow talking Texan whom one instinctively dislikes.]

    Let's get back to the reason we're all here. We're here because Ezra's been moaning and groaning that he never got his jury verdict on the charge of treason. Instead of being grateful that the government locked him in an insane asylum instead of hanging him, which he deserved, he's been telling the big guy upstairs that a jury of his peer would have found him innocent. Well, he gets his chance and you [indicates the audience] are the jury. At the end of this complete waste of time you'll all be able to reach in your program, pull out that red card, and indicate your vote of guilty by holding it up. Simple as that. Just remember, red card as in red, white, and blue.

Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference

The Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference
Next conferences: February 20-23; March 27-30

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 February conference 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!
Dame Lisbet Throckmorton Fiction Contest Call for Entries
Postmark Deadline: January 31
Original short stories, or chapters that stand on their own, should use 3,500 words or less to dazzle the judges. There are four cash prizes: $500, $125, $75, and $50. The entry fee is $17. Winning stories will be published onsite with pics and bios (see our most recent winning entries). We also offer a critique service for those who wish to receive their story's score plus feedback. This is an additional $25. For more information see or email

We're here to elevate great fiction and to advance talented writers. We understand the maddening challenge encountered by new writers. You can't get published because you haven't been published. An agent won't read what you've written. Marketing trumps talent.

Fiction is our pursuit. Your writing can be historical, fantastic, contemporary or futuristic. We don't care. Our only requirement is that it be disarming and original. We delight in your talent and take joy in promoting your genius.

Last Call!
Oregon Quarterly 10th Annual Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest (no fee)
Postmark Deadline: January 31
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 "Pomegranate Prayers" by Gregg Kleiner. This essay tied for second place in the open category of our ninth annual contest.
    ...I squint to read the thumb-sized sticker stuck to the peel. This pomegranate was grown in Afghanistan! It's come halfway around the world to wind up in this Oregon valley of rain and chill in deep winter. I try to imagine the orchard where it was grown in that war-stained region. Who picked this particular one? A young boy with thin brown arms and a shrapnel scar above one eye? His teenage sister with a shy white smile? An old farmer outside Kandahar whose face is withered by the arid Afghan sun? I finger the smooth skin. Whoever it was, we are connected across the planet, each of our hands having held this same orb of stored sunlight, our blood coursing through our capillaries so near all these seeds suspended in botanical fluid...

Click to download "Pomegranate Prayers" and all the winning essays from our ninth contest in a PDF.

Last Call!
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
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.

Postmark Deadline: March 1
upstreet, an independent literary annual, is seeking quality submissions—with an edge—of short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry, for its fifth issue. Each issue features an author interview; the first four interviews were with Jim Shepard, Lydia Davis, Wally Lamb, and Michael Martone. Payment is in author copies. upstreet is nationally distributed by Source Interlink, Ubiquity, and Armadillo, and by Disticor in Canada. For sample content and to submit, visit For news about upstreet and its authors, visit This poem is from upstreet number four:
    Cash for Guns, 1975
    by Dean Smith

    On a bitter cold Sunday afternoon
    my father turned in his Remington 700
    bolt-action deer rifle he'd won selling
    the most Esso spark plugs in a year.

    Before the divorce, I'd sneak into my parents' bedroom,
    unzip the rawhide sleeve and lift the rifle out.
    Peering through the scope, I aimed the heavy gun
    at the floor, pulled the trigger.

    Dad lumbered to the police station,
    cradling the gun like a newborn.
    Behind on his child support, he needed
    the fifty bucks to raise us.

