Upcoming Contest Deadlines

Book prizes abound this month! If you are at work on a full-length manuscript, consider submitting to one of the following contests, which all close on September 30. One contest is exclusively open to women poets over 40 who have not yet published a book in any genre. There is also one essay contest and a prize for an individual poem.

Boulevard Nonfiction Contest for Emerging Writers: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Boulevard is given annually for an essay by a writer who has not published a full-length book in any genre with a nationally distributed press. The editors will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Entry fee: $16 (includes subscription).

California State University in Fresno Philip Levine Prize for Poetry: A prize of $2,000 and publication by Anhinga Press is given annually for a poetry collection. Carmen Giménez Smith will judge. Entry fee: $22 ($25 for electronic submissions).

Carlow University Patricia Dobler Poetry Award: A prize valued at $2,000 is given annually to a woman poet over 40 who has not published a book in any genre. The winner receives $1,000, publication in Voices From the Attic, and travel and lodging to give a reading with the contest judge at Carlow University. Lee Ann Roripaugh will judge. Entry fee: $20.

Dzanc Books Prizes: Three cash prizes and publication are given for a novel ($5,000), a story collection ($2,500), and a nonfiction book ($1,500). Nina Shope, David Tromblay, and Anne Valente will judge for the novel prize. Entry fee: $25.

Ghost Story Supernatural Fiction Award: A prize of $1,500, publication on the Ghost Story website and in the Ghost Story print anthology, 21st Century Ghost Stories, is given twice yearly for a short story with a supernatural or magic realism theme. Lesley Bannatyne will judge. Entry fee: $20.

Red Hen Press Fiction Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Red Hen Press is given biennially for a short story collection or a novel. Aimee Liu will judge. Entry fee: $25.

University of Arkansas Press Miller Williams Poetry Prize: A prize of $5,000 and publication by University of Arkansas Press is given annually for a poetry collection. Patricia Smith will judge. Entry fee: $28.

University of Iowa Press Short Fiction Awards: Two awards of publication by University of Iowa Press are given annually for first collections of short fiction. Entry fee: None.

University of Massachusetts Press Juniper Prizes: Five prizes of $1,000 each and publication by University of Massachusetts Press are given annually for a first poetry collection, a poetry collection by an author who has previously published a book, a short story collection, a novel, and a book of creative nonfiction. The creative writing faculty at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst will judge. Entry fee: $30.

Winning Writers Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest: Two prizes of $3,000 each and publication on the Winning Writers website are given annually for a poem in any style and a poem that either rhymes or is written in a traditional style. Soma Mei Sheng Frazier and Vernon Keeve III will judge. Entry fee: $15.

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines, and check out the Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more contests in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

Overlooked

9.23.21

In an article for the New Republic’s Critical Mass, Jo Livingstone discusses artist Judy Chicago’s new memoir, The Flowering: The Autobiography of Judy Chicago (Thames & Hudson, 2021), and critics’ rejection of her overlooked body of work. Best known for her controversial piece “The Dinner Party,” Chicago includes in her book details of misogyny, racism, and other prejudices that affect the legacy of an artist. Write an essay inspired by a writer or artist whose body of work is often overlooked. What draws you to this artist and why do you think their work is not as recognized?

Real Estate

9.22.21

A rare townhouse in New York City’s Greenwich Village that was once the home of several artists in its storied history, including poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, cartoonist William Steig and his wife’s sister, anthropologist Margaret Mead, was recently featured in the New York Post. Often called the narrowest home in the city because it is less than ten feet wide, the space was originally an alleyway to a brewery in the 1840s. Write a story inspired by an historic piece of real estate in which your protagonist lives in the former home of a famous figure. How does this history influence your protagonist?

Garden Path

9.21.21

A garden-path sentence is a grammatically correct sentence that can appear nonsensical because of its syntax and the way it forces the reader to discern its meaning. In essence, the reader is led down the garden path by the sentence. Examples include “The horse raced past the barn fell,” “The man who hunts ducks out on weekends,” and “The raft floated down the river sank.” Write a poem using a garden-path sentence. What grammatical trick will you use for an unexpected portrayal? Try using the title to your advantage.

Deadline Approaches for the Juniper Prizes

Submissions are open for this year’s Juniper Prizes. Five prizes are awarded annually for a debut poetry collection, a poetry collection by an author who has published previously, a short story collection, a novel, and a book of creative nonfiction. Each prize offers a cash award of $1,000 and publication by the University of Massachusetts Press.  

