Monday, July 29, 2013

Wordcraft -- Weird and wonderful writing contests

Some homing beacon draws notices about writing contests to my files. I often avoid contests because of the four-letter word “fees” attached to them. But these are mostly fee-free, and not something you’ll find on writing research sites. I'll list them in order of deadlines, some looming imminently.

-- August 1 is the extended deadline for the FenCon short story contest offered through the science fiction/fantasy convention meeting in the Dallas suburb of Addison this fall. Winners can win cash and publication in the convention’s program book. First entry is free for FenCon members (and yes, you may buy a membership if you like). First entry for nonmembers is $10. Full disclosure, I am a longtime FenCon member who actually made it to the top 10 entries once in this contest and managed to sell a few stories from tips picked up on the convention’s workshops. For details, see

-- August 1 is also the deadline for the fall writing prompt contest offered by The First Line magazine. Entries must use the magazine’s designated first line, in this case, “There must have been thousands standing in the rain that day.” No fee, no genre limitation, and you may win money or other goodies. While you’re at it, take a look at the prompt on line for the winter issue, with submissions due November 1. I found this after the magazine’s editor published a book review in the Dallas Morning News. I have no information about the publication except what’s on its website, which, however, looks interesting. See

-- September 1 -- The first ever Prompt-A-Palooza Writing Contest from Free Expressions, the company of professional editor Lorin Oberwetter and associates. Your complete short story (1,250 words) must use a prompt from the dozens offered on the site’s blog. No fee. First and second place winners get cash and credits on the sites workshops and editorial services.  See

-- September 3 is the deadline for the new DFW Writers’ Conference short story contest. Special criteria -- your story must open by writing the first paragraph of YA author Jonathan Maberry’s upcoming book. No genre limits, no fee. The winner gets a free ticket to next spring’s conference.  See

The next contests are for limited demographic groups, but are dear to my heart. And of course -- they’re fee-free!

September 15 -- Fourth Annual Literature + Medicine writing contest, sponsored by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. Workers active in health care fields, including pre-med, medical students, residents and interns, may compete in the categories of essays, poetry or short stories, based on their experiences in medicine, working with patients, delivering difficult news to family members and balancing work and personal life. No fee. Cash prizes to winners in each category and to a grand prize winner. I’ll also recommend the hospital’s conference October 24, with New York Times best-selling author John M. Barry. Details at

-- November 1-December 13 is the time to enter the annual Thanks-Giving Square Expressions competition on the theme, “I am grateful for the values of sports.” Competition is open to students worldwide from kindergarten through grade 12. Art and essays on the theme must be submitted by the students’ teachers. Cash prizes to students and credit for school supplies available to teachers. For information, see

March 31, 2014 -- The deadline on this one isn’t so urgent, but I’ll mention it while I’m dealing with contests. It’s the State-Fish Art contest sponsored by conservation organization Wildlife Forever. U.S. students in grades four through 12 must submit an art work and essay. Only a drawing is required for students in kindergarten through grade three.  See


  1. Hi Melissa, just to add one to the list. is the url of an online magazine that runs bi-monthly competitions for short stories. Entry is free, themed, judged by a different group of readers each time, and carries a small cash prize. For full disclose, I am one of the editors. Cheers, Toby

    1. Thanks, Toby, I'll add that to my list. Readers -- Red Line's next deadline is August 30.