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Cultivating your craft in the digital age … Contests

Published on Monday, December 6, 2010 by
Entering contests can be a fun way to motivate yourself to write, however there are a few things you should know about contests before submitting your best work to them.  Many contests have very specific guidelines that must be followed in order to meet their standards and not end up in the rejected pile.

Some of these require certain residency, such as state residency, country and some even require residency for a specific time period. Others may require that the writer be of a certain age or gender. The 2011 Writer’s Market lists several categories of contests such as Art Councils and Fellowships, Fiction, Non Fiction, General, Non Fiction, Play-writing and Screenwriting, Poetry, etc. The awards for the winners of the contest vary from a small amount of cash, a copy of the magazine, to living stipends and residency lodging at a college or university, plus a chance to teach or get a book contract.

A good example of a smaller contest is that of Toasted Cheese,  a literary journal, which hosts several contests a year, does not charge an entry fee, and awards small awards.They also offer publication for the writers in their journal.The Kay Snow Writers Contest also looks like a good contest, with many categories for writers to enter due to their low entry fee.   From the website: The purpose of this annual contest, named in honor of Willamette Writer’s founder, Kay Snow, is to help writers reach professional goals in writing in a broad array of categories.

Some contests are very easy to enter such as the 2011 Writers-Editors Network 28th Annual International Writing Competition. Guidelines below:

Who Can Enter: The contest is open to all writers. You do not have to be a member of Writers-Editors Network. However, members do save up to 50% on entry fees.(Membership information)
Deadline: Entries must be postmarked no later than March 15, 2011.
Divisions & Categories:

Nonfiction Division:

(A) Previously Published Article/Essay/Column/Nonfiction Book Chapter  —

(B) Unpublished or self-published Article/Essay/Column/Nonfiction Book Chapter

Fiction Division:

(C) Unpublished or self-published Short Story —

(D) Unpublished or self-published Novel Chapter

Children’s Literature Division:

(E) Unpublished or self-published Short Story/Nonfiction Article/Book Chapter/Poem (judged together as one category)

Poetry Division:

(F) Unpublished or self-published Free Verse/Traditional (judged together as one category)

Awards & Prizes

First Place in each Category – $100 plus certificate

Second Place in each Category – $75 plus certificate

Third Place in each Category – $50 plus certificate

Honorable Mention certificates will be awarded in each category as warranted


There are many websites that provide a list of contests to enter, examples of these are the Writers Digest website, Virtual Writer’s World, BookRix.

Some contests require that the author not be previously published, such as this contest sponsored by the University of New Orleans.

Amazon also seems to be entering the field of encouraging writers via contests with this recent initiative: http://www.amazon.com/b?node=332264011

So, check out some contests, whether they be with your local writer’s group or on a larger scale such as the one with Amazon.  It is a good way to get motivated and stay motivated as you consider the possibilities.


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