Ayn Rand Contests Students Win $$$ Writing Short Essays! (no fee)
The Ayn Rand Institute is accepting essays from high school and college students on Ayn Rand's novels. $81,250 awarded in prize money to 521 students! No fees to enter.
    Anthem Essay Contest
    Eligibility: 8th, 9th and 10th graders
    Prize: 1st Place - $2,000, 236 prizes awarded!
    Deadline: March 20, 2009

    The Fountainhead Essay Contest
    Eligibility: 11th and 12th graders
    Prize: 1st Place - $10,000, 236 prizes awarded!
    Deadline: April 25, 2009

    Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest
    Eligibility: 12th graders and College undergraduate and graduate students
    Prize: 1st Place - $10,000, 49 prizes awarded!
    Deadline: September 17, 2009
Essays will be judged on both style and content. Judges will look for writing that is clear, articulate and logically organized. Winning essays must demonstrate an outstanding grasp of the philosophic and psychological meaning of the novel in question.

For complete rules, guidelines, and topic questions, please visit:

Fish PublishingTwo Competitions Now Open at Fish Publishing
    The Fish One-Page Prize (Flash Fiction)
    Entries must be received by March 20
    Judge: Arthur Mathews, co-writer of the 'Father Ted' series
    The best ten stories will be published in the 2009 Fish Anthology in July
    First prize is 1,000 euros
    50 euros each for the nine runners-up
    There is a limit of 300 words
    Results announced April 30
    Enter online for 12 euros per story. Critique of story (optional) 25 euros
    Postal entry costs 15 euros each, and 28 euros for a critique. Send to Fish One-Page Prize, Durrus, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland.

    2009 Fish Poetry Prize
    Entries must be received by March 30
    Judge: Peter Fallon, poet and poetry publisher with Gallery Press, Ireland's leading publisher of poetry
    The best five poems will be published in the 2009 Fish Anthology
    First Prize is 500 euros
    100 euros each for the four runners-up
    There is a limit of 200 words
    Results announced April 30
    Enter online for 12 euros
    Postal entry costs 15 euros. Send to Fish Poetry Prize, Durrus, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland.
The following details pertain to both competitions:
  • No entry form is needed
  • You can enter as many times as you wish
  • Open to writers of any nationality writing in English
  • There is no restriction on theme or style
  • All entries must not have been published previously
  • Copyright returns to the author one year after publication of the Anthology. Copyright of the Anthology remains with Fish
  • Notification of receipt of entry will normally be by email
  • The verdict of the judge is final
  • Poems or One-Page stories cannot be altered or changed once they have been entered
  • Entry is taken as acceptance of these conditions.

TIFERET: A Journal of Spiritual LiteratureEnter the Tiferet Writing Awards—Prizes Doubled to $500 Each
Postmark Deadline: April 1
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

Alabama Writers' ConclaveAlabama Writers' Conclave (AWC) Annual Contest -
Postmark Deadline: April 30
Prizes awarded in July: $100, $75, $50 and $25 plus online publication (optional) of first through fourth place winners in Alalitcom. Categories and maximum word limit: Fiction (2,500), Short Fiction (1,000), Juvenile Fiction (2,500), Nonfiction (2,500), Traditional Poem (any form – maximum 40 lines), Free Verse Poem (60 lines), Humor (fiction, nonfiction, or poetry – 2,000 words or 50 lines for poem), First Chapter Novel (up to 10 double-spaced pages).

Entry fee for each submission in all categories (EXCEPT Poem and First Chapter Novel): $5.00 if AWC member, $8.00 non-member. For First Chapter Novel: $10.00 if member, $12.00 non-member. For all poems: $3.00 per poem if member, $5.00 non-member. Multiple entries accepted, but you may win only one prize per category. Entries must be original, unpublished, and may not have won a money prize in any contest.

Organized in 1923, the Conclave is the oldest continuing writers' organization in the United States. Writers, aspiring writers and supporters of the writing arts may join. Sharing information, developing ideas, honing skills, and receiving practical advice are hallmarks of the annual meeting.

The Conclave is responsible for nominating, for the governor's appointment, the Alabama Poet Laureate, a post currently filled by Sue Brannan Walker. Further information:

Perigee Now Open
Perigee's 2009 Fiction Contest, Plus a New Issue!
Postmark Deadline: April 30
Perigee's 2009 Fiction Contest is now open, and our 23rd issue is hot off the presses. $600 in cash prizes is up for grabs, along with a Pushcart nomination, and publication in our highly anticipated, commemorative 25th issue (July 15, 2009).

