May/June 2023

Writing Contests written in cursive skywriting with two paper airplanes. Background is a sky with clouds, headlines on top in blue and white.

Our annual Writing Contests Issue features a guide to contests for emerging writers, advice from judges on standing out in a crowd, and best practices when applying to grants and fellowships; Luis Alberto Urrea gains a new understanding of his mother with his novel Good Night, Irene; Camille T. Dungy blooms as both writer and gardener in Soil; Brian Gresko chronicles Gina Chung’s journey to her debut novel, Sea Change; how to read the terms of your book contract; ChatGPT and the future of writing; writing prompts; contest deadlines; and more. 


Be Bold: Pursue Your Contest Dreams—At Any Stage in Your Career

Break On Through: A Guide to Great Contests for Emerging Writers

by Emma Komlos-Hrobsky
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Every writer starts their journey somewhere, and writing contests can be one great way to first find community and nurture your career. These contests have proven records of supporting new writers as they chart paths towards success.

Level Up: Contest Judges on Standing Out in a Crowd

by Ananda Lima
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The fine line between finalist and winner is often a mystery—even so, you may be closer than you think. Contest judges break down the contest review process, provide advice for polishing your work, and dissect the “it” factor.

Writing Into Our Imagining: Applying for Grants and Fellowships

by Shelley Wong
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Grants and fellowships provide resources that help your work flourish, but applying can be an art in itself. The author offers application advice, best practices, and guidance on thriving not only as an applicant, but a writer.

Celebrate Every Win: How Savoring One Victory Can Fuel Your Next

by Daphne Kalotay
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In a professional dry spell, the things that often carry us through are the tokens of appreciation—big or small—that validate our work when our own confidence falters.

News and Trends

Part of a bar graph with a positive trend. The graph has green-blue bars with a pale yellow background.

Literary Prizes Under Scrutiny

by Jen DeGregorio

A trio of academics—including two poets—has compiled data on the winners and judges of major literary prizes in the U.S. Their findings raise critical questions about how social hierarchies influence who gets rewarded for their writing.

The Practical Writer

First: Gina Chung’s Sea Change

by Brian Gresko
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The debut author speaks with Brian Gresko about climate fiction, cultural identity, and the people who supported her on the journey to publishing her first novel, Sea Change.

The Fine Print: How to Read Your Book Contract

by Michael Bourne
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Book contract language can be dense, but it’s key for writers to understand what they’re agreeing to when signing on the dotted line. The author of Blithedale Canyon breaks down the essentials of rights, restrictions, and deadlines.

The Literary Life

The Time Is Now: Writing Prompts and Exercises

by Staff
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Write a poem about your vision of the future, a story around a single life-altering event, or an essay about an animated work that inspired you.

Radiant Fog: One Writer’s Life in Rural America

by Kathleen Melin
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A poet shares how she builds a life around her writing in rural Wisconsin, where literary community takes surprising—and sometimes amusing—forms. She finds both struggle and abundance in her chosen path.