Using only the online submission system, submit a poetry manuscript of 50 to 70 pages, a story collection or novel of 150 to 350 pages, or a memoir, biography, essay collection, or book of narrative nonfiction of 150 to 300 pages with a $30 entry fee by September 30. The creative writing faculty at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst will judge. The winners will be announced in April of next year. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Inspired by Fort Juniper, the name of the house that poet Robert Francis built by hand in the woods of Amherst, and in honor of Francis’s written work, the Juniper Prize for Poetry began in 1975. In 2004 the Jupiter Prize for Fiction was added to the award lineup, and in 2018 the prize for creative nonfiction was included. Previous winners of the Juniper Prizes include poets Lucille Clifton, Richard Jackson, and Susan Leslie Moore; fiction writers Wayne Karlin and Lynn Lurie; and nonfiction writer Jennifer De Leon. The 2022 winners will be published in the spring of 2023.

 

Politeness

9.16.21

“We hate embarrassing ourselves so much, we do all sorts of things to avoid embarrassment—​and at all costs,” writes Vanessa Bohns about the constructs of politeness in an excerpt from her new book, You Have More Influence Than You Think: How We Underestimate Our Power of Persuasion, and Why It Matters (Norton, 2021), published on Literary Hub. “Approximately 5,000 people die from choking every year in part because they stand up and leave the table—​rather than ask their tablemates for help—​out of a fear of, you got it, embarrassment.” Write an essay on politeness and your thoughts about social embarrassment. Has there been a time when you suffered consequences for your politeness?

The Lovers

9.15.21

“He said he wanted to set me on fire like a cigarette—he inhaled me with vigor, indulgence, and did so really, really carelessly,” writes Brontez Purnell in his short story “The Boyfriends,” in which titled sections include “Boyfriend 2.0 / The Firefighter,” “Boyfriend #33 / The Hairdresser,” and “Boyfriend #77 / The Chef.” The story, which is featured in Purnell’s collection 100 Boyfriends (MCD x FSG Originals, 2021), consists of quick scenes that have brief conclusions and convincing details, altogether creating a feeling for a particular time in the speaker’s life. Write a story consisting of brief scenes that recount time spent with either one or several lovers. What do these scenes reveal about your protagonist?

Late Summer

9.14.21

As the days get shorter and colder in mid-September, the autumnal equinox and the official end of summer approach. Many poets find inspiration in this in-between zone when seasonal plants transition and the duties of a school year begin again. “Three Songs at the End of Summer” by Jane Kenyon, “Blackberry-Picking” by Seamus Heaney, and “Vespers” by Louise Glück are examples of poems that speak to late summer. Write a poem that celebrates this fleeting, yet evocative moment between seasons.

Upcoming Contest Deadlines


Seize the back-to-school spirit—whether or not you have returned to a classroom this fall—and apply to literary grants and awards. Three of the opportunities below require no entry fee. All offer a cash prize of $1,000 or more and close on September 15 or September 17.

Cave Canem Foundation Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Jai-Alai Books is given annually for a poetry chapbook by a Black poet. The winner will also give a reading at the O, Miami Poetry Festival in April 2022. Lillian-Yvonne Bertram will judge. Deadline: September 15. Entry fee: None.

John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Writing Fellowships: Fellowships of approximately $50,000 each are awarded annually to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers on the basis of exceptional creative ability. Citizens and permanent residents of the United States and Canada with a significant and appropriate record of publication are eligible. Deadline: September 17. Entry fee: None.

Literary Arts Oregon Literary Fellowships: Fellowships of $3,500 each are given annually to Oregon writers to initiate, develop, or complete literary projects in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. A Writer of Color Fellowship of $3,500 is also given. Deadline: September 17. Entry fee: None.

The Moth Nature Writing Prize: A prize of €1,000 (approximately $1,191) and publication in the Moth will be given annually for a poem, story, or essay that features “an exploration of the writer’s relationship with the natural world.” The winner also receives a weeklong stay at the Circle of Misse artist’s retreat in Misse, France. Helen Macdonald will judge. Deadline: September 15. Entry fee: €15 (approximately $18).

University of Wisconsin Press Brittingham and Felix and Pollak Prizes: Two prizes of $1,500 each and publication by University of Wisconsin Press are given annually for poetry collections. Additional finalists will be published in the press’s Wisconsin Poetry series. Carmen Giménez Smith will judge. Deadline: September 15. Entry fee: $28.

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines, and check out the Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more contests in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

A Crown

In Hanif Abdurraqib’s essay “Fear: A Crown,” included in his latest collection, A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance (Random House, 2021), he borrows the form of a crown of sonnets to link vignettes—parts of the last line of each section act as the first line of the next. Use the crown form to link an essay in sections that discusses a central feeling or theme. As you echo the last line of a vignette into the next, allow the words to launch you into unexpected places.

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