Thoughts on Entering Writing Contests . . .

I’ve heard there are folks who are professional sweepstakers, or who make a living entering contests (some requiring skills).  That must be fun, though I know it must be brutal work and require constant focus and a lot of organization.  There are contests for writers too–lots of them! Somewhere along the way, I started entering them, and I’m glad I did.  Winning the Ernest Hemingway Short Story Competition was really the jump start to my writing career. Since then, I’ve won or placed in a few others. I now enter every contest I can, though not as many as I should. Some of them are free, others you have to pay an entry fee for. I’m glad to pay the entry fee since the judges of the contests I enter are usually writers, publishers, or editors, (some of them very influential in the publishing world) and I know that my submission will actually be read instead of discarded or added to an overworked and underpaid editor’s huge slush pile.  There are writing contests for the genres of poetry, drama, fiction (short stories, collections of short fiction, and novels), essays and other nonfiction pieces, songwriting, recipes and a gadzillion others.  Winning contests looks good on one’s resume and the winning, published piece perhaps can catch the eyes of influential editors, agents, and publishers.

Contests for Writers:

For High School Students:  The mother of all writing contests are the Ayn Rand essay contests. BIG bucks. And the Ayn Rand institute will supply teachers with class sets of Rand’s novels in exchange for a commitment (and I would document it) to actually teach the novel.  (The novels are Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged.)  I’ve read these, and I liked them more than I thought I would. These are perfect novels that work well in dystopian studies.

Contests develop students’ writing skills. When I taught high school, I would make it mandatory for my high school students to enter such contests. Some of my high school gifted and honors students won money every year in one contest or another.

The link for the contest with the rules and prizes for the Rand contest  is here:

Other Writing Contests:

1) I enter the Booklocker  24-Hour Short Story Contest, held quarterly. The writing prompt is mailed to you at noon on a Saturday, and you must have it to them by noon on Sunday.  The entry fee is five dollars, and when you enter, guidelines are given. Prize money is good, the judges are excellent. Entering this contest will not only give you a bank of good stories (which I keep and enter in other contests) but will surely raise your computer skills as you wrestle with technological problems. Such timed contests are the ultimate stress-producers, but I believe it’s true that we writers sometimes produce more and better stuff under pressure. The start time is: Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 12:00 p.m. (noon) Central Time. Here is the site for the fall contest. If you decide to enter it, I’d read former winning entries. That will give you some idea of the tastes of the judges.  

2) New Millennium Writings Contest. This is also a quarterly contest, and a prestigious one. Entry fee is $17.00.  You can enter in any or all of the following categories, and with as many entries as you wish: Fiction, Short Fiction, Short-Short Fiction, Poetry, and Nonfiction. Winners get a very nice cash prize and publication. The contest’s website is here:

The magazine’s homepage is here:

I’ll likely post more information on other contests in the future. If you liked this contest information, send me an email at

One thought on “Thoughts on Entering Writing Contests . . .

  1. Very good blog – entertaining. Came ‘this close’ to entering a couple of contests this year & backed out at the last minute. Glad I did since both times my work wasn’t quite polished enough. I don’t know that I’ll ever be comfortable believing that the polishing & final editing is really 100% complete. I always manage to find something to tweak. Tough sometimes to pull the trigger – despite the opinions (pos or neg) of others.

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