This year we're proud to have James Brown serve as our guest judge. Brown is the author of The Los Angeles Diaries: A Memoir (HarperCollins), which was chosen for Best Books of the Year 2004 from the San Francisco Chronicle, Publishers Weekly, and The Independent in the UK. His work has appeared in GQ, The New York Times Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times Magazine. Brown has written several novels including Lucky Town and Final Performance.

To read our contest guidelines, visit You can also submit your stories quickly and easily using our redesigned online submission process. Don't miss the chance to have your work appear along Pushcart nominees and award-winning writers, in what has long been one of the most innovative literary publications on the web.

This year's contest winners will be announced on June 15. Want something to whet your appetite and stir the muse? Read the winners of the 2008 Fiction Contest, as judged by Thomas E. Kennedy, by visiting our archived 21st issue. Or simply visit our brand new, 23rd issue—out today and chock full of fresh poetry, fiction, nonfiction, book reviews, interviews, and more. Stop by to read or submit.

Artwork by Derek McCrea

Skysaje Enterprises Poetry Contest Announcing the Fifth Annual Skysaje Enterprises Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: April 30
This year we’re offering a $250 first prize and three $25 honorable mentions. The judges are:
  • Award-winning poet Ellaraine Lockie (winner of our 2008 contest)
  • M.J. Iuppa, legendary Rochester, NY-based poet and professor at St. John Fisher College
  • Rick Petrie, co-host of the long running Pure Kona Poetry series
Guidelines for entry into the 2009 contest:
  1. All entries must be typed in the 14-point font size
  2. Submit up to five (5) poems per entry
  3. Title of poem and author contact info must appear on each page submitted
  4. A $15.00 non-refundable entry fee must accompany all submissions
Make check or money orders payable to L. Berger and mail to:
    Skysaje Enterprises
    50 Amesbury Road
    Rochester, NY 14623
Please enjoy Ellaraine Lockie's "She Reads Virginia Woolf", the winning entry in our 2008 contest:
    She Reads Virgina Woolf
    by Ellaraine Lockie

    As she slept he'd finger-walk
    all the way up her underarm
    Soft, like snow falling over
    the shoulder, ear, lips
    Sleep melted into a pool
    that he found with postage-stamp licks
    delivered the slow boat way until she couldn't breathe right

    That was before he made appointments
    with her after x-rated movies
    Laid back on an island of entitlement
    and measured her worth by the inches he grew
    He bought handcuffs, tongue vibrator, Ben Wah balls
    told her to exercise with those metal balls until they
    played croquet down there

    It's understood she'll use the $100 bill he leaves on the bedstand afterwards for groceries
    She'll serve rice and beans twice this week though so she can buy Revlon's Rasin Rage
    nail polish turn the numbness into a red purple blur brushing the keyboard late at night
    Hard, like Hail hitting the bedrock

    Then she waits for the recoil
    it comes from fingers on the other end of the airwaves
    the concussions of her life absorbed
    by the longing in the distance and the science of chemistry
    the latent heat that liquefies his words
    so they wash over her in a warm river rush
    Reason to keep her from filling her pockets with rocks

Dancing Poetry FestivalNow Open
Artists Embassy International Poetry Contest - Three Grand Prize Winning Poems to be Danced and Filmed
Postmark Deadline: May 15
  • 3 Grand Prizes will receive $100 each plus their poems will be danced and filmed. Each Grand Prize winner will be invited onstage for photo ops with the dancers and a bow in the limelight.
  • 6 First Prizes will receive $50 each
  • 12 Second Prizes will receive $25 each
  • 25 Third Prizes will receive $10 each
All prize winners will receive a prize certificate suitable for framing, a ticket to the Dancing Poetry Festival ’09, and be invited to read their prizewinning poem at the 2009 Dancing Poetry Festival. The top three poems chosen as Grand Prizes will be choreographed, costumed and recorded live in an on-stage performance at the Festival to be held on Saturday, September 26, 2009, 12-4, at San Francisco's Florence Gould Theater in the California Palace of the Legion of Honor Art Museum.

