May/June 2024

R. O. Kwon, a pale Korean woman with large glasses, leans against a white door. She wears all black, including her black undereye makeup, and has long, straight hair. Above her is the Poets & Writers logo in black, and red and black headlines fill the left-hand space..

Our annual Writing Contests Issue features more than forty free contests for emerging writers, advice on crafting a winning entry, and tips on handling losses; a profile of novelist R. O. Kwon; Crystal Hana Kim on multilingual literature, cultural memory, and writing as translation; essays on leveraging book reviews to hone your writing skills, making sense of author questionnaires, and refusing silence as a writer during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; reports on a serial plagiarist and managing submissions in the age of AI; plus writing prompts and more.


Queer Ambition, Unbound: A Profile of R. O. Kwon

by Brian Gresko
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In her second novel, Exhibit, best-selling author R. O. Kwon explores what happens when a creative woman lets go of her inhibitions—and faces her own fears in the process.

Free Writing Contests

A Year of Free Contests: Your Guide to Four Seasons of No-Fee Competition

by Emma Komlos-Hrobsky
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Each year, dozens of contests reward writers for their tenacity and artistry—and charge no fee to enter. One of our senior editors gathers a year’s worth of the most notable prizes that emerging and debut writers can pursue. 

Picking What to Submit: How to Craft a Winning Contest Entry

by Aimee Seiff Christian
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Contests are inherently a gamble, and the best results come with developing submissions strategically. Contest judges share their thoughts on how to make the best impression in the submission pile.

Hey, Jealousy: We’re All in This Together, Until We’re Up for the Same Award

by Rebecca Makkai
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A best-selling author addresses the fine line between jealousy and resentment; almost everyone experiences these feelings, but it’s important to let go of bitterness and celebrate great books (and authors) as a collective win.

The Contest You Didn’t Enter: Dealing With “Best” Lists, for Better or Worse

by Jonathan Durbin
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Year-end “best-of” roundups can hit like a truck, especially when our culture’s system of awarding recognition can feel arbitrary and unfair. A fiction writer offers perspectives to better understand the value of these lists and protect your joy.

On Losing: The Art of Literary Resiliency

by Rosalie Knecht
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For the most part, people do not win contests—and that’s okay. A novelist and professional therapist reframes the idea of losing as an objective evaluation of worth; instead, think of a loss as a blank space, a preamble before the wins.

News and Trends

The Practical Writer

Publishing Myths: “I Have Zero Control Over My Book’s Cover Design, Right?”

by Kate McKean
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In our column debunking the myths of the publishing industry, a veteran agent explains the process of book cover design and the best way for authors to work with their publishers to create an effective cover.

The Brass Tacks of the Publishing Process: Making Sense of the Author Questionnaire

by Destiny O. Birdsong
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Even though it might appear to the untrained eye to be a series of oddly specific questions, the author questionnaire is a critical part of helping publishers create the most holistic plan to support and promote each book in their care.

The Literary Life

The Time is Now: Writing Prompts and Exercises

by Staff
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Write a poem that poses a series of questions about your most pressing uncertainties, a scene that focuses on a character’s minute observations, or an essay examining your relationship with consumption.

Thinning the Line: On Multilingual Literature, Cultural Memory, and Writing as Translation

by Crystal Hana Kim
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The author of The Stone Home unpacks the idea of audience, the power of blending languages, and her decision to bring Hangul into her novel, expanding the possibilities of storytelling for her readers.

Close Reading: How Writing Book Reviews Made Me a Better Writer

by Natalie Schriefer
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A freelance writer and editor breaks down her insights from being a prolific reviewer on Goodreads and shares how the experience helped develop her personal voice, analytical skills, and impartial eye.

In This Time of War: The Muses Refuse Silence

by Philip Metres

A poet explores the struggle to balance his roles as writer, educator, and activist during the war in Gaza and the refusal of silence during a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of civilians.