A word about writing contests…
Most literary magazines have an annual award for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry — there are at least a hundred of them. Mostly they are for a single story or essay, but there are also many for books (collections of stories, or essays, or a novel, etc.), which I haven’t listed here. The contests usually have fees of around $15-25 per submission and are anonymously judged by a guest judge, usually a well-known writer. Winners are published in the magazine; runners-up are sometimes published, too. Deadlines are often in the fall, though there are many in the spring, too.
One advantage with these contests is that, because they’re judged anonymously, there’s no way for the editors to favor already established writers, which unfortunately does happen a lot (at least with fiction), so it can be easier for someone who isn’t named Joyce Carol Oates to get a story into print anonymously. And if you’re just looking to have something to talk about in a query letter to a literary agent, even placing as a runner-up or finalist can be helpful.
Some to look at (please note that there are scores of awards like these that can be found at Poets and Writers), and the deadlines vary wildly, but many are in the fall or spring:
Genres: fiction, poetry and nonfiction.
Prize: $1,000 and publication
Black Warrior Review Writing Contest from the University of Alabama
Genres: Poetry, fiction, nonfiction and flash fiction.
Prizes: $1500 in fiction, nonfiction and poetry and $800 in Flash category. All include publication.
Prizes: First prize is $500 and publication. Runners-up will also be published.
Colorado Review Prizes
Genres: Poetry, fiction.
The Colorado Prize for Poetry: $2,000 honorarium and publication of 500 copies.
Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction: $2000 and publication in the Colorado Review.
Genres: Fiction, literary nonfiction and poetry.
Prize: $1250 grand prize and publication
Prizes: First prize: €3,000, and 5-day Short Story Workshop at the West Cork Literary Festival. 2nd prize: €300 and a week at Anam Cara Writers’ Retreat. 3rd prize: €300. Sevent Honourable Mentions €200 each. The Fish Anthology will publish the top ten stories.
Genres: Fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction.
Prizes: $1000 and publication in The Florida Review.
Genres: Fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
Prizes: $1,500 and Gulf Coast publication for the winner in each genre. Two honorable mentions in each genre are awarded $250.
Genre: Short story.
Prize: $1000 + publication.
Genres: Poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.
Prize: $1,500; first runners-up receive $750. All are published the December issue.
Genres: Poetry, short stories, short-short story and essay.
Prizes: Four $1,000 prizes and Los Angeles Review publication.
Genres: Poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.
Prizes: $1,000 and publication in the Mississippi Review.
Fiction, nonfiction and poetry.
Prizes: First place in each category receives $5,000.
Genres: Poetry, essay, fiction.
October Fiction Award: $750 and publication.
October Fiction Award: winner will be published in New Letters and $750.
Genres: Fiction and poetry prizes, plus a special category/contest for new writers.
Prizes: First prize: $2,000; Second prize: $1,000. Francine Ringold for new writers: $500 in fiction and poetry. All include publication.
Prizes: $500 for the best poem; Three runners-up will receive $100; all will featured in Rosebud.
Genre: Short fiction
Prize: $1,000 and publication
Prizes: First prize is $1000, second prize is $50, and third prize: $250. Prizewinners and honorable mentions are considered for representation by top literary agencies.