Last year's Grand Prize winners included Lucille Lang Day, Janice P. Egry and Allison Joseph. Recent topics of winning poems have touched on the travels of Matisse, a Picasso painting, falling leaves, love, Iraq, China, history, dance, current events, reverie, socially significant situations and even some humor sprinkled here and there. Please don't feel constrained to write a poem about dancing.

Dancing Poetry Contest The entry fee is $5 per poem or $10 for 3 poems. Each poem may be up to 40 lines long. Send two copies of each poem. One copy should be anonymous (just title and poem), the other should have your name, address, phone, email address and where you heard about this contest (e.g. Winning Writers Newsletter). There is no limit on the number of entries.

When the judges evaluate entries, they look for innovative perspectives on ordinary or unusual subjects as well as excellence of craft. Your entry should be suitable for a general audience since our following is comprised of people of all ages and ethnicities. English translations must be included with non-English poems.

Dancing Poetry Contest Our judges consist of poets, dancers, musicians and visual artists of various media, all members of Artists Embassy International. Judging is done with the anonymous copies of the poems. Artists Embassy International is a non-profit, volunteer, arts and education organization whose goal is to further intercultural understanding through the arts.

Three poets, the Grand Prize winners, will be rewarded with seeing their poems danced by Natica Angilly's Poetic Dance Theater Company, a well-known dance troupe that has performed around the world and throughout America. This company is dedicated exclusively to creating new avenues by combining poetry, dance and music together for presentation and the expansion of poetry with dance in the life of our culture.

To enter the contest, please visit our website at or submit to AEI Contest Chair W, Judy Cheung, 704 Brigham Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95404. Questions? Please email Ms. Cheung at

Robert Frost Foundation Opening Soon
13th Annual Robert Frost Foundation Annual Poetry Award
Enter after March 1
Postmark/Email Submission Deadline: September 15
The Robert Frost Foundation welcomes poems in the spirit of Robert Frost for its 13th Annual Award. The winner will receive $1,000 and an invitation to present the winning poem this fall at the Frost Festival located at the Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Please submit two copies of each poem, one copy with contact information (name, address, phone number, email address) and one copy free of all identifying information. Reading fees are $10 per poem (send fees via regular mail, please). Make your check payable to The Robert Frost Foundation. Mail your entry to: The Robert Frost Foundation, Attn: Poetry Award, Lawrence Public Library - 3rd Floor, 51 Lawrence Street, Lawrence, MA 01841. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) or an email address if you'd like to receive the contest results. Email submissions are accepted at if you send your entry fee by regular mail.

You may submit up to three poems of not more than three pages in all. Both published and unpublished works are accepted. See the complete contest guidelines at

Please enjoy "Double Wedding Ring" by Elizabeth Klise von Zerneck of Peoria, Illinois, winner of the 2008 Robert Frost Award:
    Double Wedding Ring
    by Elizabeth Klise von Zerneck

    How cramped a lot
    to be a slave-stitched quilt,
    to be Cathedral Church in cast-off gingham, or
    old Shoofly sewn in blocks of red
    and studded with a dirty pinwheel heart.
    How wretched to
    be born from tattered scraps
    of common cotton cloth and penny thread to form
    dark sheets of patchwork squares. How small
    and mocking to be comforter, though frail
    and thin. By night,
    to rest on worn-out laps
    and later beds and bodies in attempts to cut
    cold cabin winds...and then, by day,
    to hang against wind-splintered fence rails, or
    along the backs
    of peeling porch chairs, there
    to air under the harsh spilled Southern sun. Bow Ties,
    Log Cabin, Flying Geese: stitched fast
    from cloth, one at a time, the quilts displayed

    their solemn, spot-

    stained fronts. How sore a fate! The dazed parade
    of masters, mules, and slaves looked past
    the fence-draped quilts; just one or two cast up their eyes
    in quickened glance to where
    the quilts hung lax.
    Those certain sharp-eyed few knew to look for
    the Monkey Wrench (go hide away
    the tools), to recognize good Wagon Wheel (pack what
    is needed), next perhaps
    to note the bright
    zigzags of Drunkard's Path (stagger your trail),
    and then, one day, to see the fall
    and rise of Tumbling Boxes (leave tonight). Not warm
    those quilts (all shred and gaps),
    not expert (too
    coarse, primitively sewn), not song, not art...
    but, hanging there, those blankets read
    as eloquent as prose: their patchwork words free-born
    from thread, their phrases built
    from stitch and knot.



These free prose contests with deadlines between January 16 and February 28 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.

1/30: Cintas Foundation Fiction Fellowship ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly January 14
Recommended free contest offers a $15,000 fellowship to fiction writers, living outside Cuba, of Cuban citizenship or direct lineage (having a Cuban parent or grandparent). Submit a 25-page sample of an original fiction manuscript, application form, project description and two letters of recommendation.

1/30: Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children's Book Award ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers 1,500 pounds and possible publication for an unpublished novel for children aged 8-12 that celebrates cultural diversity. Entrants should be aged 16+ with no prior published novels for children. Manuscripts should be 10,000-30,000 words. See website for entry form and more details on the contest theme. Enter by mail or email.

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 previous calendar year. 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.

2/1: Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers $5,000 for a book of fiction by a US woman, published in the preceding calendar year. Entries may be a novel, a collection of short stories, or experimental writing. Four copies must be submitted by publisher. Sponsored by the University of Rochester's Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies.

2/1: Newsweek "My Turn" Essay Contest +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest for college-bound US high school students offers $5,000 top prize plus publication in Newsweek, as well as other large prizes, for unpublished personal essays of 500-1,000 words on a topic of significance to them. Style should resemble the "My Turn" column in Newsweek magazine. See website for details on formatting, eligibility and judging criteria. Online entries accepted.

2/2: Danuta Gleed Literary Award +++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly January 31
Highly recommended free contest offers C$10,000 for the best first collection of short fiction published by a Canadian author in the preceding calendar year. Send 4 copies to the Writers' Union of Canada.

2/14: Writers' & Artists' Yearbook Short Story Competition ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers 500 pounds, plus tuition to an Arvon Foundation residential writing course worth 575 pounds, for unpublished short fiction up to 2,000 words. 2009 theme is "Conflict". Enter by email. The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook is an annual directory of markets and advice for writers, similar to Writer's Digest in the US. It is published by A&C Black.

2/28: Charles Johnson Student Fiction Award +++
Don't enter before February 1; former submission period March 1-31
Highly recommended free contest for US college and graduate students offers $1,000 and publication in Crab Orchard Review for a short story, maximum 20 double-spaced pages. The award competition is open to all undergraduate and graduate students who are US citizens or permanent residents currently enrolled full- or part-time in a US college or university.

2/28: Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest +++
Entries must be received by this date; don't enter before February 1; former deadline February 15
Highly recommended free contest for authors aged 30 and under. Prize is tuition to The Kenyon Review's one-week summer seminar and publication in the highly prestigious journal. Submit one story, 1,200 words maximum, via their online form. No simultaneous submissions.

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.



Postmark Deadline: February 1
Literary journal RATTLE: Poetry for the 21st Century seeks submissions of poetry and critical essays by African-American poets for a special issue to be released in June 2009. Send no more than 5 poems per submission. Essays may be up to 5,000 words, serving either as an introduction to contemporary African-American poetry, or focusing on a specific aspect within it. Entries may be mailed or emailed.

Postmark Deadline: February 6
Canadian literary journal sub-TERRAIN seeks poetry submissions for its Spring 2009 issue on "form". This journal pays C$25 per poem or page of prose. "We're looking for (you guessed it) a variety of forms here, both old and new: haiku, sonnets, ghazals, polemics, satires, flash/sudden fiction, and more! Discussions and interpretations of 'form' are also encouraged: configurations, shapes, castings, compositions, patterns...let your twisted minds run wild."

Main Street Rag Fiction Anthologies
Postmark Deadline: September 15
Main Street Rag, a well-regarded literary journal and small press publisher based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is reading submissions of short fiction for upcoming anthologies on three themes (see below). Send 1-2 stories, maximum 10,000 words each. No simultaneous submissions, but previously published work is acceptable if you own the reprint rights. Themes for 2009:

1) The Commute (stories regarding travel including everything from bicycling to busing to driving to riding a horse—getting from here to there)

2) Food (stories about eating, cooking, restaurants, barbecues, picnics—if food is a centerpiece of the story, it's eligible)

3) Coming Home (stories of soldiers returning, people visiting a place that they've been away from for a while, children growing up as well as stories about people overcoming physical and emotional challenges).



Authors Access
This site features free downloadable podcasts of interviews with people around the world who can help authors better manage their writing careers. Popular guests have included Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of The Frugal Book Promoter; Jo Virgil, a community relations manager for Barnes & Noble; and publicist Maryglenn McCombs.

The Authors Show
This program carried by online broadcaster WNB Network West features interviews with authors about their published and self-published books. Fill out their contact form to be considered for an interview.

Community of Veterans
Social networking site sponsored by veterans' advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America was conceived as a "virtual VFW hall" where vets and troops can create profiles, find buddies, and share stories of their combat experiences. This site replaces the IAVA forum

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.



The Glass Violin
By P.S. Cottier. This Australian poet truly does see the universe in a grain of sand—as well as in a tram ticket, a Caesarian scar, the names of Australian military operations, a shabby bear in the Soviet zoo, a wren visiting a dead friend's garden, and myriad other small details of modern life that she turns into windows on the human condition, in verses both whimsical and profound.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
By Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. In this hilarious fantasy novel, an angel and a devil try to stave off the apocalypse because they enjoy life on earth too much. Along the way, the authors slip in some profound insights about the necessary balance between the light and the dark sides of human nature.

A Treasury of War Poetry: British and American Poems of the World War, 1914-1917
Edited, with introduction and notes, by George Herbert Clarke. The full text of this 1917 anthology, containing many poems by lesser-known contemporaries alongside the likes of Rupert Brooke and Sara Teasdale, has been made available online by Bob Blair.

The Whore's Child and Other Stories
Deftly drawn portraits of intimate relationships explore how the people closest to us may be the most mysterious. In the title piece, an elderly nun in a fiction writing class writes her memoirs in defiance of the teacher's expectations, but the exercise reveals that the true story is different from what she had thought it to be. Other pieces gently probe the strengths and weaknesses of long-married couples, and how they are held together as much by the fictions they believe as by the truths they know about one another.



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.

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come here cowboy come here
by The Poet Spiel

see this virgin soldier boy
stilled in his prime
bagging elbows
coding knees

come here mr. president

come here
phony cowboy
texas blueblood come here
see this virgin boy
counting toes fingers
and spines

go ahead if you must
line up for the rapture
with your clown hat on
mr. president
or better yet
come here come here
to face this boy
who could not bare
his superior officer's stare

so he was demoted
from near-nobody
to nobody
bagging lips brains
and livers for transport
back home
to the u.s.a.

come here awol cowboy
show this kid your thumbs
the parts of you which prove
you could have lifted something
greater than a crawford chainsaw
(trimming limbs of a less bloody sort)
and he will show you bags full of
thumb-knuckles tips and fingernails
zip-coded for shipping without really
knowing who nor where they came from

this virgin kid
whose virgin sweetheart awaits him back home
this naïve boy who bought your bring em on boast
who figured he could prove he was a man
a mighty christian at war
as he watched you pray with your eyes shut

but this boy's feet turned to sand
as you waffled on your why
and his girlfriend sent a message that you'd lied
and unlike all his buddies he'd never felt
the privilege of his sweetheart's blood yet
here he was all smeared in the blood of thumbs
(not thumbs like yours with tidy fingernails)
plus baby's scalps and tiny hands and too much
splintered bone splattered in human dung
of young men
just like him

come here come on
bigshot-target cowboy
forgive this virgin kid who cannot stand
to face you cannot look you straight
eye to eye
be humbled in his presence mr.
cowboy without a horse to ride
tell him that you're sorry
that you led him so astray
admit you never really had the mandate
though he won't know what a mandate is
he is a simple kid
a no body

do this phony cowboy
get down on your knees

sob yourself to bits and pieces

then hope   then beg this kid
can spare some space in his bags
to squeeze your fragments cast astray
with other odds
and ends to code them back
to general delivery

to see if they
(aside from all this more noble flesh and bone)
just might stand the test
for the presence of human d.n.a.

Copyright 2009 by The Poet Spiel

This poem is reprinted from Spiel's chapbook come here cowboy: poems of war (Pudding House Publications, 2006), which can be ordered from his website.


Deciding to Stay
by Mary Kay Rummel

I did not imagine the two wild swans
crossing the sky this morning, clouds so low
it was easy to forget to look up.
How layered the park was,
everything dwarfed by trees.
I thought of Celtic shamans
becoming crows and owls,
how I could not become anything else,
when side by side the two swans rose
over the trees, beating their wings
with effort and purpose, over meadows,
over rocks, between mountains,
heading for a place so elsewhere
no one could follow,
not even the heroes of northern tales.

There was something strange about
the way their rhythm brushed across me,
seemed to include me as I watched
until they skimmed out of view
inside a thick column of cloud
and I snapped back
to the world of unsettled desires
feeling that in some way

I had risen through folds of words into
the clearer air of where I am, will never be,
but where I'm reconciled, unfettered,
shaking out unused wings to fly.

Copyright 2009 by Mary Kay Rummel

This poem is excerpted from her chapbook Love in the End, which was a finalist in the Bright Hill Press Poetry Chapbook Competition and was published in their "Poetry at Hand" series.


Two Lives
by Jill Detrick-Yee

I looked around one day.
Quiet homes
with paved driveways
line the streets of my suburban neighborhood.
Life begins to stir
as the sun begins to rise.
Idyllic pink light illuminates
the soft tranquil sky.
Fresh pungent fragrances of the moist earth fill the air.
All is sound.
All is planned.
One day like the other.
School is my destination.
I see friends
wearing my favorite brands.
We laugh, learn, talk.
Opportunities seem endless.
My destiny is mine to control.

I looked around one day.
Families huddle under tattered tarps on coarse sand.
Ashes on scorched, barren Darfur desert
mark the ruthless assault.
No time for funerals.
My mouth is dry and sticky.
My stomach growls.
The afternoon sun beats down upon my weary body.
My worn clothes
smudged with dirt, blood, and tears
expose my life.
When will they attack again?
I stay hopeful.
Everyday I live is a miracle.

Two girls.
Same age.
Same time.
Same Earth.

Different lives.

Copyright 2009 by Jill Detrick-Yee

This poem won third prize in the Alexander Popoff Youth Award Poetry Contest sponsored by Poets for Human Rights.


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State and County Adult Literacy Rates—How Does Your Community Compare?

Do you know what the illiteracy rate is in your state? In your county? It's probably higher than you think. A National Center for Education Statistics report gives county and state estimates of adults who lack basic literacy skills.

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy: Indirect County and State Estimates of the Percentage of Adults at the Lowest Literacy Level for 1992 and 2003 has an interactive Web tool that shows data for all states and counties. Visitors can compare literacy rates between individual states, among counties, and rates across time. The full report and the Web tool can be found at

"This report brings the national statistics home, into everyone's backyard," said Jane Hugo, ProLiteracy's director of special projects for programs and professional services. "This issue is not 'someplace else'. It affects every community."

Thirty million adults—an estimated 14 percent of the country's population over the age of 16—lack basic literacy skills. That means they can barely read, write, and understand written text. Another 63 million have only slightly better literacy skills. Individuals in the service industry and construction field held many of the more than one million jobs lost in 2008. Research shows that many adults with low literacy skills work in those fields.

"Local adult education and literacy programs are poised and ready to work on this issue," Hugo said. "But they do not have the money they need to help everyone who wants help."

Current funding for adult education is not enough. ProLiteracy President and CEO David C. Harvey is urging Congress and the Obama transition team to include at least $100 million of the economic stimulus package for Title II of the Workforce Investment Act. That's the federal government's largest discretionary program that supports adult basic education and literacy programs throughout the U.S. Stimulus funding should be used to help our adult learners get back to work now.

After you look at the illiteracy rate for your state and county, click to send a letter to your Congressional representatives. Ask them to support at least a $100 million allocation of the stimulus package for adult education.

Click here to read USA Today's January 9 story about this report.

ProLiteracy WorldwideProLiteracy supports adults and young people in the U.S. and internationally who are learning to read, write, and do basic math by training instructors, publishing instructional materials, and advocating for resources and public policies that support them.

Support ProLiteracy's vital mission. Click here to learn more. Click to contribute.

Send this page to a friend and we'll donate 15 cents to ProLiteracy for each friend you refer.



This month, Critique Corner is pleased to present "Emulation" by Hann-Shuin Yew.

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!

by Hann-Shuin Yew

"poetry would probably not be the hardest of human tasks to emulate
once computers can do metaphysics human beings are done"
Here then, is a template for your algorithms: Begin
with a sentence of sentient assurance, a bold proclamation
on the Human Condition. It's audience insurance;
a grassroots connection, rocked into rhythm
by daily existence. This is the way we are, you say—

But then, not quite. No image stands
Alone. Tag-clouds drift on every horizon,
bearing silicon linings. There is no straw,
says the camel to his back. Hysteresis is
remembrance seeping into the present, analog
connections slackening. The final straw was
Ophelia afloat, entwined in forget-me-nots.
We will remember you were, we promise. We won't.

Gray is swatches of black and white
stitched into nano-mosaics. Despair means
hope has walked before. Take what I say
and permute it, deny it. You will build a snapshot
or better, its negative, perpetually expectant.
This is the stuff that dreams are made of.
This is the stuff, the ones and the zeroes,
that code is born from.

Copyright 2009 by Hann-Shuin Yew

Critique by Jendi Reiter

Hann-Shuin Yew's poem "Emulation" raises knotty questions about memory, whether personal, cultural or computerized. The creative impulse is connected to awareness of mortality. We strive to produce something that will outlast us, be it a poem that carries our thoughts into the future when we are no longer there to speak them, or a machine that mimics the human brain but is made of less perishable materials. However, success contains the possibility of our own obsolescence. Perhaps we are merely exchanging one form of erasure for another. Will the creation replace the creator?

The poem's epigraph comes from the author's friend Tatsu Hashimoto, a fellow student at Harvard who is majoring in neuroscience. It displays an intriguing blend of humility and intellectual confidence. "Once computers can do metaphysics..." Hashimoto says off-handedly, as if this enormous leap were inevitable. Oh, is that all? Alongside this bold prediction is the stark verdict that humanity will be "done", phased out, superseded. This quote is really a claim for the superiority of one form of memory over another. Ironically, in this manifesto of impersonal logic's triumph over personal sentiment, we see scientists' all-too-human rivalry with artists concerning the best way to describe, preserve and improve our civilization.

And what is this poetry that computer scientists might presume to emulate? Do they define poetry's qualities and purpose the way a poet herself would? Yew takes this question as her starting point....

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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2008 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest Winners Announced
The Best Free Poetry Contests for February 16-March 31